A Very, Very, Very Fine House

Five generations of Chastains lived in this house in Schwabendorf, Germany from 1724-1851.

From 1724-1851, five generations of the Chastain family lived in this house in Schwabendorf, Germany.1

In 1724, Pierre Chastain is the first recorded owner of house number 15 on Sommerseite (Summerside) Street in Schwabendorf. Including Pierre, the house stayed in the Chastain family for 5 generations (Pierre, Alexandre, Jean Pierre, Christian, and Peter). In 1851, Peter Chastain, having become responsible for the debt obligations of his siblings, was no longer able to afford living there.

He sold it to a merchant named Salomon Salzenstein, and, in turn, it was quickly purchased by a relative and neighbor, Conrad Aillaud, for 800 thalers. The property was described as such, “residential house with cultivated farm land along with a barn, stables and a yard opposite the house”2.

Peter and family moved into a smaller, more affordable house, number 9 on Sommerseite, just down the street. Here the Chastains lived until 1860 when, because of an increasingly difficult economic situation, they left for America.

1 Badouin, Gerhard. Vom Val Cluson nach Schwabendorf : die Waldenserfamilien Aillaud und Vinçon. Rauschenberg-Schwabendorf: Arbeitskreis für die Geschichte der Hugenotten und Waldenser Schwabendorf e.V., 1996.
2 ibid.

The Mayors of Schwabendorf

Dürer, Albrecht. The Adoration of the Magi. Oil on Panel. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. 1504.
The mayor of Schwabendorf was elected annually on the Festival of Epiphany. This holy day is on the sixth of January, the first day after Christmastide, and celebrates the adoration of Christ by the Magi.

The following, an excerpt from Die Hugenotten in Hessen-Kassel1 by Franz-Anton Kadell, translated by Ann Sherwin2, is a fascinating slice of Schwabendorf’s history circa 1750, involving, among others, Alexandre Chastain, my six times great-grandfather.

An unusual dispute arose in Schwabendorf in the year 1750 over the office of Grebe1, in the course of which the Germans and French split into two factions. In earlier times, the colony had elected or reconfirmed the Greben annually on Epiphany. Around 1734, the Rauschenberg district appointed Georg Wilhelm Keseler as permanent Grebe, with no resistance from the colony. Beginning in 1740, the Grebe of Schwabendorf was provided an annual payment of 3 Viertel2 of grain. Then tensions arose between the community, on the one hand, and the Grebe, the treasurer, and Mayor Stiglitz of Rauschenberg on the other. Pastor Riccardi, above all, spoke out in criticism of both sides. The government in Marburg finally ordered an investigation by councilman and advocatus fisci3 Hamel, which resulted in a formal declaration, on July 23, 1742, of the colony’s right to elect its Grebe annually. It stipulated that the office could also be awarded to a German and that the officeholder should receive a key to the church, for access to the clock, but that he had to see that the fire rake was stored elsewhere. Despite the government directive, Keseler did not give up, and in August 1742 he produced a character reference from the Rauschenberg mayor. It took a formal decree of dismissal dated June 28, 1743, and reconfirmation of the colonists’ right to elect their Grebe before he would step down.

In 1750 the matter was resurrected. Keseler applied to the government in Kassel for the office of Grebe once again. In his opinion, the residents had dismissed him earlier out of jealousy. In the period that followed, they had repeatedly elected merchants and businessmen as Grebe, who were always on the road and left the affairs of their office in disarray [it’s very likely Alexandre Chastain, a hatmaker, was one of the mayors facing this criticism]. Keseler therefore asked to be appointed Grebe for life, pointing out that he was bilingual and had served the office well for years. Again Keseler found support for his efforts in Mayor Stiglitz of Rauschenberg, who endorsed the life appointment. In the latter’s view, the performance of the French Greben had been unsatisfactory because of their “negligence” and frequent absence. Furthermore, they ignored sovereign decrees, failed to report revelry in fields and elsewhere, and, finally, did not collect the seigneurial taxes properly.

