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Trails to the Past

Genealogy provides many trails to the past through research on pedigree lines and family histories.  Searching for ancestors and studying the times in which they lived is like starting on a trail with no map or even a sense of what's out there to be explored.  There is no magic moment when you can say, "I'm done.  I'm finished.  I've reached the end of the trail."  While the trail may fade and become obscure, you know that if you start moving in ever-expanding circles you will eventually find a trail.

I started tracing my family over 30 years ago.  About 20 years ago, the particular trail I was on became very, very faint.  The clues were few and vague.  Since then I've tried several trails, but none has led me to my professed destination.  I still continue to search, although rather sporadically and feebly, for where my Huguenot émigré ancestor Jean Pierre Thibaut came from in France, but the desire to reach that particular goal has been replaced by another--understanding the emigrant experience.

After some period of wandering from France to Germany to Switzerland and back to Germany (with possibly other stops that I don't know about), Jean Pierre Thibaut settled in Welschneureut, Baden where he died in 1707.  His son Jean Philippe Thibaut, who was born in Welschneureut, eventually settled in Friedrichstal, a nearby community. 

Neureut is an old town (13th century) that due to its location along the Rhein was continually in the path of armies on the move.  Basically decimated during the 17th century, first during the Thirty Years War and then again during the War of Palatine Succession, it needed repopulating at a time when there were thousands of French-speaking Protestant refugees in need of a new homeland.  The first group of 58 families arrived in 1699.  Their colony was referred to as Welschneureut, while the original, German-speaking village became known as Teutschneureut.

Friedrichstal, on the other hand, is a new village less than 10 miles from Neureut.  It did not exist before being chartered in 1699 specifically for French-speaking Protestant refugees.  Its original site plan called for 25 houses.

In both Welschneureut and Friedrichstal the refugees founded French-speaking reformed churches.  The records of these churches provide a window to the past, to the lives of people who had to escape their homeland and settle in a foreign land if they were to continue to practice their religion.

As a first step towards gaining some understanding of the lives of these Huguenot refugees, I have transcribed and published the first 100 years of records for these churches in Friedrichstal Church Records 1698-1812 (Heritage Books will reprint if it receives sufficient requests) and Welschneureut Church Records, Welschneureut, Germany 1700-1809

My next project is to publish the genealogies of the families which settled and remained in these two towns during the 18th century.  Some of the surnames that will be included are: Barrie (Barrier), Borel, Calmet (Calmez), Desmarais, Dupuis, Girot (Giraud), Gorenflo, Herlan, Hornung, Lacroix, Roux, Terras, and Thibaut.


Other family lines