The Gendre family of Erskine participated in a family reunion this summer in France that achieved breaking a world record for the largest family reunion in the world.
It’s believed to be destined to make its way onto the pages of the Guinness World Records.
With 4,750 recorded cousins of the Porteau-Clautour family in attendance, the old record of 2,585 set by a U.S. family was shattered.
Although there were more than 5,000 family members at the France reunion, only those over 18 years of age were permitted to register for the Guinness record.
While the Guinness people are in the process of verification of the event, family members are confident their feat has more than sufficient numbers to make it into the world record book.
The family reunion, held Aug. 18-19 at the town of Saint-Christophe-du-Ligneron in the department (province) of Venee, on the west coast of France, was called Cousinade Porteau-Clautour. Cousinade translates into meaning “gathering of cousins.”
An aerial photo was taken from a helicopter of the group of more than 5,000 cousins attending the reunion.
“I attended a family reunion with just 5,000 of my closest relatives,” Erskine councillor Joe Gendre said with a laugh.
His family was in Europe for a five-week vacation, during which they also visiting England and Italy. They were in London just ahead of the Olympics.
The reunion was for all descendants of George and Madeleine Porteau, labourers living at Saint Paul Mont Penit in the mid-1600s. The couple has more than 23,000 known descendants.
The family tree contains branches with more than 700 surnames. The Gendre family, which emigrated from France in 1904 to settle south of Erskine, makes up one such branch.
Interestingly, more than three-quarters of the family attending still live within an hour’s drive of Saint Paul Mont Penit.
The family tree on display at the reunion, containing names of more than 23,000 relatives, was 500 metres long.
The 13 Canadians at the reunion included Joe and Circun Gendre and their children — Mary, David, Amanda and Isabella. Also attending were former Erskine residents Leon Gendre of Red Deer and his sons, Henri of Jasper and Marcel of Medicine Hat. Leon Gendre’s daughter, Bernie Jackson, is the owner of Wells Furniture in Stettler.
Other Canadians attending were Victor and Zoe Wiart of Cold Lake, along with their daughter, Danielle Wiart, and her fiancé. Victor’s mother was the former Cecile Gendre. The Wiarts were originally from Castor.
“We were embraced and treated like celebrities,” Joe Gendre said about the welcome they received from their French cousins.
“The hospitality by people we didn’t know was amazing.”
“We were warmed and welcomed and the people were genuinely interested in that we were from Canada,” said Circun Gendre.
“It was above and beyond what we expected.”
During the reunion, the Joe Gendre family stayed nearby at Domaine de la Cantiniere, a chateau built in about 1870 and owned by distant cousins Philippe and Hortence Crochet.
The record-breaking reunion was organized by Jean-Michel Cheneau, who became interested in genealogy at a young age and had been working on the project since 2003.