Researching French Huguenots

Posted on 13th June 2012

Unfortunately, I haven’t got anything even remotely as exotic as French ancestry in my personal lineage, but I have come across French ancestry as I am researching on behalf of my stepmother (as well her children, my half-siblings). Her paternal grandmother had the surname Jaques (pronounced “jakes”), a name of Huguenot origin.

Huguenots were French Protestant refugees who escaped France in the 16th and 17th centuries due to being exiled by the Catholic reign of Louis XIV. The majority of Huguenots who escaped to England settled in the Shoreditch area of London, where they established a major weaving industry in and around Spitalfields. There was a Huguenot church on Threadneedle Street where many children of the refugees were baptised.

I had hoped to find a connection to the Jaques of London family — famous for manufacturing sports and game equipments in the 18th and 19th centuries; such as chess, tiddlywinks and Ludo — with my stepmother’s ancestors, but other than both families being of Huguenot descent, I can’t find a link. Interestingly, further back in her lineage, another French surname appears, “Racine”, and this is one I have actually managed to trace back to their French homeland.

Here’s a summary of my stepmother’s London ancestors that lead to the French Huguenots starting with her great-great-grandparents:

It would appear that Francois Racine was the Huguenot refugee, while his wife Marguerrite was born in London, so presumably her parents Benoit and Jeanne were Huguenots. An ancestor of John Jaques must have been the Huguenot as he is the furthest Jaques I have managed to trace back to and he was born in London.

As is shown in the list above, the Jaques, Racine and Kinlock families are interconnected. Arthur Edwin Jaques and his wife Caroline Kinlock (born 1851) were in fact first cousins through the Kinlocks. But also, they were second cousins through the Racines. A little confusing, but its obvious these families were all close.

Most of the working members of these families were silk weavers, and all lived very close to each other. I would like to find out more about these families and try and find out about the Jaques family further back than John Jaques, and perhaps find a link to the Jaques of London family.

  • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

    Originally by Lauren: “Interestingly enough, there’s supposed to be a Jaques somewhere in my tree (my great-grandmother’s Emma Rayner nee Winter’s second marriage, apparently), but I haven’t found it yet!” (restored from previous comments)

    • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

      You’ll have to look into it a bit more, see if you can find his name. Perhaps there is a link with this tree if they are London-based.

      • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

        Originally by Lauren: “It’s possible. Emma moved to Wakefield in later life to be nearer her son. There seems to be some debate within the family at what point she remarried – I had always assumed it was while they were still in the London area, but then someone (I forget who) contradicated me and said they thought that she had remarried when she moved to Yorkshire. But she would have been in her sixties by then, so I think the balance of probabilities is that it was while she was in London. But I haven’t yet found the marriage, as I have no idea what his first name was, or when they might have married or where in London. I’m not even entirely sure when her husband died, to narrow down the search period.” (restored from previous comments)

        • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

          I’m sure you’ve already done it, but there is definitely no marriages for an Emma Rayner to a Mr Jaques. There are two marriages for an Emma Rayner in Wakefield (both in 1884), but neither mention a Mr Jaques either. Do you know when she died? Perhaps trying to find her death certificate would give some clues, then again you aren’t sure what name she would have died as…

          • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

            Originally by Lauren: “I’m reasonably sure I have her death: 1968 Q1 Dewsbury Emma Jaques – she’s the correct age at 97. My dad thought that he would have been around six when she died, and definitely wakefield or nearby, so I searched based on that. He would have been about 4 and a half, in fact, but this is the only possiblity under any of her known names. I haven’t ordered the certificate yet, but it might be worth it, as the death is very likely to have been registered by her son Leslie, my great-grandfather. No one seems to remember the mysterious Mr Jaques though, so can only assume he must have died a long while before her, and there’s no one left alive who actually knew the family before the mid-50s, frustratingly!

