Who were the Huguenots?
I interviewed Charlie de Wet of the Huguenots of Spitalfields charity (listen to the interview on the Journeys into Genealogy podcast here) and she shared some amazing facts about the Huguenots who came to England in two waves starting with Elizabethan England in the 1500s and a second wave after the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
Around 50,000 people migrated from France and the Netherlands to England. This made up 5% of the entire population of England at the time.
They were the first ‘refugees’ and the word comes from refuge (to seek shelter). As Protestants they fled religious persecution by the Catholic King in France. Dr Robin Gwynn has written an interesting article about them here:
From silversmiths and weavers to bankers and merchants, actors and more, the Huguenots integrated into English society and are the ancestors of both famous and ordinary people.
Wikipedia has a good article about the history of the Huguenots here.
Are you a Huguenot?
I have Huguenot ancestry from my paternal grandmother. Do you have some in your family? It’s surprisingly common and lots of ‘English’ names have Huguenot beginnings. Check if your name is listed here (or add it if it is missing)
Charlie is putting together a registry of Huguenot places/heirlooms etc called Huguenot Traces.
This could be a statue, a road name, something personal to your family, basically anything related to the Huguenots. There are even football teams connected to the Huguenots (Norwich use a canary and this comes from the Huguenot weavers).
If you have any Huguenot heirlooms or information on Huguenot ancestry please add them to the HoS website
Charlie is looking for volunteers to help with research for the charity and with helping with events in London. If you have spare time it would be much appreciated. Contact her here.
Help for anyone looking for Huguenot Ancestors
The Huguenots of Spitalfields have put together lots of useful links here.
- Huguenots of Spitalfields http://www.huguenotsofspitalfields.org
- Huguenot Society https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk
- Huguenot Museum in Rochester, Kent https://huguenotmuseum.org
And if you have any famous Huguenots in your ancestry I’d love to hear from you…