Military

Was Your Ancestor an Employee of the Ferme Générale?

Tax collector

The royal general Farms, les fermes généraux, were the system of tax collection in France ( fermes in this usage means leases). From as early as the reign of Henri III, the collection of taxes and customs duties in France was leased out to private individuals. The lessor, necessarily wealthy, often of the bourgeoisie, bought a six-year, somewhat secretive lease to collect taxes in one of the large regions of France.  The amount of taxes to be paid to the King was stipulated in the contract; anything over and above that amount that was collected could be kept by the lessor. Did you ever come across a better school for corruption, Dear Readers?

The lessors (or contractors) became extraordinarily rich, of course, so rich that some were able to buy themselves a title or two and join the nobility. Some historians try to let them off the hook by pointing out that many of them were great supporters of the arts or that they financed public works. Better not to commit the crime than to atone for it, we say.

Corrupt though it was, the system was also extremely efficient. The corps des fermiers généraux was comprised of the lessors (fermiers) and their deputies (adjoints), many of them related, as nepotism was rife. From 1756, the administration of the Ferme générale was centralized in Paris. There, some six hundred eighty employees, divided into three functional sections, kept the accounts, managed the personnel, sent out inspectors and oversaw the work of more than twenty-five thousand agents across the country and in its colonies. These agents were either clerical, checking the accounts locally, or in quasi-military brigades (which often included retired soldiers) that hunted down and summarily punished smugglers. Needless to say, they all were despised by the general population. 

Fermes du roy example

Marie Colombe de Boulanger Death Register Entry, 5 May 1744. Carteret, Manche, Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil, 1722-1748, E2, online image no. 112

Archives départementales de la Manche

How to research that ancestor? Very little can be found online at the moment, but that looks set to improve.

  • Brief biographies, in French, of the men who were members of the corps des fermiers généraux from 1720 to 1751 are given in the work by Barthélémy Mouffle d'Angerville (who served in the French Navy in Louisiana) entitled La Vie privée de Louis XV, ou principaux événements, particularités et anecdotes de son règne, and currently can be read online on Google Books here.
  • Individual cards on the agents in employment in 1782 can be found in sub-series G1 in the Archives nationales (a single example of such a card can be found online here).

Further Reading:

  • Dictionnaire de la Ferme générale (1640-1794), an academic blog hosted by Hypotheses, this has by far the most complete and thorough discussion and research on the ferme générale. It contains no list of employees nor even much discussion of individuals, but it is new and will increase in depth of coverage quickly.
  • Wikipedia has a quite good article in English on the ferme générale; the article in French is much, much more thorough.
  • The finding aid of the Archives nationales lists not only the holdings relating to the ferme but explains their administration thoroughly in the introduction.
  • The ever brilliant Geneawiki has a page on the subject that lists the holdings in the Archives nationales, with links to any that may be online, and that gives any other sources that may be useful

Fascinating aspect of the French State.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 3 - Historical Context

Marie Fouyol

Thomas Mansell's Profession and Historical Context

As any serious genealogist will tell you, Dear Readers, context is crucial to your research.  Most will say that it is necessary in order to give a fuller picture of an ancestor's past but, as Alison Hare, CG, explained in her recent BCG webinar, "The Time of Cholera: a Case Study About Historical Context". You may even get quite lucky, as she did, and find a clear reference to one of your ancestors. We are hoping for such luck in searching for the origins of Marie Fouyol.

Thomas Mansell was a mécanicien and a tisserand, a machinist and weaver, as we learned in the previous post. He also was English. His daughter's obituary stated that he "went to France about 1801. Soon thereafter war arose between England and France, and, with hundreds of other Englishmen, he was made a prisoner at Paris and could not escape." This is where historical context can be important.

