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September 2014

Béarnais Emigrants



People from Béarn, in the southernmost region of France, have long had good reasons to emigrate, some of which may have been:

  • A strong Protestant conviction
  • Poverty
  • Landlessness
  • The French Revolution
  • Conscription - (and the military conscription records in Departmental Archives reveal many emigrants, who sent their registrations from abroad)
  • Failed harvests

In many cases, especially after the Revolution, Béarnais emigrants simply hopped across the border into Spain, though that would have been a very bad idea if the reason for leaving were Protestantism. The hunger for land -- an affliction of all Europe and not only Béarn or even France -- took many to the Americas, particularly, as we have reported before, to Argentina. In the nineteenth century, Latin America was a natural destination for a people who often felt closer to their Spanish "cousins" than to their French overlords, and very few from the region chose to build a new life in the French colonies such as Quebec, Louisiana or Saint-Domingue. Some went to California and a small number, leaving South America by way of Brazil, ended up in Portugal.

From the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century, recruitment agents for the shipping companies that began to ply the lanes between Bordeaux and South America combed the poorer villages of Béarn for potential emigrants (as others had done for the companies of Le Havre). They sought anyone who could pay the fare, selling them dreams of a prosperous new life in the Pampa. There were other types of agents, who had their own reasons for recruiting emigrants. Among the agents working the Béarn region were:

  • Dr. August Brugnes, seeking to colonize Corrientes in Argentina
  • Louis Sauze, an agent working for the Argentine government 
  • The Aresteguy et Frères agency in Bayonne
  • Jean Vigné in Tardets
  • An agent named Jean-Baptiste Laplace, of Bugnein, worked for both the Colson Agency in Bordeaux and the Sarasola Agency; (some of his passenger lists survive)
  • Clément Cabanettes, from Aveyron, was attempting to colonize Pigue in Argentina

Bateau a vapeur


 The villages in Béarn from which emigrants left are numerous and include:

  • Abidos
  • Arance
  • Bésingrand
  • Biron
  • Castetner
  • Gouze
  • Laà-Mondrans
  • Lacq-Audéjos
  • Lagor
  • Lendresse
  • Loubieng
  • Maslacq
  • Mont
  • Montestrucq
  • Mourenx
  • Noguères
  • Os-Marsillon
  • Ozenx
  • Sarpourenx
  • Sauvelade
  • Vielleségure

An excellent book on those who went to Argentina is "Béarnais dans la Pampa" by Alberto Sarramone. A specialist researcher on these families is Christiane Bidot-Naude. A very helpful website is that of Les Amis de l'Association Franco-Argentine de Béarnais.

We wish you luck in finding your Béarnais ancestors.

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©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy