Military

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

 

 

 


Collaborative Indexing the Contrôles des Troupes

1784 Chasseur Volontaire

The military archivists at the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD) really are outdoing themselves and are going from, some years ago, being quite antipathetic to all things genealogy, to, now, having undergone some sort of conversion, embracing it with an almost alarming gusto. They have gone so far as to produce a nice little bit of self-promotion on YouTube. We all, Dear Readers, are the beneficiaries of this transformation, and grateful ones, indeed.

We have previously reported on the SHD having digitized the registers of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, and having made them available on their website Memoire des Hommes. As we explained in that post, as the registers are not indexed, it is a hard slog to find a man's name. Now, the SHD have organized a collaborative indexing project with the Fédération Française de Généalogie to conquer that mammoth task. They are calling for indexers here.

An even more challenging indexing project has been launched with the commercial genealogy company, Geneanet, to index all of the 25,000 military registers of the Ancien régime, known as the contrôles des troupes. These registers, or contrôles, contain entries for every man who served, the troops, les troupes. They date as far back as 1633 and contain hundreds of thousands of entries, each one showing a fair amount of very useful genealogical information.

Controle des troupes

 

Royrand

The only aid to finding anyone's name in the contrôles des troupes have been the monumental but not very useful volumes of the "Contrôles des Troupes de l'Ancien régime", which list the companies for each regiment, the commanding officers and give the archival codes for finding the registers at the SHD in  Vincennes. Massive achievement though this may be, it covers only the period prior to the French Revolution, and does not help one to know in which regiment a man served. (However, the Introduction to that work, in French, gives what is still the best explanation of the contrôles of the Ancien régime.)

The filming has already begun. In 2019, nearly two and a half thousand Ancien régime registers were filmed, yielding well over three hundred thousand double-page images. These, too, may be viewed on the site, Mémoire des Hommes. On that site, one may participate in the collaborative indexing. Alternatively, one may do so via Geneanet's indexing portal.

This could be a useful and fascinating way to spend some of your lockdown time, non?

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Very Exciting! All Naval Conscription Registers to Be Digitized

Frigate

Earlier this month, the Service Historique de la Défense announced (on its facebook page, of all places) that they have signed a contract with FamilySearch to microfilm and digitize all of the French naval conscription registers. It cannot be overstated just what a boon this will be for French genealogists, for the collection goes back centuries and includes thousands of sailors' names, descriptions and personal details.

It may be a bit repetitive, but we give again our brief explanation of the French system of naval conscription:

The French Naval Class System, Le système de classes

It is clear that many outside of France are completely unaware of a key element of the French Navy, La Marine, and that is the fact that, since 1668, the Marine has had its own system of drafting men into service. As with other military draft systems, it was compulsory. Censuses were taken of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on any type of vessel or who worked with vessels or in ports in any capacity. (From this it can be seen that most of the men came from coastal areas, few were from inland regions.) Lists, called matricules, were made for each region each time the census was taken. All men listed during a particular census were in the same classe, which could be called up to serve at any time during war. The class system was devised to prevent (and is considered by the French to be infinitely superior to and more humane than) something like the British practice of impressing (or pressing) men into service in the Royal Navy. During times of peace, classes were not called up, but during times of war, many classes could be called up at the same time and the men possibly could be made to serve longer than the mandated year. In 1795, the classe system was renamed the maritime enrollment, inscription maritime, but functioned in much the same way throughout the nineteenth century. (Download the SHD's very thorough explanation of the system, with sample documents, here)

When young men had to register, they did so within their Quartier Maritime, an administrative division under the Ministry of the Marine. Prior to the Revolution, the registration was handled by the Admiralty headquarters, les sièges d'Amirauté. These divisions or headquarters were usually in port cities such as Le Havre, Rouen, Lorient, Cherbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, and many, many more, but it is important to note that they are divisions unique to the Admiralty and Marine and have not the same boundaries as the cities or arrondissements with the same names.

