Roussel Family

Overview of the Roussel line
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The ROUSSEL family provides one of the Huguenot links into the family tree. The 200 years covered by their story include time of great religious persecution and personal hardship for this family of professional people and civic leaders who were driven from Normandy (France) to England. Here they met and married into the Beuzeville family, themselves of Huguenot decent.


Normandy Locality Map
Map of Normandy
Original and Other Maps (Normandy Tourist Authority)

The most comprehensive and well documented source for this branch of the family is given by Gilbert Wiblin, 1931. His work analyses the writings of:

Isaac Roussel, circa 1700,
Francis Roussel, circa 1750,
Esther Beuzeville, 1857,
William Cooper, 1862,
James Hewlett, 1866,
Samuel Smiles, 1867,
Emily Holt, 1870,
David Agnew 1866 and 1871,
Henry Wagner 1908,
Emma Byles 1934.

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 infomation 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 decribing the escape to England, and the later story describing Laurens'(1670) kidnapping to North America.

Laurens Roussel
Laurens Roussel

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.

The Roussels' In Their Religious Context
Huguenot Time Line


Wiblin is meticulous in his verification of details. He draws attention to errors in Cooper and Smiles who give Isaac Roussel as the ancestor of the English descendants.

Esther Beuzeville's account of the pannier flight is in error. This error was copied by Agnew(1866) and then Holt(1870). Agnew's second work (1871) is considered more accurate, he having compared notes with Rev James Hewlett.

In substantiating Marie Malefrein as the mother of Laurens (1599), Wiblin notes the practice of how godmothers were described under their maiden surnames.

Wiblin's research disputes that Thomas Griffith was a knight, (ie "Sir), as stated by Cooper. There is a possibility that his father had been knighted but this could be self styled.

Religious Persecution

Laurens(1628), the apothecary, was a sufficiently active protesant 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 vegitables, 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 I 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 having renounced."

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.

Later Trials

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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