Ronan Lyons | Personal Website
Ronan Lyons | Personal Website

The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork

All of four months ago – seems about a quarter that long ago – I posted about my Cork Smiddy and Beausang roots. Judging from some of the search terms that direct to my blog, it seems there’s a good bit of demand out there for the Beausang part in particular.

So, I’ve decided to put up my thoughts on the roots of the Beausang surname (and of course its many many variants, including Boozan(e), Bouzan(e), Boosean(e), Beausan(e)… well, you get the point.) I guess the aim of this two-part post is twofold: firstly, can we shed any light on where most Beausang/Boozan families in Ireland & North America originate? And secondly, as a by-product, what is the connection or chronology of the name Beausang and its variants across France, Ireland and North America?

Assuming that Beausang, which is clearly not an indigenous Irish surname, ultimately comes from France, there are, as I see it, three options in relation to the roots of the Irish clan – and what I believe is its offshoot North American clan – of Beausang/Boozan/Bouzane:

  • Firstly, they could be descended from French Huguenot emigrants of the 1600s or 1700s.
  • Secondly, they could be descended from those fleeing France around the time of the French Revolution.
  • Thirdly, they could be neither – i.e. they could indeed be of French origin, but may have emigrated at a different point in time and for reasons other than religious persecution or the Revolution. As the Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland states, “people have emigrated from France… for various reasons, not just religious, and at various times. French families moved… both before and after the Huguenots.”

The evidence for the second point – i.e. that the Beausang diaspora is as a result of fleeing the French Revolution – comes primarily from a series of posts by Tom McDonald, based in Newfoundland, on the Bouzane Family Genealogy Forum.  In particular, Tom writes:

Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes
Salmon Cove, Newfoundland - close to the home of many early North American Bouzanes

During the French revolution Thomas (we believe his name was) De LaBouzan from Brittany France, a prominent Baron and land owner, feared for the lives of his family. He had three of his sons shipped of for fear of their lives. Each has money sown into their clothing to help secure their future, and each put on separate ships. One ship landed in Ireland, one in the south seas, and the third in Newfoundland.

This story is at first glance very appealing, for three reasons. Firstly, it gives the entire extended Beausang/Boozan family a nice and interesting story of origin. Secondly, it in some way helps explain how there are branches in North America and in Ireland. Lastly, it offers the hint of even more… ‘in the south seas’.  There is, unfortunately, very little evidence in favour of this version of events, apart from the oral history that Tom has inherited across two hundred years. The only other supporting evidence would seem to come from Stephen Beausang, who says:

It seems unlikely that the [Beausang] name is Huguenot. I have heard reports that two brothers were shipwrecked off the Coast of East Cork, probably around the time of the French revolution. There has been some suggestion that the original name was German, but the family first moved to France.

If Stephen’s and Tom’s stories come from entirely different branches of the clan, that at least is something. However, it is also very possible that two entirely separate families could easily develop stories to explain an unusual surname based on a seminal event in France, the French Revolution – this is particularly the case if the surname first appeared in a country (as is the case with Canada) in the early 1800s.

Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs
Ballycotton, East Cork, Ireland - close to the home of many 1800s Bouzans and Beausangs

I’m a little skeptical, however, about the French Revolution story. For that, I’ll offer two lines of reasoning. Firstly, the earliest mentions of the Beausang surname in Ireland suggest that it was in County Cork before the Revolution. Graves in Dangandonovan in East Cork (Ireland), also transcribed here, point to a Boosean-Kenery marriage in the mid-1770s and the birth of Joanna Boosean in 1775/6. The fact that there are four Beausangs born before 1800 in that one graveyard alone works against the idea of one or two shipwrecked stragglers arriving in East Cork in the 1790s.

Secondly, and this may be more controversial (cue scenes of rioting and looting at the Bouzane family conference!), it looks very unlikely that any Beausangs/Bouzan(e)s went straight from France to North America, as per the revolution story. For the pro-North America direct from Newfoundland argument, take, for example, the following from Linda Bouzane, writing in 2001 on a forum no longer online (to show I’m not making it all up, Linda has posted a very similar version here):

The Beausanes of Newfoundland came originally from France and apparently before that from the Basque provinces of Spain and the name was apparantly spelled Beausani. The first Beausan/e/ys in Newfoundland were Maragret and presumably her brother (not proven yet) Thomas. It is believed others of this family may have gone to Ireland, but this also is not proven. Margaret Beausane married William Walsh ca 1815, supposedly in Newfoundland and raised their family there. I am still working on the descendants.

