14 January 2011

COULD YOUR IRISH ANCESTORS BE. . . FRENCH?

     French genes and surnames might have wiggled their way into your Irish family tree in a number of ways. As do the British nobility, many of the landed Irish families have Norman ancestry. Trade, war, and oppression often caused Irish and French to cross the seas. But one source of French ancestry often missed by Irish family history researchers is their possible link to French Protestants who fled to Ireland during times of persecution in France.
     The story of the Huguenots in Ireland is a complicated one, beginning in the early 1500's when Protestant religions (mostly the teachings of Calvin), arrived in Catholic France. A number of civil wars ensued. Thousands of  French Protestants were massacred on St. Bartholomew's Day, 25 August 1572. The Edict of Nantes brought a period of religious freedom after 1598, but by 1628 the persecutions were back in full swing. The Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685.

Were my Irish Large ancestors French?
I don't know, but will use any excuse
for a trip to Paris!

     Huguenots fled to England, the American colonies, and other European countries. They came to Ireland, many brought in groups by the British, many fleeing on their own, some via the British military. Most of those who arrived in Ireland did so in the 1600's. The first major group was composed of weavers. Later in the 1600's, bankers, soldiers, financiers, and other professions followed. Small in number, they had a broad influence on Ireland. Eventually, they were absorbed into the Irish population. Often, surnames, cemeteries, street names, and buildings are the only echos of the French roots.
     Many times the French worshipped at a "French Church," which was often a local church of the Church of Ireland that permitted French services. Over the years, most of these congregations were absorbed into the Church of Ireland system.
     Sometimes, researchers discover their Huguenot ancestry through a French surname. But often, these names, too, were absorbed into English and phonetic spellings. Some surnames in Ireland with possible Huguenot roots include some surprises such as Cobb/Cobbe, Devenny, Rainey, Dennis/Denis, Hammond/Hammon, Jolly/Joly, and Terson (disclaimer: do not assume Huguenot roots simply on the basis of a surname) .
     I stumbled upon the history of the Huguenots in Ireland while researching my surname Large. While I do not know if my Irish Large family includes any Huguenots, the name Large/LeLarge is a common Huguenot surname. It also has Norman roots, so I cannot be sure of where or when any possible French genes entered my family line.
     Huguenot settlements are found the length of Ireland: Belfast, Lisburn, Dundalk, Dublin, Portarlington, Carlow, Kilkenny, and Cork are just some of the sites of settlements and churches.
     I am not advocating that researchers go on fishing expeditions for Huguenot ancestors. But, if the clues are popping up in your Irish  research, and local history includes Huguenot settlements, some research into French Church records or Huguenot history just might break a brick wall.
LINKS
SUGGESTED READING:
IRELAND'S HUGUENOTS AND THEIR REFUGE by Raymond Hylton
THE HUGUENOT SETTLEMENTS IN IRELAND by Grace Lawless Lee
PORTARLINGTON by J.S. Powell
THE TRAIL OF THE HUGUENOTS by G. Elmore Reaman
THE HUGUENOTS: THEIR SETTLEMENTS, CHURCHES, AND INDUSTRIES IN ENGLAND AND  IRELAND by Samuel Smiles