The industrial revolution was not a smoothly progressing event. A great deal of industrial espionage and poaching of expertise went on. As early as 1719 Britain had passed a law forbidding British masters of trades to take on foreign apprentices, in order to prevent expertise transferring to competitor nations and economies. To no avail. Technology was being transferred at a snapping pace. Even at that point, there were living in France over one hundred British technicians and their families, teaching their skills.1 By the late eighteenth century, the emphasis was on the technologies for creating textiles. From the 1790s, James, John and Juliana Collier, from Manchester, began to work for French textile manufacturers, constructing machines based on the English designs they had learned, and teaching French workers how to use them.2 Serge Chassagne, one of the experts on the subject, lists dozens more British and Irish textile workers and experts who brought their skills to France before and during the Napoleonic Wars, including the two Dean brothers, based in Normandy.He adds that the French state did not only poach technology and lure technicians, it also  fostered "directly the innovations by the national competition for the best spinning machineries, in 1803, and by the opening, the following year, of a training school for the mule-spinning in the Conservatoire [des Arts et Métiers] in Paris." The number of spinning factories (filatures) jumped from six in 1789 to two hundred thirty-four in 1806.4 Though Thomas Mansell's name could not be found in any of the abovementioned studies, he almost certainly was just such a British expert in textile machinery who went to France to work and to teach his skills. 

The obituary of Thomas Mansell's daughter, Françoise Joséphine Mansell, places his arrival in France in 1801, then says that war broke out and he was made a prisoner. This looks to be very close to what happened to many. The French Revolutionary Wars lasted from 1792 to March of 1802, when the Treaty of Amiens was signed. Hundreds of British travelled to France as soon as the peace made it possible to do so safely. The safety did not last. War broke out again in May of 1803 and Napoleon ordered that all British men in the country at that time be rounded up and detained as enemy aliens. (For more on this, see our post on the British détenus.) We suspect that Thomas Mansell may have arrived in France not in 1801, while fighting was still going on, but in 1802, when travel would have been much easier. We are also certain that he was rounded up with the other British nationals.

During her research, Madame J contacted Professor Peter Clark, who created and maintains the British Prisoners of Napoleon database. He wrote to her:

"He was recorded on my DataBase as MANSSALL sic, Thomas, since that is how his surname was entered on the list of Detenus (or Detainees) that was compiled by the French authorities following the General Arrest of all British Visitors and British Residents in France on the orders of the then First Consul Napoleon BONAPARTE that was made in May 1803. This list is held in the Service Historique de l'Armée de la Defence (SHAD) at the Chateau de Vincennes in Paris, and I examined and transcribed that List of 1181 named Detainees at Vincennes now some 20 years ago. That list does not state his age (it does for several others), but very usefully it states his occupation as ’Tisserand’ meaning a Weaver. I have no reason to doubt that this is your relative.

At that point in time he was being held at Fontainbleau, which is where many of the British visitors were being gathered to live on parole until further arrangements were made for where they were eventually going to be allowed to live. At that early date in the detention process those five places were Paris, Fontainbleau, Verdun, Valenciennes, and Nismes [Nîmes].

In the story of the Detenus the Weavers were a very special group, since they were men, often in France with their families, who had been brought over to France by French Business Entrepreneurs in order to help develop the textile industry in France, which then very much lagged behind the British Loom Inventions of the Industrial Revolution. In due course almost all of these detained Weavers were allowed to return to their own dwellings and to their French Masters/Employers, and to the work places where they had been working. They were not free to go back to Britain, but they could live in peace with their families and carry on working for their French Employers.

All of this is very much examined and discussed in a Thesis by Margaret AUDIN that was submitted for an MA at the University of Birmingham, and copies of that Thesis can be seen in the Library at Birmingham University, and there is a copy in the Library of the Society of Genealogists in central London ........ When you say that Thomas MANSELL was in some later document recorded as a ‘Mecanicien’ Mechanic, this is particularly interesting. This may well indicate that he was not just acting as an artisan weaver, but that he was perhaps constructing and maintaining the Weaving Looms which required much knowledge and skill, and that is why so many Weavers had been recruited to work in France. Very early on it looks as if he had been given permission to live on parole and work in or around the Paris area. There was little interference with such a group of workers as long as they were employed and did not cause trouble.

