Friday, September 16, 2022

The English Pierssenés in Later Stuart Britain

In my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London there is no evidence, despite decades of religious upheaval, that any proven member of the Huguenot Pierssené family actually lived in England until after a royal marriage in 1677. This was the marriage between Mary, the English Protestant daughter of the man who became England’s Catholic King James II, and her Dutch cousin, William of Orange, who became King William III

This marriage roughly marks the dates of arrival of Pierssené family members in England, commencing with a witness at a Huguenot baptism at the French Church in Threadneedle St, London on 1 September 1678: Thomas Pierresenay [sic], a merchant. 

On 1 June 1687 Anne Hebert, widow of Emmanuel Piercené [sic] of Dieppe, Emmanuel Piercené, young man, and Anne Piercené, spinster, were listed amongst the congregation of the French Church of Threadneedle St, London. Young Emmanuel was a horologist – a clock or watchmaker. His aunt Madelaine (a 'widow of Jaques Moysens' and a sister of Thomas and Emmanuel), a native of Dieppe, had also fled to England by 1701. 

Their story hitherto has been patchy. How did they fit in to their new community as immigrants?

The historian Robin Gwynn has now done me a great favour by helping me understand more about the historical context for their new lives in England. His recent talk to members of the Huguenot Society in Sydney about his new book ‘The Huguenots in Later Stuart Britain’ focused on the repercussions in Britain of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Robin Gwynn's book is published by Sussex Academic Press

According to Gwynn, by helping to spread the word in England of the atrocities back in France, the Huguenots paved the way for the successful invasion of England in 1688 by William of Orange. 

Following this ‘Glorious Revolution’, William and Mary became joint monarchs and, Gwynn says, the Huguenots assisted in the consolidation of this couple’s power. For example, Huguenot soldiers played a significant role in Ireland in the years immediately following the Glorious Revolution, especially at the bloodiest battle of the Irish Wars at Aughrim in 1691. 

Gwynn also pointed to the close connections between the French Church of London at Threadneedle St and the foundation of the Bank of England (modelled on the Bank of Amsterdam) and its survival through its troubled early years. 'Of the church officers holding positions in 1694, the year the Bank of England was founded, nine - six elders, one deacon and two ministers - were subscribers to the initial call for money.' One of the elders was Daniel Hays, a merchant from Calais. 'According to family tradition he came to England in the same ship as William of Orange. He became wealthy enough to leave £20,00 to his son, and £10,000 apiece to his five daughters, after having earlier put £20,000 at his wife's disposition.’ 

My ears pricked up at this, because Daniel Hays was a godfather on 6 May 1680 at the baptism of Daniel Pierresene, son of Thomas Pieresene and Judith Pantin at the French Church, Dublin. Thomas is believed to be the same man as the Thomas Pierresenay present in London in 1678. Thomas and Judith baptised another son in Dublin in 1681 and are next recorded in London in 1692. 

The Bank of England link continued. Ann Pierssené, a granddaughter of the watchmaker Emmanuel Piercené, married a carver and gilder named Thomas Fatt at St George’s Bloomsbury in London in 1766. Their sons Thomas Pierssené Fatt and Stephen Pierssené Fatt were elected to the service of the Bank of England in 1795. For decades, the Pierssené Fatt descendants subsequently maintained strong connections with London’s Huguenot community and La Providence (the French Hospital). 

Robin Gwynn also filled in another minor mystery for me. If the Pierssené family had fled France for reasons of religious persecution, why did some return home? Did the loss of skills suffered by France when the Huguenots fled encourage a period of 'turning a blind eye' to returning citizens during the War of Spanish Succession commencing in 1701? This might explain why watchmaker Emmanuel apparently returned to Europe soon after his marriage at Le Petit Charenton in London in 1703. There are no records of baptism in England for his first eight children, and one of his granddaughters subsequently claimed her father was born in France (but it’s possible Emmanuel was in Amsterdam or even Berlin, where his cousin Judith Mauru nee Piersene lived). Emmanuel himself was visiting London between March and August 1710, but he and his family were not living permanently back in London until 1715, when his eldest son ‘drowned in ye Thames’ and three other infant sons died ‘of convulsions’ in the same year and were buried at St Bride’s Fleet St. In 1716 his daughter Hester was baptised at St Bride’s. Their return to England coincides with the end of the War and the signing of various peace treaties between 1713 and 1715.

Gwynn believes Louis XIV’s treatment of the Huguenots was fundamental both to his eventual defeat in this War, and to Britain’s rising power in the early eighteenth century.

I hope it won't be too long before another expert like Robin Gwynn comes along and stirs my imagination, helping me to fit my interesting Huguenot forebears within the broader sweep of history. 

Meanwhile, don't forget to buy my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London if you have an interest in this topic. It's available online through BookPOD in Melbourne and can be posted worldwide.

For more details see my website, or you can follow me on Facebook.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Pierssené Links to Beveren in Belgium

When my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London was published in 2007 (still available through BookPOD in Melbourne), I acknowledged the work of Gordon Pierssene of London for his extensive genealogical research back to 1678, when the family arrived in London. 

Subsequently, in 2015, Ronald Pissens of Belgium proved the origins of the English branch of this family. (Refer to my previous post on this topic.) He organised high-level DNA tests on a number of men, using the 111 marker tests which compare two male persons genetically. He concluded that the common ancestor for Gordon Pierssene in London and Ronald Pissens in Belgium lived in Flanders just to the west of Antwerp between 1322 and 1466, with a confidence level of 95%. The lack of documents for the 1300s and 1400s makes it unlikely that the identity of the common ancestor will ever be discovered. 

Thanks to Ronald and his extensive research, the English branch of the family can now see back a further 100 years from 1678, to 1578. At that time lived Jacob or Jacques Pierssene, son of a Michiel Pierssene who was a landlord at Beveren, on the west bank of the River Scheldt and opposite Antwerp. Since the mid-1300s, Beveren had been the political centre of the north-eastern part of the historical County of Flanders. But in 1570, a catastrophic tide had flooded the area, around the time the Eighty Years War broke out with Spain. For strategic reasons linked to the protection of Antwerp, the local authorities decided to dismantle Beveren’s various flood barriers and the sea began to encroach.

In 1581 Jacob was still in Beveren, in charge of the inventory of the clerical properties ordered by the Reformed Government in Gent. In 1583 the Castle of Beveren was conquered by Spanish forces led by the Duke of Parma, and in 1584 Jacob had moved across the river to Antwerp, as a citizen son of Michiel and a merchant ex Beveren. Antwerp, which had been the centre of the entire international trading economy, fell to the Spanish forces in 1585. Antwerp declined and Amsterdam took over. 

Cortwalle Castle, Beveren, source Wikipedia

I wish I had known the details of this history when I visited Antwerp in 2018. I should have visited Cortewalle Castle, a white sandstone castle dating back to the 15th century, and now hosting the Municipal Local History Museum. 

I got no closer to Beveren than the banks of the Scheldt River on the Antwerp side. 

Scheldt River, Antwerp, near Norderterras, 2018

Jacob had moved from Antwerp to Amsterdam by 1591, when he was mentioned in a Notarial Act, and in 1592 he was mentioned as a citizen merchant from Flanders. Some of the extended Pierssené family living in London later mentioned relatives living in Amsterdam in their Wills. But by 1598 Jacob was bankrupt and fleeing Amsterdam. 

Did he and his family move to Dieppe? Ronald Pissens found mention, in a biography of the Dutch painter Vermeer, of a merchant named Emanuel Pierssene contesting a court case in Amsterdam in 1610 but living in Dieppe. Dieppe is easily accessible by boat from Amsterdam and was the premier port of the French kingdom in the 17th century. It is located in today’s Department 76 (Seine-Maritime) in the Region of Haute-Normandie, directly across the English Channel from Brighton in England. The name Emanuel, with various spellings, later turns up as a given name in the English Pierssené family, where Michael is also a strongly-held naming tradition. 

Although Emanuel’s forebears were originally Protestants from Flanders, described as Walloons, ‘that doesn't stop them from being Huguenots by the end of the 17th century’ says Robert Nash, Secretary of the Huguenot Society of Australia. ‘Quite a few families in France who identified with the Protestant minority were in fact of Dutch/Flemish origin, and living in Dieppe makes this more likely’. In 1632, Wikipedia tells us that 300 Protestant colonists departed from Dieppe for New France in North America and when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, 3,000 of Dieppe’s Huguenot citizens fled abroad. 

As my book of 2007 also recounts, across the North Sea from Antwerp, in Norfolk in 1600, the unnamed wife of a Thomas Persene was mentioned in the registers of ‘The Walloons and their church at Norwich’. Norwich was a medieval centre of the wool trade, and in 1565 the first group of master weavers came as ‘Strangers’ (Protestant refugees) from Flanders. ‘Strangers’ eventually comprised about one third of the city’s population. The name Thomas also later turns up as a given name in the English Pierssené family, which contains no records of weavers, but references generally point to a family active in trade. 

Otherwise, the Pierssenés were not officially recorded amongst the foreign Protestants in England between 1618 and 1688. Despite decades of religious upheaval, no evidence has surfaced to prove that any member of the Huguenot Pierssené family actually lived in England until after the royal marriage in 1677 between William of Orange (a Dutchman) and his English cousin Mary. 

This marriage roughly marks the dates of arrival of Pierssené family members in England, commencing with a witness at a Huguenot baptism at the French Church in Threadneedle St, London on 1 September 1678: Thomas Pierresenay [sic], a merchant. 

On 1 June 1687 Anne Hebert, widow of Emmanuel Piercené [sic] of Dieppe, Emmanuel Piercené, young man, and Anne Piercené, spinster, were listed amongst the congregation of the French Church of Threadneedle St, London. Young Emmanuel was a horologist – a clock or watchmaker. Thomas and Emmanuel’s widowed sister Madelaine, a native of Dieppe and the young watchmaker's aunt, had also fled to England by 1701. 

The story continues in my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London, available worldwide through BookPOD in Melbourne.

For more details see my website, and you can follow me on Facebook. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Additions and Corrections to Pierssené Book

My book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London was published in 2007 and is still available from BookPOD.

In the last decade the internet has made it much easier to access genealogical records. As I've researched other parts of my family tree, I've stumbled across snippets of information providing answers to some of the unresolved puzzles in the Pierssené book.

As a free service to my readers, here are my findings, providing some additions and corrections to several pages of that book. If you own a copy, I respectfully suggest that you print out what follows and keep the information with the book, because I have no plans to publish a Second Edition.

Page 60

The information concerning Michael Piersene, baptised at St George's Bloomsbury on 11 April 1742 has been slightly clarified.

As suspected, the 1742 Michael was not the man who married Hannah Cowdrey late in 1811. Hannah's husband appears to have been the Michael Pierssene who died at the St Marylebone Workhouse aged 65 in April 1843 and was therefore born in 1777 or 1778 to unknown parents. He had been admitted to the Workhouse in October 1840 and had been in need of charitable assistance for some time prior to being admitted. This Michael was a carver and guilder, with family occupational traditions suggesting he was a grandson of the carver Michael Pierssene, 1707-1767. Perhaps he was a son of the Michael born in 1742.

In 1851 Hannah Pearsney was a 71-yr-old widow, a laundress, living alone at 14 Short Street in the pariah of Marylebone. It's interesting that the French pronunciation of her surname was still in use, even if the census collector did not know the correct spelling. Hannah died at Camberwell in 1861 and was buried in Southwark on 6 February 1861.

The Michael who died in 1843 had a daughter named Sarah, born on 27 January 1833 at Salisbury Street  and baptised as Sarah Piersene on 29 September 1833 at Christ Church, St Marylebone. Sarah's 20-yr-old mother Sarah died at Salisbury Street soon after her daughter's birth and was buried in the parish of St Marylebone on 24 February 1833 as Sarah Pierfsene (Pierssene), although no record of her marriage exists because Michael's legal wife was still alive.

Michael and Sarah's daughter Sarah married Thomas George Law on 13 February 1854 at St Mary, Bryanston Square, Marylebone and her first child, Emily Rosa Law, was recorded as a six-yr-old staying with Rosina Pierssene in the 1861 census. This strengthens the case that Rosina and Sarah were half-sisters. It's possible that Rosina had helped raise her baby sister Sarah.

In 1861 ten-yr-old Emily M Burt was a niece of the unnamed head of the three-person household where Rosina lived, and since Emily Burt's mother was a sister of John Hemery, it suggests that Rosina was still working for the widowed John Hemery as his housekeeper. Rosina died in 1869 and John Hemery finally remarried in 1874, when he was in his mid-fifties.

Page 63

The burial record for Jeremiah Pierssene, baptised in December 1747, has now been located. He was buried at St Andrews by the Wardrobe, City of London, on 12 February 1796, as Jeremiah Piersney, aged 48. Again, the spelling indicates the current pronunciation of the surname.

Pages 66-7 

Martin Steggle, of St Ann's, was buried on 27 January 1787 at St George's Bloomsbury.

William Steggle, son of Martin Steggle and Mary Pierssene, married Elizabeth Norman at St George's Bloomsbury on 20 October 1793. Here are some relevant details for their family:
  • Their son John was baptised at St Martin in the Fields on 12 February 1794. 
  • Their son Joseph was born on 29 August 1799 and baptised at St Giles in the Fields on 18 May 1800. 
  • Elizabeth Steggle, of Church Street, aged 27 years, died of 'brain fever' and was buried at St Anne Soho on 15 August 1800. 
  • Within a year young Joseph died at Church Street and was buried at St Anne Soho on 26 April 1801. 
  • Two weeks earlier a William Steggle was baptised on 12 April at St Giles in the Fields and, if he was the William Steggles aged 36 of Fulham who was buried as a Nonconformist (Baptist) at Hammersmith on 22 December 1833, then he must have been born a few years earlier, in 1797.  
  • Son John Steggle, of Grafton Street, died of 'a decline' aged 8 years and was buried at St Anne Soho on 29 Oct 1802. 
  • This means that all three of William's sons from his first marriage pre-deceased him.
No record has yet been located for William's subsequent marriage to Margaret. They lived in central London, close to St Anne Soho, St Giles in the Fields and St Martin in the Fields, and appear to have had six children:
  • John born 20 May 1804 and baptised 25 November 1804 at St Martin in the Fields
  • Caroline born 4 September 1805 and baptised 29 September 1805 at St Martin in the Fields
  • Elizabeth born 14 May 1807 and  baptised 14 June 1807 at St Martin in the Fields
  • Cornelius born 13 April 1809 and baptised 25 October 1809 at St Martin in the Fields
  • Charlotte born 15 March 1811 and baptised 5 February 1812 at St Giles in the Fields
  • George born c. January 1813, buried 21 April 1813 at St Anne Soho, aged 3 months.
Margaret Steggle of St Martins, aged 31 years, was buried at St Anne Soho on 7 March 1813 after giving birth to son George around January 1813. He was buried about six weeks after his mother.

Available records indicate that William did not marry again to anyone named Mary. The children of William and Mary Steggle who were baptised at St Martin in the Fields in 1817 and 1821 appear to belong to another couple.

William's brother Martin, born in 1778,  of 57 Clarence Gardens, Regent's Park, died in Middlesex Hospital and was buried on 19 February 1855 at St Marylebone, age stated as 75 years.

Pages 83 & 120

Joseph Tate was a Licensed Victualler at Barley Mow, St Mary Islington when he wrote his Will in September 1796. This implies that Stephen Pierssene Fatt was living next door to his parents in his early married life. (See page 120)

Pages 88-9 

A Michael Pierssene, bachelor, married Sarah Godsell, spinster, at St Giles Cripplegate in the City of London, on 3 December 1775, after banns. Both were of this parish. Both signed (she rather shakily) in the presence of Wm Ayscough and Fras Strong, who both signed. The ceremony was performed by Geo Goldwyer, Curate.

Extra details of their five children follow:
  • Sarah Ann Pierssene, born in 1776 at White Fryers, married John Humphreys at St James Clerkenwell on 26 November 1797. Both were of this parish and were married after banns by Robt Tegon, Curate. Witnesses were Wm Humphreys and John Garth. All parties signed the register.
  • Harriott Sophia Pierssene, born at White Fryers and baptised on 1 July 1777, died at White Fryers and was buried at St Andrew Holborn on 27 October 1777.
  • Mary Pierssene, born at White Fryers in 1778, married John Parker at St James Clerkenwell on 9 February 1805. She signed the register. Witnesses were Mary's brother-in-law John Humphreys and M.A. Fatt, who both signed the register. Mary Ann Fatt was the daughter of the bride's cousin Thomas Pierssene Fatt.
  • No new details for Ann Elizabeth Pierssene
  • When son William was born on 13 April 1783 and baptised two days later at St Luke, Finsbury, his father Michael was a victualler. William died of convulsions and was buried at St Luke, Finsbury on 20 April 1783.
Michael was twice in and out of the Fleet debtors' prison, in 1782 and 1789, which might explain the family's move outside the City of London boundaries to Finsbury, where William was born in 1783. Michael's wife Sarah may have been looked after by family members because a Sarah Pearson died at Plumbtree Court in the parish of St George's Bloomsbury and was buried on 15 July 1784 at St Andrew Holborn.  His uncle Michael Pierssene, 1707-1767, had lived at this address in the 1730s.

When Michael was discharged from the Fleet debtors' prison in August 1789, one of his warrantors was Jeremiah Pierssene, presumably his older brother (who died in 1796). This connection makes it almost certain that it was the Michael born in 1754 (not his cousin Michael, born in 1742) who was married to Sarah Godsell and then remarried as a widower in 1789, as described on page 89 of my book. Michael's second wife was Jane Mitchell.
Fleet Prison Discharge Book, 29 August 1789, p 123
No record has yet been found for Michael's death between 1789 and 1795 but a James Tuffield married Jane Pirssene (the supposed widow of Michael?) after banns on 30 August 1795 at St George's Bloomsbury. Both were 'of this parish' and both signed (she very shakily) in the presence of Thos Groves and R Harrison (the parish clerk?).

Page 99

After Harry Pierssene, born in 1859, came another child, Robert, born around July 1861. Aged 11 months, he and his older brother Edmund, aged four, died in the middle of 1862 at 54 Great Chart Street, Hoxton. They were buried on the same day, 30 June 1862, at the London Cemetery Company's North London or Kentish Town and Highgate Cemetery of St James, in Swain's Lane, parish of St Pancras. 

Page 144

Pictures 40 and 41 on this page are from an old family album, unidentified, and probably date from the period 1879-1883. Therefore they likely belong to a different family altogether, not the Schmaeck family. Picture 42 may be captioned correctly, as I have no other record for any family members present in Frankfurt.

Closing Remarks

You may have spotted some additional items. I welcome email contact from any readers who are aware that further revisions to the published text of Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London are needed. I'd be happy to post them in a follow-up article

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Revisiting Huguenot London

You would be forgiven for walking around Soho Square, London, trying not to trip over a workman eating his lunch on the pavement, and not realising that the building in this picture is a church. You have to look skywards to see the cross.
French Protestant Church Building, Soho Square, London
Although I was deliberately looking for this church on a recent trip to London, I had to examine the doorway sign at close quarters before I knew I was in the right place. 
Entrance Sign, French Protestant Church, Soho Square, London
The entrance to the building is designed attractively and exudes a certain French style, at least to my eyes.
Entrance Doorway, French Protestant Church, Soho Square, London
Those with good eyesight might be able to read the inscription above the black door:
To the glory of God and in grateful memory of
H.M. King Edward V1 who by his Charter of 1550
Granted asylum to the Huguenots from France
This Tympanum was set up in the year of our Lord 1950
French Protestant Church Tympanum, Erected 1950
Travel really does broaden the mind, as I then had to look up the meaning of Tympanum. Wikipedia tells me it is 'the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window, which is bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments.'

Soho Square is located at the top end of today's Charing Cross Road, near Oxford Street and east of Dean St, Soho. I imagined the lifestyles of my Pierssené forebears in this part of London 300 years ago. The family had arrived in London from Dieppe by 1687 and appear first in the parish records of the French Church in Threadneedle Street. By the 1700s many family members were recorded in the parish records of St Giles in the Fields and St George's Bloomsbury. This area was very 'French' at that time and well described in British History Online, in a section referring to developments after Aggas drew his map of London in 1560:
In this map all the country to the north of Charing Cross and west of Chancery Lane is still entirely devoted to country life and uses, and the Hospital for Lepers, dedicated to St. Giles, stood in the fields, with nothing between it and the spot where now stands Leicester Square. The line of St. Martin's Lane was, however, occupied by buildings on both sides as far as St. Giles's Church.
Soon after the Restoration [in 1660] increasing prosperity led to a rapid increase of dwellings. The parish of St. Martin had so enlarged its population that "numerous inhabitants were deprived of an opportunity of publicly celebrating the divine offices," and the result of an application to Parliament was that a separate parish was formed, and a new parish church was built, dedicated to St. Anne, mother of the Virgin.
Around this (in what is now known as Dean Street, Soho) buildings clustered, and within fifty years the parish contained 1,337 houses, according to Maitland. He adds the following information about the prosperity of the parish:—"There are of persons that keep coaches seventy three," and there "is a workhouse for the reception of the poor;" and then he goes on:—"The fields in these parts being lately converted into buildings, I have not discovered anything of antiquity in this parish;" many parts so greatly abound with French that it is an "easy matter for a stranger to fancy himself in France."
This is a characteristic of the parish that has not altered. Strype, in 1720, speaks of the "chapels in these parts for the use of the French nation, where our Liturgy turned into French is used, French ministers that are refugees episcopally ordained officiating; several whereof are hereabouts seen walking in the canonical habit of the English clergy. Abundance of French people, many whereof are voluntary exiles for their religion, live in these streets and lanes, following honest trades, and some gentry of the same nation."
It's this aspect of travel which appeals to me - stepping into the footsteps of my various forebears, trying to erase the modern streetscape from my mind and imagine a place as it was back in their day.

Not that my Huguenot (French Protestant) forebears would have worshipped in this building in Soho Square - but tracking down this symbol of the mass French migration to London to escape religious persecution evoked past times for me. It's rather sobering that we continue to see these problems today - there is always a religion that another group does not like and tries to eliminate from its midst. In the case of the Huguenots 350 years ago, their skills contributed to England's gain and France's loss.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A New Tapestry: Australian Huguenot Families

The Huguenot Society of Australia has a new book. 

A New Tapestry: Australian Huguenot Families adds new families to those included in the Society's first book, The Hidden Thread, Huguenot Families in Australia, published in 2009.

The new title cleverly picks up the theme of the first title. Although many Huguenot families (such as my own Pierssené forebears) did not congregate in London as the weavers of Spitalfields, enough did so to make this an obvious overarching theme for the book's editor Robert Nash, the energetic Secretary of the Society. Both books can be purchased direct from the Huguenot Society of Australia or online through the Society of Australian Genealogists. 

Families covered in the new book are André, Arabin, Azire, Beuzeville, Bosanquet, Cazaly, Chamier, Chauvel, De Boos, Dède, Delahoy, Delamere, Desbois, Des Reaux, D'Esterre, Duchesne, Duterrau, Fourmy, Fontaine, Guilletmot, Juchau, Le Sage, L'Oste, Niquet, Perdriau, Petitjean, Pierssené, Rivière, Teulon, Vatas, & Vautier.

For all of you Pierssenés out there, the new book contains a chapter on Herbert Pierssene (nee Herbert Pierssené Fatt) who founded the Australian branch after his arrival in Western Australia in the late 1880s, his wife Angela Elizabeth Piferrer and their descendants. It updates, expands and enhances the chapter in my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London, published in 2007, a few copies of which are still available online through BookPOD. My book also contains a great deal of information about the Fatt family descended from Thomas Fatt, 1745-1773, who married Ann Pierssené in London in 1766.

Books like these make a great Christmas gift for someone special.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

DNA Proves Pierssené Family Origins

Since my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London was published in 2007 (still available through BookPOD), the family in England has proved its roots. 

We have to thank Ronald Pissens of Belgium for researching the link. He organised high-level DNA tests on a number of men, using the 111 marker tests which compare two male persons genetically. Ronald’s strongest DNA link was with Gordon Pierssene in London, showing a clear and close relationship between the Pierssene family in England and the Pierssens family in the region of Europe known as Flanders. Statistics calculating the TMRCA (time to the most recent common ancestor) estimate that their common ancestor was born after 1321, or roughly at the beginning of the 14th century.

As far as the actual paper trail goes: 
  • Ronald has traced Pierssens forebears to 1560 at Hulst, north west of Antwerp in Belgium and just within today’s Netherlands. (Ronald’s research is on his website De Zoon Van Pieter.) 
  • He has found Pierssene forebears living in 1460 at Sint Pauwels, about 10 km south of Hulst, in today’s Belgium. (Sint Pauwels is highlighted on the map below.) The Pierssene name turned up again in Beveren, closer to Antwerp, by the 1570s, followed by a record of an Emanuel Pierssene in Dieppe in 1610. 
  • A direct forebear of Ronald Pissens died in 1623 at Belsele, 17 km to the south of Hulst and just beyond Sint Pauwels, also in today’s Belgium. 
So the overall conclusion is that the Pierssens family in Hulst, the Pierssene family of Sint Pauwels/Beveren/Dieppe/London and the Pi(e(r)ssens family of Belsele are branches of the same family, with the high-level DNA testing organised by Ronald Pissens indicating that the common ancestor for Gordon and Ronald lived in Flanders west of Antwerp between 1322 and 1466, with a confidence level of 95%. 

The lack of documents for the 1300s and 1400s makes it unlikely that the identity of the common ancestor will ever be discovered, so it won’t be possible to join up the European and English family trees into a common pedigree. 

In more recent times, the only thing which is not yet paper-trailed is the step taking the Pierssene family living in Beveren in the 1570s to their location in Dieppe in 1610. Since the Ps of Dieppe were merchants, the link was most likely created via business connections and a sea journey from Antwerp down the English Channel. The Ps had moved to London from Dieppe by 1678, the transition documented in Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London

Thus the forebears of the English branch of the P family were originally Flemings. However, says Robert Nash, Secretary of the Huguenot Society of Australia, ‘that doesn't stop them from being Huguenots by the end of the 17th century. Quite a few families in France who identified with the Protestant minority were in fact of Dutch/Flemish origin, and living in Dieppe makes this more likely. A good example is Crommelin, who are definitely regarded as Huguenot, but the name was originally Cromelink and is definitely Flemish in origin. The Protestant registers for La Rochelle are full of Dutch names.’ 

The last I heard, Ronald Pissens intended publishing another book about the P family, but it’s in French and Dutch, not English.

P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thomas Persene, Norwich, 1600

The book 'The Walloons and their church at Norwich: their history and registers 1565-1832', by William John Charles Moens, page 106, contains the following entry for a tesmoinage, in which one of the participants was the (unnamed) wife of a Thomas Persene:

Sara, fille d'Antoine S, Tem. Walerian Marcsal [et] Jan Lieuin; la femme de Jan Deareumauix [et] la femme de Thomas Persene. 29 Juin 1600

Huguenot Registers identify Sara as Sara Six, daughter of Antoine.

Thomas Persene is of particular interest because the name Thomas appeared early in the Huguenot branch of the Pierssene family, in London. Google provides no further clues about Thomas Persene; he may simply have been passing through Norwich, as the Walloon Registers make no further reference to him. But if he lived there for a while, then possibly he paid taxes in Norwich, or received charity payments, or was a tradesperson or merchant there, or left a will, etc. Archival sources in Norwich might hold some very useful information. I'm hoping that members of the Pierssene family living in Norfolk might one day be able to follow up this avenue of research.

No clues have yet surfaced via the other families participating in the above tesmoinage. Men named Jan Lieuin and Jan Deremaux had large families christened at the Walloon Church in Norwich from the late 1590s and their wills, if they exist, might be illuminating. The surname Marcsal was probably Marisal, but I have found nothing more about him.

In Europe, research by Ronald Pissens has found a Jacques/Jacob Piersens who was active in Reformed Church affairs in Beveren in 1584 and was subsequently a religious refugee in Antwerp before it too fell to Catholic forces. Jacob moved to Amsterdam where he was a merchant but he left there as a bankrupt in 1598. It seems that he may have eventually moved to Dieppe, but did he go to a relative in England for a period? The record above proves that the Thomas Persene in Norwich on 29 June 1600 (or, rather, his wife) was definitely part of the significant French Protestant population there at that time.