The French Connection: At Least 0.04%

If you did a keyword analysis of my blog, you might conclude that I’m obsessed with food: cocktails, French pastries, and the search for pancakes in Paris. You might be right. The truth is that I am a gourmand; I can’t deny it. But my real passion — my real obsession — is history.

HISTORY NERD ALERT: If you don’t like history, this may not be your favorite blogpost, but try it out anyway. You might find it interesting. If you’re in my family, you’re going to want to read this regardless of whether you like history, because it’s your story too!

Here we go …

Dubosc • DuBose

I have always loved to immerse myself in old stories and, as a child, I often imagined myself in other times, leading a different life in the midst of some historical event about which I was reading. I loved listening to family stories, too, especially those of my Great Aunt Adeline, who could recount the exploits and travails of the family with such color that you had the impression that she was actually there when it all happened. I probably owe my love of history to some combination of Aunt Adeline’s stories and the World Book Encyclopedia.

As soon as I arrived in Paris a few years ago, I very quickly found myself enraptured not only by the beauty of the city, but by the depth of history that is always present, sometimes obscured by modernity, but always just beneath the surface. Michel has pointed out on a few occasions that when we come across an old building or monument, he is struck by its form, its colors, and its beauty, but I am struck by a sense of wonder at what happened there, to whom, and why. I knew that I had some French ancestors in my family tree (although they were very, very deep in the roots), so it’s no surprise that I soon started to wonder about my genealogical connection to France, however attenuated it might be.

I knew from Aunt Adeline that I was descended from the Joseys who — according to at least one account — were Huguenots (French Protestants) who emigrated to Scotland from France during the 1500s and anglicized their name before eventually emigrating to Virginia in the mid-1600s. I decided to delve into my old genealogical records and do some heavy-duty research on ancestry.com to track down the first French Josey. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I ended up tracing the family back to Virginia in the 1600s, to London in the 1500s, and to Scotland in the 1400s. There were Josseys, and Jossys, and even Jowseys, but the French connection remained elusive, and the Huguenot story seemed to fade in the light of my research. It seemed that I had reached a dead-end.

But then … the lightbulb went off:

There are DuBoses in my family! Now, THAT‘s a good French name!*

I knew that I was descended from Peter DuBose, a captain in the South Carolina militia who served during the Revolutionary War under the “Swamp Fox,” General Francis Marion (incidentally, also of Huguenot extraction). I consulted my family tree to confirm it — yep, there he was: my fifth great grandfather. (That would be my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandmother’s father. Yeah, we’re really close.) He’s not a major historical figure by any stretch of the imagination — well, maybe in the South where everyone has a dead hero in the family plot — but he is known to history, and I knew that there would be some good records about his life. After all, he’s famous enough to have a historical site marker on the side of Highway 15 just north of Bishopville attesting to his role in the Revolution and marking the location of his nearby grave. He would be the perfect place to restart the search. Back to ancestry.com …

Captain Peter DuBose
Captain Peter DuBose

After tracing backwards from Peter just one generation, I found my French connection:

Andrew Dubose

Peter’s father, Andrew Dubose, was born in 1699 in Jamestown, Carolina (also known as St. James Santee or “French Santee” because of the large number of French settlers in the area) and was the first of my French ancestors born on American soil. Andrew’s parents, both of whom were Huguenots, had emigrated from France because of religious persecution there. Andrew’s father, Isaac Dubosc, was from Dieppe in Normandy and immigrated to Carolina between 1685 and 1687, probably by way of London where it appears he had immigrated by 1682. (There is a record of his giving testimony at the Threadneedle Street church in London on August 23, 1682.) Isaac’s wife, Susanne Couillandeau, was born in La Tremblade in Saintonge (or Xaintonge), in the region now known as Poitou-Charente, just north of Bordeaux. (If you speak French, please no jokes about her family name. I’ve already heard them from my French friends. If you don’t speak French, don’t worry about it. Write to me and I’ll explain.)

Conflicting sources raise questions about whether Susanne immigrated separately from Isaac, or if she, too, immigrated first to London before going on to Carolina with him. It does appear that her mother, Marie Fougeraut was in London and was (once again?) a widow, before she immigrated to Carolina. In any case, both Isaac and Susanne, as well as Susanne’s mother Marie and her brother Pierre, appear on a “List of French and Swiss Refugees in the Province of Carolina who wished to be Naturalised English,” a document prepared in 1695/1696 based on the passenger manifests of various ships arriving in Charles Towne at that time. The South Carolina archives include a 1691 deed she signed along with her son Peter or Pierre Couillandeau, her son-in-law Isaac Dubosq, and his wife and her daughter Susana Dubosq. Isaac Dubosc’s name was later transcribed in The Royal Land Grants book, now archived in Columbia, as both “Isaac DuBosek” and “Isaac Dubose,” hence the several variations of the original French name used at different times even by the same person. According to some records, the couple were married in French Santee in 1688 and had ten children, of which Andrew was the sixth. Other records indicate that they married as early as 1680 (either in France or in England).

