After countless hours and many frustrating dead ends, I’ve finally found Pierre Chastain’s hometown. During my research last summer, I discovered that most of the Huguenot refugees who settled in the Hesse Province of Germany (where the Huguenot colonies of Louisendorf and Schwabendorf were established) came from the Dauphiné Province in France. A bit later, I acquired evidence that Pierre was counted among this majority as he was himself from the Dauphiné, but, unfortunately, his hometown was unknown.
Before making their way into Germany, these refugees first fled to Switzerland, and, critically, as it turns out, the Swiss kept charity registers during this time period. These registers contain the names of the French refugees who were given monetary assistance while in Switzerland. I had been searching for them for months with the hope that they would provide clues to Pierre’s past. I’ve finally found them.
The French Genealogy Blog recently posted about Huguenot research and resources in Switzerland. Among the resources was a link to the charity registers. After a half a year of looking, here they were staring me in the face (luck has played a starring role since I started this research). I quickly navigated to the database holding the assistance records and typed Chastain into the search query. Nine results were returned. Three of them were for a Pierre Chastain.
Now, let me just mention a few relevant items about the Pierre Chastain who is my earliest known ancestor. He was first known to be in Germany by July of 1687. He was a surgeon. And, I’ll mention it again, he was from the Dauphiné Province of France.
What information did the charity registers have for the Pierre Chastain in their search results? His province of origin was the Dauphiné. Check. His occupation was surgeon and apothecary. Check. The three dates when he applied for assistance were 11/22/1686, 11/24/1686, and 2/20/1687. Check. This corresponds perfectly with his arrival in Germany in July of 1687. And, the big discovery, the registers list his hometown—Vesc, France.
These details also dovetail with a map of the Huguenot Trail that I found (based on the route most French refugees took into Germany). Vesc is near the beginning of the trail in France. The three towns in Switzerland where Pierre applied for assistance were Neuchâtel, Neuveville, and Schaffhausen. Not only are all three of these Swiss towns on the trail, but they are each progressively farther along the trail as it nears Germany. The puzzle I’ve been trying to finish since last summer is finally complete. The Chastains came from Vesc.