Category Archives: Huguenot
French Persecution of the French Huguenots
At the end of the 17th century, 60,000 to 80,000 Huguenots settled in the South West of England and were known as Britain’s first refugees.
The ‘Currant Examiner’ of September 1681, contains this quote that resonates today:
Plymouth Septem. 6. This day came in hither a small bark from Rochel, (La Rochell) with thirty nine poor Protestants, who are fled for their Religion: They report that five or six Boats more full of these poor distressed Creatures parted from those parts at the same time; and we hear that one of them is already put into Dartmouth. 
As I read the piece it appeared that the refugees were, in fact, heading towards Plymouth, where for centuries, the Devon ports were very familiar just as the Devon mariners were familiar with the Channel Islands and the continental seaboard.
This article continues my story of the Huguenot of England and in particular, South West Devon. https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/04/25/the-huguenot-of-england-part-1/
Bristol, Stonehouse, Plymouth, Thorpe-le-Soken Parish Registers of the English Huguenots
What prompted my interest in Huguenots? Well, I was searching online for places to visit on my next trip ‘home’ when I came across a reference to the Artist Dennis Severs’ house. The website told me: “Dated from approximately 1724, Dennis Severs had purchased a house at 18, Folgate Street, next to Spitalfields in East London and there, he created a time capsule of a Huguenot silk weaver family from 1724”. [₂]
I had no idea what a ‘Huguenot’ was so I decided to find out. I took a trip around the internet and discovered some interesting tidbits.
For instance, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland (Yes! we have a society!) tells us that the Huguenots were known as Britain’s first refugees and goes on to say “there are many inhabitants of these islands who have Huguenot blood in their veins, whether or not they still bear one of the hundreds of French names of those who took refuge here – thus bringing the word ‘refugee’ into the English language” Who knew? 
They were actually welcomed to England by King William III in a Declaration.
Dr William A. Pettigrew, Reader, School of History, University of Kent wrote:
“As King William III’s Declaration above makes clear, a distinguishing feature of this migration was the explicit state support it received. Six months after William of Orange had landed to take the throne of England The Declaration was printed in London in April 1689. William had long supported the plight of the Huguenots. His support was not altruistic because he understood the assistance this powerful group of refugees could offer him in his war with the French King who had persecuted the Huguenots – Louis XIV. The Declaration offers the historian a useful insight into the official government approach to the Huguenot arrival.
The Declaration clearly shows how William expected the English to welcome Huguenot refugees because of a presumed empathy with them born of the shadow of state persecution extended by William’s predecessor, James II”
Here’s one Huguenot refugee’s success story from the Independent newspaper.
“For 270 years after 1724, a Hampshire paper firm, Portal had – literally – a license to print money. In 1685, Henri de Portal and his brother, Pierre Guillaume were terrified refugee children, smuggled out of France in wine casks and sent on a perilous sea journey. It took the young Portals from Bordeaux to Southampton. Henri opened his mill in Whitechurch in 1712. Within a decade he had found his fortune through a banknote paper contract”. 
Although I was born and raised in Plymouth, England, I was very surprised to learn that the Huguenot and Walloons settled in my hometown and Stonehouse.
Kathy Chater in her book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” states: “One of the major problems researching Huguenots in Devon is the impact of the bombing of the Exeter record office during the Second World War when many documents were destroyed. All the wills, for example, have been lost, although a project to reconstruct them is underway. However, it seems that even before this the records of the two Exeter Huguenot churches had disappeared”
This could be one reason that I had no idea that Huguenots lived and worked in my part of the country. I wonder, is there a possibility of Huguenot ancestors in my family? Another avenue to explore!
Our ‘Mother Church’ in Plymouth is called St. Andrews and is designated a minster which is “A church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery”. 
An interesting note concerning St. Andrews Church is this:
Plymouth and East Stonehouse: A nonconformist congregation formed in Plymouth 1681, and closed c1762, the remaining members joining the Batter Street Presbyterians. Some records of their children are listed as ‘births of dissenters’ in the Plymouth St Andrews and the East Stonehouse Anglican registers. A conformist congregation was formed in 1681 in Plymouth, from which an East Stonehouse congregation split off in 1691. These congregations used St Andrews Church and first its Chapelry at East Stonehouse and then a Church (with separate registers) there. The Plymouth and East Stonehouse congregations merged in 1785 and were dissolved in 1810. For details of the extant pre-1840 registers see under Church Records in the respective parish pages. 
Some churches allowed Huguenot worship outside of normal C of E services. (C of E means Church of England) and St Andrew was one of the main parishes in Plymouth that has registers where the Huguenots recorded baptisms starting at the back of the register.
