20 December 2013

History: It's Not Always a Mystery

Several months ago, as I mentioned here, my sister sent me links to lots of historical information she found about our family. And since I’m much better with familial roots than I am with roots in the ground (“Hi, I kill plants without even trying.”), I figured I’d document as much as I could for posterity.

When I first started reading the history of one Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, it all sort of ran together like so much Social Studies, wars, dates, and battlefields…and most of it unpronounceable to me, in French. As I sat reading through it, not for content but just to get to the end, I kept thinking, “Well, he does have the same surname as my family, so there’s probably a relation...and he’s French….” But there was little to draw my attention.

Until I saw his picture.

If that’s not my daddy’s nose – the Molitor nose – I’ll eat my desk.

And suddenly, it all mattered very much. Suddenly, I was rereading everything very slowly and soaking in every word. Once I recognized our nose, Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor became a real person. A person that looked like my dad and my uncles. I wondered if he was always quiet and steady like some of them…or gruff and rough like the others.

He was born over 200 years ago on March 7th, 1770, in Aups, France. He died 164 years ago on July 28th, 1849, in Paris. At 79, it seems he’d lived a very full and extremely active life.

To recap the basics: he was in the infantry for 38 years, joining upon the outbreak of the French Revolution. After his service, he became the Governor of Pommern. When Napoleon was defeated, he was stripped of his gubernatorial functions. He was restored to grace in 1818. Upon his death, a statue was erected in Nancy.

A statue. Can you imagine? Our Molitor nose on a statue.

And perhaps the most magical piece of information for this musical nerd is that Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, the man with Daddy’s nose, owned the 1697 Molitor Stradivarius as of 1804. The Molitor Stradivarius is an antique violin made by Italian Antonio Stradivari in 1697.

It was previously owned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

In October of 2010, Tarisio Auctions sold the Molitor Stradivarius for a world record $3.6 M.

My sister and brother-in-law just went to an auction on Saturday, but I can guarantee you there weren’t any violins and nothing went for $3.6 million.

I wonder if he knew how to play? Did he keep it stored in a glass case or a violin box? Or was it just heaped in the corner of the couch next to the fire tinder? Perhaps he only got it out if kids or grandkids asked him what it sounded like...kinda like me and the piano or the old flute, where I try to remember how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb. Of course, it always comes out sounding more like I'm tone deaf and the instrument never met a tuner, but hey.... Turns out, maybe it's not so much like riding a bike. So everything needs practice. Including blogging. Because after months of not writing, I've somehow managed to compose something running the gamut of Napoleon Bonaparte to Mary Had a Little Lamb on the flute. Practice indeed.


  1. Love your writing! And that's so cool. Keep digging into your family history, and you might find some interesting subjects on whom to write about in that novel you will write.

    1. Thank you for always responding...makes me happy. :)
      BTW! Happy biryhday today!!!! :)