Britain has a history of immigration – if you can go back in your own family tree far enough, the odds are that in your distant ancestry your forebears will have come from some other country. During the 16th and 17th centuries, however, there was an influx of people from France and what is now Belgium, Protestants oppressed by the mighty Catholic Church there who sough refuge in another Protestant state.
Who Were The Huguenots
The term Huguenot is actually a very broad one, and not strictly accurate. They were Protestants, both French and Walloon, who were really Calvinists. The Catholic Church was strong in France, and although a Huguenot rebellion won them rights there, some slipped away during the reign of Elizabeth I to avoid persecution and settled in London – their earliest church was in what’s now Soho Square.
In France literally thousands of Huguenots were killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, although the 1598 Edict of Nantes did give them a certain amount of religious freedom until it was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, which gave rise to more persecution and many were forced to flee, not only in France but also in the Walloon area.
Some went to the Netherlands, a staunchly Calvinist country, while others brought their skills to England. They were valued for their work as silk weavers, silversmiths, hat makers and in other crafts; indeed, the influx of Huguenots made England an exporter, rather than importer, of these items.
Most settled in the South East, but some, particularly the Walloons, were in East Anglia and the Fens, where their ditching skills, learned at home, proved especially valuable in reclaiming marshland. There were big Huguenot communities in Cambridgeshire, especially around Thorney.
Researching Huguenot Family History
A French surname in your family doesn’t automatically mean Huguenot ancestry; nor does an English name means there aren’t Huguenots in your family tree.
The only way to really find out is to go back. Use the usual genealogy routes of birth certificates and censuses to establish your family back to at least 1837 (when the civil registration of births began), and if possible to 1800, which is where these records overlap with Huguenot records.
At this point the Huguenot Society becomes an important genealogy resource. Their Quarto series contains most of the records from Huguenot churches in England, although you should be aware that in most cases only baptisms and marriages are recorded, not deaths. Alternatively, you can access the originals of these records, which are held by the National Archives in Kew. But by the second half of the 18th century, due to assimilation, many Huguenots worshipped in their C. of E. parish churches, meaning you’ll also need to check those records to trace your family.
Also worth try are the records of the French Hospital, and the Huguenot Society’s Quartos carries all those records up to 1957. Additionally, there are Huguenot genealogy sites online that can give clues and hints, if not all the answers – you’ll still need to do a lot of leg work.
Huguenots Leaving England
For a large number of Huguenots, England was only a temporary home. Many moved on to settle in America and South Africa. So, in building up a full picture of your family tree, you’ll also need to look at Huguenot settlements there and their descendants. There are a number of web sites that can help at least narrow the search there.
My grandfather's mother 's name is Cambage from Yorkshire. Sometimes it is spelled Cambe. Some were stonemasons. I was wondering whether they were of Huguenot origin because the parish records cease around the late 1600s.
I am also researching the name Honoree around the Wash in England. It also seems to appear around the late 1600s.
I wonder whether you could help me please.
Hil - 5-Feb-17 @ 9:07 AM
I have traced my 3rd g.grandfather Charles Heath back to London, where he was christened in St.Botolph's church abt. 1810. He stole a wig when he was
a boy and was transported to Australia, at the age of abt 18 years.
I have traced his family back to his father, also Charles Heath and they lived outside Aldgate Street, Holy Trinity Minories, Tower Hamlets and Middlesex.
Women who married Heaths were Passmore, (Tulipan) further back and Mary Charles.
What ethnicity? Maybe Jewish somewhere, Jamaican, gypsy, French? I cannot tell other than they lived near Aldgate Street. Any help at all appreciated.
Marj - 2-Jul-16 @ 12:29 PM
Our family name is Rowing believed to be Rouen (a small French town) in its original spelling. The family tree ends suddenly with no trace passed 1700 something, not sure of exact date. We too think we are descendants of the Huguenots. Does anyone have any information for us?
Jo - 20-Jun-16 @ 9:31 PM
I believe the Girardots came to England in about 1700 and something and I heard they were teachers and had a school in Sussex. I wondered if they were Huguenots. They then settled in north Kensington, London, where I was born.
Chris - 16-Jun-16 @ 9:52 PM
Hi Folks, my maiden name was BASTIN & although I haven't traced my ancestors back a long way, I have seen that quite a few Bastins arrived in Devon about the time of the Huguenots departure from France & Belgium.Please can anyone confirm this or do you have a BASTIN in your lineage ?
Katey - 8-Mar-16 @ 8:48 PM
Ok, so I am pretty sure that one my ancestors was a Huguenot, but I have no idea were to start...I have made a family tree as far back as I can, but other than that am stuck. Any Ideas?
