Further research

This guide was last updated in 2009

Studying your Huguenot ancestry should not be an isolated piece of research.

The majority of Huguenots formed clusters – for example in Spitalfields, Kent and Canterbury - and their experiences of persecution and their journeys to and settlement in Britain were communal experiences. It is worth looking at who else was in the area in which your ancestors lived.

Are there lots of French sounding names in the records? What is everybody doing to earn a living? Can you tell what kind of houses they were living in, how long they lived and where they are buried? Do the same names appear in the same place for generations? You might also use census records to investigate what happened to later generations of your family not in the direct line. How is their name distributed geographically on the census? For how many generations did they stick to traditional occupations and environments?

Having established as much as you can about your ancestors and their contemporaries, you are in a position to research the social, political and religious history in which they were caught up, from the edicts that so profoundly changed their destinies to the lives and conditions of the silk-weavers or various Huguenot communities. You might get a flavour of their times by visiting old Huguenot strongholds. Julia Sawalha was interested to see spindles hanging above several doors in the Spitalfields area to this day – a reminder of her ancestors’ world.

There has been a great deal of interest and scholarship surrounding Huguenot migration, and here are some places to begin your background research:

The History of Spitalfields and its Communities: Lessons from the Immigrant Experience by Michael Keating

Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain by Robin D Gwynn

The French Wars of Religion, 1559-1598 by RJ Knecht

The Edict of Nantes and Afterwards, 1685-1935 by Henry John Cowell.

For information about Huguenot and other refugee records, have a look at the National Archives research guide. A good basic introduction to the Huguenots and their history is available at Wikipedia.

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