Methodolgy

"Female Ancestors Are Hard to Find", They Say, But Not If They Were French, We Assure You

Women - Bretagne (Carhaix et Huelgoat)

This year's RootsTech has launched, with many dozens of talks on more than genealogy, all of them online this year. Topics cover everything from food to folklore, costumes to customs, search strategies to scrapbooking, and the dreaded, bouncy, motivational talks. At least, we dread them. We have many failings, Dear Readers, (most shamefully, our vile, cataclysmic and near-cannibalistic rages) but lack of motivation is not one of them. Yet, for all of the choice, we could not find at first glance a presentation to captivate us, so we returned to one from last year, the very fine "Finding Your Elusive Female Ancestors" by Julie Stoddard. Ms. Stoddard makes a number of good points, and includes some research skills, such as creating timelines, always looking at original documents and analyzing them fully (here is how we do it), that should be employed in all genealogy research, but her focus  is on the difficulty of researching women in the United States.

Researching women in France is quite different, so we thought that we might give you something of a comparison between the skills proposed by Ms. Stoddard for researching your American female ancestors with those necessary for researching your French female ancestors. The fundamental difference lies in the customs concerning a married woman's surname. In America and the English tradition, when a woman married, her surname legally changed to that of her husband; in France, since 1792, it did and does not. In America, when Jane Smith married John Brown, her legal name changed to Jane Brown, or Mrs. John Brown. If John died, she became Widow Brown. In France, when Jeanne Martin married Jean Larue, her legal name remained Jeanne Martin, with the added status of "wife of Larue" (femme Larue or épouse Larue), written in full: Jeanne Martin, épouse Larue. If Jean died, her status changed but her name did not. She became Jeanne Martin, widow Larue: Jeanne Martin veuve Larue. Thus, there is no such thing as a "maiden name" in France; there is only a person's name. What of Madame Larue as one finds? This is a customary usage but not a legal name. Additionally, in France, women could and did sign documents, using their legal names.

Do not be fooled, Dear Readers. This preserving of a woman's birth name as her legal identity is not an indication that France was somehow more advanced concerning women's rights. No, it is a country as backward in that respect as any other; the female revolutionaries who fought for women's equality during the Revolution were beheaded and their writings buried; in modern times, women were not enfranchised until 1948.  The difference comes from the French (and very Latin) concept of family. A woman was part of her birth family. Any dowry she received came from the family; they may have retained rights over it; they may have expected it to be returned were she to die. Yet, she also belonged to the new family she was to create with her husband and they may have been controlling their family's assets in relation to their own children. As a widow, she might have carried on the family business in her own right (this happened especially with shipping families, it seems). Knowing her identity was essential and practical. How, in terms of genealogical research, are these differences manifested?

Ms. Stoddard lists the types of records most likely to result in a successful search for a woman's name in America, and how to use them for that purpose:

  • Vital records, being birth, marriage and death records
  • Census returns
  • Family Trees found online
  • Cemeteries
  • Probate records
  • Social Security records
  • DNA tests

Looking at their French equivalents, one can see that their usefulness in researching women is not at all the same.

  • The French equivalent of vital records are the actes d'état civil, acts of civil status. These date from 1792, when civil registration replaced church parish records as legal documentation of people. These are hugely useful in tracing a French female ancestor's life. A marriage act, acte de mariage, will give a woman's full name, both of her parents' full names, and her date and place of birth. Thus, one marriage act can reveal not only the bride's name but the names of her mother and of the groom's mother as well. Birth registrations, actes de naissance, generally give the legal names of the father and of the mother as well as their marital status. Thus, a child of the couple above would be registered as, say, Samuel Larue, born to Jean Larue and his wife, Jeanne Martin. Death registrations, actes de décès, are always in the legal name of the person, so a woman's death would be, for example registered as: Jeanne Martin, wife (or widow) of Jean Larue. If known, her parents names and the place of her birth would be included. Most commercial genealogy companies in France have structured their initial search pages to allow for exploiting all of this detail in the civil registrations.
  • Census returns are recensements (with other terms used over the years) in France. They began in 1836, except for in Paris, where they did not begin until 1926. Married women are enumerated under their legal names. Thus, one would see the Larue family listed as:
    • Larue, Jean, head of household
    • Martin, Jeanne, his wife
    • Larue, Samuel, their son
    • Larue, Jacques, their son
    • Larue Marie, their daughter
    • Boule, Louise, widow Larue, mother of the head of household

The great headache with the French census is that most are not indexed. Filae.com has indexed two, that for 1872 and that for 1906, and they are working on others. Though there is less indexing of censuses in France than in America, it is generally of a much higher quality, yielding much fewer preposterous results.

  • Family trees found online posted by French people tend to be slightly better at citing sources than those found online in America. The best source for French family trees is Geneanet.org. As Ms. Stoddard recommends, so do we: verify every single source.
  • Cemetery photographs or jaunts to view family plots are recommend by Ms. Stoddard to help you to find a female ancestor. This would not be very successful in France, especially outside of Paris and other large cities. French cemeteries tend not to have graves of individuals but family tombs. (Once again, the family is more important than the individual.) These tombs often have no more than the family surname engraved upon them. Some will have listed the names of those within, some not. Where they do, the lists may not be complete. More valuable for research than the cemetery or grave stone is the cemetery register, maintained by the town hall. Because so many cemeteries in France have been moved or destroyed and because untended graves are emptied and the plots resold, hunting through cemeteries will not yield much information. The register books of interments, however, are permanent records and might help with genealogical research. Those of  Paris are online, but this is still quite rare. Geneanet has a fair collection of photographs of  grave markers and tombs, but it is still quite small.
  • Probate records in France are increasingly online on the websites of the Departmental Archives. Again, in thse, a woman will appear under her legal name. The records online relate more to the legal transfer of title to property because of a death and the legal registration of a will. Wills are not found online. These are complicated to search and are more useful in the hunt for unknown relatives. One would not begin the search for a female ancestor here when she is so easy to find elsewhere.
  • Social Security records. Beware, here, for they are not what you think in France. La Sécurité Sociale is the term for the French national health system and those, being medical records, you will not be able to touch for love or money. In America, one's Social Security number, like it or not, functions almost as a national identity number. France does issue national identity cards, la carte d'identité, and you will not get your hands on a collection of those either.
  • The last category, finding relatives and thus, common ancestors, with DNA testing is a conundrum, fraught with difficulty, and partially illegal in France. However, so many people skirt the law, take the illegal test and put their results up on foreign genealogy websites that, if you are so inclined, you might give it a try. Where this will be extremely helpful in tracing a woman or a man is where either or both chose not to be named on a child's birth registration.

 

We are grateful to Ms. Stoddard for her excellent presentation and that it has inspired us in this discussion. Good luck finding your female ancestors!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The Best Posts for the Letter A in the 2020 Challenge A-Z

Letter A

As promised, we bring you what we consider to have been among the better contributions to the 2020 Challenge A-Z, beginning with those of the letter A. We base our selection not only upon quality but upon what we consider may be useful to you, Dear Readers. Thus, many quite charming but too personal essays are omitted. All are in French.

 

Catherine Livet's blog, Becklivet, is a personal blog about researching her own family's genealogy. Her submission for the letter A is entitled Androgyne and tells of a child's sex  given incorrectly on a birth registration. She exhibits the faulty registration, covered with marginal notes showing the modifications made to legally change the sex, so that the person could marry. The post is brief and very clear and covers something that could cause any of us to stumble during our research.