Beanie - 10-Nov-15 @ 4:08 AM
My sister and I have traced our Rayner line back to a Richard and Alice who lived in Downham (Little Downham now) in 1578.There the trail stops.I have recently been reading about how the Huguenots (Walloons and Flemmings) settled in the Fenland of Cambridgeshire as they were expert ditchers.I have found several names which spoken with a french accent namely:Renar, Renaud, Renaert, Reynard, Raunard, Reinaert and Reinaers, all derived from Renard, which could well become RAYNER and other spellings thereof.Our line of Rayners lived continuously in Downham from 1578.Do you think I am on the right track and, if so, any advice as to how to direct our research would be appreciated.Jean
Dukes - 13-Sep-15 @ 1:00 AM
My grandmother's maiden name was Gracey - many spellings of it.I have been able to go back to Gracey's originating in Northern Ireland around Comber in the early 1800's but have been unable to trace anything back further.Comber was an area strong in weaving and linen production, I believe.
I was always led to believe that Gracey was a Huguenot name possible De Grace but have been unable to find any proof of that or any connection.The closest I have come has been a French surname Grasset, but have been unable to connect that name to mine or to Ireland for that matter,Any ideas?
Liz - 17-Aug-15 @ 12:35 PM
Hi everyone l have a brick wall with my research on my family ancestors. I wondered if as many of you could help me as possible. It was passed down in my family in the Yorkshire branch that my ancestors were Belgium/French Huguenots who brought weaving crafts in wool to England and there descendants set up woollen industries and eventually clothing factories in Yorkshire and Cumberland. The surname showed variations on the family tree including Causier, Causer and Cawzer. The family tree has been traced back to John Cawzer born 1600 in Dunchurch Warwickshire. There are records of his family in a church at Hillmorton Warwickshire. There were many Huguenots who settled in Warwickshire and travelling groups of them also. The Causier surname and variations of it was present in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany at the time of the Huguenots. Thank you in anticipation. I am very excited if anyone can find the information I am looking for.
nicole - 16-Jul-15 @ 10:41 PM
my last name is Durand, and my late father believed he was a descendant from the French Huguenot's. I'm at a loss where to start ? He mentioned his great grandmother working as a nurse in a Huguenot hospital in the UK!
liss - 15-Jul-15 @ 3:42 AM
My mother's maiden name was Paulling which is fairly unusual. She believed it was a Huguenot name but I can find no proof.I can trace them in London back to the late 18th century and a form of the name appears in the 16th and 17th c as Pawlynge, Poullinge and Paullynge. A few in Suffolk, UK. I wonder if anyone has come across this name or may have it in their ancestry. I would be so grateful if anyone has a clue.
Jennet - 18-Jun-15 @ 10:39 PM
I don't now if this wil be any value to your questions,but I've been tracing the SALES family
through Derbyshire. HORSLEY. Derbyshire.They changed their name from SEAL to SALES.
The first one I found was ELIS SEILE Married Ann Woodhouse,13/4/1572. After that they called themselves SEALS. You can view the parish records on line.No charge.
chez - 31-May-15 @ 10:50 AM
I am tracing my roots and have got to Marin Le Fevre and Marie Le Court who fled to Cambridgeshire.
I cannot find out where they came from... France or Walloon, and where exactly? Can anyone help?
Cherie - 22-May-15 @ 10:34 AM
When I was a pre-teenager my grandmother, Marion Beatrice LaBorde, told me a story ofmy grandfather, Cyprian Bruce LaBorde. It goes like this:Charles LaBorde (Cyprian's father) was born in or near Bordeaux and was either married to or cohabited with, a Maria Rosenblum (from the Basque Region of France/Spain) and together had a son called William Theodore LaBorde.The story goes, that for some reason or other, Charles left France and migrated to the Channel Isles (Guernsey), where he joined the British Army (?) and was posted, as an officer, to Sierra Leone.Apparently, Maria - who by now was again highly pregnant with Charles' second child, felt abandoned by Charles and very cleverly discovered his whereabouts, so, together with her sister, she chased after him, with little William in tow, via Guernsey and on to Sierra Leone in Africa, .By the time she arrived at Sierra Leone, Charles had boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.Maria and her sister, not to be outdone, gave chase again, but this time, she gave birth to a baby son on board ship and named him Cyprian Bruce LaBorde.She then arrived at St Vincent in the West Indies and then went on to Trinidad & Tobago.Maria died in Trinidad and her sister looked after William and Cyprian until they were teenagers when William went to the USA and Cyprian went to British Guiana to work as an overseer on the sugar plantations.Can anyone help please with information about Charles LaBorde and Maria Rosenblum?
Dickie - 6-May-15 @ 1:48 PM
My paternal great grandmother was Rhoda Rebecca De'ath.The 1911 census shows that she was born in Wisbech and family records suggest that her birthday may have been 21st Feb 1860.Her marriage certificate names her father as Isaac De'ath, Civil Engineer however, he had died by the time of her marriage to Harold Trill in 1887.
I cannot find any records relating to her.I have seen that there is a Rebecca De'ath (no reference to Rhoda) born in about 1858 and living in a village called Bures St Mary, who also had a father called Isaac, but I cannot prove the connection between this Rebecca and our Rhoda Rebecca.
Family anecdote suggests that there may have been some connection with the Dent glove making family and that Rhoda's mother may have been French.
Any help in finding further records would be much appreciated.
Debbie - 5-May-15 @ 9:49 AM
My maiden name is SALES,I understand that the families origin is from France.
