The Roussel Family

The following is extracted from sources on the web – largely at:

The most comprehensive and well documented source for this branch of the family is given by Gilbert Wiblin, 1931. The following notes are derived from Wiblin’s paper.

The earliest record we have of our Huguenot ancestors is that on October 3, 1599 Laurens Roussel, the son of Pierre Roussel and Madeline (nee) Malefrein was born and later baptised at Quillebeuf. Laurens was the eldest of 8 children most of whom were baptised at Pont-Audemer, 14 Km to the east.

Laurens(1599), took to medicine being described as a surgeon and in 1627 he married Elizabeth Desormeaux, daught of Francis Desormeaux, an apothecary. They had 11 or 12 children, the eldest son, born in 1628, being also named Laurens, and following in his grandfather’s footsteps he also became an apothecary.

Laurens (1628), married in 1665 Marguerite Langlois (1650) (RDB note. This birth date based on information recorded at the time of her renunciation – see later. It makes her the unlikely age of 15 when married) who bore him 5 children, Mary (1666), Isaac (1668), Laurens (1670), Stephen (1676) and Francis (1680). This is the family featured in the “pannier” story describing the escape to England, and the later story describing Laurens’ (1670) kidnapping to North America.

The family line, now in England, continues via Francis (1680), who in 1697 married Esther Heusse and bore him 8 children. the third youngest, Elizabeth(1709), married Pierre Beuzeville (1711) another Huguenot family, (from Bolbec), who was a silk weaver in Spitalfields, London. The youngest, Marie Anne (1715), married Thomas Meredith

Elizabeth and Pierre had two sons, Peter (1741) and Moses (1745), while Marie Anne and Thomas had 5 children, the eldest of which was Mary (1744). The cousins, Peter Beuzeville (1741) and Mary Meredith (1744) were married in 1768.

Peter (1741) and Mary (1744) moved from London to Henley in 1797 They had 3 surviving children, Bridget (1770), Marianne (1776) and Esther (1786). Bridget Beuzeville (1770) married John Curtis Byles (1773) in 1796 and Esther Beuzeville (1776) married first James Philip Hewlett (1780), brother of her cousin’s husband, then second Rev. William Copley.

Religious Persecution and the Pannier story

Laurens (1628), the apothecary, was a sufficiently active protestant to attract the attention of the authorities, and even before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), seems to have suffered imprisonment for his faith; and although he was released some time before his death, he was under observation or restraint to an extent which made it impracticable for him to fly the country. His wife and children did however seek refuge in England, escaping via Calais. The mother, Marguerite with some of the family went first followed by the eldest child Marie (1666) with the two youngest boys, Estienne (1676) and Francois (1680).

Wiblin gives the account of their flight as follows: ‘Disguise being essential to avoid molestation and possible capture, she dressed herself as a peasant girl, and placed her brothers in two panniers, covered up with vegetables, and slung on the back of a donkey. The little ones were charged neither to speak nor to move, whatever might happen on the road. A servant, dressed as a farmer, rode on horseback, moving in advance as if unknown to the girl. They travelled by night; but as time was precious, the latter part of the journey had to be taken by daylight. Suddenly a party of dragoons came in sight; they rode up, fixed their eyes upon her, and then on the panniers. ‘What is in those baskets?’ they cried. Before she could give an answer, one of them drew his sword, and thrust it into the pannier where the younger boy (Francois) was hid. No cry was heard, not a movement was made; the soldiers concluded that all was right, and galloped off. As soon as they were out of sight the sister knocked off the inanimate contents of the pannier, the little boy lifted his arms towards her, and she saw he was covered with blood from a severe cut on one of them. He had understood that if he cried his own life and the lives of his brother and sister would be lost, and he bravely bore the pain and was silent.’

The date of the flight is uncertain. Wiblin examines all the evidence but concludes it was between 1682 and 1688 with the balance of probability inclining towards the earlier years.

However in 1998 Byles received advice from Olga Perier who has researched the renunciations after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) as listed at the town hall at Pont-Audemer.

20th November 1685

  • Marguerite Langlois 35 years, wife of Laurens Roussel, pharmacist.

28th November 1685

  • Marie Roussel 16 years, daughter of Laurens Roussel
  • Marie Courcicaut 48 years, wife of Francois Roussel
  • Francois Roussel Roussel 18 years, her son
  • Marie-Anne Roussel 20 years, her daughter

21st January 1686

  • Esther Roussel 85 years, widow of Jacques Guiffard
  • Isaac Roussel 11 years, son of Francois Roussel
  • Marguerite Roussel 13 years, daughter of Francois Roussel

Olga writes: The dragoons had been terrible in this region, the soldiers lived with (were billetted with) the ‘religionnairs’ and forced them to renounce their faith. It was almost impossible to flee to another country without first renouncing.

From the list above it appears that both Marguerite and her daughter Marie were still in Pont-Audemer in 1685 which narrows the date of the flight to the three years 1685 – 1688.

Laurens slavery story

Wiblin relates a strange disaster that befell the family when they were living in London. Laurens (1670), the second son who escaped with his mother, when in his early teens, was kidnapped from the streets of London and taken to America as a slave. He was there 15 years but returned to marry the girl who was with him the day he was kidnapped.

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