The Path of Pierre

The Path of Pierre

The Path of Pierre Chastain from France to Germany (1685 – 1687)

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.

The Path of Pierre Chastain from Vesc, France to the Hesse Province of Germany (1685 - 1687).

The Path of Pierre Chastain from Vesc, France to the Hesse Province of Germany along the Huguenot Trail (1685 – 1687). In case you’re wondering, it’s 12.5 hours by car.

2 thoughts on “The Path of Pierre

  1. I am so excited for you! You now know about your roots….a journey that was well worth your time and effort. I, too, am on a journey to find my
    family’s beginnings. I became curious when I found that my ancestors had
    French names but lived in the Hessen Province of Germany….just as you did with yours. Your information is valuable to my research as well.
    You’ve given me a treasure trove of information. Thank you for sharing it with us! Merci, mon ami! Pat

    with yours.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thank you! You’re one hundred percent right. It has been a journey well worth my time and effort. I’ve loved every minute of it.

      I was hoping that this information might help someone else. I’m so pleased to know that it has! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help with your research. I’d be more than happy to (my email is listed on my About page). Best of luck on your journey either way, and thank you again for your comment.


      (Also, sorry about the confusion over your comment not posting right away. I get a lot of spam comments and currently have my website set up so that I have to approve comments before they’re posted.)

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