At the behest of the government, Frankenberg mayor J. H. Crause went into the colony, interrogated the head of every family individually, and recorded the opinions of the 16 French and 8 German men. The French unanimously favored an annual election of the Grebe. That way, they said, a Grebe could not become too autocratic and the colony would be able to reconfirm a good one. They made harsh accusations against the applicant Keseler from the time he held office. What bothered them most was his domineering nature and that “the colony had to do whatever he said.” In all community and church matters, he insisted on his own way and tried to force them to abstain from work on Lutheran holidays, even though most of them were Reformed. He oppressed the French, strove to increase the German population, and “no colonist dared open his mouth against him.” The French seemed especially incensed that Keseler had brought the fire rakes into the church, contrary to consistorial regulations, thus incurring a fine of 60 Reichstaler for the colony. In general the French were of the opinion that everything in the colony had been “much more calm and peaceful” before Keseler had come to office and that the colony had also paid less in taxes. But then quarrels often arose with the pastor, elders, schoolmaster and the other residents, because Keseler wanted to punish the poor and especially the French residents for every trifle.

The Germans were less unified. A few declared that they didn’t care whether the Grebe changed or remained permanently in office, nor whether Keseler or someone else held the office. In addition to these, there were staunch Keseler supporters. In their view, a permanent appointment would better ensure the safeguarding of sovereign interests, especially since annual election would allow people to gain office who cared little about sovereign rules. For example, they said, Alexandre Chastain and Pierre Daniel Aillaud had violated forest rules by signing over 4 cords of wood to residents who had come from elsewhere and not taken the oath of loyalty “like other manufacturers.” They said that during Keseler’s time in office taxes had been collected on time, whereas François Joubert had collected the monies but not turned them in, thus failing in the execution. An annual change would diminish the “true welfare” of the colony and facilitate embezzlement. The French would scheme anyway and reach agreement long before the election. The Germans would be outvoted every time, since the French, because of friendship and kinship, would play into each other’s hands. Keseler, on the other hand, is “a very honest man” and, because of his knowledge of German, can follow orders precisely, unlike the French. As a man of means, he has no need to “see to his sustenance more than to his office,” and therefore during his time in office, things “things went very well” in the community. According to the Germans’ view, Keseler would have more support if he were not a Lutheran and “were not accurate to a fault in the performance of his duties.”

The French reacted to the interrogation by the Frankenberg mayor with a petition to the government, in which they appeared to have been alienated by the sending of the mayor and spoke out against Keseler once again. On Sept. 1, 1750, the government put an end to the dispute by barring Keseler from the office of Grebe and confirming the right of free election.

1 mayor of a rural Hessian village (plural: Greben)
2 old unit of measure; as a dry measure in Hesse, it may have been close to a peck. It was ¼ of a Scheffel, which is usually translated “bushel” but is not an exact equivalent.
3 state attorney for financial matters

Notes and Sources:
1Kadell, Franz-Anton. Die Hugenotten in Hessen-Kassel. Darmstadt und Marburg, 1980, pgs 627-630.
2Provides translations of German text and transcriptions of old German script. http://asherwin.com/

Tears and Toil

A few years ago, as I was walking by a cemetery, I saw a backhoe digging a grave. This is a sight I’d seen plenty of times before. Normally, besides momentary pity for the grieving family, I had never thought much about what I was seeing. This time, however, I frowned. Continuing my walk, I was unable to name the cause of this consternation. Finally, after several minutes, I hit upon the matter. We should be buried, not by unknowing, unloving, cold machines, but by the tears and toil of our grieving loved ones.

Machines and technology are both a blessing and a curse. They improve our lives with comforts undreamed of by our ancestors, but, as they liberate us from our responsibilities to each other, they also increase the distance between ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

This was back in those heady days when I fancied myself a writer. The incident so moved me, I did what anyone would do, I composed a few verses. The first two stanzas are enough to convey what I was going for. (Since I’m currently in a merciful mood, I’ll spare you the rest.)

The tree lifts its arms high in praise
Shading the hushed and shrouded graves
The mournful music swells and sways
Through cracking branch and rustling waves

We bury our dead now with machines
Progress—that two-faced, craven thief
The dignity of man, to me, it seems
Deserves loving toil and heroic grief

Not just any grief but heroic grief. I pictured myself with shovel in hand, digging for hours in a downpour, numbed by my loss and the cold, barely able, by the end, to lift the shovel higher than my knees. Perhaps, in this daydream, I wanted to contrast this simple shovel in the hands of a caring, feeling human against the mechanical complexity and cold indifference of the backhoe. Because it wasn’t just any shovel. It was an old, sturdy shovel, in the family for generations, hallowed by decades of good, honest work, caked with soil from home. You get the idea. I was quite transported.

