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Huguenot Heritage websites

Martin had so enlarged its population that "numerous inhabitants were deprived of an opportunity of publicly celebrating the divine offices," and the result of an application to Parliament was that a separate parish was formed, and a new parish church was built, dedicated to St. Anne, mother of the Virgin. Around this in what is now known as Dean Street, Soho buildings clustered, and within fifty years the parish contained 1, houses, according to Maitland.

He adds the following information about the prosperity of the parish:—"There are of persons that keep coaches seventy three," and there "is a workhouse for the reception of the poor;" and then he goes on:—"The fields in these parts being lately converted into buildings, I have not discovered anything of antiquity in this parish;" many parts so greatly abound with French that it is an "easy matter for a stranger to fancy himself in France. Strype, in , speaks of the "chapels in these parts for the use of the French nation, where our Liturgy turned into French is used, French ministers that are refugees episcopally ordained officiating; several whereof are hereabouts seen walking in the canonical habit of the English clergy.

Abundance of French people, many whereof are voluntary exiles for their religion, live in these streets and lanes, following honest trades, and some gentry of the same nation. It's this aspect of travel which appeals to me - stepping into the footsteps of my various forebears, trying to erase the modern streetscape from my mind and imagine a place as it was back in their day. Not that my Huguenot French Protestant forebears would have worshipped in this building in Soho Square - but tracking down this symbol of the mass French migration to London to escape religious persecution evoked past times for me.

It's rather sobering that we continue to see these problems today - there is always a religion that another group does not like and tries to eliminate from its midst. In the case of the Huguenots years ago, their skills contributed to England's gain and France's loss.

Gastron, of Hunterdon Co NH, Harrison Co WV

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We have to thank Ronald Pissens of Belgium for researching the link. He organised high-level DNA tests on a number of men, using the marker tests which compare two male persons genetically. Statistics calculating the TMRCA time to the most recent common ancestor estimate that their common ancestor was born after , or roughly at the beginning of the 14th century. In more recent times, the only thing which is not yet paper-trailed is the step taking the Pierssene family living in Beveren in the s to their location in Dieppe in Since the Ps of Dieppe were merchants, the link was most likely created via business connections and a sea journey from Antwerp down the English Channel.

Thus the forebears of the English branch of the P family were originally Flemings. A good example is Crommelin, who are definitely regarded as Huguenot, but the name was originally Cromelink and is definitely Flemish in origin.

Tracing Huguenot ancestors

The Protestant registers for La Rochelle are full of Dutch names. Wednesday, February 20, Thomas Persene, Norwich, The book 'The Walloons and their church at Norwich: their history and registers ', by William John Charles Moens, page , contains the following entry for a tesmoinage , in which one of the participants was the unnamed wife of a Thomas Persene: Sara, fille d'Antoine S, Tem. Thomas Persene is of particular interest because the name Thomas appeared early in the Huguenot branch of the Pierssene family, in London.

Google provides no further clues about Thomas Persene; he may simply have been passing through Norwich, as the Walloon Registers make no further reference to him. But if he lived there for a while, then possibly he paid taxes in Norwich, or received charity payments, or was a tradesperson or merchant there, or left a will, etc. Archival sources in Norwich might hold some very useful information.

I'm hoping that members of the Pierssene family living in Norfolk might one day be able to follow up this avenue of research. No clues have yet surfaced via the other families participating in the above tesmoinage.

Men named Jan Lieuin and Jan Deremaux had large families christened at the Walloon Church in Norwich from the late s and their wills, if they exist, might be illuminating. The surname Marcsal was probably Marisal, but I have found nothing more about him.

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Jacob moved to Amsterdam where he was a merchant but he left there as a bankrupt in It seems that he may have eventually moved to Dieppe, but did he go to a relative in England for a period? However, their position became increasingly insecure as King Louis XIV, grandson of Henri IV, listened more and more to those who advised him that the existence of this sizeable religious minority was a threat to the absolute authority of the monarch. Gradually the Huguenots' privileges were eroded. In the s Protestants in certain parts of France were deliberately terrorised by the billeting of unruly troops in their homes ['the Dragonnades'].

Finally, in Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes, while exiling all Protestant pastors and at the same time forbidding the laity to leave France.

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To the considerable surprise of the government many did leave, often at great risk to themselves. Men who were caught, if not executed, were sent as galley slaves to the French fleet in the Mediterranean.


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Women were imprisoned and their children sent to convents. About , Huguenots left France, settling in non-Catholic Europe - the Netherlands, Germany, especially Prussia, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and even as far as Russia where Huguenot craftsmen could find customers at the court of the Czars.

About 50, came to England, perhaps about 10, moving on to Ireland. So there are many inhabitants of these islands who have Huguenot blood in their veins, whether or not they still bear one of the hundreds of French names of those who took refuge here - thus bringing the word 'refugee' into the English language.

Because of the political climate of the time, in a Britain strongly suspicious of the aims of Louis XIV's France, and in fact about to begin a series of wars to curb those ambitions, the Huguenots were on the whole welcomed here.