This has been a very interesting journey and learning experience about a group of people who lived worked and died in my part of the World and of whom I knew nothing – until now.
Book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” by Kathy Chater Page 38“ 
virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the…/the difference-between-a-minster-and-a-cathedral.html 
These books on the Huguenot of South West England are of interest.
Bracken, C.W. The Huguenot churches of Plymouth and Stonehouse. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 66, (1934) pp.163-179.
Currer-Briggs, Noel and Gambier, Royston. Huguenot Ancestry, Phillimore & Co. (2001) 160 pp. [ISBN: 1860771734]
Lart, Charles E. The Huguenot Settlements and Churches in the West of England, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. 8, (1901-4) pp.286-298.
Lart, Charles Edmund. (ed.) Registers of the French Churches of Bristol, Stonehouse, and Plymouth. Huguenot Society of London pubs. vol. 20. Spottiswoode and Co. (1912) [Includes Plymouth baptisms 1733-1807; marriages 1734-1740; burials 1733-1734.]
Peskett, Hugh. Guide to the Parish and Non-Parochial Registers of Devon and Cornwall, 1538-1837, Torquay, Devon and Cornwall Record Society; extra ser., v (Printed for the Society by The Devonshire Press) (1979).
Pickard, Ransom. The Huguenots in Exeter. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 68, (1936) pp.261-297; 76, (1944) pp.129-131.
Rogers, Inkerman. The Huguenots of Devonshire, Bideford, Gazette Printing Service? (1942). [BL DSC L70/1555]
Smiles, Samuel. The Huguenots: Their Settlements, Churches, and Industries in England and Ireland, (1972) 448 pp. [ISBN: 0806304979]2
This week’s compilation, “France Huguenot Family Lineage Searches,” is designed to help you find your Protestant ancestors in 16th to 18th century France. It includes links to books and societies that can help you find your ancestral name in France prior to the French Revolution, and it focuses on Protestant aristocratic families. Click on the link to read the pdf document:
This guide complements the compilation published May 20, 2018 on Genealogy Ensemble on finding Huguenot families in France, “How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in France” https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/20/how-to-search-for-huguenot-ancestors-in-france/
In the past, a great deal of research was done on the Huguenots who came to Canada, however, many of the researchers who contributed to this field are now retired or have died. For example, Huguenot Trails (a periodical published by the Huguenot Society of Canada) addressed the Huguenot families who settled in Canada. This periodical stopped publishing in 2002, and the society closed its doors in 2006. The lead authors were Ken Annett and René Péron. See my post, “Huguenots – Index of Names,” March 6, 2015 https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/ This article consists of a list of family names that appeared in “Huguenot Trails.”
Another fine piece of research is Fichiers Huguenots en Nouvelle France, by Michel Barbeau (http://pages.infinit.net/barbeaum/fichier/index.htm). This database includes only the Huguenot families who settled in New France prior to 1759. See also, Huguenot Family Names in Nouvelle France, Québec under British rule, Lower Canada, Québec under Confederation – Various Authors. This and other reference works can be found at the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal or at the Collection nationale (same building, different collections.)
Here are some other compilations I have prepared in the past on the Huguenots:
“British, Irish, Scottish, Loyalist, American, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Huguenot Families in Lower Canada and Quebec 1760,” April 8, 2015
This compilation is a list of villages, towns and townships in Quebec where various groups of people settled. Many of these places have changed names or disappeared over the years.
“French Protestant Churches in Quebec,” Nov. 22, 2015
This compilation includes an article by Huguenot researcher René Péron, the names of Protestant ministers who served these French-speaking congregations and a bibliography for further reading. It includes brief histories of 187 churches, including Anglican, Baptist and other denominations, in which Protestant Quebecers have worshipped between 1600 and today. Finally, this extensive compilation tells you where to find the parish records of these churches.
“The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the USA and Canada,” April 4, 2014
This short post is a quote from a book in the library of the Quebec Family History Society in Montreal, The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the USA and Canada, by G. Elmore Reaman, that points to the important role the Huguenots played in New France. According to worldcat.org, this book is available in more than 1000 libraries around the world. It is also available online, https://archive.org/details/trailofhuguenots00ream
“Huguenot Refugees,” April 2, 2014
This post links to several databases and websites.
“Register of Abjurations,” Feb 3, 2014
This post covers records of renouncements of faith by Huguenots in New France.
Many people know that the Huguenots were French Protestants who suffered persecution and left France around the 1600s to live in other countries where they felt more welcome. But not many genealogists know that it may be possible to trace their Huguenot ancestors in France. Doing this search online is possible but difficult, so the PDF document below is designed to help.
