The Schwabendorf Book of Families

A map of Schwabendorf’s town center in 1732. If you look halfway down the left-hand side, you can see what looks like “Chastangs”. This is the Chastain residence. In 1732 it would have consisted of the newly widowed Anne Marie Chastain and her two sons, Pierre and Alexandre.

The Schwabendorf Book of Families finally made its way across the Atlantic and into my eager little hands. This book, published by a historical society in Schwabendorf, Germany, contains details on all of the families that lived in Schwabendorf from 1687 until 1925. I can now fully trace my ancestry back nine generations to Pierre Chastain, the last Chastain of France and the first Chastain in Germany. Here are all of my ancestors and the details about their families starting with Pierre.

Pierre was first recorded in Germany in 1687 (he came from the Dauphiné Province of France). I don’t have his exact whereabouts until he became the schoolmaster in Louisendorf from 1692 until 1715 (he was also a doctor). Then, in 1717, he moved to Schwabendorf and married Anne Marie Gautier on February 18th. Anne was born on March 3, 1701. They had two children, Pierre, born on December 29, 1718, and Alexandre, born on January 27, 1727.  Pierre the Elder, being much older than Anne, died in February of 1731. Anne died on April 11, 1755. Anne’s paternal grandfather’s name was Alexandre. I’m guessing that Alexandre Chastain was named after him. This is most likely when it first became a popular name within the family.

Alexandre Chastain, a farmer and hatmaker, married Anne Marie Grisail on June 5, 1750. Anne was born in November, 1730. They had six children – Anne Marie, Jean Pierre, Gaspard Adolphe, Suzanne, Catherine Elisabeth, and another Anne Marie. Alexandre died on March 7, 1793. Anne died in 1792.

Jean Pierre, Alexandre’s second child, was born in 1754. He was a farmer and hatmaker like his father. He married Christine Aillaud in September of 1781. Christine was born on June 30, 1757. They had eight children – Alexandre, Anna Maria, Gaspard Adolph, Jean Pierre, Christian, Pierre, another Pierre, and another Jean Pierre. Jean Pierre died on May 6, 1822. Christine died on November 11, 1816.

Christian, a farmer, was Jean Pierre and Christine’s fifth child and was born on October 17, 1792. He married Catherine Elisabeth Sprenger on October 9, 1819 (Sprenger isn’t French! It took the Chastains over a hundred years to start marrying the native Germans). Catherine was born on May 25, 1793. They had ten children – Pierre, Wilhelm, Adolf, Conrad, another Adolf, Catherine, N.N. (not sure what this stands for), Peter, Françon, and Henrich. Of the ten children, only Pierre and Conrad lived past the age of sixteen. In 1845, when Conrad was 20, he emigrated to America. Christian died on April 8, 1849. Catherine died on June 8, 1848.

Pierre Chastain, Christian and Catherine’s firstborn, was born on August 9, 1820. This is Peter Alexander Chastain I, my great-great-great grandfather and my first ancestor to come to America. He married Catherine Doersch on September 22, 1844. Catherine was born on February 3, 1820. They had four children – Conrad, Françon, Peter (Peter Alexander Chastain II), and Heinrich. They emigrated to America in 1860.

Hugenotten und Waldenser in Hessen-Kassel or I Wish I Knew German

Charles I, the prince of Hesse-Kassel who invited Huguenot refugees to settle his lands

Charles I, the prince of Hesse-Kassel who invited Huguenot refugees to settle his lands

I don’t recall how I found it, but at some point during my research, I discovered a German book titled Hugenotten und Waldenser in Hessen-Kassel. It’s 500 pages of the history of Huguenot refugees in the Hesse-Kassel Province of Germany, which is where Schwabendorf and Louisendorf reside. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is an English translation. Fortunately, I’ve found a native German speaker who is willing to help me translate.

There are whole sections on Schwabendorf and Louisendorf in this book so it was with more hope than usual that I checked the index for Chastain. And there it was. Out of all of the books that I’ve read, skimmed through, and investigated over the last few weeks, this was the first that specifically mentioned my family. I haven’t had it translated yet so you’ll have to bear with my own feeble attempts for now.