Thomas Beausane (b. ca 1795-1798) married Ellen Walsh ( b. ca 1800) ( possible sister or cousin of the the above William Walsh) on Jan. 16, 1824 in Newfoundland (possibly Carbonear). They first lived in Carbonear then moved to Western Bay, Nfld. We do not know the parents of Thomas or his place of birth and the same goes for Ellen. Their children were: Margaret, Richard, Michael, James, William, Thomas, John, Ellen and Mary.

Aside from the fact that I would argue that the children’s names are entirely Irish, another alarm bell rings when you look at who Margaret and Thomas married. First-generation immigrants almost exclusively marry someone their own nationality. Bearing that very important fact in mind, let’s continue with some other scattered pieces of evidence from across the internet.

Small sample bias, perhaps? After all, a French and Irish family may have just hit it off in Newfoundland! Well, based on a broader set of evidence, again in Newfoundland, the mother’s surname from Boozan births from the 1860s suggest that these are descendants of Irish immigrants, not French:
F/Surname   F/Given  M/Surname  M/Given  Child  Year
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      Mary      1862
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      William      1862
Boozaney      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Richard      1863
Boozaney      William      Ryan      Catherine      Honora      1863
Boozaney      Thomas      English      Martha      Margaret      1864
Boozaney      Michael      English      Clare      John      1864
Fitzgerald      James      Boozan      Mary      Bridget      1864
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Ellen      1869
Boozane      Richard      Dwyer      Ellen      Elizabeth      1869
Boozane      Thomas      English      Martha      Jane      1869

Similarly with a Boozan who married a Dooley, another Irish surname. In the USA, a John Boozane in San Francisco born in the 1820s was also Irish. The evidence mounts…

In my next post, I’ll talk about the Huguenot possibility and stick my next out on the line as to where I think the Beausang and Bouzan clans more than likely originated.

  • Stephen Beausang ,

    Great Job Ronan,

    The exact origins of the Beausangs of East Cork is definitely a mistery. I can’t be sure if the Beausangs (Booseans) came as a result of the French Revolution, as you correctly pointed out, but it appears that the family arrived in Ireland around that time. The Daingendonovan inscription 1799 is the earliest that I have found, which certainly does not proclude that the family arrived in the previous decade.It would be very unusual for a Boosean to marry an Irish catholic in this period, but not impossible. Your assertion that there are four Booseans in the cemetary born before the revolution, does tend to blow a hole in the theory. My family lived in the Shanagarry area, but the story went that the family originated around Daingeandonovan, and my direct ancestors moved to Shanagarry (Kilmahon and later Cloyne Parishes) around 1829. As you point out Smiddy remains a popular surname in both of these parishes.

    There is also a Thomas Bouderan listed in the Youghal Census of 1766. Could this be another corruption of the name?

    The Hugenot origin of the name is a popular theory, but one I tend to dismiss for a number of reasons. First most of the Hugenots came to Ireland in the 17th and early 18th century. There are no records of the name, that I know of going back to that time. Second, the Hugenots were Protestant. It is hard to imagine somebody willingly converting to Catholicism in Ireland, prior to Catholic emancipation. All the Beausangs, that I know of are Catholic. Thirdly, the Hugenots tended to be artisans and crafts people, and urban oriented. The Beausangs in East Cork were almost exclusively small farmers. One might expect some of the Hugenot traditions to survive. If you have any further information on the Hugenot connection, I will be happy to stand corrected.
    As to the Newfoundland Bouzane/Boozanes. I think you are hinting in you article that this family originated in Ireland, and not France. I tend to agree. Many of the Catholic Irish who ended in Newfoundland came from the East Cork area, leaving through the Port of Youghal. I think it is very likely the original owners of the surname came from East Cork. The prominance of Richard, Thomas and Michael, see too much of a coincidence.

    Thank you for publishing this information on your blog.

    Stephen

    • evelynyvonnetheriault ,

      Welcome to Geneabloggers!
      This is an interesting post. I specialize in French-Canadian and Acadian genealogy of eastern Canada (the mainland). Beausang exists as a French surname in Quebec but I didn’t realize it was such a widespread name and had possibly been used by the Irish.
      The exchange of opinions was very informative.
      Evelyn in Montreal

      • Irish Roots ,

        Really enjoyed reading your blog. Just to let you know for any of your readers who may be interested in Irish ancestral research that Irish Roots magazine is a genealogy and family history magazine that aim to empower its readers to trace their Irish ancestry and have some fun along the way.

        • michael beausang ,

          I believe the Huguenot claim is the correct one. Following the Battle of the Boyne, some of William’s French Protestant soldiers were rewarded with lands in Youghal. another aspect of this argument is the surprising number of Beausangs in Sweden – try a Google local Swedish search. They certainly aren’t Catholics – more likely refugees from Catholic persecution in France!

