Huguenot ancestors

Although many researchers with Huguenot roots may not even be aware of their heritage, there's a wealth of ways to explore your family's connections, says Jenny Thomas.

It has been estimated that one in four of us in Britain has a Huguenot ancestor somewhere in our family tree.

Many of us will be completely unaware of this piece of heritage, and may only begin to have suspicions when French-sounding names start appearing in our genealogy. For others, a rumour or tale might be preserved in the family memory. But who were the Huguenots, and how might we turn out to be their descendents?

‘Huguenots’ was in fact a term of abuse applied to French Protestants. For much of the second half of the sixteenth century, France was embroiled in the bloody Wars of Religion. A peace of sorts was found in 1598, when the Edict of Nantes granted French Protestants a degree of protection and freedom of worship.

However, in 1685 this decree was revoked, and over the next century or so, vast numbers of Protestants fled repression and persecution in France – their numbers are estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

They scattered all over Europe and beyond, and, of course, many came to nearby Britain. If you are lucky enough to uncover one of them during the course of your genealogical research, you have stumbled across a fascinating nugget of history that is well worth investigating. Here are some ideas about how you might spot and research your Huguenot ancestry.

Photo ©  Hulton Archive Getty images

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