Provinces of France circa 1685. The Chastains came from the Dauphiné Province in the southeast.

Provinces of France circa 1685. The Chastains came from the Dauphiné Province in the southeast.

The first mention is on page 331, towards the beginning of a chapter on Schwabendorf. There are some families listed here along with their places of origin in France. To the Rauschenberg – Schwabendorf area of Hesse came four families from the Dauphiné Province of France – Arnoux, Chabriére, Chastain and Le Clerc. This confirms my speculations in a previous post – the Chastains came from the Dauphiné. The book states that they arrived in July of 1687. They most likely resided in Switzerland for a year or two before this (I’m still researching this angle). My new theory based on this information is that the Chastains initially settled in Rauschenberg before moving on to Louisendorf and, ultimately, Schwabendorf. My family was in Germany from 1687 to 1860 – 173 years. That’s longer than we’ve been in America.

The next mention is on page 334. I can’t make out the entire sentence, but I believe it simply states that there was a Pierre Chastain practicing medicine in Schwabendorf in the mid-18th century. This is most likely referring to Pierre the Younger, the son of Pierre the Elder who had moved from Louisendorf.

Huguenot Colonies in the Hesse-Kassel Province. Louisendorf, Marburg, Rauschenberg, and Schwabendorf  are all in the southwest.

Huguenot Colonies in the Hesse-Kassel Province of Germany. Louisendorf and Schwabendorf are in the southwest.

The next entry for Chastain is page 345. This page contains a list of sources for the chapter on Schwabendorf. Among this list is the following – “5/5966: Hutmacher Chastain 1791”. Pierre the Elder’s second son, Alexandre Chastain, was a farmer and a hatmaker (hutmacher). Alexandre died in 1793 so this could have been written by him. After a little digging, I found this in the Hessian State Archives of Marburg, Germany.

HStAM Best. 5 Nr. 5966
Freie Ausübung des Hutmachergewerbes durch den Refugié und Kolonisten Pierre Chastain zu Schwabendorf
1791

This is the source that the authors of Hugenotten und Waldenser in Hessen-Kassel were referring to. The title translates roughly to “The Free Exercise of Hatmakers” though it says the author is Pierre Chastain, not Alexandre. This is another puzzle I’m working on. I’ve requested a copy from Marburg.

The next entry is on page 350, which is in a chapter covering the settlement of Louisendorf. I’m not really sure what’s going on in this paragraph. The best that I can make out is that Pierre Chastain, the school master, said that the new church wasn’t built very well. (I will update my awful translations with the real thing once they’re completed.)

Town Map of Louisendorf

Town Map of Louisendorf

Page 363, another sources page, mentions the following item as a source for the Louisendorf chapter- “5/9838: Armand und Chastain 1701”. I’ve also found this one in the Hessian State Archives in Marburg.

HStAM Best. 5 Nr. 9838
Angeblich unrechtmäßig von Pierre Chatain in Besitz genommene Kolonieportion der Witwe des Pierre Armant in Hammonshausen (Louisendorf)
1701

I’m not sure what this translates to, but I believe it was written by Pierre Chastain in Louisdendorf in 1701. I’ve requested a copy of this from Marburg as well.

The final entry for Chastain is on page 461. This section lists all of the known schoolmasters for the villages settled by the refugees. In Louisendorf, Pierre Chastain was the schoolmaster from 1692 to 1715. Previous to this, the earliest record I had of Pierre was him moving from Louisendorf to Schwabendorf in 1717. This list of schoolmasters takes us 25 years further in the past, and we now have Chastain records going all the way back to the 17th century.

Schoolmasters of Louisendorf. Currently the oldest record I have of my Chastain line.

Schoolmasters of Louisendorf. Currently the oldest record I have of my Chastain line.

If Pierre was old enough to be a schoolmaster in 1692, and the mass exodus of the Huguenots from France didn’t occur until 1685, only 7 years prior, then Pierre is the missing link between Germany and France. I now know for certain that he came from the Dauphiné Province. My hope is to continue researching until I discover the exact town. There may be an even older trail to pick up in France as I dig greedily back towards the 16th century.