 

Brigitte writes the respected Chroniques d'antan et d'ailleurs - Voyages sur les traces des ancêtres de mes enfants, on which she submitted the post A comme Apothicaire (A for Apothecary). This is a long a thorough study of one apothecary. It is well-illustrated and has a list of links at the end so, even if your French is not very good, you should be able to garner some good ideas from it. Most valuable, to our mind, is her discovery of a couple of delightful, seventeenth century directories of apothecaries in Paris and Nancy. An excellent piece of genealogy writing.

 

Maïwenn Bourdic writes d'Aïeux et d'Ailleurs, généalogie et archives, with a strong emphasis on World War I research. She wrote A comme Absent militaires (A is for Away or Missing Military Personnel). She discusses in detail and with examples a specific series in the National Archives, Dossiers des absents militaires (1846-1893), the files on those military personnel who went missing during that period (which includes the Franco-Prussian War). Click on that link to see the PDF finding aid, which lists all those who were declared missing and the documentation that was submitted by their families for the declaration. With the codes, one can then request a copy of the file. Many of you, Dear Readers, have ancestors who were from Alsace-Lorraine. If they seemed to have served and disappeared, you may find them here. There are also quite a number who went missing on Napoleon's campaign in Russia in 1812. Madame Bourdic's blog is full of such discoveries that she shares. Highly recommended.

 

This year, we noticed that many more departmental and municipal archives joined in the challenge. Many of them chose to put their contributions on their facebook pages so, if you know the town or village of an ancestor's origin, look on facebook to see if the archives have a page. They often write about local citizens and history and your ancestor could be included. Some, such as the Communal Archives of Savigny-sur-Orge, even translated their posts into English!

As we read through the many fine posts, we will continue to share those we like best with you, Dear Readers.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

 


Calling All Caribbean Genealogy Experts to Solve a Puzzle - and Our Own Theory

Colonies en Amerique

Dear Readers, we do hope that at least on amongst you may be able to help us with this puzzle, sent by Monsieur S.:

I am looking at records of French ancestors  from the Caribbean [specifically, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Trinidad] in the 1700s. One of the ancestors, upon marriage, adopted a second surname identical to that of his paternal grandmother. He became Francois Sellier Foucour [also Faucour], and passed this surname down to his descendants, while his brothers (and their descendants) remained simply Sellier.

In looking through the records of births, marriages, and deaths, I noticed a few other times when a marriage record shows the groom with a more complicated "double name" than his father in the same record. What I also notice is that the marriages where the name addition occurred also involved a dispensation because first cousins were marrying.

Was there some sort of practice of the groom adopting a surname that combines those of both common paternal ancestors in the case of cousin marriages in the French-speaking Caribbean (or elsewhere, for that matter)? I have tried to google to see if there are articles on this surname phenomenon, but have not found any discussion of it.

I have seen the adoption of a wife's surname in German records, where the groom was marrying the sole female heir of a farm and positioning himself to take over the farm eventually, but nothing like that is happening here. In my case, the Foucours lived nowhere near where the marriage was taking place. It's also not a surname from the wife's family. Nor is it some physical descriptor to try to distinguish individuals. And there are no other Francios Selliers in the area, creating a need to tell them apart.

What do you think is the reason for the name change from Sellier to Sellier Foucour? Any thoughts you have on the phenomenon and my guess at what is happening (but not an understanding of why) would be welcome.

 

Hitherto, we have not come across this. Have any of you done so, Dear Readers? Can you provide an explanation? Has it to do with land ownership? Has it to do with the strong Spanish influence in the region leading to the adoption of the Spanish custom of using both parents' surnames as their child's compound surname?

If you know the reason, please do write in the comments below. 

Merci bien!

 

REPLIES RECEIVED WITH SUGGESTIONS, SUSPICIONS, ETC.:

In addition to the Comment below, we have received these by e-mail:

 

From Monsieur L, a very interesting link:

Hi Anne,

I had a quick look at your query and you might be interested by the following link (Spécificités anthroponymiques antillaises : les noms de famille des Martiniquais d'ascendance servile).

 

From Monsieur S:

Dear Anne

The reason is obvious. This is a very popular coutume (custom?) among Spanish people, whereas , even today, most people in Spain have a double name , the father name and the mother's father name or "patronym. I use "father name" because , the mother, (today, officially) keeps her "patronym", even when married. In your example, you might call them, Mr and Mrs Sellier, but they remain by law Mr Sellier xxx and Mrs Faucour yyy. where xxx is Sellier' mother name and yyy FAUCOUR mother's name.

So the grandmother was called Mrs Faucour , but she was "the wife of" Mr FAUCOUR, married or not.

Very useful when dealing with genealogy!

Another potential reason to be identified is whether they had interest to be considered of Spanish origin and not french, as Sellier suggests.

Spanish ? because of local government, now, Faucour may suggest a well known family, more than a simple Sellier. ‌

I have also seen, at the end of the 19th century, 100% french people adding a 2nd name in Louisiana, only for differentiation.
I know some simple "Soulié" in New Orleans who managed to be called Soulie xxxxxx between 1890 and 1910.

The "Etat Civil " was taken on declared name at birth or death , until late; so easy to change or modify. ALL THE MORE IF YOU WERE A MIGRANT !

I hope I could help you.

PS OTHER customs in other countries, obviously.

for example : family names Russians and Polish = Romanov and Romanova
first name if the father is (say) Alexei for Alexander , his son might be Sergei Alexandrovitch Romanov and his daughter Irina Alexandrovna Romanov (or Romanova in some places)

Our Own Theory

We have read all of the comments, suggestions and linked articles to the above. Nothing quite seems to fit the situation described by Monsieur S. , at least to our mind.

  • The articles tend to be more about the names chosen by liberated slaves in Martinique, which does not seem to apply here.
  • The suggestion of Spanish influence and the well-known double surname tradition of the Spanish occurred to us as well. However, if that were the case, surely all members of the family would have followed the tradition as well. Additionally, the maternal name should have come form the groom's mother, surely, and not his paternal grandmother.
  • The proposal that the double name could be a "dit name" again does not really apply. A "dit name" is, essentially an "also known as" or, literally, "called". It is an alternate name, a custom that became a legal name. In the case of Monsieur S, the name change is clearly legal. Again, it applies only to one couple, not the siblings, whereas "dit names" tended to apply either to all branches of a family in a particular location, or each branch took a different name to differentiate itself form the others. Neither of those options happened here.
  • Monsieur S. himself mentions and rejects the German case wherein a groom may adopt his wife's name if she were the sole heir to a family farm, in order to keep that name's link with the property. 

We think this last may come closest to our own theory. Many years ago, we knew a family with quite unusual names. They explained with the story of a maternal aunt was the last in her family to carry on the family surname. It weighed on her mind that, when she would die, their line of that name would die out. When her sister's son was about to marry, she offered him a proposition: if he would change his surname to hers, so that he and his children would carry on the name, she would leave him her not inconsiderable fortune. The young man did so, and changed his surname to hers, which was Stone. He and his wife took the homage further and named their children Rocky, Pebbles, Petra and Cairn (this was California in the early 1970s). The fortune was duly inherited. The name lived on within the family. All were happy.

