The Irish have been coming to France forever, but in the seventeenth century, after the Nine Years War, the success of the Glorious Revolution and the defeat of the Jacobite forces, the numbers were enormous. James II and his court, along with about 24,000 Irish men, women and children, took up residence in France. They had their own regiments within the French army, the most notable being Dillon's. Some of them have been thoroughly researched and discussed by Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac in her fine tome, Le Grand Exil : les Jacobites en France, 1688-1715, published by the Service historique de la Défense in 2007. Using the many files in the SHD archives, Genet-Rouffiac has traced the military careers of all of the Irishmen in the French army and, in some cases, on their families as well. The book's index of names could be much better but it is still an excellent resource for those tracing Irish ancestors in France.
The Cercle Généalogique de Versailles et des Yvelines at one time had a working group on the Jacobites. Their website, www.cgvy.org, seems to be faulty and sets off all sorts of alarming messages on our computer. However, they have combed local documents for all traces of Jacobites and have listed them. Some of these lists are in the Archives nationales and some have been published in their newsletter over the years.
The finest online resource we have found to date is the Irish in Europe Project of the Department of History at the National University of Ireland at Maynooth. As the title makes clear, it covers the Irish in all of Europe, not just France, and people of all walks of life, not just the military. To use their Virtual Research Environment (VRE) one must register, but it is free. Then, one can search across the following collections:
- French Military (data taken from the contrôles de troupes)
- Spanish Military and Community
- Students in Leuven
- Students in Paris and Toulouse
The primary search is on a surname. Results give the full name, where the person went, and the collection in which they appear. One can click on "Full Record" to see more and get the complete source for the data. Alternatively, one can search by region of origin in Ireland, but that tends to bring a hefty number of results.
There is plenty of information here, with biographical data on more than 40,000 people. The other pages, with explanations of historical events are clear and complete. It is a pretty site.
Sadly, as of early 2017, this site seems to be down. Please do let us know if you come across a working link!
These sources may be of help to any of you tracing an ancestor in one of the flights from Ireland to France.
©2012 Anne Morddel