Finding The Bracelet..
In 2002 an eight year old schoolboy Romould DuPont found a bracelet in a garden in the French village of Rimaucourt. The bracelet was marked Josephine G Heffernan, ABH 59, USANC and on the reverse AEF. The initials ABH meaning the American Base Hospital, USANC meaning United States Army Nursing Corps. And AEF meaning American Expeditionary Force. All indications pointed to an American Nurse in WW1. But the American Records had a Josephine Elizabeth Heffernan as Chief nurse in Rimaucourt between 28th September 1918 and 12th February 1919. But no record of a Josephine G Heffernan in Military Records. Romould asked his teacher Estelle Lefeuvre to find Josephine Heffernan or her relatives. A worldwide search began and took fifteen years. In March 2017 American Nurse Historian Marjorie Desrosier gave a talk in France about Nurses in WW1.
An American Nurse from Bray
Estelle attended the meeting and asked Marjorie to help. Marjorie also met Helene Lan Trong from France 2 Tv. and was given an outline story of the bracelet. The Tv stationed decided to make a documentary. A detailed search of American records found that Josephine died in 1962 and was buried in St Peter’s graveyard in Bray. The American records showed she was 82 years of age when she died. But using Ancestry Records there was no birth records for a Josephine Heffernan in 1880 or 1881. The French TV station contacted the Bray Cualann Historical Society (1) to trace relatives (2) to find Josephine’s birth Certificate.
Local History Detective Work
I discovered that a Josephine from Bray travelled to the United States in 1906 aged 25 and in 1913 a Josephine Heffernan joined the United States Army aged 25. I extended my search and found that Josephine Elizabeth Heffernan was born at 10 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin on the 11th March 1876 to John Heffernan (Baker) and Christine Allen. Josephine’s father died in 1901 and the family moved to Bray. Josephine worked as a bookkeeper for her Uncle and then trained as a teacher the occupation she showed on the entry form to the United States in 1906. Regarding relatives I found a number of grand nephews and contacted them to confirm their connection to Josephine Heffernan. I then contacted Marjorie Desrosier and Helene Lam Trong.and gave then the news from Ireland. It was decided to send a film crew to Rimaucourt where Marjorie would make a video link with Estelle and give her the news from Ireland. At the October meeting of the Historical Society I gave a short presentation about Josephine Heffernan. On the following Sunday I gave a radio interview on East Coast Radio. I was contacted by a friend of the family who pointed me in the direction of a number of items. (1) The travelling case issued by the American Army to Josephine ,(2) The American Flag placed on Josephine coffin in 1962 (3) Four photograph albums of photographs taken by Josephine during World War 1 and World War 2 , and her travels around the world. I arranged to see the items.
The French Connection
Some of the photographs were of Rimaucourt in France . I made copies of them and sent them to the film crew in France. This was the first time persons in Rimaucourt had seen what the town looked like in 1918 and 1919.
The French film crew and Estelle travelled to Ireland and Bray Estelle presented the bracelet to Pat Smyth the godson of Josephine. The French crew extended their visit to Ireland by two days to scan the photographs taken by Josephine. RTE 1 TV and RTE Radio recorded the story of Josephine and the bracelet. It was a news item on RTE TV on 1st November and a featured item on the History Show aired on 18th November. The story was also covered by the local press.
The French 2 Tv documentary was aired on 7th January 2018 and within a few weeks it will be aired on TV5 Monde on Channel 796 on Sky. It will be shown worldwide. [Click HERE for a link to the programme]