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Tracing Huguenot History in England

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
Huguenot Genealogy Family Huguenot

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Day Massacre of 1572, although the 1598 Edict of Nantes did give them a certain amount of religious freedom until it was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685, which gave rise to more persecution and many were forced to flee, not only in France but also in the Walloon area.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.

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Rowlett, immigrant from London, John Rowlett, to Philadelphia. His father Samuel and Sarah Wealey, his father John Rowlett and Hannah.Trying to find where they came from in France. Original name likely De Roulet.
Annie - 7-Oct-19 @ 9:43 AM
I am trying to trace the Herbert side of my family. They lived in Waltham Abbey but I have traced back and found that there is the name Hoit and Geslin (or Goslin), and for the latter name the mother and father seem to come from France. Elizabeth Geslin was born in 1675, her father Alexandre died in 1702, and her mother Marie Mercier lived from 1655 until 1710. Is there a chance that they were Huguenots? There was a family legend that the Herberts came over with Willaim the Conquerer but I am now wondering if they actually came from France as Huguenots. Any help would be appreciated.
andibly - 8-Sep-19 @ 6:02 PM
There is a Huguenot Museum in Rochester, Kent, UK which is worth a visit if you are nearby. There are family researchers available there who will undertake a search of theirrecords to verify any Huguenot descent. A basic search is included in the cost of your admission ticket to the musuem. More detailed searches are also available at a further cost which is very reasonable. If you contact them without going to the museum the charge is £20 for two hours research but they will discuss the likelihood of you having Huguenot descent before taking payment. You can contact them by email, info@huguenotmuseum.org. Tel 01634 789347.
Debs - 24-Feb-19 @ 4:10 PM
Ther is a Huguenot family called Izard. Could this be the Hazard that Frank is trying to find?
Bill - 31-Dec-18 @ 12:20 PM
Am trying to trace an Alexander Hazard circa late 1700s that family legend says is from a Huguenot family who settled in the UK and who allegedly served at Waterloo with the I/Enniskillings! Can you offer any advice please?
Frank - 7-Dec-18 @ 3:45 AM
I am researching my Tonnelier/Tunnell line.The story goes that they fled France and came over to England settling in Scarborough Yorkshire.The time period would have been late 1600's to early 1700/03.William Tunnell who came to Fairfax County, Virginia was a shoemaker according to county records(1770).He married Lady Ann Howard of Yorkshire.According to family tradition, he was hired to tutor her in the French language and they fell in love.Her father forbade them to marry and sent him away.They still married and settled in Scarborough before coming to America.I have been trying to find any Tunnells in Scarborough around the late 1600's to early 1700's.
Tonnelier/Tunnell - 4-Dec-18 @ 3:41 AM
Looking for help, my Grt Grt Grandfather Philip LewisMARTIN DoBBorn 1864 CAPE TOWN Sourh Africa died19 November 1943ClaremontCape Town. And his brotherAdrain Lawrence Martin DoB 1862 Cape Town SA. Where both known as French Huguenot, as written in a family bible.Unable as yet to find birth Cert’s. but gave marriage records and many other records and Cert’s. now trying to trace his roots. But finding it very hard.Any help welcomed
Chezza39 - 15-Oct-18 @ 2:03 PM
@Pat - some records office offer a service as in they will do the research for you, but you may have to pay. I know Liverpool Records Office offer this service - I guess it helps them financially but at the same time it's not terribly expensive. Good luck.
Liz46 - 7-Sep-18 @ 9:56 AM
@emma j - sounds like you have an interesting family tree. Unlike many families whose ancestors come from spitting distance of the town they still live.
BB - 4-Sep-18 @ 12:26 PM
I am trying to trace the name Mullinder which is suggested by French friends is possibly hugenot as they came to Warrington/Macclesfield area a silk ribbon and silk weaving area possibly from Vienne a town nr Lyon the silk making area of France also the name Jarvis possibly from Belguim or France to London and also De Loos has anyone any other connections to these.
emma j - 29-Aug-18 @ 10:06 PM
@Dropkik - you can look up the property address on Google Maps, it will show you if it exists or not and what it looks like today.
ZelNH - 20-Feb-18 @ 11:05 AM
My family on my Mothers side spoke repeatedly of ancestors (surname Jacques) arriving in Kings Lynn and settling in that area. A Roger Jacques married Hannah Porter of Fincham (Norfolk).A daughter Mary Jacques/Jackes (from a family of 8 ?) marries John Patrick of West Newton (Norfolk) 1824.Distant history now but would like to know whether the Roger Jacques and Roger Jacques junior were Huguenot ? They were also purported to be Boot makers and repairers. Various dates crop up as 1750/1779/1801. Areas that crop up as birthplaces/marraiges etc are:- Kings Lynn, Fincham, West Newton, Holbeach and Long Sutton. I have an address (Circa WW1) of 1 Reffley Terrace, Saddlebow Road, Kings Lynn. Be interesting to know if this property still exists ?
Dropkik - 19-Feb-18 @ 12:48 PM
I have letters from the 1800.s that state my ancestors were Huguenots .. would this show up in DNA?
Robyn - 16-Jan-18 @ 12:40 AM
My family lived next to the Peter Rucker family but came to y Virginia colony in the early 1600s listed as William Offill. They are listed in Peter Ruckers will having married into the Rucker family. Due to the apparent relationship prior to coming to Virginia it is thought the Offields were also Huguenots. Trying to find the connection back to the original family name and location in Europe.
Marti - 25-Dec-17 @ 11:03 PM
Trying to trace Phillipe Francois La Glace's birth or any La Glace really. We have his arrival in Dublin in 1784 or thereabouts and married in 1792. Nothing before that. Someone told us they have a La Glace in their tree, born in Rouen and was a silk merchant. We are thinking they were Huguenots and may well have had their own ship. Any help greatly welcomed.
Jules - 23-Oct-17 @ 6:00 PM
My ancestor's name was Mary Lardant (a Huguenot name) however I cannot find her birth record.She was probably born about 1728, in the Stepney area.She was married in 1749 in Stepney, to Bartholomew Butterworth.Bartholomew was also descended from Protestant refugees.At this distance of time is is probably that the birth record for Mary is lost; however I would welcome advice as to how to search further.
Zepherine - 30-Jul-17 @ 8:51 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
Hi all 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 19-06-15
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
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