Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Maria Llabrés

The name Llabrés

It was in the year 1895, in the port city of Soller, Mallorca, Spain that Maria Llabrés was born. 

One can go to the search engines and type in the name "Llabrés" and "Mallorca" and come up with multiple hits. One can even find a hotel in Soller named Llabrés. The family name appears most often in the Sapnish province of Catalonia between the provincial capital of Barcelona and neighboring France. Also, the name can be found in the United States, the Philippines, and South America.

What the name means is at this time unknown, to me. I hope to Facebook a living member of the Spanish Llabrés family and find out.

Maria Llabrés

These are the bits and pieces that make up the life of Maria Llabrés, born 1895 in Soller, Majorca, Spain. For those of you who do not know, Maria Llabrés was my wife's grandmother, mother to Mary Van Huss.

I met Maria only once while dating my wife. This goes back more years than I want to remember. Maria, then in 80's, had dark brown dark brown hair and eyes that matched her fiery spirit. Her husband, Frank Miles, ten years her senior, had long since passed. Maria lived alone, or I should say with her dogs, on the same small farm on Rural Route 2 in Butler County that she had lived on for forty plus years.

Her small stature hid a determined  spirit. Like the old joke, it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog. One did not mess with Maria. She never sat down while I visited. Instead, she always found something with which to keep busy. She served her guests red wine sweetened with sugar. Her most repeated remark was "beaucoup jolie", meaning very pretty. It was a comment about what she saw around her as much as a comment about her attitude to life.Her other French, was the command to the dogs, "Viens!", which means come.

Certificate of Marriage 1920

In 1920, she and Frank Miles married. The Certificate of Marriage records that the wedding took place on June 12th, 1920 in the city of Castiglione, Algeria. The groom was Frank Miles, then 36, and living in St. Aime, Algeria. "Aime" is a French word meaning, appropriately enough, love. The bride is Maria Llabres, 25, born to Spanish parents in Soller, Majorca, Spain, and then living in Castiglione, Algeria. Castiglione may sound Italian, but it was named for a French General serving under Napoleon.

Maria's Spanish connection is a little puzzling. Years later, Maria's daughter Mary would visit Soller and Majorca my wife and me. Mary explained that her mother's family had a hotel in Majorca before moving to Algeria. Maria spoke French not Spanish. That is something revealed in the 1930 Census and a fact personally known to the family. Maria's French connection is also bolstered by a visit in 1954 by mother and daughter, Maria and Mary, to relatives in Paris, Marseilles, and Algeria.

Le Bourdonnais

One can conclude that Frank and Maria lived in Algeria for the next five years. Then, according to the next record, they embark from France to the United States. There they are on a  passenger list of United States citizens aboard the ship Le Bourdonnais, sailing from Bordeaux, France to New York in 1925. Also on board is son Charlie, born in St. Aime, Algeria.

1930 US Census

By the time of the 1930 US Census, Frank and Maria Miles are living in Spring Township of Butler County, Kansas. Spring Township is a rural township east of Augusta, west of Leon, and south of El Dorado. The census reveals few details of their marriage, but we do know that 8 year old Charles and 10 month old Joan Miles were born in Algeria and Kansas, respectively. Also revealed is that Maria spoke French and not Spanish, in spite of the statement that Maria and her parents were born in Spain.

1954 Visit to French Algeria

In the late summer and fall of 1954, mother and daughter, Maria and Mary, would visit French relatives in Paris, Marsailles, and French Algeria. The trip began July 21, 1954 and ended September 14th with their arrival in New York.

Everything else about Maria Llabrés Miles is speculation. For example, the family name Llabrés. It is an unusual name. It has a Spanish spelling. But it could have been French. Maria spoke French. She and her daughter, Mary went back to France and Algeria to visit French relatives. Even later, my wife and I would visit some of these same relatives in Paris, Marseilles, and Toulouse. Could Llabres be derived from the village of St. Bres in France?

Saint-Brès est un petit village français, situé dans le département du Gard et la région du Languedoc-Roussillon.That is a long way from Majorca. How they would have got there, if true, is anyone's guess.

Even more intriguing is the existence of the Hotel Fonda Llabres in Alcudia on the same island of Majorca, just 30 miles east of Soller. This Hotel was bought by the family Llabres in 1950. Could it be that some of the family remained in Majorca, and are now recreating family history?

Of course, it is also possible that Maria's family was from Bresse in the Vosges Mountains of France. An obituary published at her death in 1983, at the age of 88, reports that " Maria Labrezze Miles" daughter to Marguerite and Paul Labrezze" died at the age of 89. La Bresse is located in Loraine, France.


Likely, the name "Llabrés" comes from Vehinat de Llabrés - "es un municipio de la Provincia de Girona, en la comunidad de Cataluña, España", a small city in Catalonia. It is close to Barcelona and closer still to the French border.

Do a Google search for the surname Llabres and what do you find? It most commonly appears in the Philippines, then Spain, then South America. 

When speaking of French relatives, Mary Van Huss and her family often referred to the name "Guerriere" . That translates as "warrior", but that should be another story.

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