5 Things You Need To Know About Huguenot History (in North America)

History of Huguenots
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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy! Today’s post is going to focus on a specific demographic that has caught my fancy in the past few years. A group that (unfortunately) I did not know much about, despite living in one of the areas that they settled prior to the American Revolution. That group is… (drum roll please) Huguenots.
A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge by John Everett Millais

Who Were The Huguenots?

Most simply, the Huguenots were French Protestants. While the term has sometimes been used to refer to any non-Catholics in France, Huguenots primarily were those individuals who adhered to the writings of John Calvin (AKA Calvinists) and the Reformed tradition of Protestantism.

  • The term Huguenot dates back to about 1560 when the first French Protestant congregations were beginning to emerge.
  • Other contemporary names for the Huguenots were:
    • Calvinists
    • Genevan,
    • Walloons
    • However, these terms tend to describe smaller groups within what we think of Huguenots today.
  • Not all Huguenots were Calvinists, nor Genevans.
  • The term ‘Walloon’ is seen primarily in Dutch/ New York references to the Huguenots who settled there and rarely among the settlements in Virginia and South Carolina.
  • Huguenots are still around today, they are now more commonly known as ‘French Protestants’.
  • Huguenots were (and still are) a minority in France. At their peak, they were thought to have only represented ten (10) percent of the French population. After the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and later Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (AKA Edict of Fontainebleau), that percentage diminished with many Huguenots emigrating from France for various parts of the globe.

1) Huguenots settled across the globe, including the Americas

Among the various places that Huguenots fled to were the colonies/settlements (English, Dutch, Swedish, and German) in North America. They also attempted to create settlements in Florida and Brazil. Unfortunately, those in Brazil and Florida were brutally destroyed (by the Spanish). However,  most of the settlements in North America survived and flourished. In particular, three in New York, one in South Carolina, and one in Virginia.

2) Huguenots were an integral part of early New York settlements

Prior to either of the settlements in Virginia or South Carolina, there were three separate Huguenot settlements which sprang up in what is now New York State and New York City.

New York City


Walloon Monument at north end of Battery Park in New York City. Dedicated to Jesse de Forest for his contributions to the founding of New York City. By Pdd3517 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Around 1624, the first group of Huguenots arrived in the Dutch colony of ‘New Amsterdam’. They settled on what is now Long Island and are considered to be the first European residents of Brooklyn. In particular, the neighborhood of Bushwick. As such, they are considered to be some of the founders of what is now New York City. Later groups of Huguenots also settled on nearby Staten Island. These groups, while keeping some of their French ancestry, assimilated fairly quickly into the cultures of their English and Dutch neighbors.

It wasn’t until almost fifty years later that the next group of Huguenots made their way to New York, creating the settlement of New Paltz.

New Paltz

Cemetery and recreation of the 1717 Reformed Church on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York, USA.By Swampyank (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

New Paltz was settled in 1677 by Huguenot émigrés from The Netherlands and a few German duchies. Many of the founders of New Paltz had settled in Mannheim, Germany prior to sailing for North America.  At the time of New Paltz’s founding, Mannheim was part of the Palatinate – one of several Protestant German duchies. The German word for Palatinate is Pfalz, which in the Mannheim dialect was pronounced Paltz – hence New Paltz. The Huguenots who settled in New Paltz stayed rooted in their culture somewhat longer than other Huguenot settlements. Huguenot Street Historic District is a living museum dedicated to their lives and history.

New Rochelle

Statue of Jacob Leisler on North Avenue in New Rochelle, New York. By Anthony22 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL) or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

New Rochelle was settled about ten years later by Huguenots artisans, craftsmen, and their families. This particular group fled from La Rochelle, France, and its surrounding environs. Hence New Rochelle. One of the main founders of New Rochelle was Jacob Leisler. He was of Huguenot heritage and a champion of the French Huguenots in New York. Despite being executed for treason in 1691 (and then absolved of those charges in 1695), he was considered a hero and memorialized in New Rochelle. Also of note, while many of the other Huguenot settlements assimilated with their non-French neighbors within a generation or two, the settlement (and later town) of New Rochelle stayed distinctly French in its culture, even well into the 19th century.