Could it be that, in the case of Monsieur S, the Foucour family, at the time of the marriage, had run out of sons to carry on the name?  It would be a simple thing to examine the family tree to find out if this were the case, though it would not, of course, prove a motive but merely provide a possible cause for one. The next step would be to see if, in the other cases he mentions, sons there were missing as well. This theory might also help to explain why it happened with marriages between cousins that required dispensations. Like Mr. Stone above, the groom would be of the same line as the name, through his mother, making those obsessed with its preservation a bit more comfortable about giving it to him.

Do let us know, Monsieur S., what your examination of the family tree reveals. Do the brides all have a dearth of uncles and brothers?

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The Problematic 1831 Census

Lots to Count

Not long ago, we received a message from Monsieur H:

"I'm having trouble tracking something down that I found in a Wikipedia article, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's true or just something that's gone around the internet a few times. I can't seem to find any references to it in academic works. The article for the 1831 recensement du peuple mentions a supplementary query about literacy (link here)"

We had written on this blog about the French census some time ago. We were somewhat ashamed to read, when we went back to that post, that we had given the 1831 census rather cursory treatment:

"There was an earlier census, in 1831, but it was not a success in terms of logic and organisation, and little of this census has been digitized or even, in some cases, preserved"

We resolved to improve upon that, but found, as we hunted through our library, that Monsieur H. was correct. References are few and far between. Genealogy books, genealogy magazines and genealogy websites all are silent on the 1831 census. We surmise that they all are following the complete lack of mention of it by the great Gildas Bernard in his Guide des Recherches sur l'histoire des familles. At last, we found an excellent article by Pascal Vidal (1) on the census generally with a significant portion give over to the "delicate" problem of the 1831 census.

At that time, the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the census and it was hoped that the unsatisfactory methods of the previous census of 1826 would be avoided. Trusting to the prefectural administrators to handle the census, the Ministry sent round no basic form or list of questions, merely a form with columns for statistics. (2)

1831 census stats form

 

There was no list of questions to ask, not even a column for names, just this form for cumulative statistics. This is why the 1831 census is such a problem: each prefect, even each mayor, conducted it his own way. Some merely counted the number of people, some merely the heads of households (as in Rennes), some made their own forms and asked quite detailed questions. The result was uneven; for some towns, one can say that yes, there was a proper census, with all persons named and counted, in 1831, for others, there was not. So, one cannot generalize about it and thus, the little chart in the Wikipédia article, Tableau des renseignements recueillis de 1831 à 1891is incorrect in giving a list of details obtained for the 1831 census when that was not always the case. This sample from Rennes shows that the form, such as it was, was hand drawn in a notebook and did not note age or personal situation or, for the most part, women.

1831 Rennes

As to Monsieur H's specific question whether there was a literacy question, we can now say that the Ministry of the Interior did not give instructions for one. That did not preclude a prefect or a mayor including one. Apparently, this happened in Bretagne. 

The wonderful thesis "La pratique du breton de l'Ancien Régime à nos jours", graciously put online by its author Fañch Broudic, gives an entire chapter to the questions used the 1831 census in Bretagne. In essence, the question was not if a person could read, it was if he could read French. The local prefects or mayors were interested in the highly political issue of indigenous language or, as Monsieur H. posits: "in following Prussia in introducing universal primary education' by doing a bit of preliminary research.

Thank you, Monsieur H. for sending us on a fascinating little journey!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

Further Reading:

 

Duchein, Michel. "Les archives des recensements", Gazette des Archives, 1961, vol.33, pp. 61-72

LeGoyt, Alfred. "Les premiers recensements de la population en France, jusqu’en 1856", Journal de la société statistique de Paris, tome 128 (1987), p. 243-257.

Le Mée, René. "La statistique démographique officielle de 1815 à 1870 en France", Annales de Démographie Historique,  1979 pp. 251-279.

Watel, Catherine. Administration Générale et Économie 1800 - 1940 Population, Archives départementales d'Indre-et-Loire.

 

(1) Vidal, Pascal. "Les Recensements en Généalogie", Généalogie Magazine, no. 369, May 2018, pp.12-25.

(2) France. Ministère de l'intérieur. Recueil des circulaires et instructions émanées du Ministère de l'Interieur et des circulaires et instructions émanées du Ministère du Commerce et des Travaux Publics. Paris. page link 

 

 


Lockdown Breeds Blogging Bonanza

Challenge a-z

As any parent will know, boredom in the infantile will lead to naughtiness, whereas boredom in the more mature will lead to creativity. During the confinements, or lockdowns, of 2020, French genealogist bloggers outdid themselves in creativity. For their 8th annual Challenge A-Z, (which we have discussed previously here and here) in which participants must write twenty-six blog posts, in alphabetical order, each on a  genealogical subject, during the month of November. Ninety bloggers participated, writing more than two thousand posts on French genealogy, quite an achievement indeed, and a significant success for the original organizer of the Challenge, Sophie Boudarel.

The contributors include professional archivists, librarians and genealogists, but most are passionate family historians and genealogists who write about their research difficulties and discoveries. We shall be reading them and presenting here some of the best over the next few weeks. Should you wish to read them in the original French, you can find links to all of them here. A bit of weeding is required, but a fabulous resource nevertheless.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The French Police Surveillance Dossiers of the Interwar Period - les Fonds de Moscou - Have an Index Online

Secrets

Very exciting news on the indexing front. For a vast collection of the dossiers of some 650,000 people on whom the French security police were spying, for the most part between the two World Wars, there is now online an index to all of the names contained therein. The index was created in Russian, for this collection has travelled more than many of us ever will.

During the occupation of Paris in World War Two, the Nazis collected a great many things, including artworks, books and archives, and sent them to Germany. Among the archives so taken were the private papers of the French branch of the Rothschild family, the library and archives of the Alliance Isréalite Universelle, as explained here, the Masonic archives and membership records of the Grand Orient de France, which we discussed here, and the police surveillance files of the Directorate for National Security in the Ministry of the Interior. All of these collections are called the "Fonds de Moscou", the "Moscow Collection". This is because one of the conquerors of the Nazis was the Soviet Union and, dutifully following the claim by a nineteenth century American Secretary of War that "to the victor belong the spoils", the Red Army stole from the Nazis what they had stolen from the French and took it all to Moscow, where (words not being minced) they were known as the "Trophy Archives". No one conquered the Soviet Union but itself; when it collapsed, word got out that archival treasures that France had thought lost forever were not so. It took some "discussion", but this is something at which the French are unparalleled, so the Russians bowed and the collections were returned, or mostly so.

The surveillance files part of the Fonds de Moscou are in the Archives nationales at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine and a full research guide has been published on the website. Unfortunately, it has not yet been translated into English. 

The files cover the types the police found suspect and worthy of surveillance:

  • Anarchists
  • Anti-military or war agitators
  • Communists
  • Political militants
  • Foreign residents requesting an identity card
  • Foreign spies or those suspected of aiding foreign intelligence organizations
  • Foreigners who had been in prison or expelled from their countries
  • Gamblers banned from casinos and those authorised to work in casinos
  • Foreigners whose requests to remain had been denied and who were expelled
  • Foreigners who requested to be naturalized
  • French who requested passports to travel and foreigners who requested permission to remain in France
  • Jewish people

Quelle liste!

