Eureka Mo­ment

De­spite many years of re­search, Peter Thomp­son knew very lit­tle about the ori­gins of his Huguenot an­ces­tor, Quentin Co­quard. That all changed thanks to one web­site, as Jon Bauck­ham dis­cov­ers

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The web­site that re­vealed Peter Thomp­son’s French kin

Be­tween the 16th and 18th cen­turies, thou­sands of French Protes­tants crossed the Chan­nel to es­cape per­se­cu­tion. Most com­monly known as Huguenots, the refugees set­tled in a num­ber of Bri­tish cities, as­sim­i­lat­ing into so­ci­ety while main­tain­ing their own cul­ture and tra­di­tions. Al­though the sur­vival of records out­side of Lon­don can be patchy, a num­ber of sources can be used to de­ter­mine whether you have Huguenot an­ces­try. This in­cludes the church reg­is­ters and nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion records pub­lished in the Huguenot So­ci­ety of Great Bri­tain’s Quarto Se­ries, plus the wealth of ge­nealog­i­cal ma­te­rial avail­able in the Huguenot Li­brary at The Na­tional Archives in Kew (see huguenot­so­ci­ety.org.uk).

How­ever, trac­ing the ori­gins of a Huguenot fore­bear in France is a bit trick­ier. This month, Peter Thomp­son re­veals how years of strug­gling to learn more about his 5x great grand­fa­ther, Quentin Co­quard, fi­nally came to an end.

My Brick Wall

I first be­came in­ter­ested in fam­ily his­tory about 40 years ago when my wife told me about her great grand­mother, Monika Hauser, who moved from Freiburg to Lon­don dur­ing the 1870s. Re­search­ing Ger­man records for Monika’s an­ces­try was a steep learn­ing curve, but very use­ful.

When it came to trac­ing my own fam­ily tree, my 3x great grand­mother Mary Rip­pin née Co­quard seemed an in­ter­est­ing per­son to fol­low. Her French maiden name made me won­der if she had Huguenot an­ces­try.

I con­sulted copies of the Huguenot So­ci­ety’s records at Lon­don Metropoli­tan Archives and dis­cov­ered that Mary sought help from the Co­queau be­quest, a Huguenot re­lief fund es­tab­lished in 1745. At the time she was a widow with two chil­dren, liv­ing in a no­to­ri­ous slum in Shored­itch known as the Old Ni­chol.

I then dis­cov­ered that Mary’s pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Quentin Co­quard, made a pro­fes­sion of faith stat­ing that he was orig­i­nally from Mois­lains in Pi­cardy, north­ern France. It also said that he came to Eng­land in 1761 when he was aged 23, so he was born c1738.

Un­for­tu­nately, the records for Mois­lains are held in the De­part­men­tal Archives of the Somme, and cor­re­spon­dence had to be in French. Since it was the 1980s and there was no in­ter­net ac­cess, trans­la­tion was dif­fi­cult.

My Eureka Mo­ment

I con­tin­ued to in­ves­ti­gate Quentin’s life in Lon­don. Like many Huguenots, he was a silk weaver and set­tled in Spi­tal­fields, where he mar­ried El­iz­a­beth

‘Quentin was a silk weaver and set­tled in Spi­tal­fields’

Clif­ford in 1764. The cou­ple had five chil­dren, in­clud­ing my 4x great grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam.

Quentin in­te­grated into so­ci­ety and built up a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, tak­ing on an ap­pren­tice named Thomas Clark in 1769. Then, in 1782, he served as a juror at an in­quest re­gard­ing the death of a wo­man in sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances.

Af­ter re­tire­ment, Quentin ap­plied to be­come a res­i­dent of the French Hos­pi­tal – a home for peo­ple of Huguenot de­scent in Fins­bury (now lo­cated in Rochester in Kent). He was ad­mit­ted on 3 Fe­bru­ary 1810, and died on 10 April 1814.

De­spite find­ing plenty of in­for­ma­tion about Quentin’s later years, I still couldn’t pro­ceed any fur­ther when it came to re­search­ing his life in France.

How­ever, a break­through came when I read the ‘Best Web­sites’ ar­ti­cle in the May 2018 is­sue of Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine, on Euro­pean ge­neal­ogy. The au­thor, Jonathan Scott, sug­gested that any­one with French an­ces­try should try us­ing Ge­neanet ( ge­neanet.org).

Fol­low­ing Jonathan’s ad­vice, I vis­ited the web­site and put Quentin’s name into the search box. Within sec­onds, I had found a bi­og­ra­phy for my 5x great grand­fa­ther!

My Break­through

The in­for­ma­tion had been up­loaded to Ge­neanet by a French ge­neal­o­gist named Alain Diot, who had un­der­taken a lot of archival re­search into the Co­quard fam­ily. He also sup­plied a fam­ily tree dat­ing back to the mid-1600s, along with dates of bap­tisms, mar­riages and buri­als.

Quentin’s own bap­tism took place on 1 Fe­bru­ary 1738 at Mois­lains, which matched the lo­ca­tion in his pro­fes­sion of faith. Im­por­tantly, I also dis­cov­ered that his par­ents were Michel and Marie – the same names Quentin gave his el­dest son and daugh­ter.

Al­though my French ori­gins may no longer be a mys­tery, there is still work to be done. First, I need to ob­tain print copies of the records my­self (vi­tal when tak­ing in­for­ma­tion from pub­lic fam­ily trees), and I also need to learn more about France in the 1760s more gen­er­ally.

Sec­ond, it ap­pears that Quentin trav­elled to Eng­land alone. Does that mean all of his fam­ily were Protes­tants, or was Quentin the sole con­vert? It would cer­tainly be in­ter­est­ing to find out.

Peter’s 5x great grand­fa­ther, Quentin Co­quard, mar­ried in 1764

Peter found the de­tails of his an­ces­tor’s stay at the French Hos­pi­tal in the Huguenot So­ci­ety’s Quarto Se­ries

Quentin fea­tures in the Reg­is­ter of Du­ties Paid for Ap­pren­tices’ In­den­tures

PETER THOMP­SON lives in Croy­don and has been re­search­ing his an­ces­tors for 40 years

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