3) Huguenots were influential in antebellum South Carolina

French Protestant (Huguenot) Church in Charleston, South Carolina by Akhenaton06 is licensed by CC-BY-SA-3.0

In 1680, the first groups of Huguenots to reach South Carolina arrived. While they weren’t the first or the last group, they were one of the largest. This is due to the fact that five years after the initial immigration, The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (AKA Edict of Fontainebleau) was issued. This edict officially made Protestantism in France illegal, increased persecution of Huguenots in France, and sped up their emigration.

Many of these Huguenots and their descendants excelled in business, industry, and politics during the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming part of the elite class of South Carolina and later the South in general.

Several historical plantations in South Carolina were created and owned by Huguenot families, such as Bonneau Ferry Plantation, Brabant Plantation, and others along French Quarter Creek. Current as of 2014, the Huguenot Society of South Carolina has a list of several hundred known and/or claimed Huguenot ancestors who immigrated to South Carolina prior to 1787.

4) Huguenots were also influential in Virginian society

The last major settlement of Huguenots was in Virginia. Many of those who eventually arrived in Virginia were already immigrants to England from France.

While the English were sympathetic (to a certain extent) to their plight as fellow Protestants, the Huguenots were still French and not even Anglican. So in 1700, the English Crown agreed for the Huguenots to settle in Lower Norfolk County (part of what is now the city of Chesapeake in Virginia). However, upon arrival, the local leadership (AKA the Virginia House of Burgesses) instead sent them to settle a deserted Native American village (Manakintown) up the James River and west of what is now Richmond, Virginia.

Five years later, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act to naturalize those Huguenots still in Manakintown. However, less than half of the initial Huguenot population still lived in Manakintown at that point, the rest either having died or moved into the surrounding areas.

In the following years, many of the original group’s descendants intermarried with their English neighbors and assimilated into the general culture, leaving most of their French roots in the past. According to The Huguenot Society of America, several important individuals in American history are descendants of Huguenots, including George Washington. (Apparently, his mother was of Huguenot descent.)

There are still several references to them in the Richmond area as well as a small but active congregation on part of the original land grant. The Huguenot Memorial Bridge crosses the James River on the western edge of Richmond, connecting with Huguenot Road south of the river. There is also a Huguenot High School within the city of Richmond.

5) Huguenots are still around today (technically)

While Huguenots (and their descendants) in general have integrated into the cultures of their respective homelands, the faith still exists and adherents (including descendants) can still be found in numerous countries across the world including France, the United States, and Australia. In particular, there are still active congregations in Charleston, South Carolina, and Midlothian, Virginia, as well as many other places. The Huguenot Society of America itself is based in New York City with congregations across the nation.

