I’ve been having fun poking around in the charity registers that I mentioned last week. I’ve discovered three other Chastains from Vesc besides Pierre—Jacob, Jacques, and Etienne. The only other Chastain in the records is Jean Jacques, from Annonay, which is a bit further north in the Dauphiné. So it appears, based on what I’ve found so far, that there was a clan of Chastains in the Vesc area.
Another page lists some mid-17th century Chastains in Dieulefit, which is just 7 miles to the west of Vesc. I don’t think it’s preposterous to assume there is a connection. I’ve reached out to some folks in France to see if there are any records for Chastains in this area.
But, back to the charity registers, I discovered something of a mystery. A search for Chastain only reveals three records for Pierre. But when I search for Vesc, there is a fourth rogue record. Someone—either the original clerk over 300 years ago or whoever entered the information in the database recently—misspelled Chastain as Chaistain. This record states that Pierre requested assistance in Frankfurt, Germany on 08/13/1688.
This is slightly confusing since he was known to be further north in July of 1687. Perhaps the July of 1687 date is simply for when he reached Germany? As I’ve been saying, I don’t have his exact location in Germany pinned down until he was recorded in Louisendorf in 1692. Perhaps he was already settled there by 1688 but headed down to Frankfurt to get more money?
The above doesn’t really bother me too much. What is really confusing is that this record from Frankfurt states that he was traveling from Maburg (in Hesse near Schwabendorf and Louisendorf) to Geneva. So, according to this, in 1688, he was leaving the Hesse Province of Germany and heading back to Geneva, Switzerland? Is this possible? I suppose so. The refugees in Louisendorf were initially unhappy with their ramshackle houses until the Landgrave built them new ones. For a while, they considered moving on to a new country. On top of this, many Huguenots held out hope that Louis XIV would come to his senses and reinstate religious toleration. Maybe Pierre was fed up with his stone hut and decided to head back to Geneva, closer to his homeland, in case Louis did change his mind? Or perhaps he was heading back to the French Border to lead waiting friends and family to their new home in Germany? It could explain why there is an initial record of him in Germany in 1687 but then nothing for five years.
Or maybe the information is reversed. Maybe he had come from Geneva and was headed to Marburg. It’s possible that, along with the misspelling of Chastain, another mistake was made. This seems the most likely explanation to me. I’ve requested a copy of the original document from the Frankfurt archives. It may be clarifying.
One final note. This record also contains a comment, “On the recommendation of Barthelemey Schobinger”. I’d love to know what this means. The only Barthelemy Schobinger I can find is a Swiss alchemist, dead one hundred years prior to Pierre Chastain’s arrival in Frankfurt. Another mystery.