For example, the quartiers maritimes in the department of Calvados (which are already online on that department's archives website here) are:

  • Caen
  • Honfleur
  • La Hougue and Isigny
  • Trouville

The quartiers maritimes in the department of Loire-Atlantique (online here) are:

  • Angers
  • Bourgneuf-en-Retz
  • Le Croisic
  • Ile Bouchard
  • Ingrandes
  • Nantes
  • Nevers
  • Orléans
  • Paimboeuf
  • Saint-Nazaire
  • Saumur
  • Selles-sur-Cher

The lists went by different names:

  • recensement des gens de mer
  • recensement des marins
  • inscription des gens de mer
  • inscription maritime
  • matricules maritimes

An important difference to note is not so much the varying name as where the registration was done, whether at the quartier maritime or at one of the five naval ports where a recruit reported:

N.B. The registers made at the quartier maritime were really a census of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on vessels, including pilots, fishermen, merchant seamen, etc.. They were liable to be drafted into the Navy but not all of them were. These census registers of all eligible men are what are found in the Departmental Archives of the coastal departments. Those men who were called up had to report to one of the naval ports, where they were entered into another register. It is these registers of the men who actually served in the Navy, or Marine, as sailors or officers, which are held at the SHD port archives, that are to be digitized by FamilySearch.

This difference is important as to how research is to be planned, as a man may appear in both or only one of the register sets. An officer of the Ancien régime, for example, probably would not appear in the census register, may have trained for the Navy and bought his commission and so, would appear in the port naval register. A merchant seamen who was called up would appear in both, while a merchant seaman who was not called up would be in only the census.

In these times of social distancing, FamilySearch cannot pack in the microfilmers as they were wont to do. They are beginning with one person filming in the SHD archives at Lorient and will progress from there. At this rate, it could be some years before all the registers available, but it will be grand, whenever that may be.

Just keep checking FamilySearch's French collection, which one should do regularly anyway.

©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 2

Pacific Ocean

 

A DRUMMER FOR NAPOLEON

FRANCE – 1791 to 1808

Jean Pierre Meunier was probably born in Epinal in the French province of Lorraine, in 1791. His ticket of leave gives his birthplace as Lorient, a city on the west coast of France,(1) but earlier army records – written in French – make it clear that this was an error or a deliberate subterfuge.(2) It was the third year of the French revolution, and the country was in turmoil. The following year the Tuileries Palace was stormed, King Louis XVI and his family were arrested, and the guillotine began to rise and fall.

Nothing is known of Jean Pierre’s early life,(3) but the record shows that at 17 or 18 – and possibly earlier – he was a soldier. Universal conscription was a feature of Napoleonic France, with every single man between 20 and 25 liable to be called up to serve in the military for five years. In December 1806 the minimum age was reduced to 19 but, if his year of birth is correct, Jean Pierre would have turned 17 in 1808, the year when he most likely became a soldier, so he might have been a volunteer.  While a record of his French military service has not been found, the following hypothesis is consistent with the known facts.

SPAIN – 1808 to 1809

The Peninsular War began in 1807 when Napoleon’s France and Bourbon Spain, then allies, invaded and occupied Portugal. Spain joined the campaign, “secretly induced to aid the forthcoming invasion with both facilities and troops”.(4) The French offensive was led by the First Corps d’Observation de la Gironde, with 25,000 men under the command of General Junot. The corps, raised in August 1807, marched south from France and by late November had taken Lisbon. Meanwhile, a Second Corps d’Observation de la Gironde had been ordered by Napoleon in mid-October,(5) and subsequent events point to Jean Pierre Meunier being a drummer in this corps. These two corps formed in the French Basque city of Bayonne, close to the Spanish border, with the second led by General Pierre Dupont de l’Etang.(6)

Napoleon had a broader objective than the conquest of Portugal, setting out to bring the entire Iberian Peninsula – Portugal and Spain – into the Continental System, and subservient to France. In 1808 General Dupont entered Spain with his army, and in August that year Napoleon installed his elder brother Joseph as King of Spain. Dupont’s force marched to Toledo as part of what was, by now, effectively an army of occupation. Napoleon’s actions led to open hostility and widespread guerrilla attacks by the Spanish, and Dupont was dispatched:

… south from Toledo, to occupy and secure the strategic port of Cadiz against attack by the [British] Royal Navy. The force was led by General Pierre Dupont de l’Etang, a forty-three-year-old hero of Napoleon’s victories at Ulm, Halle, and Friedland, who was in his first independent command. He expected an easy and unopposed march to Cadiz. Apart from 500 elite seamen of the Imperial Guard, 1,200 members of the Paris Guard, and 3,300 Swiss mercenaries, Dupont’s army [of 13,000] was a motley crowd of young and untested conscripts (both French and foreign), led by any officers who could be found in the depots. (7)

After various manoeuvres during which he was pursued by the newly-constituted Andalusian army, three of his five divisions were trapped at Bailén, 100km north-east of Cordoba. Two Swiss regiments defected to the Spanish side and, in the sweltering July heat, Dupont was defeated. The Spanish forces had liberated Bailén, giving them the advantage of access to water, whereas the French troops had no water supply. By the terms of his surrender, 17,000 French soldiers under Dupont’s command became prisoners of war, joined by some 5,000 more French troops who capitulated to the Andalusian army. The battle of Bailén was the first major defeat of a French army during the Napoleonic wars, and was widely seen throughout Europe as evidence that the French were not invincible. It is still celebrated annually as the beginning of the liberation of Spain, though the country did not finally throw off the French occupation until after the battle of Waterloo.