Additional Information For Genealogists and History Buffs

  • Historical Societies
    • The Huguenot Society of America (New York, New York) – Founded in 1883, it is one of the oldest historical societies dedicated to the history of the Huguenots. They have a physical library that contains collections on Huguenot history, genealogy, and other related subjects. Access to the library is by appointment only and their collections are generally not digitized. They also have college scholarships for descendants of Huguenots, grants for projects related to Huguenot history and culture, and sporadic events, newsletters, and bulletins.
    • Historic Huguenot Street (New Paltz, New York) – Probably one of the more organized historical societies dedicated to Huguenot history. The society has been around since 1894 and has educational programs, research facilities (the Schoonmaker Library is where their genealogical resources are located), events and even shopping (I’ve linked a couple of books from their online shop down below). If you are curious about Huguenot history in America or any Huguenot ancestors, this is definitely one of the places I’d recommend visiting. It does cost money (roughly $15 a person), but given that most historical and living history sites do charge and the cost includes a guided tour, it isn’t an exorbitant fee.
    • Huguenot Society of South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina) – Founded in 1885, the Huguenot Society of South Carolina now boasts over 2,000 members in the United States and overseas. It is dedicated to ‘[preserving] the memory of the Huguenots, [promoting] a better understanding of the values and culture of the Huguenots, and [maintaining] genealogical records of the immigrants to this country and their descendants.’ They have a scholarly journal, Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, which is published annually, as well as a library containing over 4,500 items of research material dating back to the 1600s. While it costs money to do research there if you are not a member of their society ($10), their collections are online, so any researcher can make sure that the library has what they are looking for, prior to their visit. They also have an online shop with plenty of Huguenot jewelry, books, and other items of interest.
    • The Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia (Midlothian, Virginia) – A smaller society founded in 1922 and dedicated to the ‘memory of French Protestant Refugees who settled at Manakintown and in the Colony of Virginia prior to 1786.’  They also have a small research library located at their headquarters in Midlothian, Virginia. Similar to the library in South Carolina, there are research costs ($25 for prospective members, $75 for non-members), but the library is an excellent place to find genealogical information if you have Huguenot ancestors who specifically settled in Virginia. Along with the library, the society also hosts 3 scholarships for students (1 for graduate and undergraduate students, 2 for high school students) and a shop offering a small selection of books (including genealogies) and Huguenot jewelry. Also of interest to anyone who may visit, the society is connected to a still active church and their headquarters are on the grounds where the original church was built in 1700. Lastly, their website is home to this gem: a list of historical Huguenot buildings in the surrounding counties.
    • Huguenot and New Rochelle Historical Association (New Rochelle, New York) – A small subset of the Westchester County Historical Society. While the association itself doesn’t have a website, there is contact information on the link provided above and the Westchester County Historical Society has publications (including a quarterly journal, The Westchester Historian) that would likely include history and information on the Huguenots at New Rochelle. Another resource for local history and possible genealogy information is the New Rochelle Public Library which houses a large local history and archival collection.
  • Non-Fiction
  • Fiction

 Questions? Comments?

     This post just scratches the surface of the information that is out there about Huguenots. If you have questions or comments on the subject, feel free to comment below. If you really enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with friends, family, or on social media. Most of all, if you enjoyed what you read here, check out my other blog posts or sign up for my email list.

Either way, have a wonderful day and stay tenacious!

  1. Hans J. Hillerbrand, Encyclopedia of Protestantism: 4-volume Set, paragraphs “France” and “Huguenots”
  2. Roth, Eric J. “”where Ye Walloens Dwell”: Rethinking the Ethnic Identity of the Huguenots of New Paltz and Ulster County, New York.” New York History 89, no. 4 (2008): 346-73.
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20081217223209/http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/notes/rn9_natural1657.pdf
  4. Ibid.
  5. “History of the Society,” Huguenot Society of South Carolina, accessed May 26, 2017, https://www.huguenotsociety.org/heritage/history-of-the-society/.
  6. “The Huguenot Society,” Huguenot Society FMCV -, accessed May 26, 2017, http://huguenot-manakin.org/manakin/society.php.

37 thoughts on “5 Things You Need To Know About Huguenot History (in North America)

  1. Johanna Mabee says:

    I thought you might be interested in a Huguenot settlement in Rotterdam Junction, New York. My late husband’s ancestor, Jan Pieterse Mabee settled there around 1705-6. Jan purchased his home (there was a house already there!) and land from a friend and mentor, Daniel Janse Van Antwerpen, who had arrived there in 1671. This property was lived in continuously, and remained in the Mabee family until 1993, when it was donated to the Schenectady County Historical Society. Today the Mabee House is a museum and is open year-round.

    • Lucy Lanning says:

      Thank you for sharing.
      Just to let you know, Louis Dubois & Christian Deyo are my 9th great grandfathers who founded New Paltz with 10 other men. “The Duzine”.
      I really need to make a trip back there.

        • Janet Hendrickson Munin says:

          I am also a DuBois descendent!
          I am just getting started with genealogy, and the DuBois family records have been an amazing resource!

          One day I want to visit The Old Fort.