If he needed to ask for any special privileges from the Police or from the Government, then his letter/s to the French authorities may well of ended up in the Archives at the Chateau de Vincennes....

We were able to provide Madame J with a copy of the page of the Fontainebleau list of prisoners showing Thomas Mansell.5

Yj33 PG Anglais list first page

Yj33 PG Anglais list folio 29

Yj33 PG Anglais list folio 45

 

The list also contains the names of a number of other weavers, machinists, textile workers and factory directors, many of whom are mentioned in Chassagne's "Les Anglais en France", including the Dean brothers.

  • Archer, George, Mécanicien
  • Avington, John, Oeuvrier en coton
  • Bowie or Bosvie, John, Tisserand, aged 25
  • Callon, Thomas, Fabriquant de coton, aged 42
  • Callon, Charles Fabriquant de coton, aged 39
  • Callon, Jean, Fabriquant de coton, aged 30
  • Clark, William, Tisserand, aged 26
  • Dean, Edward, Mécanicien, aged 22
  • Dean, John, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Dawin, Francis, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Flint, James, Directeur d'une filature de coton, aged 30
  • Fleming, William, Mécanicien, aged 25
  • Honels, John, Mécanicien, aged 37
  • Keaivesnay, John, Mécanicien, aged 36
  • Kestledam, Robert, Inspecteur d'Indienne [Indian-patterned fabrics], aged 28
  • Le Roy, Michael Alexander, Mécanicien, aged 34
  • Lacy, Peter, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Macfie, Daniel, Mécanicien, aged 33
  • Macloude, John, Mécanicien, aged 53
  • Mansall, Thomas, Tisserand, aged 34
  • Orell, James, Director of a filature de coton at Gisors (Eure)
  • Oxford, Thomas, Mécanicien, aged 38
  • Richardson, Alexandre, Imprimeur en Indienne, aged 24
  • Riller, Edward, Mécanicien, aged 23
  • Robson, William, Mécanicien, aged 29
  • Richardson, James, Mécanicien, aged 26 (possibly listed twice) employed at a
    manufacture de filature à Malaunay (Seine-Inférieur)
  • Tailord, James, Oeuvrier mécanicien, aged 40

 

This confirms the details in the obituary of Thomas Mansell's daughter and clearly places him amongst the group of British textile workers in France taken prisoner in 1803. 

Professor Clark pointed out that there may be a correspondence file in the archives of the SHD relating to Thomas Mansell. Indeed, there is, and we shall obtain a copy of it for this Free Clinic case. With luck, it will contain a request from Mansell for permission to marry. Such permission was required for military prisoners to marry, but it may not have been for civilian prisoners allowed to continue working and to live outside of the prisons. If Mansell's file does contain such a request, it could give details as to the identity and origins of his future wife, Marie Fouyol.

As it can be seen here how useful to genealogical research a bit of historical research can be, we hope that you all, Dear Readers, are now committed historians as well as genealogists. In the next post, we will look at a different aspect of context: geographical context.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

  1. Chassagne, Serge. "Les Anglais en France, et plus particulièrement en Normandie, dans la «révolution industrielle» (1715-1880)". Études Normandes, 62e année, n°2, 2013. [Theme:] "L'art d'être original - Singularités, reprises et innovations dans l'art et la culture en Normandie du XIX° siècle à nos jours". pp. 121-140; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/etnor.2013.1904. https://www.persee.fr/doc/etnor_0014-2158_2013_num_62_2_1904. Accessed 29 July 2021.
  2. Hémardinquer Jean-Jacques. "Une dynastie de mécaniciens anglais en France : James, John et Juliana Collier (1791-1847)". Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs applications, tome 17, n°3, 1964. pp. 193-208; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/rhs.1964.2344 https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhs_0048-7996_1964_num_17_3_2344
  3. Chassagne Serge. "L'innovation technique dans l'industrie textile pendant la Révolution". Histoire, économie et société, 1993, 12ᵉ année, n°1. [Theme:] "Entreprises et révolutions". pp. 51-61; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/hes.1993.1660 https://www.persee.fr/doc/hes_0752-5702_1993_num_12_1_1660.
  4. Chassagne. "L'innovation technique", p51.
  5. France. Archives de l'Armée de la Terre. Prisonniers de Guerre anglais. "Etat nominatif des anglais considerés comme prisonniers de guerre..." Service Historique de la Défense, Vincennes. code: Yj 33.

