England Records of Huguenots, Walloons, Flemish Religions (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Huguenot, Walloon and Flemish Records[edit | edit source]

The Flemish, Huguenot and Walloon refugees were the only groups allowed to have separate churches before 1642, and this was in order to conduct services in their own languages. The very active Huguenot Society has published and indexed most of the important records of all three groups, and these have also been filmed and extracted onto the IGI. The Huguenot services and records were, of-course, in French and the most important church was that in Threadneedle Street, London where most refugees gathered when they first arrived. Typically they presented a character reference, as was common in many English Nonconformist groups when moving to another congregation. Should they not be in good standing then a public repentance was made and they were subsequently admitted to membership. These first records are, then, usually in family groups and state where in France the immigrants came from.

Other French churches opened in London to serve the needs of recently arrived Huguenots, and by 1700 there were 23 there, but as families became anglicized they gradually closed. The sole survivor is a French church in Soho Square which is the ‘descendant’ of the one in Threadneedle Street and holds the archives of several of these London churches. London was by far the most important centre for French-speaking refugees, between one half and three-quarters of the Huguenots locating there. They were concentrated in the two areas mentioned above, Westminster and Spitalfields, and the large number of churches so close together creates a great problem for genealogists since members moved from one to the other quite indiscriminately.

Over 100 immigrant Protestant congregations were established in England during Elizabeth I’s reign. The main congregations outside London established in the south-east and have good registers extant:

  • Essex—at Colchester and Thorpe-le-Soken.
  • Hampshire—at Southampton.
  • Kent—at Canterbury, Dover, Faversham and Sandwich. Settlement at Faversham was encouraged because the gunpowder industry needed the superior French expertise.
  • Norfolk—at Norwich.
  • Suffolk—at Ipswich.
  • Sussex—at Rye.
  • and in the south west, having few records extant:
  • Devon—at Barnstaple, Bideford, Dartmouth, Exeter, Plymouth and Stonehouse.
  • Gloucestershire—at Bristol

Some Walloons had their own chapels and all known records have been published by the Huguenot Society, whilst the records of others are in the parish registers. The Huguenot Library is a joint one for the French Hospital and the Huguenot Society of London.

It holds thousands of books, periodicals and transcripts of other manuscripts and a collection of over 900 Huguenot pedigrees and will abstracts. Much material has been microfilmed, for example at the country level on the FamilySearch Catalog a search for ENGLAND + HUGUENOT produces over 200 items, and there are many more at the county and town levels.

Huguenot, Walloon and Flemish Registers[edit | edit source]

The French registers are easy to read with the aid of a simple guide such as the FHL Genealogical Word List - French. However, the dates and names need to be carefully noted.

  • Dates. During the 17th century there was a difference of 10 days between French and English dates, and from 1700-1752 the difference was 11 days. This was because France had adopted the new Gregorian calendar in 1582 but England waited until 1752. Thus the English 12th August was 22nd August in France. Also, the year started on 1st January in France and most of Europe whilst England continued to use 25th March until 1752. Thus one has to be careful with dates between January 1st and March 24th in order to assign them to the correct modern-style year. As an example, the French 16 February 1688 would be the English 6 February 1687, and to avoid confusion can be written 6/16 Feb 1687/8. Not all of the Huguenot refugees, or the record keepers in England, can be expected to have sorted these out or bothered to change their birthdays!
  • Names. Considerable care has to be taken with the interpretation of names as they are rendered in the registers. They were written as they were heard - for example French places and names by Englishmen, and English place names by French speakers. One name may have several variants even in one register, including translations, such as Happy from Lheureux, or Jaques du Bois becoming James Wood, and all manner of misspellings, such as Lacklead arising from the French de la Clide. A useful feature of the Huguenot records is that French women retain their maiden names throughout their lives.

The French churches all have baptism and marriage registers but not burial registers as none had their own burial grounds. Most, if not all by now, have been transcribed and published by the Huguenot Society and the originals filmed. As examples, there are four films, starting at FHL film 0466707, for the London Walloon Church, Threadneedle Street, and several French Spitalfields churches starting in 1687 are filmed and have indexed printouts. The contents of the published registers can be exemplified by the Walloon or Strangers’ Church in Canterbury edited by Hovenden on FHL films 0086956-7 containing:

  • Baptisms 1581-1837.
  • Marriages 1590-1747.
  • Deaths 1581-1715.
  • Abstracts of marriage contracts 1580-1680.
  • Abstracts of wills 1586-1704 and possibly later.
  • Abstracts of miscellaneous documents undated and 1586-1683.
  • Baptismal register of the Malt House Church 1710-1823 including one marriage 1744.
  • Index.

French registers contain more information than typical contemporaneous English ones. In the Baptisms the mother’s maiden name and names of two godparents (usually relatives) are given on baptisms. Examples from the church in Canterbury quoted above follow in the chart below. Marriage registers often state where the bride and groom were born as well as noting fathers’ and mothers’ names, in addition to the typical information expected in English registers. Burials of Huguenots were usually in Anglican churchyards thus they appear in the parish registers of the areas surrounding their own congregations. Some can be found in the early nonconformist cemetery at Bunhill Fields, London.

Chart: Baptisms in the Walloon Church, Canterbury, Kent
Tem: = témoins = witnesses

1642, Déc 11 Abreham, fils d’Estienne DU THOIT. Tem: Pierre de Cler, Elizabet Delme, vefue de Samuel du Bois; Marye, femme de Jaque Sy
1642 Déc 11 Isaac, fils du sus dit d’Estienne DU THOIT. Tem: Simon Oudar, Ester, femme d’Elye Castel; Marye, femme d’Anthoinne le Grand
1643, Jan 8 Sara, fille de Jaque DELBEQUE et de Sara DE NEU, sa femme. Tem: Jaque Hochepie, fils de Jaque; Jaque du Hamel, fils de Jean; Ester de Lespau, fille de Jean; Susanne Hochepie, nieche de Jaque.
1643, Mars 9 Ester, fille de Dauid DE LESPAU et de Judith LE NOBLE, sa femme. Tem: Jean le Keux, Salmon de Lespau, Anne, femme de Mr. Steaple, anglois; Rachel le Noble.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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