The Berthelots live in the tiny Normandy village of Larre, about 100 km south of Juno Beach where Monsieur Berthelot is the mayor. On July 16, 1944, a Canadian bomber was shot down and crashed in Larre. All six of the airmen were killed.
In 2001, the Berthelots began a journey that has touched the lives of many of the airmen's families: they have scoured the cemeteries and war memorials of Normandy and connected Canadian families to the gravesites of their soldiers. This giving couple spends their days seeking any remnants they can find--photographs, tombstone inscriptions, even pieces of twisted metal wreckage of the planes--and at times, personally delivers the treasures to the families in Canada.
The families are gobsmacked. The Berthelots response? "Their soldiers gave us our liberty, so we have to honor and remember them."
The story of their generosity has spread like fire to other Canadian families longing to grasp information on their boys. And so, the Berthelots continue their quest, seeking to connect Canadian families to their soldier's undiscovered graves in France.
I felt drawn to the story of the Berthelots. It sheds a soft light on what genealogy should be about: remembrance and connections to past souls.
Ironically, I received the story in my email inbox just as I arrived home from my own little connection to an ancestor's grave. I ventured a couple hundred miles to seek out the tombstone of my great-great grandfather. The little tombstone of my ancestor sits sweetly along a sloping hill, his Civil War Union Company proudly engraved above his name. I am certain the grave has rarely been visited, long forgotten by lost generations.
As I brushed the moss from the engraving, a yellow butterfly perched along the side ot the stone appearing fearless and still. I wondered if my ancestor felt my presence; a brief connection to a ghost I never knew but now feel connected to.
I pause to feel humbled by the Berthelots in Normandy as I am reminded of the real purpose of searching for grandfathers and grandmothers: the personal touch, the remembrances, the connections.
That's what this is all about.
Keep searching for answers,