The website warns that using the index is not easy.

  1. In essence, the first index is a partially alphabetical (through the first three letters only) listing of names, mostly but not all of them French, made by Soviet archivists in Russian, in notebooks that have been microfilmed and those images digitized. 
    1. This was made by archivists to be a simple name index to the named files or dossiers.
    2. The index of names refers to a dossier's number.
    3. There are numerous linguistic issues that require that a search for a name be tried many times in many ways:
      1. Articles are treated as the first letter of a name. All names beginning with "de" will be under D. All those beginning with "le" or "la" will be under L.
      2. All those beginning with "van" or "von" will be under V or W (see below). This presents real problems when one recalls that the names are in alphabetical order only through the third letter.
      3. "Mac" is usually seen as a middle name. Thus William MacCabe is under "Cabe, William Mac"
      4. No spaces between components of names were permitted. Thus "Le Blanc" will be treated as "Leblanc" (actually a help under the third letter limit.)
      5. The original dossiers, created by the French bureaucrats, may but not necessarily will have foreign names altered to be more French. Thus, "Karl" might have been altered to "Charles". (Clearly, the bureaucrats were not trained as genealogists.)
      6. The Cyrillic alphabet of the indexers did not accommodate the names written by the creators. Thus, V and W are often confused; Q and X come after Z.
    4. Some files were missed out in the indexing so, there being no way to insert them, there is a supplementary index that also must be searched.
  2. There is also a microfilmed and digitized card index, made by the Directorate of General Security, in French, of all of the two million names mentioned in the dossiers.
    1. This was made by the original creators for their own use in surveillance and covers all of the types of files.
    2. The cards do not always refer to a file or dossier.
    3. Some cards may refer to dossiers that were not taken to Moscow but are in the Archives nationales, such as
      1. Foreigners who were expelled between 1889 and 1906, which are in the Police series of F/7
    4. Some files were closed and destroyed but the card might remain, with the word "détruit" written on it.
    5. The cards contain some biographical information and, in a few cases, photographs.

Searching the Indices and Finding the Code In Order to Request a Dossier

 

In order to request a dossier, one needs:

  1. The number of the archival series. This is a random accession number, as is the way with archives. They all begin with 1994, followed by more numbers, then by a slash.
  2. The number of the carton comes after the slash
  3. The number of the file "dossier no. x"
  4. The name on the file

Numbers 1 through 3 can be found by entering the name, surname first, in the main "Advanced search" form  of the Salle des Inventaires Virtuelle page of the website. At the moment of writing, the search facility is down, so we cannot fully test searching a name on the main page.

One had better hope that it will be possible because the alternative of having to scroll through the images of the indices in order to find the codes is fraught with innumerable, irritating flaws. For example, one can click to see the filmed images for one code, then scroll onto those of the following code without realizing it, which the automatically presented code does not change, though now wrong, and the handwritten code at the top of the page is indecipherable.

Considering all that these archives suffered (let alone what was suffered by the poor souls who were its subjects) and all of the various indignities of shuffled provenance, perhaps we should accept the irritations and be grateful that they have survived, are available, and can be accessed at all.

Once again, we genealogists really must thank the archivists at the Archives nationales.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 4

Pacific Ocean

 

A FRENCHMAN IN AUSTRALIA

 

TASMANIA – 1815 to 1821

As noted earlier, on arrival in Sydney Jean Pierre was immediately assigned to William Mitchell in the District of Argyle, where Hobart had been settled by the British eleven years earlier. Two months later, in far-away Scotton, Lincolnshire, Frances Johnson committed the theft that would see her convicted, transported for seven years, and reaching Hobart early in 1817. In the meantime Jean Pierre lived the life of an assigned convict, doing whatever his master required, which perhaps was agricultural labour on a property on the northern edge of the village.

Picture9

Hobart Town in 1817, by Lt Charles Jefferys

The Tasmanian Names Index has William Mitchell, a settler, arriving in Hobart on the Porpoise from Norfolk Island with his wife and three children, on 17 January 1808. An 1814 advertisement warns trespassers on the farm of W. Mitchell near Newtown will be prosecuted.(1) New Town is now a suburb of Hobart, about 4km from the CBD. An 1817 advertisement advises: “All persons are hereby directed not to graze stock of any description on the farm of Robert Blinkworth near New Town, known by the name of Mitchel’s farm…”(2) Robert Blinkworth was William Mitchell’s son-in-law, and worked the farm.(3) Finally, a James Blay advertised in 1820: “The undersigned having lately purchased William Mitchell’s farm, containing 103 acres, situate about a mile and a half from Hobart town, on the south side of the new road leading to New Norfolk…” The advertisement also offered a reward for anyone who found the Grant document for the farm, which had been mislaid.(4) So William Mitchell owned property adjacent to Hobart (5) through the period of Jean Pierre’s assignment to him, and sold the property to move to NSW not long before Jean Pierre was reassigned to William Howe, in the District of Minto, NSW, in 1821. Meanwhile, Frances Johnson had arrived in Hobart and, it seems, a relationship had developed between the two convicts.

Frances Johnson reached Sydney on the Lord Melville in February 1817. (6) Like Jean Pierre, she was first sent to a settler in Hobart – specifically, ‘disposed’ of (assigned to) a Mr Marr at ‘Derwent’.(7) In the 1818 annual returns of convicts, she is still with the same master. The same muster lists Henry Marr (Royal Admiral, 1808), as a shop-keeper, Van Diemen’s Land.(8) These musters listed those who were, and who had previously been, convicts. Many emancipists had been given provisional pardons, which meant they had to stay in the colony until their original sentences were finished and, as many of these sentences were for life, the authorities had to keep track of former convicts to ensure they were still in the colony. So Frances was in Hobart – the only place on the Derwent River where there were shop-keepers - when she became pregnant with William in about January 1818. Obviously, his natural father was in the same place at the same time, and conveniently there is a Frenchman there with a family name that coincides with a cluster of men with related Y-chromosomes, including the male descendants of William.

The entire European population of Tasmania at this time was about 5,000 people,(9) of whom less than 1,000 were women.(10) It would have been almost impossible for Jean Pierre and Frances Johnson not to bump into each other. A relationship between them might also have provided a ticket back to Sydney for Frances. Early in her pregnancy, Lieutenant Governor Colonel William Sorell sternly warned that:

The Female Prisoners in Assigned Service having misbehaved in many Instances, and there being at present no Factory or Public Establishment in this settlement for placing such Women under regular Restraint and Labour; His Honour the Lieutenant Governor makes known his Intention of sending up to Port Jackson, to be placed in the Factory there, such Female Prisoners as from their bad Conduct cannot be continued in Assigned Service, or allowed the Indulgence of a Ticket of Leave.(11)

William Johnson was born in Sydney in October 1818 (12) and, so far as is known, never knew who his natural father was. No hint of this French connection has been found in any colonial documents, nor in any stories or hints passed down the family. It could also be the case that Frances herself mis-identified William’s father, believing him to be another convict in Hobart at the same time, John Marsden (Indefatigable, 1812). The clue here lies in the 1823-24-25 Muster.

The NSW Muster for 1823 was an administrative bungle, so badly done that it wasn’t sent off to London. Governor Macquarie ordered that it be done again in 1824, but they failed to get it right for the second year in a row, and once again it was held back.