Not long after, I was reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. In it, the main character, a seminary dropout and barber, also doubles as the gravedigger for his small community. He knew each and every one he buried and condemned the use of machines for burials as “not at all the right way to do it.” Hear, hear! Berry’s fiction always emphasizes communal bonds. Those bonds don’t end with death.

It was with these romantic notions of grave digging firmly implanted that I approached a new development in my family history research. Upon receiving The Schwabendorf Book of Families by Gerhard Badouin1, a publication that details all families in the church records between 1687, when the village was established by Huguenot refugees (among them Pierre Chastain), and 1925, I paged through to examine the Chastain family. Along with dates of birth, death, marriage, and the names of spouses and children, the book also lists occupations. Next to Alexandre Chastain’s name (second son of Pierre born 1727) were the occupations ackermann and hutmacher. These were easy enough—farmer and hatmaker. But then there was a more mysterious word. One that I couldn’t translate satisfactorily—grebe.

Grab translates to grave and greben to dig. These were the closest words I could find. On these shaky grounds, I concocted the theory that Alexandre Chastain was a gravedigger and that his fellow villagers had, like Wendell Berry, a high view of this office. Clearly our ancestors, living pre-Industrial Revolution, understood the importance of such work. As time passed, I forgot how weak my translation actually was, and I became very proud of my gravedigging ancestor.

Eventually, I found a German dictionary compiled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm2. Yes, the Brothers Grimm. Along with collecting fairy tales, they did extensive linguistic work. This dictionary is filled with the language of the common country folk, much of it not found in typical dictionaries. The word grebe is included. It does not mean gravedigger but mayor! Alexandre Chastain was the mayor of Schwabendorf. Somehow, I was disappointed.

1Badouin, Gerhard. Familienbuch von Schwabendorf und Wolfskaute. Marburg: Görich & Weiershäuser, 2002.
2Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Deutsches Wörterbuch, 32 Vols. Leipzig, 1854-1961.

Earl of Exeter

George Washington at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.1

When starting research on a new family, the first thing I typically do is ask the family what they already know. Often, there are documents, pictures, oral histories, and stories that contain glimpses of the family’s past. Next, I look at the meaning and origin of the surname, which often provides further insight. Once I have a firm grasp on this information, in order to get the lay of the land of existing research, I take a gander online to see what others have already found. Someone else may have already done the work.

However, especially when no sources are cited, I never accept as fact what I find. Instead, I use this information, along with what I gathered in the above steps, as a starting point for my own research. If, on the rare occasion, someone does actually cite sources, then I double-check them, and, if they’re legit, I praise the genealogy gods. This is a rare thing.

Impatient and overeager descendants too often force together pieces of information that don’t fit. Then other impatient and overeager descendants copy this information without question. These erroneous family trees spread quickly.

Be wary. Be skeptical. Be careful. Or you’ll end up with a miraculous family tree where men father children ten years after shuffling off this mortal coil.

For the Kings of Erie County, Pennsylvania, the discussion thread found here is typical of what I’ve consistently found online. Everyone seems to trace the family back to an Earl King of Exeter, Rhode Island in the mid to late 1700s. (Note: this is not the same Earl King who married Persiana Brown in North East, Erie County, Pennsylvania. If the Earl in question is, in fact, the ancestor of the Kings of Erie County, he would be the other Earl King’s grandfather.)

The earliest record I’ve found for Earl King is for his marriage to Content Richmond in 1768 in Exeter. Just below the lines that record Earl and Content is the marriage of Stephen King to Dorcas Watson in 1789. Stephen, it is claimed by most online family trees, is the son of this Earl King and the father of the Earl King who we find married to Persiana Brown a few decades later in North East, Pennsylvania.

Record for the marriage of Earl King to Content Richmond, daughter of Stephen Richmond, and the marriage of Stephen King to Dorcas Watson. It appears Earl was originally from South Kingston. 2

The next mention of Earl King I can find is in the book Rhode Island in the Continental Congress.3 A digital copy is available here. Rhode Island was the only colony to hold a referendum on the proposed Constitution of the United States. Rhode Islanders, including Earl King and his father-in-law, Stephen Richmond, voted decisively to reject it.4 The vote was 2,708 to 237.

Earl King can also be found in Exeter on the first United States Census taken in 1790.

