By this time two years ago my biography of Louis Bazalgette was almost complete, but I decided to take the step of employing a researcher in the south of France to see if any more details of his early life could be discovered. What I was particularly interested in was the location of the Bazalgette house in Ispagnac and whether it was still in existence, and I thought that there was a good chance of that. The other information I thought would be useful was Louis’ apprenticeship records.
I asked a genealogist friend in Lozère to recommend someone suitable and I was given the name of a Madame R., whose name I will not reveal here for reasons which will become obvious shortly. When I contacted this lady she accepted my commission ‘avec beaucoup de plaisir’ and added ‘Voilà je pense que je suis assez qualifié pour mener à bien cette étude que vous me confiez.’ She asked for €200 up front, and having employed a French researcher before I knew they were not cheap.
Madame R. appeared keen, chatty and energetic. By the end of June she had returned from holiday and was ready to start work. By the end of September 2011 I had received various excuses but no information. In October she said that her father had had an operation but that she had ‘découvert beaucoup de choses’ but still had much work to do. I settled down to wait again, fuelled by anticipation. The next response was that she herself had been ill, so I was sympathetic. I did however request a progress report which was not forthcoming. This should have started alarm bells ringing, and it did, but faintly. I also asked French friends to intervene in case she really was very sick and they agreed to talk to her. All they got from her was an anecdote and the observation that the family history so far collected was inaccurate. The story she told my friends was that there were two Claude Bazalgettes who were cousins and who lived in adjacent houses. One was a tailor and one a bootmaker (cordonnier). One of them died and the other married his widow and knocked the two houses into one. She never shared this information with me directly. However, this told me that she had identified the Bazalgette house and done a lot of genealogical research, which I hadn’t asked for.
I made repeated requests for the results of her research so far and she said she had sent it, but I received nothing, and my emails asking for it to be sent again were ignored. I continued to wait and to send periodic requests until finally I emailed the president of the local genealogical society who told me that she was no longer a member, since she had mounted a damaging campaign against the members for doing ‘professional’ work, and that they had parted on very bad terms. This told me that something was badly wrong, and that her ignoring my emails was more than absent-mindedness.
The last email I sent her said simply that I was utterly disgusted with her lack of professionalism, and that she would accept €200 in good faith and give me nothing in return. Needless to say this email was also ignored.
The most frustrating thing about this awful two-year-long saga is that I know she has done the research but will never share it with me. It isn’t worth trying to set the law on her because this would be prohibitively expensive and produce no results. This betrayal of trust has hurt me a lot, reduced my wish to blog and generally soured the project for me.
So, my friends, beware of the rotten apple. I should say that I have employed researchers in several countries and found them exemplary in their dealings. It was my misfortune to employ a piece of work like Mme. R. I frequently lie awake in the middle of the night, venting my spleen at this woman, and hoping that some miracle will occur, and that she will suddenly supply me with fulsome information, but I know now that this will never happen. I am sorry to have to inflict this on my reader, but it made me feel a little better to write it. Perhaps now I can put this behind me….
A bientôt, mes amis!