Third time lucky, and Macquarie seems to have been satisfied with the 1825 Muster. But the problem was that by now there were conflicting records over the three years, with people living in different places at different times, and having changed names because of marriage or other reasons, so it seems (no-one knows for sure) that they put all the records for the three years together, weeded out the ones that were clearly duplicates, and sent off a combined 1823-24-25 Muster. As a result, quite a lot of the people appear twice or three times.

The Australian Society of Genealogists published the combined Muster in 1999,(13) and as with other Musters the ASG has very helpfully cross-referenced the entries, so that if Bill Jones appears both in his own right, and somewhere else e.g. as someone’s gardener, then the index will give both references (though unless the ship is mentioned, you’re never sure if it’s the same Bill Jones.)

Frances Johnson is listed in the Muster at 27015 as freed by servitude, ship Lord Melville, sentence 7 years, housekeeper of Sydney. William Johnson appears at 27589 as aged 8, born in the colony, the child of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Bracketed with him at 27590 is his sister, Eleanor Johnson, aged 5, born in the colony, child of Francis Johnson of Sydney.

Because of the problems with this three-year muster, Eleanor also appears at 21336, as Eleanor Foster, aged 4½, born in the colony, the daughter of John Foster (which we know refers to a foster relationship – no pun intended – rather than her natural father. Eleanor married James Oatley, son of the famous clock-maker who himself became Lord Mayor of Sydney, and their descendants include the wealthy Oatley family who make very good wine and keep winning the Sydney-Hobart yacht race with Wild Oats – but that’s another story).

The cross references on Frances Johnson also lead us to a most intriguing entry. At 32077 we have William Marsden, aged 7, born in the colony, son of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Who is this William Marsden? There is no other known connection between Frances and an apparent father of her son William, from which it might be assumed that in January 1818 Frances had a relationship with both John Marsden and Jean Pierre Meunier, leaving her uncertain as to which one was her partner in pregnancy. The recorded ages of these candidates at the time is also interesting: Jean Pierre was 26, Frances was 36, and John Marsden was 56. Whereas the genetic connection with Jean Pierre is inferred, the lack of relationship with John Marsden is certain. A mitochondrial-DNA analysis I undertook showed no connection with two women, who had also checked their m-DNA, who are well-documented as descendants of John Marsden. After her brief interlude of about 18 months in Hobart, Frances Johnson returned to Sydney and, so far as is known, had no further connection with Jean Pierre.

1823 – a ticket of leave

By August 1821, after William Mitchell had sold his farm, Jean Pierre had been reassigned to William Howe at Minto, NSW.(14) Howe was a Scottish settler who was granted 3,000 acres by Governor Macquarie.(15) Following the endorsement of both Mitchell and Howe, Jean Pierre received his ticket-of-leave on 9 April 1823, which allowed him to move around the colony so long as he obtained permission to relocate from one district to another, and had his employer’s name and any other conditions recorded on his ticket. He must have been well-behaved while a convict, because he was granted a ticket 10 years after being sentenced – the minimum time required before anyone with a life sentence could be conditionally paroled. Technically, he should not have received his t-o-l until 13 September 1823, being the tenth anniversary of his conviction, but he had obviously planned ahead and with the backing of his then employer, who was a Justice of the Peace, he was five months ahead of the regulations. The ticket was issued to Jean Piere (sic) Mounier (sic) of Minto,(16) which at the time was name of the district containing Campbelltown.(17)

Now free to choose his own employer, within limits, it is not surprising that Jean Pierre was attracted to a master with French connections. In the 1823-25 muster, ‘Jean Pierre Mounier’ is listed as a ticket-of-leave holder employed by Paul Huon of Campbelltown, which is about 6km south of Minto. Huon was born in the colony and, at the time of the muster, had a family consisting of his wife Sara and sons John (4) and Paul (2y and 5m).(18) Jean Pierre would have been a natural fit on Huon’s Sugarloaf Farm as he was likely to have had a Francophone master. Huon’s full name was Paul Huon de Kerilleau, the son of Gabriel Louis Marie de Huon de Kerilleau, a Frenchman who had fled France during the Revolution and come to Sydney with the New South Wales Corps in 1794. Despite his reduced circumstances, de Kerilleau was apparently of high breeding,(19) esteemed by most of the early governors and a regular visitor to Government House.(20) Paul Huon’s mother Louisa Emanuel Le Sage was also French, and had been transported in 1794 for theft. ‘She had been tried for stealing from the London household where she was employed as a lady’s maid, and needed a French interpreter at her trial’.(21)

Picture10 FIA

Jean Pierre’s assignment to Paul Huon (bottom of page) is evident from the 1825 muster

Paul Huon was granted 60 acres of land at Campbelltown in 1818, which he subsequently increased to 180 acres through adjacent land purchases.(22)

1827 – Constable Jean Pierre

We next hear of Jean Pierre in 1827, when he was employed to help maintain law and order in the colony. His appointment as a rural constable was noted in the Sydney Gazette: ‘Brinngelly. – Jean Pierre Monier [sic], per Indefatigable, holding a Ticket of Leave, to be Constable, and to be stationed in Cooke, in the room of – M’Nally, who has absconded; to bear the Date of the 1st Instant.’ (23)

On 17 June the following year Jean Pierre, known in this case as ‘J. P. Monnier’, is noted as having resigned his position as a Constable at Bringelly, and being succeeded by another ticket of leave holder, James Gold.(24) Bringelly is 20km north of Campbelltown. The system of parish constables was initiated by Governor Hunter in 1795, based on the English system of constables being elected for one year’s service – an unpaid position – by the parish inhabitants. Governor Macquarie changed the system so that constables were appointed by local magistrates, perhaps indicating the continuing goodwill of William Howe at nearby Minto.

1833 – a married man

On 12 January 1833 Jean Pierre Mounier [sic] and Catherine Boyle were granted permission to marry, and were subsequently married by Rev. John McEnroe, a Roman Catholic priest, in Sydney.(25) It is unlikely that they had any children – like Frances, she was 8-10 years older than Jean Pierre, who was 42 at the time, though he stated his age as 40 and she as 50.

Picture11 FIA

Jean Pierre and Catherine’s application, No. 11

Catherine was also a former convict. At the Dublin City Quarter Sessions on 16 August 1814, she was ‘indicted for feloniously stealing a bank note for one pound, and a handkerchief the property of John McDonnell. The prosecutor swore he knew the prisoner. She robbed him of a one pound note and a handkerchief. Took it from him when he was asleep in a public house. The note was produced and identified by the prosecutor. The note had been found on the prisoner, who was convicted. To be transported for seven years. Recorder - "You too have been in custody before.”(26)

She was transported on the Francis and Eliza, which left Cork on 5 December 1814, and arrived in Sydney on 8 August 1815, an unusually long voyage of 246 days.(27) On arrival, she was sent to the Female Factory in Paramatta. Her age on arrival was given as 33,(28) which validates her age of 50 when applying to marry.

Here, Jean Pierre Meunier disappears from the record, and the narrative of his life necessarily ends. We do not know where and when he died (nor has any record of the death of his wife been found), and we do not know the date and place of his birth. His ship had passed back into the night from whence it came.

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) Van Diemen’s Land Gazette, 10 September 1814, p. 2.

(2) Ibid., 15 March 1817, p. 2. 