          • Lillian Bouzane ,

            My great grandparents were Richard Bouzan and Ellen Dwyer.

            My grand parents were Thomas Bouzan and Anastasia Mercer

            My parents were Bernard Bouzane and Catherine Philpott

            • Thomas Beausang ,

              Great job ! Interesting reading.

              • Teresa Beausang ,

                Hi Ronan,

                Really interesting reading. Lookin forward to future insights.

                • Karen Bouzan ,

                  Very informative read, I always assumed the Bouzans migrated directly to NA from France. Before reading this blog I never would have considered the possibility that the Bouzans first landed in Ireland. My relatives come from Little Bay/St. Patrick’s, Bishop’s Falls, Grand Falls, St. John’s, NF. I currently reside in ON, as does my Great Uncle Vincent Bouzan who hails from St. Patrick’s in Little Bay. My grandfather was Alphonsus Bouzan from St. Patricks and his father, my great grandfather was Richard. My family are also scattered across Canada with some in Calgary Alberta as well. I also know of a Paul Bouzan somewhere in California. There is a town in France named Bouzonville near the German border, close to Belgium, that’s part of the reason why I always thought my name originated in France. Thanks for your interesting blog!

                  • Donald Bouzanage 82 ,

                    My grandparents were according to my father were Michael Bouzan and Ellen Vail my parents were Benedict Bouzan and Jessie Mac Kinnon My Brother Benedict died 4 years ago I live on Saltspring Island B.C.

                    • John Beausang ,

                      My name is John Beausang and I live in Cork, Ireland. My father (John Joseph Beausang) was born in 1901 the son of Patrick & Mary Beausang and was originally from Kilmagner (Youghal Rural, Cork).

                      I find your blog fascinating. I would be most interested in reading the next part when you get the chance to post it.

                      • Ronan Lyons ,

                        Hi John,
                        Thanks for the two comments – that is a coincidence about Thomas Smiddy being in a Beausang house.
                        I have the grunt work done on the second part, where in France the Beausangs might originally come from, but it’s fallen through the cracks of the last 18 months! I’ll put it on my Summer 2010 to-do list (small matter of exams keeping me occupied till then!) – fingers crossed!
                        All the best,
                        Ronan.

                        • Lillian Bouzane ,

                          Karen, I was born in Little Bay ( St. Patrick’s) but was living in Bishop Falls by the time I was three. Richard Bouzan (Ellen Dwyer)was also my great grandfather. Alphonsus was my father’s ( Bernard) first cousin.

                          The Bouzane men married Irish women in Newfoundland because there were very few, if any, French women on the east coast of the island.

                          • tom murphy ,

                            Hi All:
                            My family hails from Cloyne, Co. Cork. I’ve been told by my mother,who was born and raised in Cloyne, and by my aunt on my father’s side, who are distant cousins, that there were arranged marriagse centuries back between the Murphys and Beausangs near Youghal. I remember meeting a Beausang family who lived just outside of Cloyne in Garryowen. It has been sited as the reason many relatives on my father’s side had complexions darker than usual for the Irish. Many Irish over the centuries fled to France for fear of their lives and some returned w/ French spouses/children. I’ll interview my mother/aunt further and post the info when I can

                            All the best

                            Tom

                            • Ronan Lyons ,

                              Hi Tom,
                              Thanks for that, very interesting. It’d be great to find out more from your mother and aunt. I’ve taken to bringing a dictaphone to those meetings, as I can never remember all they say and don’t want to spend the time writing stuff instead of having a conversation!
                              Incidentally, for anyone interested, the post above was always meant to be one part of a two-parter. The second part is in progress and I hope to have it up by mid-August.
                              Ronan.

                              • Una Kelleher ,

                                Hi All,
                                I too have Beausang, Boozan, Boozane, depending on the priest (Archives) spelt it,in my name. They are from Ballamacoda, Killeagh, the general Cloyne area. There are also the Doyle,Millerick, Pomphrett, Cashman families married in to this family. I’m still working it out – I can assure you it a labour of love. When I entangle the web I am creating for myself I can eventually say Mon Dieu!. For your Canadian readers there is a book written by Donald MacKay (Montreal) “Flight from Famine” in which he deals with the mass migration from the 1820. I actually wrote to him c/o his publishers regarding the other side of the family and he very kindle replied to me from Co. Wexford!!!!!!!!
                                Keep up the good work Ronan, Looking forward to the next part.