Without knowing which of Dupont’s divisions had recruited Jean Pierre, we cannot tell if he was personally involved at Bailén, but it is highly likely that he was one of the French prisoners who, by their sheer numbers, created problems for their captors. They were first quartered in scattered towns and villages through western Andalusia, but when Napoleon’s fresh army retook Madrid in December they were taken to Cadiz, where

… they joined several thousand French sailors who had been trapped in the harbor when the Spanish rose. The prisoners were crowded aboard dismasted warships - the dreaded hulks or pontons. There fetid air and worse food brought on diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever and scurvy. The Spanish referred to the Vieille Castille, a hulk reserved for French officers, as "the ship of the dead." The prisoners died at a rate of fifteen to twenty a day. Bodies were at first unceremoniously dumped in the harbor creating potential health problems for the citizens of Cadiz. (8)

The hulks were the remains of Napoleon’s fleet, vanquished in the Battle of Trafalgar in the waters offshore from Cadiz, in 1805. Here, we leave Jean Pierre in his misery while we background the agent of his deliverance, in April the following year. He was one of the fortunate ones: it has been estimated that of almost 12,000 men imprisoned at Cadiz and afterwards taken to remote islands in the Balearic archipelago, as many as 10,000 perished. (9)

MALTA – 1809 to 1813

The de Meuron regiment was another Swiss mercenary force, raised in Switzerland in 1781 by its commander and owner, Charles-Daniel de Meuron, who sold its service to the Dutch East Indies Company in Dutch Ceylon. (10) When France invaded the Netherlands in 1795, and William of Orange ordered forces in the surviving Dutch colonies to surrender to the English (thus joining them against France), the Swiss de Meuron regiment agreed to form an alliance and, as a result, Ceylon fell to England. The regiment subsequently served with the British army in India, mainly in Madras and Mysore, until in October 1806 it embarked for England, arriving in July the following year. Then followed service in Gibraltar, and in Italy in 1808, and by June of that year the regiment is recorded as being stationed in Malta. (11)

Picture 4 FIA

The De Meuron regimental flag. Its independence from British Army tradition is evident in the use of a Swiss Sun Burst, in the de Meuron family livery of green black and yellow.

It had arrived in Malta much depleted, with its payroll listing 12 fifers and drummers and 235 privates, plus officers and NCOs. A small detachment had been left in Gibraltar, however, specifically to recruit men into de Meuron’s service, and their activities increased markedly when the French prisoners from Bailén arrived in Cadiz. One of those recruits was Jean Pierre, who first appears on the muster as “Meunier Pierre J”, recruited on the 22nd April and paid his four guineas signing-on bounty. The same pay list notes that a sergeant, a corporal and a private who were recruited during this period were “left at Gibraltar on recruiting”. (12) In the full pay list for the quarter 25 March to 24 June 1809, John Pierre Meunier is listed as a private in the 10th company of the regiment, being paid from 1 May to 24 June. His entry notes that he is a drummer, from which the foregoing hypothesis was developed, since being a drummer points to previous military service.

Picture5 FIA

Jean Pierre (No. 2008) joins de Meuron’s regiment. This source notes he was born in Epinal, Lorraine.

 

From 25 June 1809 to 24 September 1809, and from that point onwards, Jean Pierre was listed as one of the regiment’s drummers and fifers, having been transferred from the 10th company. He was paid £2/19/5 for the three months. He missed the second of the monthly musters because he was in the regimental hospital. By now the regiment was up to a full complement of 22 drummers and fifers.

He is certainly the Jean Pierre Meunier in whom we are interested – the subsequent documentation has no gaps – and so we have a Frenchman who has had previous military service, recruited at a time that de Meuron was actively rebuilding his regiment from Gibraltar. It seems that Jean Pierre’s timing was also fortunate. Later in 1809, when the regiment’s agreement with the British army was renewed for a further seven years, one condition was that no Italians, Englishmen or Frenchmen should henceforth be recruited.