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell

Marie Fouyol

Not so long ago (but longer ago than we should like to admit, we are ashamed to say) we were contacted by Madame J. with a submission for the FGB Free Clinic. She had been able to find little on the origins of her French ancestor, Marie Fouyol, and asked if the FGB could be of help. The following is her summary of her research:

MARIE FOUYOL (c. 1783 - 1872)
Also spelled Fouyolle, Fouillol, Fouillot, Fouyot

Born in France (possibly Paris) c. 1783

1st Marriage: French Officer (widowed - no known name, place or date)

2nd Marriage: Thomas Mansell (also spelled Mencel, Mansall, Mansill)
- no known place or date of marriage
See below re Thomas Mansell.

Died: 2 October 1872 in Westmeath, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada

Marie had four children with Thomas Mansell
Three were born in Paris (all baptised at St Jacques du Haut Pas) and one was born in Canada (Thomas Alfred in 1821). Links to the childrens' Paris baptismal records are here:

• Baptismal entry at St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Françoise Joséphine ‘MANCELL’, 13 Nov 1814, 26, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/21

• Baptismal entry St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Pierre Georges Alphonse ‘MANSALL’ 9 February 1816, no. 32, p.139, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/139

• Baptismal entry St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Jeanne Richard ‘MAUSANN’ (1813-19, p.335/378, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/335.


THOMAS MANSELL (Mansill, Mancell, Mansall, Manssall, Mausann, Mencell)

Born: 19 July 1777, Rillington, Ryedale, N. Yorkshire
Parents: George Mansell (1744-1816), a weaver
Frances (Dinsdale) Mansell (1748-1829).

Occupation: Weaver (tisserand, mécanicien)

France – went to France for work sometime before 1801
Detained: 1801-1814 (Dépot de Fontainebleau and Paris)
Left France c. 1819

Emigrated to Canada c.1820
Died: 13 Nov 1852, Ramsay, Ontario, Canada

 

Madame J. and her sister both had done a great deal of previous research, as evidenced above. Additionally:

  • They had found that the child born in 1818, Jeanne Richard Mansall, died at the age of six weeks and was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery. (https://tinyurl.com/vkz8f49j)
  • They had found the family in Canadian census returns of 1861 (and possibly other years; we are waiting on that).
  • Based on the precise dates above, they would appear to have found the Canadian death registrations for Thomas Mansell and Marie Fouyol Mansell. (We are waiting for those to be sent to us.)
  • They contacted us previously and we were able to send them the page showing Mansell's name on a list of prisoners of war, or détenus, held by the French at Fontainebleau in 1803.
  • They had found an obituary for the surviving daughter of Thomas and Marie, Françoise Joséphine, who married James Grieg in Canada in 1832:

Friday April 3, 1903, The Almonte Gazette p.4: The Late Mrs Jas Greig –

"The Gazette last week mentioned the death of Mrs Jas Greig of Carleton Place, which occurred on the 24th of March, and this week is enabled to give some interesting particulars regarding her life. She was born in Paris, France, in 1811. Her father, Mr Thos Mansell, was an English weaver, who went to France about 1801. Soon thereafter war arose between England and France, and, with hundreds of other Englishmen, he was made a prisoner at Paris and could not escape. He married the widow of a French officer killed in war, and in 1811 their daughter, the late Mrs Grieg, was born. In 1819 Mr Mansell returned to England and Yorkshire, and here their only son, Mr. A.T. Mansell, of Westmeath, now 82 years of age, was born. In 1820 the family came to Canada on the strength of reports sent back from relatives. For four years they lived near Brockville and then settled in Ramsay near Almonte. The father died fifty years ago. The mother some years later. The former was 90 years of age, the latter 75. [reverse seems correct because the 1861 Census for Westmeath ON, lists her mother [Marrey Mensell] as born in France; 78 years of age, which would mean she was born approx. 1783]. Mr and Mrs Grieg were married in 1832. He was a native of Clarkmannshire, Scotland. They came to Carleton Place in 1863. For six years Mr Greig operated the grist mill. Then he retired altogether from business life and for many years the two enjoyed unbroken pleasures. The children living are Peter, James, Andrew, Mrs Jas Cram, Alfred, Mrs John Donaldson, Robert and Christena. The dead are John, Mrs Templeton and Thomas. All the children were present at dinner on the day of the funeral, Robert and James coming from far western States and Mrs Cram from Pilot Mound. The funeral took place on Saturday afternoon, interment being made in the family plot in the 8th line Ramsay cemetery, quite a number going from Almonte to join the cortege, some at Carleton Place and others as it neared the cemetery. Five sons and her son-in-law, Mr Donaldson, were the pall-bearers."

 

For a number of reasons, this is not an easy case.

  • The many spelling variants of both names make searches of any indexed records exceedingly tedious and fraught with missed possibilities.
  • Thomas Mansell was not French, so there will not be  much French documentation about him to link back to Marie Fouyol.
  • Most of the parish and civil registrations of Paris prior to 1860 were lost in conflagrations; those that were reconstructed from other records were done so by families that remained in France and needed the documentation for one reason or another.
  • The Mansell-Fouyol family emigrated to Canada and so were unlikely to have bothered to re-establish their French documentation. However, if Marie Fouyol had relatives who remained in France, they may have done so.

The above reasons can help to explain why Madame J and her sister, in spite of their stellar research on various genealogy websites extensively, were not able to find:

  • A record of the Mansell-Fouyol marriage, whether religious or civil.
  • A record of Marie Fouyol's first marriage.
  • A record of Marie Fouyol's birth or baptism.

 

In the next post, analysis of what we have.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Did Your French Ancestor Receive a Military Medal?

French Military Medals

Our father claimed to have been a captain in the United States Marine Corps. There hung on the wall in the corridor a box frame with a tastefully mounted display of the medals he said he had been awarded for his heroic service. However, he also was a con man, a perpetrator of insurance scams and a property developer of shoddy houses that collapsed. He was not very successful at it and was easily duped by con men of superior skill, so he bought air rights over road intersections that were never built and made high-interest loans of money that was never repaid. He managed to elude jail and the riches he so coveted managed to elude him. Given his civilian lifestyle of alternating boasting with cravenly hiding from the law, we had grave doubts about the authenticity of his medals for courage and bravery. We suspected they may have been a hodgepodge of dodgy coins and ribbons he picked up in pawn shops but, by the time we were tall enough to see into the box frame and read them properly, we had long flown that turbulent nest, so we will never know.

In the course of researching a French fellow of the same stamp as our father, we came across a nice little website that may be of interest to the many of our Dear Readers who send photographs of medals with questions as to what they were. How to tell an agricultural medal from school medal from a military one? Medailles Militaires, the website of one Sylvain Metivier, may be of some use in solving your puzzle. He has created two data bases that can be searched:

  • Military medals awarded from 1852 to 1870, the information being taken from lists published in the Moniteur Universel during those years, to which he has added the Légion d'honneur recipients and others found in archives. This has well over 58,000 names.
  • Commemorative medals awarded during the Second Empire, including the Crimean and other wars of the period. This has close to 36,000 names.

Type in a surname to either and you will receive some very useful details that could help to further your research, most precious being the regiment in which a person served. The full list of results possible is:

  • The medal
  • Date of the decree awarding it
  • Ministry awarding it
  • Regiment in which the person served
  • Surname
  • First names (all of them)
  • Rank
  • Reasons for the award
  • Notes

Monsieur Metivier welcomes contributions to the data bases. 

Very nice.

©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

 

 

 


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.