Analysis of the French Documentation
We give here our rough translations of the three Mansell baptisms entered into the registers of the Paris Catholic church of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas (to see the originals, follow the links in the previous post):
Françoise Josephine Mancell
On the thirteenth of February 1814 was baptized Francoise Josephine, daughter of Thomas Mencell and of Marie Fouyol, machinist living at rue du Faubourg St. Jacques no. 46 [? 16?]. The godfather is Jean François Varrinier, boarding house keeper, rue du Cloître Saint Benoît no. 17, the godmother is Josephine Thomassin, wife of Cartier, embroiderer (or, more precisely, one who decorates clothing) living at rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur no. 5, who have signed with the mother and me, the father having declared that he does not know how to sign, neither does the child, aged 27 months and 25 or 26 days, born the 18th of November 1811.
Marie Fouyol w[ife of] Thomas Mancell
Josephine wife [of] Cartier
Pierre Georg. Alph.
On the ninth of February 1816 was baptized by me the undersigned priest Pierre Georges Alphonse, born the 9th of January last, son of Thomas Mansall, weaver and of Marie Fouillol, his wife, living in this parish, rue St. Jacques no. 295. The godfather was Pierre Rey, cotton worker, same residence, the godmother was Margueritte Cocq... [? the rest of the name is illegible], same residence. The godfather only has signed with me, the father and mother having declared that they do not know how to sign.
M.C.S. Mouzou priest
On the thirty-first of October 1818, was baptized Jeanne-Richard, born the 10th of this month, daughter of weaver Mansann ... [illegible] ... rue St. Jacques no 26 [? 261? illegible], and of Marie Fouyolle, his wife. The godfather was Richard Thompson, rue de la Paix no. 6, who has signed, and the godmother Thomassine Lorguilleux, rue des ... [illegible]. no. 6, who declared that she did not know how to sign.
The last child, Jeanne Richard, did not live long. The line for her entry, number 3372, into the burial register of Père Lachaise, shows that she died at the age of six weeks in the ninth arrondissement and was buried in the "common pit" or paupers' grave, on the 23rd of November 1818.
What stands out most glaringly is the question of whether or not Marie Fouyol could sign her name. The 1814 baptism register entry stated that she could and did sign, as "Marie Fouyol wife of Thomas Mancell".1 The 1816 register entry stated that she could not sign her name. and there is no signature for her. The 1818 register entry made no mention of her ability to sign and there is no signature for her. The burial register does not contain signatures. That the 1816 clearly stated that she did not know how to sign her name calls into question the validity of the signature in the 1814 register entry, as do the various spellings in the three entries. Were she literate, she would have been able to spell her name to the person writing the entry.
However, we have seen similar cases in other registers where the priest wrote in some entries that a person could not sign while in others, the person could and did sign. This occurred with both women and men. It is not clear why this was done. Additionally, the royal decrees of the Ancien régime that established how parish register entries were to be written stated, in 1667, and re-stated in 1736, that baptism entries were to be signed by the father, the godparents and the priest.2 There was no requirement for the mother to sign. The Mansell children's baptism register entries were made more than twenty years after the 1792 establishment of civil registration, replacing Catholic Church registration as legal establishment of identity. It could be posited that the church registers would be expected to comply with the old rules, yet neither the priests nor the vicar of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas were following precisely the old rules for the composition of a baptism entry in ignoring the mother and having the father sign if he could. Thus, the structure and wording of the entries do not allow for any assumption about the mother's ability to write. Unless another signature by Marie Fouyol turns up in another document, it cannot be certain that the signature of the 1814 baptism is hers.
Another point to note is the question of the marriage of the parents. In the 1814 baptism, there was no mention, as would have been normal, of the fact that Thomas Mansell and Marie Fouyol were married, or that she was his wife, yet, in the 1816 and 1818 baptism entries, the mention is made. The statement does appear in Marie Fouyol's single, attributed signature, on the baptism of 1814. It may well have been that that signature "Marie Fouyol f[emme] Thomas Mancell", whoever wrote it, was a way of correcting the omission, leaving no doubt that the child was legitimate.
The professions of all involved are not given but those that are, particularly of Thomas Mansell, are also important to note:
- Thomas Mansell was a mécanicien and a tisserand, a machinist and weaver. There is much discussion on various French genealogy websites about the difference between the three words tisseur, tissier and tisserand, all of which mean weaver. The general consensus, with no one citing any source or authority, seems to be that a tisseur or tissier is a weaver as classically understood, someone who works at a manually operated loom. A tisserand, however, seems to be someone capable of all aspects of weaving, from selecting the threads, to choosing the pattern, to setting up the loom, to weaving, to approving the final product. Thomas Mansell was a tisserand. He also was a machinist. In this context, he almost certainly a machinist of power looms, possibly also automated looms.
- Though the fact that Jeanne Richard Mansell was buried in the paupers' grave does not indicate anyone's profession, it does indicate that the Mansell family were not wealthy.
