Southern Huguenots–Unheralded Settlers in Virginia and other Southern Colonies

Huguenots are special ancestors–

__like chameleons, they became whatever their surroundings were.  They attended Presbyterian services so they did not bring attention to themselves.  They were buried in Anglican graveyards so people did not know they were French.

__their naming patterns included “marker” names which were given to both male and female children in each generation to preserve knowledge of their origins.  Do you have specific spelling that seems strange?  Like Martain rather than Martin?  Grandfather insisted that his name be written correctly, even going into court to put his right name in the court documents.

__their origins include Switzerland, Italy, German provinces (especially the Palatinate and Hesse), Netherlands, where they fled from French persecution.  So while they are considered French, they are almost always something else too.

__they often spoke English before coming to America–because they lived in Ireland or London before they came here.

__they keep a low legal profile, stay out of the public eye if possible.

__they submerge their identity into other groups, supporting causes they would not otherwise show an interest in to disguise reality.

__traditions of changed names–The Edict of Nantes 16 Oct 1685, stated if their given name was not on the approved list of Roman Catholic Saints, they must select a new christening name that was on that list.  When they arrived in America, they may change back to their original given name!

See Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, and Randy L. Sparks, eds.  Memory and Identity:  The Huguenots in France and the Atlantic Diaspora. (Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2003) and Kenneth C. Davis, America’s Hidden History (New York:  Harper Collins, 2008).

Add these new titles to your Fall reading list.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  I recommend that you profile your hard-to-find ancestors.  What specific characteristics do you know about them that would enable you to recognize them in a crowd?  Write these things down and look for others that match that profile.  The word profile is a good word when applied to ancestors.

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