(3) People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au.

(4) Hobart Town Gazette, 27 May 1820, p. 2.

(5) The map at http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/entity/12453?pid=27775 shows the location of Mitchell’s farm, superimposed on a satellite photograph of modern-day Hobart.

(6) Her story is told elsewhere – see ‘Frances Johnson and her Australian family’, Brian Wills-Johnson, unpublished MSS.

(7) AJCP reels HO 10/1 to 10/16, annual returns of convicts.

(8) AJCP reel 63, HO 10/10, p. 214. Tasmania was called Van Diemen’s Land until 1856. A James Andrew Marr was born in Tasmania on 18 February 1816, parents not listed (Latter Day Saints index). Henry Marr left Hobart for Sydney in 1821 – Hobart Town Gazette, 3 March 1821, p. 2.

(9) Annual Statistics of Tasmania, 1901

(10) Rebecca Kippen & Peter Gunn, ‘Convict Bastards, Common-Law Unions, and Shtgun Weddings’, Journal of Family History, 2011, p. 1.

(11) Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 28 March 1818, p. 1.

(12) According to details on his death certificate.

(13) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1824, op. cit.

(14) Series: NRS 898; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.

(15) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University.

(16) The Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser, 10 April 1823, p.1.

(17) Today, Campbelltown and Minto are both suburbs of Sydney within the district of Campbelltown.

(18) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825, Carol J. Baxter (Ed.), Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record, Sydney, 1999.

(19) Seventy-five years after his death in 1829 his real identity as a member of the Bourbon family was revealed through a document which had been found and authenticated – Anny P. L. Stuer, ‘The French in Australia’, PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1979, p. 44. He had earlier disguised his French identity, having come to Australia as ‘Gabriel Lewis’ – A2998, vol. 102A, Mitchell Library, Sydney.

(20) G. P. Walsh, Australian Dictionary of Biography, www.adb.anu.edu.au 

(21) Michael Flynn, Settlers and seditionists: the people of the convict ship Surprize 1974, Sydney, Angela Lind, 1994.

(22) Deborah Farina, Spring Farm Parkway Non-Aboriginal Heritage Assessment, Jacobs Group Australia Pty. Ltd., 2019, p. 19.

(23) Sydney Gazette, 19/7/1827.

(24) Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 June 1828, p. 1.

(25) Register of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, State Archives NSW; Series: 12212; Item: 4/4508.

(26) Freemans Journal, 21 June 1814.

(27) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, op. cit., pp. 340-341.

(28) Peter Mayberry, http://members.tip.net.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi?requestType=Search2&id=1152


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 3

Pacific Ocean

COURT-MARTIALLED FOR DESERTION

CANADA – 1813 to 1814

On 5 May 1813 the de Meuron regiment embarked at Malta on the HMS Regulus, HMS Melpomene and HMS Dover for British North America, and at the end of August the 1,200 officers and men landed in Canada. On arrival the regiment was at or near full strength: on board the three ships were 6 military captains, 20 lieutenants and ensigns, 54 sergeants, 22 drummers and 1001 rank and file.

Leaving Gibraltar on June fourth at four in the morning, the regiment crosses the ocean on the last episode of this story. We are going to reinforce the British army in Canada, “ces quelques arpents de neige” [these few acres of snow] according to Voltaire, to protect his possessions from the pushy American. We crossed under the protection of the English frigates. The Dover advances to the front position and the Regulus, heavier, has trouble following; in the heavy mist the Melpomene touches bottom in the vicinity of Newfoundland, but can depart the following day, June 25, by high tide. After a short stay from the sixth until the tenth of July, at Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, the convoy arrives on August 5th in Quebec. (1)

After just three weeks in Canada, Jean Pierre went AWOL. On the muster roll for 24 September 1813, it is noted that he “deserted 27 August returned 3 September”.(2) His was the only desertion from the regiment in August, and there were a further 9 in September.(3) As a fifer and drummer he was being paid at a regular rate of £2/19/5 for each three-month period,(4) and although he was not paid during his absence, and was on a charge when he returned, the meticulous paymaster credited him £2/15/6½ for the 86 days of the quarter he was present.(5) Ten days later, on 13 September, he was court-martialled at the regiment’s headquarters in Chambly, and sentenced to life imprisonment. (6)

Picture6 FIA

Fort Chambly, Quebec, 1814 (7)

There are various levels of desertion, the most serious being ‘desertion to the enemy’. This, and the slightly more ambiguous ‘desertion towards the enemy’ demanded the death sentence in the British Army. The record of Jean Pierre’s court martial does not detail the seriousness of his desertion, but the relatively light penalty (for the time) indicates that his may have been a simple case of being absent without leave. The record reads:

 

Adjutant General’s Office
Head Quarters Montreal
8th October 1813


General Orders:
At a General Court Martial held at Chambly the 13th Septr 1813 and continued by adjournment to the 14th of the same Month, was arraigned. Jean Pierre Munier Drummer in De Meurons Regiment, confined by Lt. Col. H. De Meuron Bayard for deserting from the Regiment De Meuron on the 27th day of August last or thereabouts, until the 3rd day of September when he was brought back a Prisoner. 

Opinion and Sentence"
The Court having maturely weighed the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution together with what the Prisoner has alledged [sic] in his defence, the Court is of opinion that the Prisoner J. P. Munier Drummer in deMeurons Regiment is guilty of the Desertion laid to his charge, the Court therefore adjudge him the said Prisoner J. P. Munier Drummer in DeMeurons Regiment to be marked on the left side, two inches below the armpit with the letter /D/ half an Inch long; and then to be transported as a Felon for life, to any part of H. M’s Dominions beyond the seas, as H. R. H. The Prince Regent in the Name and on the Behalf of H. M. may be graciously pleased to direct.(8) 

Discipline was harsh in the military. At the same court martial three of Jean Pierre’s compatriots were found guilty of deserting ‘with the intention of going to the Enemy, and for Resisting the party sent against them to bring them back’, and were sentenced to death by hanging. We also find Thomas Orr being pronounced guilty of having deserted on 23 July and ‘not returning until taken prisoner at St Therese[?]’ on 27 July, for which he was sentenced ‘to suffer Death by being shot’. In November 1813, Private Thomas Beckwith was convicted of having wounded himself “in the leg, with intent to disable himself for the service”. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes “on his bare back” with a cat-o’-nine-tails, which probably disabled him more than his own action.(9) Jean Pierre’s sentence might point to some extenuating circumstances, or a good defence.

Being branded with a D for deserter was common in the British Army. The mark was not made by a branding iron, but by a tattoo, in which the skin was punctured by a set of sharp points in the shape of a D, and afterwards gunpowder was rubbed into the wound to introduce a permanent blue pigment. Tattoos were commonly called ‘gunpowder spots’ from the 17th century,(10) and Jean Pierre’s was probably administered with a spring-loaded tool as shown. Apart from any stigma this practice might have engendered, it was meant to foil those serial deserters who would leave their own regiment, and then present themselves to another to obtain the signing-on bonus.

 

Picture7 FIA

All verdicts from courts martial had first to be confirmed by the British army’s headquarters at Horse Guards in London. Some time after these formalities had been completed, Jean Pierre was shipped to England.