  2. Judith a loubris MC Carthy says:

    Hi. Trying to find out more Loubris family. Can get back as far as hubert Loubris , maybe born 1809, father of Joseph Julian Loubris , born , 1832 , father of Emile , born, 1870, my grandfather, jules, felex, ernestine, and anna also known as Hannah. Joseph Julien Loubris was in the King of Belgium’s army in the 1800s. The family came to the USA around 1879. They ended up in the Boston, Massachusetts Area. Judy

  3. Barbara Koynok says:

    My name is Barbara Koynok (nee Eick)
    My Mother told me that we stem from the Huguenoten, I was born in Berlin Germany 1941, I am on Ancestry and would love to get more information.

  4. Lynda Hopkins says:

    My husband has Huguenot ancestry and has provided the HSA his genealogy. There were Huguenot descendants in Connecticut. And, yes there really is a scholarship for descendants who can prove their ancestry!

  5. Robert Gaston says:

    How does one use genealogical resources that are available? I have been told my family immigrated from France to Scotland in the 17th century, and then to what was known as the Irish plantation in the early 18th century. They then immigrated to North America from what is now Northern Ireland. I have no record of any of my immediate family with the Surname Gaston living outside either North or South Carolina.

    • Laura Nelson says:

      I don’t know how much prior experience you have with genealogical resources, so it’s hard to pinpoint one answer for your question. There are a variety of free courses and informational guides through places like Ancestry and FamilySearch online. Your local historical society or genealogical society may also have guides or classes to help you get started. In regards to searching for the last name Gaston, if you haven’t already, try expanding your search to similarly spelled or sounding names. A LOT of French names got misspelled when people moved from French speaking areas to non- French speaking areas for a variety of reasons. So ‘Gaston’ could have been ‘Gastonne’ or ‘Gastin’ or another variation.

    • Thomas J. Singleton says:

      I was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, which had a thriving linen industry, thanks to Huguenot settlement there ! Castle Gardens are so-named due to the remainder of the Huguenot Castle there ! Their religion also is dominant, praise the Lord. They also marched with King William the Third, (William of Orange), to defeat James the second at the battles of the Boyne 1/7 and Drogheda 12/7/1690, thus ensuring the freedom of religion which we enjoy today ! Amen

  6. Karen Digby says:

    Part of my ancestors were Huguenots named Shacklett and married within their family. My grandmother was Minerva Mills but both parents had a Shacklett parent. I would like to know more about this Shacklett family and their history.

  7. Hon. A. Vance Renfroe says:

    Good day to all. I am Aubrey Vance Renfroe. My matriarchal grandfather was Andrew Jackson Roberts of Mississippi. My 8th great grandfather was Rev. Pierre Robert, born in St. Imier, in French-speaking Switzerland, and my 7th was his son, Rev. Jeane John Robert. That covers the South Carolina Huguenots. Another great grandfather was Francis Cooke, signator of the Mayflower Compact, another Huguenot/Walloon. My home is now Fernandina Beach FL, not far from the site of the two failed Huguenot colonization attempts in Florida. Here is a link to an interesting first-person account of one of these Huguenot defeats by the Spanish: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/spanishmassacre.htm. This event occurred near what is now Huguenot Memorial Park. The Kingsley Plantation is nearby. It is well worth your time to visit Kingsley. The beach is the main focus at the Memorial Park.

    • Mary Nell Robarts Puglisi says:

      Hi my name is Mary Nell Robarts Puglisi. I too am a descendant of Pirrre Robert. I would have to look in my books to see how many generations to go back to Pierre Robert. Very interesting. One of the Roberts changed his name to Robarts. I believe his name was John.

    • Michel Aver says:

      Thank you for the advice on Kingsley Plantation–I aim to also visit Fort Caroline later this year and will include it. I am a descendant of Claude Philippe de Richebourg (8th GG Father) and Dr Pierre Chastain of the same era. My family continues to use French names to this day including Aubrey (uncle) Audrey (grandfather) Onnie, Colette (mother) and numerous males named Claude. By coincidence I was born near Tours, France (where many ancestors originated) and have distant relatives in Quebec where I often visit. Our French history is strong but so overshadowed by the British ancestry who, as victors, rewrote and perhaps purposely excluded references of the French families, which is a challenge to rediscover.

