Huguenot records

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, Features, Issue 6 (November/December 2017), Volume 25

By Fiona Fitzsimons

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries some Huguenots fled the religious wars in France and settled in England and Ireland. As a group they had diverse social origins, and they assimilated into Irish society at every level, not only as artisans and businessmen. They were military pensioners, linen- and silk-weavers, silver- and goldsmiths, watchmakers and jewellers, gilders and cabinet-makers. They were businessmen and manufacturers, worldly and pragmatic. Although Huguenots were Calvinist in their beliefs, many of them quickly realised that they had to conform to the Established Church to get on.

In Dublin there were four congregations, of which two quickly conformed (St Patrick’s; St Mary’s; after 1716 the United Churches). Huguenot communities also settled in Carlow, Cork City, Kilkenny, Lisburn, Portarlington and Waterford City. Unfortunately, all Huguenot records for Cork and Lisburn were lost in 1922. Huguenot family historian Vivian Costello notes that all traces of the Huguenot church registers for Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford have also been lost. Registers of the French Church of Portarlington 1694–1816 and Registers of the French non-Conformist Church, Dublin 1701–1831 are published on-line on www.findmypast.com.

Huguenot records in Ireland are in French, and include records of births and baptisms, marriages and burials. Baptisms provide much detail, including the date of birth and baptism, parents’ names and the mother’s maiden name. Exact relations to other family members are sometimes given, as is the father’s occupation:

‘Ce Dimanche 24 Juin 1733: David Joly—Le 13 de ce mois est né un fils à David Joly & à Esther Gardinor, sa femme, qui a été baptisé aujourd’hui aux prieres du soir par Mr. des Vorie. Il a été presenté au St. Bapteme par Mr Jacob Joly son grand pere paternel, parrein, & par Mrs. Esther Beliard, marreine, & nom lui a été David impose.’

Marriage records contain the names of the bride and groom and their parents, including their respective mothers’ maiden names. Occasionally the parents’ place of residence is recorded. Death or burial records include the deceased’s name; the exact time and date of death; the date of burial; and often also a defining family relationship:

‘Sepultre du Mecredi 19 Mars 1701

Anne Garner, Le Mardi 18 de ce mois sure les sept heures du soir est morte en la foy du Seigneur et dans l’esperance de la resurrection glorieuse Anne Garner, fille de Jean Garner et d’Helene Denis, sa femme, laquelle a esté aujourdhui enterrée dans le cieteire de Portarlington à l’heure et a la forme ordinaire de nos Eglise de France.’

Since 1885 the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland has published a journal and transcripts of church registers, cemetery records and other records relating to Huguenots in Ireland and these islands. Complete holdings are in the National Library, Trinity College and other copyright libraries. In Ireland the Representative Church Body Library houses the Irish Huguenot archive. This comprises mainly printed books/articles by the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland. There is a facility for people of Huguenot descent to deposit family papers, including family trees, photos and supporting documents.

Above: The Huguenot cemetery on Dublin’s Merrion Row.

It is possible to trace Huguenots through other records: Corporation Books and Guild records; deeds in the Registry of Deeds; trade and commercial directories; and newspapers. Between 1703 and 1845 Huguenots are also visible in the Catholic Convert Rolls. The Convert Rolls were used as a mechanism to naturalise aliens settling in Ireland from outside British dominions.

Fiona Fitzsimons is a director of Eneclann, a Trinity campus company, and of findmypast Ireland.

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