Jean Pierre was recorded as being a drummer and fifer with the de Meuron regiment of the British Army from at least 25 March 1811, to 8 October 1813. (13) A drummer and fifer was a non-combatant soldier who functioned as both a camp clock and a field signalman. The first recorded use of fifes and drums, according to Beck, was by the Swiss army in 1386 at the battle of Sempach. (14) They had found that the high pitch of the fife and the low pitch of a thudding drum could be heard over considerable distances, even during the heat of battle.

On the battlefield, musicians had the responsibility of helping keep order in battle and make sure the soldiers functioned well as a unit. Drummers would play beatings telling the soldiers to turn right or left as well as to load and fire their muskets. There was a tune called Cease Fire that fifers and drummers would play to tell the soldiers to stop firing at the end of a battle while a tune called Parley was used to signal to the enemy that a surrender or peace talk was desired. In the camp, fifers and drummers were used to help regulate the working day. Every task that needed to be carried out would be signalled by a fife and a drum. Tunes were used to tell the soldiers to wake up, eat meals, and perform camp chores. Music was provided for ceremonies that were used to start and end the working day. Whenever a command needed to be spread throughout the army, whether it be in the camp or on a battlefield, a fifer and drummer would play the tune, and other fifers and drummers would start playing the same tune, until the whole army knew what they needed to do. (15)

 

The regiment’s time as a garrison on Malta seems to have gone smoothly, and they were nicely complimented by the garrison command when they left under a transfer order to British Canada.

Garrison Order Malta

4th May, 1813
Lieutenant-General Oakes cannot suffer the Regiment De Meuron to quit this Garrison, where they have so long been stationed under his command, without assuring them of the satisfaction which their good conduct, and attention to military discipline, have constantly afforded him; and which have been equally conspicuous in every rank. They will embark from hence, as fine and well-appointed a regiment, as any in His Majesty’s service.

The Lieutenant-General has no doubt but by their conduct and gallantry, on the desirable services on which they are about to be employed, they will confirm the high opinion he has formed of them, and will equally merit the praise and approbation of the General under whose orders they will soon be placed, to whom he shall not fail justly to set forward their merits.

He begs leave to assure this regiment of his warmest wishes for their glory and success, and of the sincere interest he shall ever take in their welfare. (16)

Next: Jean Pierre court-martialled in Canada

©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020

French Genealogy

 

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

(2) WO25/677 De Meuron regiment, p. 175.

(3) Extensive searches of the French registers for Meunier and its variants, and Mousnier and its variants, have failed to find a record of his birth.

(4) David Chandler, Napoleon, Pen and Sword Books (reprint), 2002.

(5) https://forum.napoleon1er.net/viewtopic.php?t=46457

(6) Avner Falk, Napoleon Against Himself: A Psychobiography’ Pitchstone Publishing, 2007.

(7) Denis Smith, The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon’s Forgotten Soldiers, 1809 to 1814, Four Wall Eight Windows, 2001, p. 8. https://archive.org/stream/prisonersofcabre00smit#page/36/mode/2up 

(8) Denis Smith, The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon’s Forgotten Soldiers, 1809 to 1814, Four Wall Eight Windows, 2001 – this quote from a review of Smith’s book published by www.napoleon-series.org 

(9) Ibid.

(10) There is still a Swiss mercenary corps on active duty – the Papal Guard.

(11) PRO W.O.12/11963, muster books and pay lists, Regiment De Meuron, 1809.

(12) PRO W.O.12/11963, muster books and pay lists, Regiment De Meuron, 1809.

(13) British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1795-1850, at www.ancestry.com. 

(14) John H. Beck (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Percussion, Routledge, 2007, p. 147.

(15) The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, at https://www.fifeanddrum.army.mil/kids_fife_drum.html 

(16) John Halkett, Statement Resecting the Earl of Selkirk’s Settlement Upon the Red River, in North America, London, John Murray, 1817, pp. 175-176.

 


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.