In old records I looked up (Years ago) there were 2 Sales who arrived in Kent,I think it was 1700's not sure where can I find these records again?
chez - 3-May-15 @ 3:42 PM
Hi! I have an ancestor named Bartholomew Threadneedle, born about 1640 and found in Boston, Massachusetts. No family information on his parentage is available. Given the name Bartholomew (associating with the St. Bartholomew massacre) and Threadneedle (associating with the Huguenot church on Threadneedle St. in London) I wonder whether this is a choice of Huguenots to change to a purely English name. Have you ever heard of any families of the name Threadneedle among Huguenots in England in the early 1600s?
Sandy - 18-Feb-15 @ 4:06 AM
My mother told me her father,John Bradshaw established c.1920 that his forebears in London were of Huguenot descent, living on and near Brick Lane in Bethnal Green. One named Hannah married Charles Sargant in1881. By1912 he had died and she emigrated with 8 grown-up children and settled in Oshawa,Canada in 1913. The name Sargant-spelt like that- is still found in Oshawa and thereabouts. There is or was a business called Sargent Hardware based in Oshawa,wonder if it's the same family feeling they had to normalise their spelling!
John Bradshaw married a Rosina Manton,who was from Duddington,in England near Stamford. I think Manton is a French name and wonder if Huguenots without resources fled hereand worked manufacturing bricks,since this seems like work locals wouldn't care for.
Raysterling - 20-Jan-15 @ 3:57 AM
I am wondering whether the surname Jefferys is of French Huguenot origin.
A forebear of mine, Robert Jefferys, was born in London, England, in 1851 and emigrated to Sydney, Australia.
Graham - 25-Nov-14 @ 11:02 PM
I'm looking for the Michel family believed to have left Rouen in france during the mid 1800 century.
It is understood that monsignor Michel was an artisan and also a lay preacher coming from france to preach in their mother tongue as many emigrants spoke little or no english at that time
i find them during 1830s in Walworth London,has anybody a connection to this family?
westy - 7-Oct-14 @ 8:17 AM
One family name is Simper, which may be a corruption of St. Pierre.I have them going back in England to 1793.I was told that they were Huguenots and related to the burghers of Calais. I am trying to find out if there is any truth in this
tassy - 21-Aug-14 @ 4:02 PM
I was told that my paternal ancestors came from Belgium and they were Huguenots fleeing from the persecution - surname: CANELLE.I seem to remember that they made lace but my memory isn't to be relied on!I would love to know more about their origins.Any good websites I can go to?
Shirley - 1-Aug-14 @ 8:43 AM
I understand that one branch of my family were Huguenots from Lyon in France and were involved inthe silk trade. They left due to religious persecution and fled to Spain ?when,and later to England (Devon is the main county I have been able to trace them back to as far as mid 1700's).The name currently is Mingo but was De/Da Mingo so I have been informed. Anyone who has any information is welcome to contact me.
Bev - 4-May-14 @ 2:23 AM
My maiden name was Boucher and I have traced the family back to Yeovil in Somerset in the mid 1600s. Does anyone know of any Huguenot presence, or records there at that time, or where I might find more information.
Margaret - 7-Apr-14 @ 7:55 PM
I can trace my family tree back to a village near Cambridge, and the family name is Silk.They moved down to the East of London later and continued to be silk weavers. Is it possible that these ancestors were of Huguenot decent?
Can anybody shed any light on my family history before 1650.
Nuffwerewolf - 5-Aug-13 @ 9:52 PM
my grand father told me that my ggg grandfather spoke french and was frenchman, we live cambridgeshire in the fens so i am thinking we are walloon ditchmakers our surname is Bonnett
tombonnett - 19-Oct-12 @ 1:21 PM
My mother's maiden name was MACE and I was told years ago that we had Huguenot ancestry. This is borne out by finding that my g-g-g-grandfather, g-g grandfather and g-grandfather lived in Bethnal Green and were silkweavers. However, further back still they lived in Deptford and one was a shipwright.
I believe MACE may be an anglicisation of the French name MASSE .
As far as I can tell there is no connection with the Norfolk MACE family, which includes the famous pugilist Jem MACE.
I would be grateful for opinions on this. The first names are very ordinary, John and James but then Josiah.
RobinKiwi - 9-Sep-12 @ 12:19 AM
I think I have Huguenot ancestry, there is a Christian Henry Wiwel in my tree, and either he or his father fled to England when being hounded and their homes burnt down. Christian married Victoire Longuehay in London, I wonder if she was also a Huguenot. My mother often talks of the Huguenots and us being descended from them. I would love to know if that is true!
Lin - 6-Jul-12 @ 7:15 AM
This is for Tina.
My grandmothermaiden name was De'Ath and she had many connections with Suffolk, a village called Edwardstone.
My great grandfather is buried in the church at Edwardstone and my grandmother often spoke of a Hugenot connection.
I hope this may be of use to you.
Jan - 3-Jun-12 @ 11:25 AM
The Huguenots were especially valued for their skills with silk, and silk trade grew up around the places where they settled. So if you live in a community where silk was once king and your family has deep roots there, it might be worth checking to see if they were Huguenots going back in time.