Horse Guards,
26th February 1814


Sir,


Having received the directions of the Prince Regent for carrying into Execution, the Sentence of a General Court Martial, held at Chambly, in the district of Montreal, on the 13th September 1813, (of which you had approved) whereby Jean Pierre Meunier, Drummer in De Meuron’s Regiment was adjudged to be transported as a Felon for Life; I am to acquaint you, that his Royal Highness, was pleased, in the Name and on the Behalf of His Majesty, to Command that the Prisoner should be Transported accordingly to New South Wales. -
You will therefore take the proper steps for the Conveyance of Jean Pierre Meunier to this Country.


I am,
Sir,
Yours,
Frederick
Commander in Chief

 

Picture8 FIA

Jean Pierre’s sentence confirmed

 

Jean Pierre was shipped back to England, where he was received on board the prison hulk Dido on 21 September 1814, more than a year after his court martial. Three days later he was ‘disposed of’ to New South Wales.(11) He sailed on the Indefatigable, via Rio de Janeiro (where there was a delay of five weeks), and arrived in Sydney on 25 April 1815. Of the 200 male convicts loaded, 198 reached their destination.(12) The "Sydney Gazette" reported that the prisoners were landed in a healthy condition ‘and of particularly clean appearance’,(13) indicating a well-managed voyage. Jean Pierre appears on 29 April 1815 as Pearce Manier on a list of convicts disembarked from the Indefatigable who were sent to Liverpool, near Sydney, for distribution.(14)

Next: A Frenchman in Australia

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) From the memoirs of Alain Bosquet, His Majesty’s Regiment de Meuron, http://mlloyd.org/gen/macomb/text/hmd2.html accessed May 2020.

(2) Canada, British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, op. cit.

(3) British Army individual units strengths, 1805-1850, from www.napolean-series.org 

(4) Drummers and fifers were paid more than privates, who received £2/6/- for each three months – PRO W.0.12/11966, muster books and pay lists, Regiment de Meuron, 1812. The regiment had 21 D&Fs at the time.

(5) Canada, British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, op. cit.

(6) State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12202; Item: [4/4080], tickets of leave 1810-1869.

(7) J Bouchette, A Topographical Description of the Province of Lower Canada, London, W. Faden, 1815, opp. p. 171.

(8) Public Archives of Canada, record group 8, C series, British Military and Naval Records, vol. 1167½, p. 646.

(9) Public Archives of Canada, record group 8, C series, vol. 165, p. 229.

(10) See, for example, William Wycherley’s play The Plain Dealer, 1665.

(11) HO 9/9, Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth, register of prisoners, p. 27

(12) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2004, pp. 340-1.

(13) Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 29 April 1815, p. 2.

(14) Reel 6004, 4/3494, p. 66, Colonial Secretary’s Records (www.colsec.records.nsw.gov.au)


Guest Post - A Frenchman in Australia, part 1

Pacific Ocean

It is a time of richesse, Dear Readers, for once again, we are most pleased to present a series of guest posts which, together, form a superb example of French genealogy research. It is a tale which we believe will, as did that of Madame S., shed light on new research ideas and possibilities which, in turn we hope, will enable you to further your own research. 

PROLOGUE

This four-part series is part of a much broader narrative of an Australian family that has extended, thus far, to six generations from a relationship between two colonial convicts: Englishwoman Frances JOHNSON (nee MILLS), and Frenchman Jean Pierre MEUNIER. The focus of the family history is Frances (Lord Melville, 1817), whose married name survived through a slender thread of successive generations, while Jean Pierre (Indefatigable, 1815) is characterised as a ship that passed in the night, briefly sighted before disappearing. The elements of social history embedded in the biographical lattice will, perhaps, contribute to the meta-narrative of Australia’s convict beginnings. There were few women and even fewer Frenchmen among the cohort of some 160,000 convicts transported to Australia, so these two lives are worthy of rescue from the mists of history. The author, Brian Wills-Johnson, has been pursuing his family’s history for five decades – but he never expected to stumble across a Frenchman.

 

A SHIP THAT PASSED IN THE NIGHT

He was the mystery man in the life of my great-great-grandmother Frances JOHNSON (nee MILLS), an enigma whom she barely knew, even – perhaps – to the extent of her being unaware that he was the father of her only Australian-born son, William JOHNSON. He was, as Longfellow said, “a distant voice in the darkness”, who left behind just one fragment of evidence that he had passed in the night.

Jean Pierre MEUNIER was, beyond reasonable doubt, my great-great-grandfather; the first of my ancestors to arrive in Australia; and the end-point of a decades-long search to identify the progenitor of my family’s male lineage.

Why should there be a connection between Frances Johnson and Jean Pierre Meunier? There is no known documentary evidence that they ever met and, so far as the historical record goes, the best that can be said is that they were both in Hobart, Tasmania, at the critical time when William Johnson was conceived. Genealogists and family historians, however, today have recourse to a powerful ‘research tool’ in the form of genetic matching.

In 2019 I decided to have my Y-chromosome analysed, and sent my swabs off to Family Tree DNA, an outfit in Houston, Texas, that had been recommended for yDNA testing by a university workshop I attended a year earlier. This yielded an interesting cluster of names amongst 1,212 men with whom I had an apparent common ancestor. All of these, with the exception of one, listed their earliest known male ancestor as Dr Johannes Mousnier de la Montange – John Miller of the Mountain. They were all in the same haploid group as I am – R-M269 – which, not surprisingly, is ‘the most common European haplogroup, greatly increasing in frequency on an east to west gradient (its prevalence in Poland estimated at 22.7% compared to Wales at 92.3%).’ (1) Some geneticists believe this haplogroup arose amongst Neolithic hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago, with that population being pressed steadily westwards by expanding farming peoples.

This group of men drew my attention because, while I matched all other 1,211 men, each of them shared 12 markers with me, whereas there was only one with whom I shared 25 markers.(2) He, cautiously, did not bridge the gap back to the Mousnier de la Montagne name, but listed his earliest known male ancestor as John C. Montayne (1823-1890). What this coincidence of markers means is that the probability that he and I have a common ancestor in the past 16 generations is 72%, in the past 20 generations it is 84%, and in the past 24 generations it is 91%. This indicates that somewhere around 600 years ago, or earlier, we both reach the same man, via a long line of French males.

I soon discovered that the connection between this man and Dr Johannes was accepted by the Society of the Descendants of Johannes de la Montagne, an association that has both intensively explored the life of this American pioneer, and which appears to stand guard against false claimants of family connections. The other men from my cluster are all members – or members of member families – of the Society of the Descendants. One apparently has the most reliable lineage, but since the others all have high-level matches with him, their connection to Dr Jean is virtually assured. So far as these four go, my 12-marker matches also show, typically, that we have about a 91% probability of a common ancestor in the past 24 generations.

For a time, this is where the trail went cold. Then, during one of my forays into Australia’s colonial musters, when I’d been looking for a name that might match one of the Montaigne variants by skimming down the M-list, I chanced on a Jean Pierre Meunier. He seemed sufficiently French to be interesting, and Meunier is the French equivalent of Miller, while Mousnier is an older form of the same name.(3) Some quick research turned up a convict assignment record that read:

1 April 1823, text of document No. 550:

Jean Pierre Mounier [sic]
We hereby Certify that John Pierre Munier [sic] who came in the ship Indefatigable which arrived in the Year 1815, has not been convicted of any Crime or Misdemeanour in this Colony, but is to our certain Belief an honest, sober and industrious character, having served faithfully Mr Wm. Mitchell in the District of Argyle from April 1815 to August 1821, (4) William Howe Esquire in the District of Minto from August 1821, to the present Date. Sentence Life. (5)

Picture 1 FIA

This recommendation earned Jean Pierre his ticket of leave.