- Jean François Varrinier ran a boarding house, renting out furnished rooms.
- Josephine Thomassin was a chamareuse, one who decorated clothing, including such skills as embroidery and sewing on embellishments such as pearls, beads, etc..
- Pierre Rey was a cotton worker, ouvrier en coton, probably involved in carding, sorting and spinning cotton.
A picture begins to form of a social circle of people working in textiles and clothing.
The places of residence, all in Paris, are:
- The Mansell couple lived at number 16 or 46 of rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, then at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques, then at number 26 or 261 of rue Saint Jacques
- Jeanne Richard Mansell died in the ninth arrondissement of Paris
- Jean François Varrinier's boarding house was at number 17 rue du Cloître Saint Benoît
- Josephine Thomassin lived at number 5 rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur
- Pierre Rey lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
- Margueritte Cocq... [her full name is illegible] also lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
- Richard Thompson lived at number 6 rue de la Paix
- Thomassine Lorguilleux's address is illegible
As to relationships, none of the godparents were stated as being married to one another and none seems to have been related to one another or, frustratingly, to the child baptized or to the parents. Josephine Thomassin is identified as the "wife of Cartier".
Analysis of the Canadian Documentation
The Canadian documentation on the Mansell family as provided by Madame J, is also quite sparse:
- The grave stone for Thomas Mansell, in the Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery, Mississippi Mills, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada states that he was from Yorkshire and that he died in 1852 at the age of seventy-five. This would make his year of birth about 1777. There is no grave stone for his wife.
- The 1861 Census Canada West, Renfrew North, Westmeath shows a Marrey Mansell living with her son, Alfred Thomas Mansell. Born in France, she was aged seventy-eight. This would make her year of birth about 1783.
- The 1871 Census Canada, Ontario, Renfrew Co., Westmeath shows a Mariah Mensell, aged eighty-eight and born in France, living with her son. This would make her year of birth about 1783.
- The Westmeath, Renfrew, Ontario death register entry for Marie Mansell dated the 2nd of October 1872, stated that she was ninety years old and had been born in Paris, France. This would make her year of birth about 1782.
- The obituary of Marie's daughter, written in 1903, states that:
- Thomas Mansell was an English weaver
- He arrived in Paris in 1801
- He became a prisoner when war broke out and could not leave Paris
- Marie [Fouyol] Mansell was the widow of a French officer
- The family left Paris in 1819 and returned to Yorkshire, where the Mansells' "only son", Alfred T. Mansell was born
- The family arrived in Canada in 1820
The most useful facts about Marie Fouyol from the above are that:
- Marie's age is quite consistent with her year of birth having been about 1783.
- She was the widow of a French officer when she married Thomas Mansell.
- Her first son probably died at such an early age that her grandchildren, the probable informants for the obituary, knew nothing of his existence.
In the next post, we will begin to look at the above information groups in more detail.
UPDATE - We received this delightful and most helpful comment from Madame R by e-mail:
"Re Marie Fouyol's signature or not, I have found the same issue in the English registers, sometimes a person signed, on others a cross for his or her mark was inserted. Skilled trades who were masters, employing others and training apprentices, could write and calculate, or they could not function as a business, yet sometimes they too have a cross inserted. The reason may be that the registers were not necessarily written up on the day of the event or by the person officiating, instead written up by the clerk later - a week, or a month or so. They were sometimes inserted as a bunch all together and the register signed by the priest/rector in a long column down the right hand side. In marriage banns, some are signed, some crossed.
At this time, in Britain, the clergy often had responsibility for several churches (and the living from them) so record keeping could be a hit and miss affair at the smaller ones. (I don't know if this was true in France). In more significant churches, the record is more accurate but snobbery can affect the entries. I have an ancestor Ann Adair who signed at her marriage, her groom, a Scots gunner, could not. Both are likely to be the case. Then he lied about his father's profession, and the Rector at the protestant Cathedral in Londonderry (or Derry), recorded her father as a labourer - which meant any working man, basically not gentry like him.
Apparently, before the Famine in rural Catholic Ireland, baptisms were at the family home (for a first baby often the mother's parents house) and was followed by 'wetting the baby's head' - the drinks. The priest stayed for the drinking and then somewhat later went back to the parochial house and tried to remember who was called what. Boys names and fathers are usually recorded accurately, who the mother was or was she the witness, caused mix ups, and what was the little girl's name? Mothers and godmothers were often confused.
From which I conclude, that there were many things apart from simple truth that could affect the registers.
Thanks for the blog, very enjoyable."
©2021 Anne Morddel
1 The priest also wrote that Thomas Mansell and the child could not sign, giving the child's full age, probably to make a point of the fact that this was a very late baptism.
2 Le Mée René. "La réglementation des registres paroissiaux en France". Annales de démographie historique, 1975.
Démographie historique et environnement. pp. 433-477; https://www.persee.fr/doc/adh_0066-2062_1975_num_1975_1_1296 (Accessed 27 July 2021) p451.