Recovering a Lost Lineage: The De Fontevieux Family of Alsace, Paris, and Washington Co., Pennsylvania

As many reading this can, I’m sure, attest, if one pursues family history long enough, sooner or later one runs out of stories touching on direct ancestors, and one starts to fan out in search of other subjects of curiosity and mystery, touching increasingly distant relatives.

And then, I think, a transition of sorts occurs, or can occur, from pursuing stories that have indeed been steadily retold, and really weren’t in any great danger of being tossed to the wayside, to ones that actually have been forgotten, truly lost, and now need finding once again.

This story hits both of those notes: it touches on a family not my own, at least by any blood reckoning, and to the best of my knowledge, it represents the reanimation of names and events that – like a beautiful Roman mosaic lying beneath a British farmer’s field – have been silently waiting, for years, to come back to light.

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Susanna Vasilievna Anisimoff Baeff Lawrence, c.1913-1949

At some point, in the near future, I’m going to do a post on the amazing Capt. Richard Lawrence, M.D. (1912-2000), or Richard Lawrence, Jr., as he was sometimes known, or simply, Cousin Dick. The man deserves as much.

In the meantime, there is this, almost as an aside: one small piece of the larger puzzle of his life, with the curious property that the closer one looks, the more the “piece” becomes a puzzle in its own right.

Roughly two years ago, I happened to be emailing with Robert Cutler, who, suffice to say, understands the (not-quite-lost) art of letter writing. He had embarked on a long and delightful tangent concerning Cousin Dick, whom at that point I had barely heard of, when, in the course of his excursion, he mentioned almost as an afterthought that before attending medical school, Richard Lawrence had spent a period of time in China, and while there, had met a Russian woman whom he married in Shanghai and brought back to America.

(Frankly, he said a good deal more than that, but this medium – which is obviously public –  has its limits.)

He went on to describe some of Dick’s better known activities in WWII, which as I said, I’ll get to someday, but, long after I’d finished reading, my mind kept going back to this Russian woman; China in the late ’30s; the circumstances of their meeting, and their exit; and what had really been going on?

Suffice to say, Robert had hooked me. I had to learn more, but, the more I learned, well, the more I realized I didn’t know, and– you get the idea.

Puzzles within puzzles.

This is part of what I found…

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