The Huguenots were members of the Église réformée de France (Reformed Church of France). Some historians estimate that Protestants accounted for 10% of the population of France in the 16th century. That changed following the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris. Over the next 200 years, the Huguenots left France for England, Sweden, Switzerland, Prussia, Ireland, South Africa, Dutch East Indies, and other countries. A few families settled in New France (Quebec) and Russia. Today, the descendants of these Protestant families can be found around the world.
This research guide has been created in two sections:
1600-1685 – Protestant families in France: where they lived. This section is a general overview of the regions of France under the Old Regime, prior to the French Revolution of 1789-1799. It is only a reference tool since family lineage searches in France are not conducted by regions or provinces under the Old Regime, but under modern-day Départements
The 93 départements of France in which Protestant families resided during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries (1565-1721) A département is like a state. Since the end of the French Revolution (1789-1799), France has been divided into 95 such states, and each département keeps its records in its own regional archives. There are no archives for Bretagne, Normandie, Aquitaine, Aunis or Bourgogne, nor for any of the more than 40 ancient provinces of France that existed prior to the French Revolution.
Before you search for your ancestor, you need to know where the family originated in France. All online family lineage searches in the 95 archives départementales of France (Regional Archives) are done by communes, meaning villages, towns, townships or cities.
From 92 of the 95 archives départementales of France (regional archives), you can look for your ancestor’s commune and then search church registers (registres des paroisses) from 1535 to 1789 or thereabout, civil registers after 1789, tables décennales (civil registers from 1789 onward by 10-year periods), notarial records. Notarial records are some of the oldest online documents you can access online.
Other online databases on the archives départementales de France will probably not help you in determining the places of origin of your Huguenot ancestors, because these date from after the French Revolution.
I have prepared a research guide to the archives départementales of France (See Jacques Gagne, “Researching French Ancestors Online,” Genealogy Ensemble, May 13, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/) In that PDF, I have described the documents which can be viewed online for free. If you are looking for Huguenots, concentrate on the Parish Registers (Church Registers, Registres paroissiaux or Registres de paroisses) from as early as 1535, and Notarial Acts (Actes des notaires.) A few of the notarial acts are from the 15th century, but most from the 16th or 17th centuries.
A third option deals with Protestant Church Registers (Registres protestants or Registre pastoral or Registres des Pasteurs), These are the few Protestant church registers that have survived.
Another option for searching the Archives départementales de France is, once you have determined the name of the ”commune” your ancestor resided in, go through the index of family names within the ”commune” section of the search engine and see if your family names are listed, even if the church registers are Catholic.
If you don’t know where your ancestors resided, for each of the 95 archives départementales of France, I have included websites indicating where certain families lived.
Don’t forget that not all members of a particular family became a Protestant. Some family members may have stayed with the Catholic Church.
Finally, just to add one more complication, your family name in France would have had a different spelling than the modern one. My family name in America is Gagné, but the same family in France is Gasnier or Gagnier: same pronunciation, different spelling. When I research online in France, I enter Gasnier or Gagnier as the family name, never Gagné.
A note about sources:
Much of the information I have compiled about the Huguenots of 16th, 17th and 18th-century France comes from old books that have been digitized. Over a 12-year period, whenever I came across a book dealing with the Huguenots of France, I would extract the names of the communes in which these families resided and add the names of those communes to my database.
I also discovered a database with the names of the Archives des consistoires de France, in which the communes are listed, as well as the Protestant Seigneurs, the Protestant pastors and the names of some of the Protestant families affected by court decisions.
In addition, to these books, I looked at Michelin maps and Larousse dictionaries. They helped me find out, for example, that the town of Bergerac is part of modern Dordogne, a département within the south-west region of France. This region was home to many Protestant families in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
You will find about 15 to 20 regional online databases of Protestant communes in 16th to 18th century France, but only for certain regions. A national listing of the modern départements of France in regard to the Huguenots of past centuries does not exist online.
Among the first European settlers who came to Quebec in the 1600s were some 300 Protestants, most of them fleeing religious persecution in France. If they hoped to find religious freedom on this side of the Atlantic, they were disappointed: the Catholic Church controlled all religious matters in New France and Protestants could not even baptize their children or buy land.
Many quietly gave in and became Catholic, and families forgot that their ancestors had been Calvinists or Huguenots. Those who maintained or adopted Protestant beliefs were discriminated against by both their English-speaking neighbours and by French-speaking Roman Catholics. Many of them left Quebec. For those who remained, their churches became the centers of their lives.
This compilation includes a list of books and articles about the history of French-speaking Protestants in Quebec and a list of Protestant churches, chapels and missions in Quebec since 1600. It tells you where to find the records of these institutions and how to contact the archives of the Anglicans, Presbyterians and other denominations.