Earl King in Exeter, Rhode Island on the 1790 United States Census.5

And, with that, we must, for now, say goodbye to Earl of Exeter. I’ve already spent too much time on him. We’re not even certain he is the ancestor of the Kings of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Time is better spent by starting from the present, working with what we know for certain, and slowly making our way to each preceding generation. Once we make it back far enough, perhaps we’ll bump into him again. If so, we’ll already know a bit about him.

Beach Pond in Exeter, Rhode Island.6

1 Stearns, Junius Brutus. Washington at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. 1856, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.
2 Rhode Island, Vital Extracts, 1636-1899.
3 Staples, William R. Rhode Island in the Continental Congress. Edited by Reuben Aldridge Guild, Providence Press Company, 1870.
4 Wood, Gordon S. “The Great American Argument.” New Republic, 30 Dec. 2010.
5 United States Census. Year: 1790; Census Place: Exeter, Washington, Rhode Island; Series: M637; Roll: 10; Page: 142; Image: 87; Family History Library Film: 0568150
6 Munro, W.H. Picturesque Rhode Island. J.A. & R.A. Reid Publishers, 1881.

Hugo the Huguenot

Here is a neat Kickstarter project by Jennifer Bruntil, an employee of Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York. New Paltz was originally settled by Huguenots in the 17th century, and, in an attempt to get children more involved and interested in this history, Jennifer has a written a children’s book. This is a wonderful idea. I’ll be picking up a copy for my own little Huguenot.

Forgotten Books

Old Books

Mmm. Smell that mildew. (Photo: William Hoiles)

I’m currently devouring volume 2 of History of the Rise of the Huguenots by Henry Martyn Baird. The quality of the writing as well as the painstakingly detailed research is impressive. Baird wrote six volumes on the Huguenots (roughly three thousand pages). These books have long been out of print, but, since they’re in the public domain, they can all be found on Google Books for free. There are two volumes each for his three titles on the Huguenots: History of the Rise of the Huguenots, The Huguenots and Henry of Navarre, and The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Baird’s father was a Presbyterian minister, and Baird clearly has an opinion sympathetic to the Protestants. Nevertheless, he is fair and not as blindly partisan as other historians I’ve read.

Baird continues the trend of excellent Huguenot scholarship from the 19th century that I’ve encountered, including the first book on the Huguenots that I read—Reginald Lane Poole’s History of the Huguenots of the Dispersion at the Recall of the Edict of Nantes. Poole’s history holds a special place in my heart and on my virtual bookshelf since it directly led to discoveries about the Chastain family. Another laudable 19th century effort on this subject is History of the French Protestant Refugees by Charlie Weiss.

One thing I’ve learned from my efforts to research my family is how essential it is to read history. The more I read, the more I understand the lives of my ancestors. So read and read and read some more.

Pierre Chastain: Surgeon, Apothecary, Schoolmaster, Godfather


Louisendorf 1688 – 1988: Ursprung und Entwicklung einer Hugenottenkolonie

I recently discovered this great little book celebrating the 300th anniversary of Louisendorf. Since there are no copies available in the US, I had to borrow this one from Germany. The book is, no surprise, written in German. Unable to read it, I scanned it for key words instead. There are a few items of interest. (Though I’m sure there would be plenty more if I could actually read it.)

As always, bear with my translations:

On August 22, 1688, the 50 year old Claude Peloux from Combovin in the Dauphiné with his sons Jean, the age of 23, and François (15 years old) and his 17-year niece Madeleine Planel arrived. From the family of Abraham Riste and his sister Madeleine, who also belonged to this family group 14, we later learn nothing here. When and where Claude lost his wife, we do not know.

I searched for Claude Peloux in the Swiss assistance records and was able to find him. He and his wife were together in Schauffhausen, Switzerland, generally the last stop for the refugees before they reached Germany. Unfortunately, he must have lost her between there and Louisendorf.

Huguenot Colonies in Hesse

Huguenot Colonies in Upper Hesse

I’m also intrigued by Claude’s niece traveling with him. Perhaps, like her aunt, her parents were lost on the road. Or it may be they were unable to escape France in the first place, and Claude became her guardian in their absence. A sad story either way.