                                Una

                                • John Beausang ,

                                  Hi Ronan, anxiously awaiting the second instalment of your blog!

                                  Found something interesting recently, try googling ‘Franncach’. This would clearly identify the family as French. The use of this term uniquely for the Beausang Family also seems to set the family apart and might suggest we immigrated more recently on our own as opposed to as part of a larger group of immigrants such as the hugeunots. Pure speculation …. for what its worth!

                                  • Ronan Lyons ,

                                    Hi John,
                                    Apologies for the long wait on the second instalment – I’m hoping I’ll get it done in July when my other responsibilities have eased a little!
                                    For those curious about Franncach, the link John’s referring to is:
                                    http://www.libraryireland.com/names/f/franncach.php

                                    Ronan.

                                    • margaret beausang ,

                                      really enjoyed reading all about the beausangs my family can trace their section back to a Patrick who was born in east cork in 1799. I too had heard of the story of them being shipwrecked off youghal and settling in that general area. There are beausangs in Australia too who emigrated from cobh in the 1860’s. There must have been more than one family but I think the origins are definately in this area as anywhere you come across a Beausang they have roots in East cork. Looking forward to part 2 of the posting.

                                      Margaret beausang

                                      • Norah Beausang ,

                                        Hi Ronan,
                                        I was interested to read about the french connection ‘Franncach’, My late father used to joke that the family were rat catchers from France .Francach is the Irish for rat!
                                        Our family live in Shanagarry in east Cork.

                                        • The origins of the Beausang surname II – Hugue-yes or Huguenot? | Ronan Lyons ,

                                          […] Browse in Genealogy « The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork […]

                                          • Mary Beausang ,

                                            This part of a longer letter? has been in our family for a very long time.
                                            “Graphically relates of the fearless exile: that married an Irishwomen and at the request of his good wife and family became a catholic. He said “it was not for that he left his ‘beautiful France'” and as the late Bishop relates it “La belle France for the land of the Kirkane or small potatoe”. My sister states the interesting exile had two sons born for him, one of which died withour issue. The other son had seven sons and one daughter (our grand mother) born for him. The seven brothers were great goalers and became the parents of the numeroues family of Beausangs. The said brothers were greatly respected for there many virtures sobri…………

                                            • donna bouzane evans ,

                                              I am a Bouzane, born in Little Bay and now retired and living back here (st patrick’s)…thanks so much for your interesting read……I never knew any of this but had heard the story of the 3 brothers..thanks again

                                              • Sissel Sandberg ,

                                                I come from Norway. My ancestor Michel Beausang came from Normandie to Sweden. He was born in 1723. He and two brothers had to escape from France. There was fear for their lives. I’ve been toldthat one brother arrived in Ireland and the other in Germany and the Netherlands

                                                • Sissel Sandberg ,

                                                  My ancestor Michel Beausang, arrived in Sweden around 1745. 45 years before the french revolution. But there were riots in France most of the century. France was in an economical crizis, there was too little food, the harvest went wrong. There was a big gap between poor and rich, so I think that must have been why Thomas de LaBouzan feared for their lives. Michel married swedish Botilla and got the son Jakob. Their great great great great great daughter Alma Evelina Henriksen moved to Oslo, Norway about 1900. There are a lot of family coming from the Beausangs in both Sweden and Norway. My mother knows alot of our swedish relatives.

                                                  • Sissel Sandberg ,

                                                    You can see my familythree at MyHeritage.com – my sister Yvonne Sandberg founded this. And also in the webside geni.com

                                                    • Kathy Beausang ,

                                                      I have a photo copy of a family Bible stating the names of the Beausang family who went to the USA I am at work so do not have the copy with me I am in Australia and have done a lot of recearch looking into my family tree and had someone in Ireland do so over 20 years ago he as also a Beausang. It is very hard as almost every family called their children the same names in the same order

                                                      • Kathleen Walsh McDowell ,

                                                        Interesting and exciting stuff! My great great grandmother was Katherine bouzan. Her son David Walsh was born in Cloyne and they came to the USA in the potato famine. Katherine died in Illinois. Her sons followed the gold rush to cripple creek Colorado but then ended up as farmers in far northwest kansas. David walsh’s descendants are located in California, Kansas and I immigrated to Australia about 8 years ago. My aunt has been living in Lafayette Louisiana for a few years so it is interesting to hear about a possible Acadian connection!

                                                        • pat aherne ,

                                                          I m from Youghal in East Cork, Ireland/ I remember the Beausang name from there when I was a kid. Funny, that, I never took any notice of the fact that the origins were other than Irish, which of course it obviously is. Also, there were lots of Smiddys there.

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