A list of Huguenot settlers at Santee in the Carolina colony. In the first column you can see my 7th great-grandfather, Isaac Dubose, and my 8th great-grandfather (his father-in-law), Pierre Couillandeau.
A list of Huguenot settlers at Santee in the Carolina colony. In the first column you can see my 7th great-grandfather, Isaac Dubose, my 8th great-grandmother (his mother-in-law), Marie Fougeraut, and her son, Isaac’s brother-in-law, Pierre Couillandeau. Source: Lee, Hannah Farnham Sawyer. The Huguenots in France and America. Cambridge: John Owen, 1843.
Here you see the continuation of the list of settlers, including Benjamin Marion, who was the grandfather of the
Here you see the continuation of the list of settlers, including Benjamin Marion, who was the grandfather of the “Swamp Fox,” General Francis Marion, under whom my 5th great-grandfather, Peter DuBose, fought as a captain during the American Revolution. This is an interesting discovery for me, because it shows that the grandparents of both Francis Marion and my ancestor, Peter DuBose, were from the same Huguenot settlement. Source: Lee, Hannah Farnham Sawyer. The Huguenots in France and America. Cambridge: John Owen, 1843.

Now, a little backstory:

The period during which my French ancestors came to America was one of relatively heavy Huguenot emigration, not only to America (particularly Carolina), but to England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and the Dutch colonies in South Africa as well. Despite the Edict of Nantes, which had been promulgated in 1598 by King Henry IV to end the religious wars in France by granting limited freedom of religion to Protestants, the position of Huguenots fluctuated continuously according to the tides of domestic politics and France’s foreign relations with neighboring Protestant powers. During the reign of Henry’s son Louis XIII, and especially after his son Louis XIV acceded to the throne, persecution of Protestants increased significantly.

In the 1660s, as the crisis was coming to a head, the Huguenot leadership elected a delegation to go to the King’s court to plead the Huguenot cause. The delegate from the churches in Normandy was a cousin of my ancestor Isaac Dubosc: Pierre du Bosc, the minister of the Protestant church in Caen and widely considered the greatest Huguenot preacher of his day. His words to the King were said to be so eloquently delivered that the King retired to his chambers to reflect upon them:

“We are everywhere forced to the wall. Our condition is one of calamity; it is no longer endurable. Our houses of worship have been taken away. We are forbidden to practice our trades. We are not allowed to make a living. When they see the dike broken, they will expect the waters to burst through in a great flood. And in confusion and fear, each man will seek safety in flight. The Kingdom of France will witness the departure of more than a million people, to the great harm of business, manufacturing, farming, the trades and the arts, and to the whole prosperity of the Realm.”

The Protestant Church in Caen, where du Bosc was minister
The Protestant Church in Caen, where du Bosc was minister

Despite du Bosc’s eloquence that day and the esteem in which the King subsequently held him, the situation continued to deteriorate over time. Ultimately, the King revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and Protestantism was once again illegal in France. The wars of religion were not reignited but, as du Bosc had predicted, the floodgates of emigration to England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, and America were opened, and  the trickle of immigration that included my ancestors Isaac and Susanne turned into a veritable exodus in which 400,000 Huguenots fled the country.

So there you have the story of my French connection: how the last of my purely French ancestors was also one of my first ancestors born in America. Having a sixth great grandfather (my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandmother’s grandfather) who was French makes me just 1/256 French, but at least it’s nice to know where that 0.04% comes from!

* The name DuBose is generally said to derive from the French “du bois” meaning “from the woods.” The name “Dubosc” or “du Bosc” derives from the Norman dialect for the same expression.

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© 2011, Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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27 thoughts on “The French Connection: At Least 0.04%

  1. Thank you. The information you shared is with style and meaning.

    In the lower branches, or amongst leaves and twigs under the family tree, perhaps there might be a trace of me.

    Recently, just outside Opp, AL, some maintenance was necessary to the grave of my grandfather, Hillary Hubbard DuBose, which is located alongside the grave of his father, CSA Pvt. Jeptha DuBose.
    The occasion was intriguing and stirring.

    1. So happy you enjoyed the post! I have always been a fan of history (including family history), so it’s always a treat when the two nicely coincide. During my next trip to Bishopville, I think I’ll contact the owner of this tract of land to see if I can arrange a visit to the gravesite of Capt. DuBose. What a treat that would be.

  2. Enjoyed the article! But I have prove of my relationship to Captain Peter DuBose. Put 5 in front of grandfather from Middleton DuBose, his son. i lice in Sumter, SC and I know where the grave is and I have had problems finding out who the owner of the property is now. I do know it is rented out for farming. Would love to compare history.
    Jean McCaskill

    1. Thanks for the message, Jean. It’s great to hear from another descendant. I’m descended from Captain DuBose through his daughter Elaine, who married Asa Woodham. Their daughter Pheriba married James Simpson Skinner, my great-great-great grandfather. Their son, William James Worth Skinner was the father of Henry Lee Skinner, who was the father of my grandfather, Willard Buddin Skinner. Do you know my mom, by any chance? Frances Skinner Bell? I don’t know if you have family in Lee County, but we know lots of McCaskills, and my mom used to teach in Sumter at LcLauren High School.