The book continues with information on the Peloux family:

Jean Peloux, born about 1665, soon married the 22 year old Benoîte Archimbaud from the house on the other side of the street. She was the sister of “Greben” Claude Archimbaud. Six children were born from their union. Honorable people were the godparents: Professor Gautier, who Benoîte Archimbaud knew from the manufactures, the treasurer of Hessenstein, pastor Fontaine himself and his wife Marie Quin, the schoolmaster Chastain and finally Esaie Faure, the wife of the master hatmaker in Frankenberg.

Pierre Chastain was one of those honorable godparents of the Peloux children. As a surgeon and a schoolmaster, he would have been viewed as one of the pillars of local society.

I left Claude Archimbaud’s title in the original German—”Greben”. This has been a hard word to translate. The most likely meaning I’ve found is gravedigger. (Update December 2016: The Greben was the mayor of the village.)

Professor Thomas Gautier is a name I’ve come across again and again. He was a professor of theology at the nearby Marburg University. I believe he was integral to the founding of Louisendorf, but I don’t have all of the details. Check back here in another twenty years, after I’ve learned German, and I’ll have more information. I don’t know if he was related to Anne Marie Gautier, Pierre Chastain’s wife.

There are no further details on who the treasurer of Hessenstein was. No name is given, just his title. Pastor Fontaine was the local pastor in Louisendorf.

Reading about the master hatmaker in Frankenberg reminded me that I have a few books waiting in the wings that cover how hats were made before the industrial revolution. I’m especially interested in this topic since Pierre’s son and grandson—Alexandre and Jean Pierre Chastain—were both hatmakers in Schwabendorf.

There are only two other mentions of Pierre in the book, and they are both related to the same list of schoolmasters I’ve already discussed in this post from last summer.

Finally, I gleaned a small piece of information that may be helpful in gathering more information about Pierre. Schoolmasters in Hesse, their position being subsidized by the government, had to be appointed by the Landgrave himself. It seems likely that paperwork of some sort would have been involved. I’ve already contacted the Hessian State Archives in Marburg to find out.

The Dauphiné: A Packing List

The Vercors Mountain Range in the Dauphiné.

The Vercors Mountain Range in the Dauphiné. (Photo by Johan N)

We’re currently in the beginning stages of planning a trip to the Dauphiné region of France. Along with visiting the main attractions in the area, I want to walk the same hills and breathe the same air as my Chastain ancestors. We’ve been reading a few guidebooks to prepare. After a handful of paragraphs extolling the beauty of the Dauphiné, one book offers the following advice:

Inns and Accomodation for Travellers can scarcely be said to exist in this wild district. Travellers must be fully prepared to rough it. Not only are the inns in the remote valleys mere cabarets, but they exceed in filth and vermin those of any part of Europe, and are nearly destitute of ordinary food. Visitors should provide themselves with tea, chocolate, portable soup, biscuits; and those who intend to ascend peaks, and cross difficult passes, had better provide ropes, ice-hatchets, and a bag, coarse cloth or sacking canvas, to sleep in.

I guess I should mention that the book, A Handbook for Travellers in France: Being a Guide to Normandy, Brittany; The Rivers Seine, Loire, Rhône, and Garonne; The French Alps, Dauphiné, The Pyrenees, Provence, and Nice, was written in 1864.

The Journal of Jacques Flournoy and a Quick Family History Update

In a previous post, I quoted from the journal of the French Huguenot, Jacques Flournoy, writing about the flood of refugees pouring into Switzerland from the Dauphiné Province of France. (I didn’t have the journal itself but was quoting from another book which used it as a source.) It’s likely that this is the path that Pierre Chastain took before he made his way into Germany by 1687. I was able to track down a copy of Flournoy’s journal. There was a mention of a Chastain, but he was a Catholic priest in Paris in the years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. I had been hoping Flournoy might have crossed paths with Pierre in Switzerland. No luck.

I’m still finding mentions only of random Chastains in France prior to 1687. I can’t connect any of them to Pierre. There may be connections, but I have no proof either way. I haven’t invested as much time in this as I did over the summer, but I’m still poking around when I can. There are two books heading my way that cover some of the history of the Dauphiné Province.

I’ve also found some folks that translate old German handwriting into English. I have copies of two documents written by members of the Chastain family while living in Lousidendorf and Schwabendorf, Germany in the eighteenth century (the actual copies are in the Hessian State Archives in Marburg, Germany). Even if they don’t offer any more clues, it will be fascinating to discover what’s in them.

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

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)

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.