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Friday, 29 July 2011

The Wilsons' Huguenot Ancestry



My paternal grandmother was Agnes Keating Wilson of Belfast, Co. Down, (see above) who married my grandfather Cuthbert Stewart in the 1930s.

Agnes' father was a grocer named Edward Leviolett Wilson.  Family tradition had it that the name 'Leviolett' alluded to an early Huguenot ancestor.  I presumed to begin with that the name was really 'Laviolette' which is quite common in France and Canada, but when I searched the lists of Irish Huguenot names I discovered that no Laviolette Huguenots ended up here in Ireland.

The one name that seemed to make any sense was the name 'De La Valade' which was associated with the Lisburn area of Northern Ireland.  The Wilson family originated in the Donaghcloney area of Co. Down which is 15 miles away from Lisburn.

I ordered the birth certificate of Edward Wilson, the grandfather of Agnes Keating Wilson and the father of Edward Leviolett Wilson, who had been born on July 5th 1846 and baptised in Donaghcloney Presbyterian Church.  Edward Wilson's parents were Reid Wilson and Agnes Levelet.   It was evident that the names 'Levelet' and 'Leviolett' were one and the same albeit spelt differently and are phonetic variations of 'LaValade'.

It was during an online search of the Freeholders' Records on the PRONI website that I came across a Peter Lavalade who was farming in the Lurgantamry townland of Donaghcloney, Co. Down in 1780.  Agnes Levelet and her husband, Reid Wilson, spent their lives in Ballygunaghan which is a mere two miles away from Lurgantamry.  I have found no reference to any other individual named Lavalade or Levelet or Leviolett anywhere in the country following the baptism of Edward Wilson in 1846 which seems to suggest that the name died out around that time.  I would also presume that, given the lack of Lavalades anywhere, that Peter Lavalade and Agnes Levelet were related.  Peter Lavalade must have been either the father or grandfather of Agnes Levelet.  The name was passed on phonetically through the family as a middle name.

It seems that Peter Lavalade of Lurgantamry was married to Catherine Durry - their names appear in the Down and Connor and Dromore marriage bonds for 1793.  A will of Peter Levalad/Leavlade exists that document his date of death as 1805 and his address is once again confirmed as Lurgantamry.

(It appears that the name 'Durry' is another extinct family name. A search of the 1901 Census shows two Catholic Durry families, one in Belfast and the second in Dublin, but by 1911 there were no Durry families left in the country.  Before 1901, most references to the name 'Durry' appear in Dromore close to Donaghcloney.)

So where did the Lavalade family originate from?   The Huguenots were French Calvinist Protestants who had been tolerated in Catholic France for centuries by the monarchy under the terms of the Edict of Nantes. On October 18th 1685, however, Louis XIV revoked the Edict.  The Huguenots were then subjected to a brutal regime of religious persecution and at least 200,000 of them left France for the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Britain.
Among the refugees were Louis Crommelin and his brother, Alexander Crommelin, who became so well established in the Dutch linen trade that William of Orange, when he bacame King of England, invited him to set up shop in Ireland in 1697.   This he did in 1698, moving to Lisburn - then called Lisnagarvey, and bringing with him looms and about 70 people. 
Louis' brother had married Madeleine de La Valade, the daughter of a French noble, the Comte de la Valade who held lands in Languedoc.  Her brother, Charles de la Valade, and another unnamed brother, were Protestant pastors who had had to flee France at the Revocation.  In 1704 Charles de la Valade was appointed pastor of the French Church in Lisburn, a position he held for 40 years. He made his will in 1755 and died the following year. 
The Rev. Charles de la Valade eventually dropped the prefix 'De' because, on a lease of a house on the east side of the Market Place in Lisburn, his signature is Charles La Valade.  His wife, Madam Charles De La Valade, signed her will in 1759 - their daughter Anne married George Russell of Lisburn and is thought to have had descendants.
Rev. Charles De La Valade was succeeded by his brother who was possibly the Alan La Valade who was named as a godfather in 1733 - it is known that he had a family and carried on the name. A nephew of the La Valade brothers, Rev. Saumarez Dubourdieu, was the final pastor of the French Church. By the 1800s the Huguenots of Lisburn had been assimilated into the local community and there was no longer any need for a separate congregation.

A second Charles La Valade, 1755 - 1827, was noted in the Index of Wills. 
There are records - apparently - of La Valades living in the Moira district south of Lisburn and north of Donaghcloney where the Wilson family were farming.

It appears that the La Valade family had intermarried with the DuBourdieu family of Bergerac. A quick search of the area on Google Maps shows up the small town of Lavalade about ten miles south of Bergerac and I wonder did our LaValade family originate here?

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