    • Michael says:

      Hello Hon Renfroe. I am a direct descendant of Huguenot Claude de Richebourg and am intrigued by the settlement of Huguenot’s in North America and how strong their settlement was throughout the deep south . I intend to visit Fort Caroline + Charleston on a road trip through Dixie and finish up in New Paltz, NY. The contribution of French settlers in North America is often overlooked, I feel. Separately, I did extensive research and travel to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to research Acadian history (pre-cursors to the “Cajuns” of Louisiana) who were of course not Huguenots. Even in NE Canada, French history often takes 2nd place to English history. I’ll also visit Kingsley Plantation – thanks for your post.

  8. Alta Oosthuizen says:

    Hi Laura,

    A group of Huguenots also settled in the Cape of Good Hope around 1680.
    Although the language was lost early, their culture, and customs left a huge influence in South Africa.

  9. Ruth M. Hawkins says:

    Interesting–I am a descendanr of Louis DuBois through 3
    of his children, mainly his daughter, Sarah DuBois VanMeter. The VanMeters were early settlers in western Virginia. Currently I am researching my Forshey ancestors who came from France, settled in Piscataway area of New Jersey (Obadiah marriied Joanna Manning there), then migrated to western Pennsylvania and eventually to Monroe County, Ohio. Thomas Washington Forshey died there. He served in the Revolution. I think he is a son of Obadiah but—. Any suggestions, please?!?

    I am a descendant of three of the children of Louis DuBois, mainly through his daughter who married

    I am a descendant of three of the children of Louis DuBois, mainly his daughter, Sarah DuBois Van Meter. Currently I am trying to trace the ancestors of Thomas Forshey, who was a revolu

  10. Jennifer Mishoe says:

    Our family descended from the colony in South Carolina. There is a place called the Hobcaw Barony that contains 5 original plantations of which the Mishoe plantation is one. They grew rice and indigo. It is open for van tours. It is south of Georgetown , SC.

  11. Leslie Jabine says:

    Our family (Jabine) is descended from the Jabouin line (you can see this on the list of names associated with New Rochelle during colonial times in the New Rochelle history timeline). I have no idea when we became “Jabine”s, or what other spellings “Jabouin” evolved into. Any clues to tracking these family name changes?

  12. Reta Fae Cochrane Grant says:

    My Huguenot ancestor was the same as Martha Washington’s, Gideon Macon. I also have Mabe (Maibe, Mabee) ancestors and wondered if they were also Huguenots. They settled in Virginia.

  13. Pat Taylor says:

    Very interesting. In my tree I have found at least 2 Huguenot families. One family name is Secord. They settled in New Rochelle, but some were Loyalists and they spent a lot of time in Ontario, Canada and eventually made it back to the USA. They were from LaRochelle, France. The other family is Larrick and they were from Alsace, France and went to the Channel Islands and got on an Irish ship to Dover, Delaware in 1755. Their original name was LaRoche and it was changed when they settled in Virginia by 1760.

  14. Susan Anne Bewley Mazzone says:

    My Grandfather’s Mother, Mary Pae Poole was a descendent of her Mother whose family used to be DuPay and dropped the Du and changed spelling of Pay to escape religious persecution in France. I am very interested to learn more about my ancestors. I am grateful to family members who wrote of our ancestry.

  15. Gayle Huguenin groff says:

    I am a Huguenin. From France via Montreal Canada. Always believed connected to Huguenots —— is there any connection?

  16. Bob Marshall says:

    Hesther Mahieu wife of Francis Cooke (Mayflower)
    Huguenot, my ancestors.
    Tracking them down was HARD, My Great Aunt was extremely happy that I bashed my head against that Brick wall long enough it fell over. My family, weird.

  17. Dianne Durrant (nee Rover) says:

    My paternal grandfather Louis Rover was born in Northern Germany in 1868. With his family he migrated to Durham England. In the 1890’s he worked for the Northern German Shipping Company and came to Australia. His maiden older sister Mathilda corresponded for many years with the Rover relatives who migrated to New York, in particular Anna. I have photographs of these relatives. I have a letter Anna wrote to Mathilda during World War 2 voicing concern for Carl, my father, who was a engineer on a US merchant ship in the Pacific. He was based in Seattle during the war.

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