There have been many developments in Huguenot research and studies in London since we last wrote on the subject here. We think that, based on the many requests we have had recently from you, Dear Readers, an update would be timely. This is especially so as many of you have been attempting research in France before you have enough information.
It is NOT recommended that you:
- Research online genealogy databases for anyone with a similar surname and then try to prove a relationship
- Come to France to visit all villages where the surname has appeared in documents (though we would never discourage a visit to France)
- Assume that all Protestants were Huguenots (only that all Huguenots were Protestants)
Generally, we find that many descendants of French immigrants have a family tradition that an ancestor was Huguenot. This claim is often made even when the ancestor was Catholic (Huguenots were, by definition, Protestants) or even when the ancestor was born long after persecution of Huguenots ended and the waves of Huguenot emigration ceased. We reiterate: do all possible research and get all possible documentation of the French ancestor after he or she emigrated, in the country or countries to which he or she immigrated, before attempting research in French archives and records.
That first phase of research includes, if you have reason to believe your ancestor were, indeed, a Protestant who left France before the nineteenth century, checking with existing Huguenot societies to see if your family may not already have been researched. These societies are centres of research excellence that have done an enormous amount of work on many Huguenot families already. The British societies are particularly useful as more than fifty thousand Huguenot refugees went there and many of them passed through London, staying for a few years, before moving on to another place, such as Pennsylvania or South Africa.
The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland has a number of interesting events coming up:
- 15 September 2018 will be Huguenot Day at the French Protestant Hospital in Rochester, which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year
- The Huguenot Museum, established in 2014 and now open Wednesday through Saturday, has lovely collections that well illustrate the skills of many Huguenot refugees: weaving, lacemaking, silversmithing.
- The Lecture Programme, each year, presents four lectures on Huguenot scholarship
The Huguenots of Spitalfields are planning over thirty events for the month of October: walks, talks, activities, and exhibitions. Read about them all - your ancestor may be among those discussed.
The lovely city of Norwich in Norfolk will have, on the 9th, 15th and 16th of September a walking tour around central Norwich demonstrating the effect upon the urban landscape of the 'Strangers' - incomers from the Spanish Netherlands and France 1550-1750.
Study these organisations, their resources and their events, Dear Readers, if you think your ancestor may have been a Huguenot. We suspect that you may find them very helpful.
UPDATE: We received this very helpful comment by e-mail:
Congratulations on your latest very pertinent blog on Huguenot Month.
I am a researcher at the Huguenot Museum and have always to mention the do nots you mentioned.
There is one more warning I have to mention to people as well. Your family might be Protestant, they might even be of French origin, but they might also be Norman.
My father's family are of Huguenot descendant in Normandy.
But my mother's family are of Norman descent in Normandy.
I have also to stress, most appropriately this year, don't ignore the women.
Too often the inquirers insisting their ancestors are Huguenot, concentrate on their male surnames. We have not unusually followed up possible French surnames only to find a Huguenot wife appearing.
©2018 Anne Morddel