Researching a Ship's Doctor in France

Poppies

Inexplicably, we have received a number of e-missives from certain Dear Readers who all have an ancestor who claimed to be a "surgeon in the French navy" or a "naval doctor" or a "surgeon on a French frigate at Trafalgar". It is most unusual, we believe, to have a spate of surgeon's descendants surface. Yet, we are grateful for, in our attempts to give helpful replies, we have discovered some very interesting new research paths, supplemented by two well-timed talks

When researching French surgeons at sea, making the differentiation between the Navy and the Merchant Marine is as important as it is when researching sailors or seamen. The documentation and archival storage are in some way quite separate and the researcher has to bear that in mind. If you are researching a man who was a doctor, surgeon or pharmacist/chemist in the French Navy, your work has been done for you by the excellent team of archivist/authors at the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD) who produced the weighty tome, Dictionnaire des médecins, chirurgiens et pharmaciens de la Marine . The work is so thorough that, if your ancestor does not appear within, he almost certainly was not a surgeon inthe French Navy.

Thus, you must look in the scattered, incomplete, rarely online but wondrous records of the French Merchant Marine (Marine de commerce et de pêche). Recall that we wrote on a recent post about the French naval conscription:

The French Naval Class System, Le système de classes

It is clear that many outside of France are completely unaware of a key element of the French Navy, La Marine, and that is the fact that, since 1668, the Marine has had its own system of drafting men into service. As with other military draft systems, it was compulsory. Censuses were taken of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on any type of vessel or who worked with vessels or in ports in any capacity. (From this it can be seen that most of the men came from coastal areas, few were from inland regions.) Lists, called matricules, were made for each region each time the census was taken. All men listed during a particular census were in the same classe, which could be called up to serve at any time during war. The class system was devised to prevent (and is considered by the French to be infinitely superior to and more humane than) something like the British practice of impressing (or pressing) men into service in the Royal Navy. During times of peace, classes were not called up, but during times of war, many classes could be called up at the same time and the men possibly could be made to serve longer than the mandated year. In 1795, the classe system was renamed the maritime enrollment, inscription maritime, but functioned in much the same way throughout the nineteenth century.

When young men had to register, they did so within their Quartier Maritime, an administrative division under the Ministry of the Marine. Prior to the Revolution, the registration was handled by the Admiralty headquarters, les sièges d'Amirauté. These divisions or headquarters were usually in port cities such as Le Havre, Rouen, Lorient, Cherbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, and many, many more. They handled the registration of merchant vessels and personnel, including surgeons.

Surgeons, to serve on a vessel, had to pass tests and receive certificates. Many of the register books showing this have survived and some are online. Those for Bordeaux, on the website of the Departmental Archives of Gironde include:

  • Registrations of Captains, surgeons and other officers, from 1699 to 1792 (Réceptions de capitaines de vaisseaux, chirurgiens, maîtres de barque, pilotes hauturiers, etc...)
  • Certificates delivered by approved Admiralty surgeons to new candidates, from 1711-1728 (Certificats délivrés par les chirurgiens de l'Amirauté de Guienne aux candidats chirurgiens de mer.)

Here is a screen print of one of the former, showing the entry for Pierre Lafargue, whose father trained him (a not uncommon occurrence).

Surgeons

For Le Havre and Rouen, the digitized registers are on the website of the Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime. They have so much and the search is complicated. The easiest way to get to the register and to other interesting possibilities is to go to the "Recherche simple" search box and type in "chirurgiens" and you will see this wonderful book:

Le Havre surgeons

One can have a bit more fun and, on the AD Gironde website, see a register of the contents of the surgeons' chests as they were in 1786 (code 6 B 546): 

Surgeons' chests

 

 So, now you know not to despair if your "naval surgeon" ancestor is not in the Dictionnaire des mèdecins. If he lived near Le Havre or Bordeaux, you might find him registered as a "surgeon of the sea" with the merchant marine.

A small tip: Huguenots were not permitted to be surgeons during the Ancien régime (David Garrioch, The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685-1789, p. 159.) . So, if you find your man among surgeons, he was almost certainly a Catholic. Conversely, your Huguenot ancestor may have been a doctor but almost certainly could not practice in France.

Santé!

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Two Virtual Lectures Up Our Alley

Vessel

Last Saturday's online French genealogy conference, the Salon Virtuel de Généalogie, was excellent as to content but, as we mentioned on the day, somewhat flawed as to microphone quality. We enjoyed a number of talks, especially that by Sandrine Roux-Morand about Alsace Moselle research, to which you can still listen for two more days here, and that by Laurence Abensur-Hazan on French Jewish genealogy resources, delivered at speed, in great clarity and without slides, to which you can still listen here.