            1884 is definitely too early for the marriage though. Leslie wasn’t born until 1910 and he and his family didn’t move to Wakefield until the 1930s. On the 1911 census, when Leslie is only a few months old, Emma’s Rayner husband (William Henry) is absent from home, I haven’t pinned him down yet, but they’re definitely still married and she is ‘maintained by husband’. No idea when he died either. We don’t know whether Emma moved at the same time as her son, or joined him later, so she could have married her Jaques husband anytime between 1911 and the fifties really, but probably only in Wakefield from about 1934 onwards! I’ve searched so many times without success, can only hope it will turn up sooner or later!” (restored from previous comments)

          • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

            That is frustrating. I would say it’s definitely worth ordering the death certificate. That way you can confirm if it is indeed your great-great-grandmother. It may give some other clues too, like an address at time of death. There might be some electoral roll or phone book records you could look at to see who was living at that address.

            There is a death for a William H Rayner in Dewsbury in 1935, aged 77. Does that match up?

            One other possibility is that maybe she married someone else before Mr Jaques. My great-grandmother married a Mr Whitfield after my great-grandfather was killed in WW1, then she later married at Mr Doyle. Maybe there won’t be any records for a Rayner/Jaques marriage if she married in between.

          • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

            Originally by Lauren: “Ooh, interesting death possiblity for William, will definitely check that out. Would be really helpful to know when he died.

            Also, good shout, I suppose there’s nothing to say she didn’t marry in between them, and it would explain why I can’t find the marriage.

            The other possibility is that she just took his name but they didn’t actually get married – for example, say if she and William were estranged but never divorced. My half-great-uncle had that – he spent ages looking for his grandparents marriage, only to discover it wasn’t there. When he asked his stepmother abuot she admitted that it was this big skeleton in the closet! It seems daft to us now, but in the Victorian/Edwardian period it would have been ahuge scandal not to have been married.” (restored from previous comments)

          • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

            Originally by Lauren: “So, following on from this. I checked the death record, but as I should have realised, he’s actually too old. William Henry would only have been in his sixties by 1935.

            However, I did then go back through the 1911 census and I THINK I found William Henry (age, place of birth and occupation all match). He is claiming to be married to another woman, called Emily. They say they have been married for about 5 years, but I can’t find any trace of the marriage. They hve no children, and as they are both aged about 40 I don’t suppose they are very likely to have any, which won’t help in identifying Emily or proving the relationship. Nor,by that token are Emma and the mysterious Mr Jaques likely to have children .

            So, my theory is that, Emma and William Henry separated and both met new people and took their names, but remained married. On the 1911 census Emma states that she is ‘supported by husband’, presumably as they have young children together and she hasn’t remarried yet.

            I think I might now have to wait for the 1921 census to get much more out of this!” (restored from previous comments)

          • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

            That could be a good theory. My great-great-grandparents separated but remained married. I know that my great-great-grandmother had other relationships and children out of wedlock after leaving her husband. She also used other names in census records. I too have a situation that will make much more sense once the 1921 census is released – only another 9 years to wait!

  • lifthrasir

    I am daughter of Maria Geertruida Johanna Jacques born in 1914 in the Netherlands, being told i descended from huguenots but no further info. Recently someone turned up saying we are dutch descending from sjaakes. But as it was common to use a dutch sounding name, as not to be known as Huguenots it remains unclear. My grandmother was Sophia Dorothea Elizabeth Bleuze. Some other post claims we all descend from Isaac Jacques huguenot in France. Another that we descend from villagers from Jaca called the Jacques in the French pyrenees. Another claims we are really jews, descending from the tribe Gad, who first converted to christianity and later to calvinism. Huguenots said to come from some king Hugo.

    • http://www.nmcmahon.co.uk/ Niall McMahon

      From what I understand, when the Huguenots fled France in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of them fled to Germany, England and Netherlands, so it is entirely possible you are of Huguenot descent, but it may be quite far back in your tree.