      I still haven’t checked on the owner of that plot of land to see if I can make it out to the gravestone, but I really need to call the Chamber of Commerce and see if I can arrange a visit there. I drive by it often,

      1. My line starts with Middleton DuBose, Peter’s son. His daughter Frances married Robert Scarborough and one of their sons Middleton, married Lousia Carter and thus my grandmother Willie Mary Scarborough married Charles Beasley and my mother came along Betty Jean and married my Dad O.D. McCaskill, I also am on the line of Middleton DuBose youngest daughter Edwina who marrried James A Beasley, their son Lucius married Geneva Nichols, whose son Charles married Willie Mary Scarborough. I am double kin to myself. The McCaskills that I am mostly kin to live in Kershaw county. I went to McLaurin when I was in 7th-9th grades. My grandparents Charles and Willie Mary lived in Bishopville. They are buried at Bethlehem Cemetary in Bishopville as well as a lot of DuBoses. Did your mom used to live over behind Davis Street in Bishopville and teach Home EC?

      2. That’s her! Apparently she used to ride the bus to school with your mother and knows your family. Small world! Very cool that you found my article since we’re apparently distant cousins!

      3. Yeah!!!!! She was my Home Ec teacher, and she went to school with my mother. Never knew though that we were related. Small world when youstart looking at family history. And I am glad that I found your article.

      4. Yes, indeed! Very glad that you found the article as well. I hope you’ll like other articles on the blog, too. It’s a pretty eclectic mix of subjects, but something interesting for everyone. 🙂

  3. I am a descendent of Isaac’ DuBose’s son, John, and live in Sumter County, South Carolina. The grave of Captain Peter DuBose is in a small cemetery that is very close to the highway and an short walk through planted fields.

    1. Well, hello distant cousin! Thanks for the post. Yes, we drive past the historical marker on Hwy. 15 just before Lynches River very often. I will be back in South Carolina in September and I want to make plans to see the family cemetery. Having been there before, do you think I should contact the owner of the land beforehand? I don’t want to make anyone mad by tramping through his fields.

  4. Would you contact me privately? I have several important points I’d like to discuss with you concerning Isaac & Suzanne (Couillandeau) DuBose and her mother, Marie.

      1. Greetings. Nice blog. I was always curious about the different spelling (DuBosc) and you’ve explained it. I, too, an descended from Isaac and Suzanne. I must say I’m quite curious regarding Anita’s post mentioning them. If possible, could you email me as well, Anita? My email is cdubose09@gmail.com. Thank you!

  5. My name is john dubose descedant of the same isaac and susanne dubose. It is always a joy to read anything written about the family. Most of the public record information and some that is not has been apart of my evryday life since i was a child taking in the services at the huguenot church in cha as i dorleston as my father was a geneaoligist for our family.
    If you love history as i do then our family history a rich one. I urge you to do as much digging and learning as possible into the lives of these ancestors and other family branches. Thank you for your interest and your post.

    1. Thanks for your comment, John. This has truly been a great experience for me. Thanks to Isaac and Susanne, I’ve finally joined the Huguenot Society of SC. I’ve written a few more articles on the blog about that process. Again, thanks for the comment and for visiting the blog! Take care, “cousin”!

      1. Just this week have forwarded an application to join the Huguenot Society of South Carolina.. Direct descendant of Andrew Dubose through Andrew (Jr) also a Captain during the Revolution under Francis Marion. Peter ( named after his Uncle) .. Elias..and on.. Must be a ton of Dubose’s in the group. If approved, look forward to the April meeting.. Wife and I both love Charleston…

    2. Hey brother, didnt expect to find you here. Glad to know youre interested in the geneology. Dad showed me the mcdowell book and i never figured out which of isaacs sons we descended from. If someone could tell me id greatly appreciate it as its been burning in my mind for 30 years

      1. Laurence, you are descended from Isaac & Suzanne’s son Isaac DuBose & Madelaine Rembert. I have your lineage, also, David R. DuBose (on DuBose Forum on Facebook) is in your line.

  6. Hello,
    I am trying to help a man named Frank Dubose put his coat of arms on something large like a blanket as he is going blind. The image on your page is very similar to the tracing he gave me to show what his coat of arms is. Could you possibly direct me to a place where I could get rights to the image to use for the purpose of enlarging it for him? He has traced his family back to the 13th century, so I don’t want to direct him to a different coat of arms like I am finding on the commercial websites. Thanks!

  7. Well hey there cousin. I am also a Dubose. My line was from Peter and then to John Franklin married Tina Elta who are my great grandparents. Cool find thanks for the info.

  8. I too am a direct decendant of Andrew DuBose. Pleased to meet you all, love and peace be with you and your famlies.

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