At first this seemed to block any chance of demonstrating that Jean Pierre Meunier and Frances Johnson were in the same place at the same time, Argyle and Minto both being in New South Wales, while Frances was in Hobart in 1817-18. The breakthrough was in discovering that Argyle in NSW was not named by Governor Macquarie until 1820. Was there another Argyle? Yes, the original subdivision of Tasmania included a District of Argyle, right where Hobart is. So, who was Jean Pierre Meunier? Who was this unexpected Frenchman who suddenly appeared in an Anglo-Celtic family? Clearly he was a convict, as was Frances, but his story lay well outside my genealogical comfort zone of England, Scotland and Ireland. It was time to plunge into the unchartered waters of French family history.

Picture2

 

Picture3 FIA

Next: A drummer for Napoleon.

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R-M269

(2)  A marker is a physical location on the Y-chromosome. I had 67 markers assessed and, of these, 25 were at the same locus as 25 of one of the others.

(3) Meunier and the English surname Miller are both occupational names derived from the Latin word for mill, molina. Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, 2013. The etymology is molina (Latin), molīnārius (late Latin), munoiere (old French), meusnier (middle French), meunier (modern French). - https://etymologeek.com/fra/meunier. The famous Moulin Rouge, ‘Red Mill’, shares this etymology. 

(4) A William Mitchell came free per Providence in 1811, property at Argyle, m. Elizabeth Huon – Colonial Secretary’s index to correspondence, 1788-1825.

(5) Series: NRS 898; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.


Guest Post - Au revoir Monsieur! - Part 4

Annecy

Episode 4: Who is Claude Marie?

You can imagine my excitement when, surfing on the website of Désarmement Havrais, my laptop screen revealed Claude Marie’s name - spelled a bit differently though. Moreover the fellow was from Annecy-le-Vieux, where Antoine D, the father of the 14 children, was born in 1821, on the hills above Annecy. For the first time, I held a tiny clue that someone from the D family had been to America and that the family story might be true. In the transcribed report I found much interesting information collected by the website’s owner from the Inscription Maritime of the port of Le Havre :

  • Name: Claude Marie D.
  • Age: 28 years old
  • From: Annecy-le-Vieux, Haute-Savoie Department, France
  • No job nor address mentioned
  • Embarkation: 1 February 1850 in Le Havre on the Robert Surcouf
  • Destination: San Francisco where he disembarked on 14 August 1850

SAN FRANCISCO in 1850: the Gold Rush. Would it be possible that Claude Marie had run to California just as many Europeans in the middle of the 19th century to look for gold?Could he be the famous and wealthy uncle of our childhood legend?! What an awesome discovery! Stay realistic and focus is my motto: many serious and dedicated researchers offer tons of indexed data on their websites but using primary information items is a basic standard in genealogy. (I am a good student!). First, I had to get confirmation of the data through original records (1) from the Inscription Maritime of port of Le Havre and (2) from the vital records in Haute-Savoie.

(1) As the name was not exactly spelled the same way, I wanted to have a look at the writing in the volume of the Archives and check the correctness of the information. I easily found the Robert Surcouf vessel file in the Inscription Maritime of Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime as the classification code was provided on the Désarment Havrais website. It was amazing to read the armement of the Robert Surcouf, that is to say, the fitting out of the ship and the list of crew (with function and salary) and passengers. Claude Marie was among the 88 passengers, with his name correctly spelled and I had no doubt now that he was from the D family. He was the only one not to have presented a passport but a visa issued by the Prefet de Police on 26 January 1850, probably because he was coming from Duchy of Savoie which was not yet part of France. I would have to find where he got it. Passengers had begun boarding on February 1 and the ship sailed off on the 17th. I was really thrilled to find the log book at the end of the file disclosing the stopovers: on March 18th Claude Marie probably set foot on land and discovered Praia in the Cape Verde archipelago (just like Darwin on his way to America in 1832!)

Archipelago archipelago

Praia

Praia roadstead in Capo Verde

Five days later, the ship headed directly to Valparaiso (Chile), one of the most important seaports in the South Pacific Ocean, and arrived on June 5th where she stayed six days.

Valparaiso

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Valparaiso, Chile

Customs clearance in the center of Valparaiso

The final destination was San Francisco where Claude Marie disembarked on 14 August 1850 just a week after the arrival of the first French consul in the Californian city. He was among the first Argonauts, adventurers in the quest for gold!

Californie

Source Gallica.bnf.fr/ Bibliothèque Nationale de France

My first intention was to follow Claude Marie once he set foot in California. But I needed to validate his identity.

Yerba BuenaCalifornia Historical Society

(2) In my mind I was bathing in the beautiful cold bay of Yerba Buena – the original name for San Francisco – and feeling the Californian summer sun on my face, but I obliged myself to fly back to Europe to the tiny village of Annecy-le-Vieux and chased our gold hunter in the birth registers. According to the information given in the file of the ship, he was 28 in 1850 so born approximately in 1822. On the website of the association of Marmottes de Savoie, I spotted the births of Claude D. in 1811 and Claude-Marie D. in 1846. They could not be our golden boy but possibly from the same family as parents in the past would preferably go for a traditional first name already used in the family.

Surfing on the online archives and playing with the decennial tables and the birth, marriage, death registers, scratching tirelessly in my notebook to get a proper ascending tree, the French Revolutionary calendar making me tear my hair out, I discovered a completely new family, not a different one but one of the older generations. Claude Marie was born in 1818 and was actually 32 when he left for America. His father Claude was born in 1761 and died in 1845. From a first marriage with Marie T, Claude had one daughter Josephte born on 8 Fructidor year 3 (25 August 1795) and my ancestor Antoine born on 22 Pluviose year 6 (10 February 1798) who would become the paternal grandfather of the 14 little souls. You follow me? Claude had Antoine who had Antoine who had Hubert Michel who had Fernande, my G-grandmother…...You will not believe me if I tell you that Claude’s father was also called Antoine…
But who was Claude Marie? I finally got the clue: he was actually the half brother of my ancestor Antoine and thus the half granduncle of Hubert-Michel. Born in 1818 the last child of the second marriage of Claude who married Françoise B in 1808, he had a sister Benoîte, born in 1809, and a brother Claude who died at the age of 6 in 1817. His father had died five years before he decided to leave to San Francisco.

Naissance

Did Claude Marie make fortune in San Francisco? Did he stay there or move to another country as many poor miners did? Was he joined by one of Hubert Michel’s siblings? Did he have a family in North or South America? Claude Marie could not be the dead uncle of 1830-ish from my grandmother’s childhood. Actually I found out that most of the last born ones died at an early age. Among the boys, one remains a mystery to me, Antoine, who was born in 1847. This is another story that I will be happy to share with you in the future!

Many thanks for your interest in my Au Revoir Monsieur installments... et à bientôt!

 

We are extremely grateful to Madame S for this delightful series about her research and hope that you, Dear Readers, have found it to be both entertaining and inspiring.

©2020 Madame S

French Genealogy