Two  lectures were covering topics that are right up the research alley in which we find ourselves at the moment. That on resources online for researching French sailors and merchant seamen, by Christian Duic, and the utterly fascinating lecture by Marine Leclercq-Bernard on using medical archives in genealogical research

We began with Madame Leclercq-Bernard's lecture on La Généalogie Médicale. She discussed the cases of those who were identified legally as carriers of diseases and the medical protocols for identifying and notifying those with hereditary diseases. Her explanation of the archives to use was, Dear Readers, a revelation. So many series that we never knew, with possibilities for discoveries that we never imagined, were described that we now long for a poorly French ancestor to hunt down in them. Most of these series are within the Departmental Archives and are not online; many are in the Archives hospitalières, but Madame Leclercq-Bernard also suggested that one could seek in the archives concerning abandoned children and in the archives of the military hospitals. She explained how a researcher might trace a medical problem back through a number of generations using these archives. Do, do listen to this talk while there still is time.

Christian Duic's talk closely follows his book, Retrouver un ancêtre marin but, aware of our lack of mobility during these times of quarantine, he narrowed the focus to online research of sailors and merchant seamen. (As you will know from our own recent series on Researching Early American Mariners of the Napoleonic Wars, this area of research is one in which we are keenly interested.) We urge you to listen to his talk while there is time, particularly if you have been having trouble with the Le Havre passenger and crew lists on the website of the Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime, for (at about the 27th minute in the talk) he walks the viewer through it.

The French Naval Class System, Le système de classes

It is clear that many outside of France are completely unaware of a key element of the French Navy, La Marine, and that is the fact that, since 1668, the Marine has had its own system of drafting men into service. As with other military draft systems, it was compulsory. Censuses were taken of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on any type of vessel or who worked with vessels or in ports in any capacity. (From this it can be seen that most of the men came from coastal areas, few were from inland regions.) Lists, called matricules, were made for each region each time the census was taken. All men listed during a particular census were in the same class, which could be called up to serve at any time during war. The class system was devised to prevent (and is considered by the French to be infinitely superior to and more humane than) something like the British practice of impressing (or pressing) men into service in the Royal Navy. During times of peace, classes were not called up, but during times of war, many classes could be called up at the same time and the men possibly could be made to serve longer than the mandated year. Without an awareness of this naval draft and the naval matricules, one will not comprehend Monsieur Duic's lecture or his book.

Now, watch those lectures! Vite!

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A Quick List of French Military Websites for Your Lockdown Research

Chasseurs 1802

Many years ago, we worked in aid in East Africa. We poured our heart and soul into the projects, particularly one to train trainers, very much à la mode in the aid world at the time. We arrived after months of preparation, all notes and materials ready to give the course. At a final meeting with the Head of the Civil Service, he told us with his regrets that he would have to cancel the course. We were devastated. "It is fully booked," we pleaded. "The sponsors have paid for the facilities, materials, even for stipends for the attendees. Please reconsider." He refused, we continued begging, wheedling. He was adamant. As was our wont when younger, when we encountered grievous frustration, we lost our head, Dear Readers. Standing before the gentleman, we spoke passionately, waved our arms wildly, and threatened to stab ourself in the throat then and there with a decorative tribal knife that happened to be on his desk, "and bleed all over your carpet!" He looked very disappointed and relented, for which we thanked him profusely. We were so blind in those days. All the man wanted was a bribe. It would have saved us a near-stroke simply to have paid up.

Similarly, for months, we have been at the near-stroke stage in our frustration with the redesigned website of the French military archives, Mémoire des Hommes. Essentially, to our mind, it was launched far too soon, before much data had been entered. Our greatest complaints, however, has been that the brilliant finding aids were not accessible, denying the possibility of our much-enjoyed serendipitous discoveries. In this case of frustration, it was not a payment that was required but patience. Slowly, the site is improving and searches are yielding actual results. The "global search" allows a search for a particular name through the records of a few wars, most of them in the twentieth century. To  find a person in the records of the Ancien Régime through the First Empire, from 1682 to 1815, is a bit more arduous. The contrôles des troupes, the troop lists, have been digitized but are not indexed (collaborative indexing proceeds apace but many of us, Dear Readers, will not live the decades needed to see the results). Thus, you must page through the registers. To make it easier, try to find out the regiment in which your ancestor served and the approximate dates of his service.

Take the time to explore the site. It does get better.

Ancestramil remains a superb resource that takes much of the pain out of researching in the records of the French military. They have indexed close to a million names and transcribed thousands of lists. If you have done no military research at all, Ancestramil is the place to start. Some years back, we described it here.

A couple of the following are also on Ancestramil but we give them here if you wish to use a more subject specific site.

We hope these may help you to have a grand success during your lockdown hunting.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy