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French Huguenots and Walloons

Updated on June 1, 2015

Huguenots & Walloons: Our Ancestors & Their History

This site will share with you some of the history of the French Huguenots and the French speaking Walloons and their relationship to family history and genealogy.

Genealogists and family historians have a special interest in the French Huguenots and Walloons. These French speaking protestants from France and Wallonia (Southern Belgium)are genealogically significant to much of the population of the United States.

Most immigrations from Europe to America which included these groups came from the early 1600's to the late 1600's during the height of their religious persecution.

As a person who has several Huguenot-Walloon ancestors, I have always had a particular interest in this group. It didn't take me long to realize that the strong protestant orientation in my family in many cases could ultimately be traced to the historical conditions which created these two groups.

State Sanctioned Violence

Human atrocities throughout history have more frequently been the rule than the exception. Burning at the stake, impalement on sharp stakes, disemboweling, beheading, and "quartering" were common during much of European history. Royalty killed Royalty and commoners killed commoners. No one was safe.

Violence and warfare in some of its most atrocious forms was frequently associated with religious movements. The distinction between state, religion, and society during the 1500's and thereafter was not made in people's minds and experiences. Prior to that, for approximately a 1000 years religion had formed the basis for a social consciousness that pervaded the thinking of royalty and commoners.

France in particular had tied itself closely to the Catholic Church. The Church sanctified the monarchy's right to rule in return for military and civil protection. "One faith" was considered essential to maintain societal stability and innovations was frowned upon and not generally acceptable. Even the Renaissance period had to be justified as a return to a simple, purer time rather than as change.

Prelude To Disaster

After the Protestant Reformation that had been started by Martin Luther about 1517 in Germany took hold, it spread rapidly in France. The French Protestants gradually left the Lutheran teachings and adapted the teaching of the Reformed Church, established in 1550 by John Calvin.

This reformed religion was practiced by both members of the French nobility and the social middle class who were for the most part artisans, craftsmen, and professional people. Their belief in salvation through an individual faith that did not rely on the intercession of the church hierarchy, and an individual's right to personally interpret scriptures put them in direct conflict with the Catholic church and the King of France.

On January 19, 1536 a general edict was issued in France which encouraged the extermination of the French Protestants. These Protestants called themselves "reformees" (reformers). By 1550, when the first church based on John Calvin's teachings was established in a home in Paris, they were being called Huguenots, a name which has continued to be used to describe them until this day.

General persecution continued after the edict of 1536 but the movement prospered and by 1561 there were 2,000 Calvinist Churches in France and the Huguenots had become a political faction that seemed to threaten the state. The antipathy toward the Huguenots created an atmosphere of hate that led to the Massacre at Vassy, France on March 1, 1562 of 1,200 Huguenots. This triggered the Wars of Religion which lasted from 1562 to 1598.

St. Bartholomew Massacre!

8,009 Huguenots Killed

August 1572!

Persecution of the Huguenots continued and in August, 1572, 8,000 Huguenots were killed in one night at the St. Batholomew Massacre.

This occurred in Paris at the wedding of Henry of Navarre (later to rule as Henry IV) where thousands of Huguenots had come to celebrate his wedding.. Catherine de Medici, who violently hated the Huguenots, had persuaded her son Charles IX to order the mass murder.

She personally inspected the carnage on Sunday, the 24th of August in 1572. Pope Gregory XIII ordered bonfires and celebrations in Rome, when news of the massacre reached him on the 2nd of September, 1572.

Scene in the bedroom of Marguerite de Valois during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre--In The Louvre Museum

Scene in the bedroom of Marguerite de Valois during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre--In The Louvre Museum
Scene in the bedroom of Marguerite de Valois during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre--In The Louvre Museum

Edict of Nantes

When Henry IV became ruler, he signed the Edict of Nantes on April 13, 1598, ending the Wars of Religion and establishing 20 specified French "free" cities where the Huguenots were allowed to practice their faith.

This official support soon ended upon the murder in 1610 of Henry IV. Cardinal Richelieu began a siege of the Huguenot free cities which resulted in their last stronghold of La Rochelle falling to Richelieu in 1629.

Widespread persecution of the Huguenots again began in earnest and under Louis XIV (1643-1715) the Edict of Nantes was finally revoked on the 22nd of October, 1685. Louis XIV stated a policy of "one faith, one law, and one king" and the end result was the destruction and burning of Protestant churches and homes, and many Huguenots being burned at the stake.

In spite of emigration being declared illegal, 200,000 or more French Huguenots fled the country, going to Switzerland, Germany, England, America, and South Africa. Between 5,000 and 7,000 Huguenots and Walloons(French speaking protestants from Wallonia, in the South part of Belgium) came to America between 1618 and 1725. Many of these became the ancestors of you and me.

Other Resources For Huguenots and Walloons - "When You Need To Know More"

It's Your Turn Now! - Let Me Know What You Think of This Lens

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      Wollam11 14 months ago

      My last name is Wollam. I have traced my ancestory back to Jacob Wollam, a head of family in North Carolina in the early 1800s. I also did a search a few years ago for my dad as a birthday present and I can remember there was a Wollam in Virginia as well in the mid 1600s. Being an usual name, I truly believe they are related. And I further believe that Wollam is a variation of Walloon. If someone could confirm this, I would be grateful.

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      Lois Wilson 15 months ago

      My ancestor, Hester Mahieu, married Francis Cooke who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower with their son John. She and the other children arrived on the ship Anne 2 or 3 years later. She was a Walloon from Belgium who went to Holland to escape religious persecution.

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      yvdc17a 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes French Huguentos are French Protestants and a lot of them migrated to England. I believe that John Welsley was a french Huguenot. But don't quote me.

      Respectfully yours,

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      As I was going through boxes, I came across a copy of family genealogy, the LaRoe (LaRoux) family. I had always thought my family was French Hugenot. They may be, but after re-reading it, I believe they were Walloon and immigrated with some of the original dutch families to settle New Amsterdam. This would explain why the family intermarried with the Dutch families there. My question for anyone knowledgeable is this. Is the term French Hugenot only a term given to Prostestant christians rather than an ethnic group, while Walloon is an ethnic group of peoples living in Belgium? Some of the information I have comes from documentation of my ancestor Jacques LeRoux who settled in New Harlem in the 1600's and in 1677 joined the Dutch Church in New Amsterdam.

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      yvdc17a 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Christine. I will check that out.

      MJ

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You could try the records of the Huguenot Society of Great Brita

      in. They hsve just located my mother's family name in their documents dating back to 1560. Good luck.

      Christine , UK

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Dear Mary Jane, I am interested to see your Waterford-Huguenot connection. My Irish grandfather was from Waterford. Through my y DNA, Curtis surname, protestant heritage, continuity of time and place, and (incomplete) paper trails, I have established my descent from the Du Bois settlers in America, through Catherine Billieu who married Richard Curtice, grandson of the master mariner of the Virginia Company of London. I would be glad to compare notes with you. David Curtis pjdcurtis@bigpond.com

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I live on Walloomsac Road, near the Walloomsac River in Vermont just a few miles from the new York state line and the village (hamlet) of Walloomsac, New York and Hoosic Falls, New York all of which I believe to be early Walloon settlements long before Vermont became a state. I also believe that Walloonne was later spelled with an "M' making the two nn spelling similar to v v in a w. Historians here dismiss any Walloon settlement and claim the river is called by an American Indian name derived from Walloonschaick. I disagree and believe that the earliest settlers between the Hudson and Connecticut Rivers was Walloon before the British arrived. If anyone knows of this Walloon settlement here East of the Hudson River in the area of Walloomsac, New York please make some comments or reply. It should also be noted that the so-called Battle of Bennington was actually a skirmish in the hamlet of Walloomsac, New York and rightfully should be called the Battle of Walloomsac. The original battlefield is actually in Walloomsac, New York but has been greatly expanded into a battle that turned the American Revolution against the British. It would then be Walloonies instead of Green Mountain Boys that defeated the Prussian troops heading for Bennington, New Hampshire (not Vermont in 1776) to purchase horses, supplies and medical provisions and were ambushed by Walloon farmers living on the Walloomsac River miles away from Bennington, NH. Any comments on this? Any historians with further information?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Look there, on a hill in Yorktown, Virginia looking out across the beautiful York River, there stands Goddess Liberty, the drum is 84 feet tall and Goddess is 14 feet tall. The Battle at Yorktown. Alexandra Hamilton born of a Huguenot Mother, Hamilton and his forces under the command of General Washington took redoubt # 10 while the French troops under the commanded of Comte de Rochambeau took redoubt # 9.

      Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis was overmatched; Comte de Grasse had a massive fleet sitting in the Chesapeake Bay cutting off any possible escape and Cornwallis's movements in Virginia were shadowed by a Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette. The worldâs superpower was forced to surrender. The nation you call America today as you can see was a Beautiful gift from France. Today in Yorktown, Virginia you will find a French Graveyard while in Normandy, France you will see an American Graveyard

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      You will find the beautiful city of Charlestown, SC. the French that came to America were the Architects that designed/built Charlestown. It is all there, in the museum, laid out from the date of arrival.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm not of Huguenot decent, but through history class and literature, I came to appreciate them and their plight. In fact, I published a fiction book called The Huguenot Sword last November (2011) in which I tell of Henri de Rohan and the Huguenots struggle against Richelieu, including the battle of La Rochelle.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just found out that my ancestors came to Englandwith Wallons because of religious persecutions. Hope to domore research as I had been told previously they came to England with William the Conquerer. Is there any connection.

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      Genjud 5 years ago

      Very nice lens. Great content.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      My people ( Turmine/Turmaine ) were Huguenot from the Somme in Picardie - they escaped France and settled in Canterbury, Kent, in the late 1700's. History shows that the Huguenot's exodus from France caused a massive brain drain from which France never recovered, The Huguenot people are said to have been the catalyst of the industrial revolution in England and America. I still feel very proud of this heritage ...

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      Lamar Ross 6 years ago from Florida

      @anonymous: I did a quick search on Ancestry.Com and on google. Found you on your brickwalls site, and some references to Pierre on Ancestry. My membership only covers U.S. so I couldn't go any further. Good luck.

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      justholidays 6 years ago

      I've read this page and a few others related to my home country and it must be specified that us, Walloons, speak French, NOT dialects. Flemings use dialects only, though.

      Whenever Walloons use dialects, it's between them (with family), not with the salesman at the store, for example; neither at work. Personally, I never speak any dialect but French.

      As for huguenots, I think that all Walloons that were protestants, immigrated to America as we're mostly Catholics and more often than not, we don't believe in anything but ourselves. Walloons aren't big believers, they're generally secular people. Searching for believers in Belgium? Go to Flanders ;)

      This being said, Walloons aren't French as Wallonia joined France for 25 years during the Revolution only; otherwise Wallonia has almost always been under German rule - even Liege - however, strangely, we speak French and I think this comes from the times of the Countesses of Flanders and Henegau who made a rule to not speak any other language than French on their territories. Moreover, French was a language spoken in almost all countries of Western Europe.

      Well documented page on the protestant religion. Really well done.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I WAS BLOWN AWAY TO SEE ALL THE INFO YOU HAVE REGARDING THR HUGUENOTS. I WAS TOLD BY A RELATIVE IN BANGOR, MAINE THAT WE WERE ALL FRENCH HUGUENOTS. I GREW UP BELIEVING WE WERE ALL CATHOLIC. MY GRANDMOTHER'S PARENTS WERE FROM WATERFORD, IRELAND. MY GRANDFATHER WAS FROM QUEBEC. I HAVE HAD THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME TRACING THEIR FAMILY HISTORY. I CANNOT FIND ANY INFO BEYOND THE NAME OF MY GREAT GRANDFATHER, (PETER/PIERRE AMNOT). WHEN I PULL HIS NAME UP IT SAYS, WIFE'S NAME CANNOT BE LEARNED. IT IS EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING AND DEVASTATING. I REALLY DON'T KNOW HOW ONE GOES ABOUT A TRACE WITHOUT THAT INFORMATION. IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

      RESPECTFULLY YOURS,

      MARYJANE (AMNOTTE), HADLEY

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      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Yikes!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Informative and interesting. A well put together lens. Thank you.

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      Nan 6 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting reading. One branch of my maternal grandfather's line has been traced back to a Huguenot family in New Amsterdam. Francois Le Seur, b. 1625 Challe Mesnil, 3 miles south of Duppe, France. He was in Flatbush, Long Island by 1657 and married a Dutch girl.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great information on the Walloons. It confirmed what I already knew by the researrch I have been doing over the last year chasing an old family tale about royalty. Did you know that the Celtic people are related to the Caldean people of Ur. I was chasing the name Sarah because it came up so many times in my research. I have Caldean Christian friends and asked them if it was a tradition to name their daughters Sarah (Sari) and he said yes. Also Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, All of the name of the bible. They are a very light skin colored skined people now we call each other cousins 4000 years removed. Google it.

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      shiwangipeshwani 7 years ago

      You have great lenses on travel my friend, keep up the good work.

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      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

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      leblgebeau 8 years ago

      Doe anyone know if there is any information on Huguenots from Belgium?

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      mrsm54321 8 years ago

      My own ancestors were possibily Huguenots who came to England in the 17th century but I have never managed to prove it. I thought this lens gave a lot of interesting information and also taught me several things I didn't know.

      5* lens

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great info here! You've really provided a lot of comprehensive information on the Huguenots that will prove useful to anyone with an ancestral connection to that group.

      Stephanie at the Research Your Family Tree lens-stop by and see us!

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      [in reply to ratso] Just curious to know if you had any huguenot ancestors you were aware of

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you for your website I am interested in anything concerning Walloons and Huguenots I can find.I just discovered the existence of the Walloon cross through your website.Thanks again Lebelgebeau

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      businessblossom1 8 years ago

      Thank you for checking out the HIMbook, and for posting this info about the Huguenots and Walloons . . . I had always wondered if any Huguenots had managed to survive the terrible persecution under Richelieu (referenced famously in The Three Musketeers), and I am glad to know that so many did. Thanks; this history should be known far and wide, so I'm giving you five stars and rolling you to my HIMbook page.

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      MUJERDEEXITO 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for passing by and your kind words. I am impressed with the great historical information you have in this lens I didn't know anything about the Huguenots. It was a pleasure to read this information.

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi, I just followed you home from Tipi's, I'm her sister. You have some very interesting subjects! I was just impressed by your Expatriot lens but couldn't leave a message as I am an outsider looking in. Well done!

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      ratso 8 years ago

      Originally from NY I always new of the Huguenots but never knew of their history, a most fascinating read. 5*

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      Delia 8 years ago

      what great information..thanks for sharing...5*

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      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Very good introduction. My knowledge of this history was certainly a bit vague. Excellent lens.

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      Author

      Lamar Ross 8 years ago from Florida

      [in reply to Margaret VanAmburgh] Margaret, I finally got around to responding to you. I hope this lens has been beneficial to you and you will let others know of its availability. Good luck on your family history research.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      I have just come across the information that my ancestory includes Rachel DeForst, daughter of Jesse. This has sparked my interest in both the Walloon and Huguenot connections that exist in my background. Good brief information.