First things first: this is not a post about economics, so for most readers of the blog, this is one you can skip! By way of background, when this blog was set up initially, I explored a mix of topics, including history and genealogy. One of my genealogy blog posts – The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork – was a two-parter… only I never got around to writing the second part! A few interested parties, though, have kept in touch and encouraged me to finish what I started.
Nearly three years ago now, I wrote a post called “The origins of the Beausang surname I – French Revolution? Try East Cork“. In it, I gave some of my thoughts on the Bouzan/Beausang surname, my main conclusion being that the Bouzans of North America were Irish immigrants, rather than French, and that the Bouzans, Boozans and Beausangs across Ireland and North America are descended from the same person, more than likely one man who emigrated from France to East Cork before 1800.
The question remains, though: who is that common ancestor? In the absence of any firm leads, I delayed my second post on the topic. In the meantime, over 1,000 people have read the original post and I’ve had interesting comments and emails from many people outlining their own ideas. Given all that, what I thought I should do is post my latest thoughts, intermingled with what I’ve learned from the work of others.
Who are we looking for at all?
The main problem is that we don’t know for certain who we’re looking for. By this I mean, we don’t know the two crucial details we need to track someone down as the common ancestor of Bouzans and Beausangs: what time period he arrived in Ireland and even what his surname was!
To give you a flavour of how many potential first steps there are, according to the Irish Family History Foundation website, there are at least two dozen Bouzan/Beausang variations in 19th Century Irish birth and marriage records alone (Bozan, Bouzan, Buzin, Boozan, Beausang, Buzan, Boozane, Bouzane, Bouzanne, Bowsang, Boosan, Bauzan, Bousan, Bosan, Bousane, Beauzan, Beausong, Bozann, Boozang… you get the idea!)
The two most common spellings in Ireland in the mid-1800s were Boozane and Beausang; indeed by the 1901 Census, there were only Beausangs left in Ireland. But the problem is that these may have been the most common purely because of the decision of a parish priest or primary school teacher in a key parish to standardise the spelling. Early records are much more varied and two of the earliest marriages have more unusual variants: Bozane and Bozang. Indeed, the oldest Irish record existing of “Beausang” dates only from a baptism in 1838, thirty years after the first written record, a Bouzane wedding of 1808, and nearly 40 years after the 1799 gravestone for Joanna Boosean.
The case for the Huguenots
Why is all this relevant? It’s critical because it changes the frame of reference for all follow-on work. For example, GeneaNet have detailed French records from the 1700s. There are about 325 relevant records that I could find on their system, and I’ve marked them on this Google map. They’re colour-coded, with Beausang denoted by turqoise/light blue and close variants (e.g. Beaussan, Beaussant) in yellow – a picture of the map is shown below.
You can see that the light blue and yellow (Beausang) is scattered across much of the northern half of France. However, the key with surnames is density and that density is highest in a small triangle in Poitou-Charentes, half way down the west coast of France. For example, in the middle of that triangle, the town of Charroux contains 10 Beaussan marriages between 1691 and 1758, and there are four Beausang births (and an equal number of deaths) in the nearby town of Brioux-sur-Boutonne between 1766 and 1800.
What’s very interesting about this is that the bulk of Irish Huguenots came from the main port of Charentes, La Rochelle, and the surrounding area. Thus, if we think that the original surname we’re looking for is Beausang (or something very close, like Beaussant), then the likely home town in France is right in the middle of Huguenot territory.
Beausang or Boozan?
But what if we should be looking at Boozan, not Beausang, for the original source? After all, the earliest Irish records are not Beausang, they are Boosean (a woman born in 1776, according to her graveyard transcription) and Bouzane/Bozane (early 1800s weddings).
So if we look instead on the map for red, green, purple (Buzan and Bouzan) in France, we find a different picture. The Buzan surname is almost exclusively one from France’s Catalan province of Roussillon (which has been a French territory since 1659 and is now known as Pyrénées-Orientales). In that pocket of the French-Spanish border near Andorra, there were three dozen marriages involving the name Buzan in the 18th and 19th centuries in the pretty Pyrenees village of Casteil, and another two dozen in the town of Vernet-les-Bains, one mile down the road.
International man of mystery
But even all of this assumes we should be looking in France. Familysearch.org has very comprehensive records from across Europe. Looking at both Boozan and Beausang strands, it’s clear that we can’t just assume the name is French just because it sounds French now.
For example, a Marcus Beyswang had children in Wurttemberg in the 1500s and the surname reappears (also as Boessewang and Beisang) in nearby Baden in the 1700s. In the grand scheme of things on Europe, Baden-Wurttemberg is not too far from north-east France. And sure enough, in the 1670s, in Verdun (Meuse, North-East France), a Jean-Baptiste Beausang had a son Robert Joseph Beausang. Nearby, in Meurthe-et-Moselle, the surname Bazin appears in the 1500s which may be related to the names Baussin/Beaussant that appear in the same region in the 1700s. So perhaps, France is the place after all…
Remember Buzan, though, which is a Catalan, rather than French name. There are a large number of Spanish entries with surnames similar to Bouzan and Beausang. In particular, in the Basque country, especially around the city of Kortezubi, there was a surname Besanguiz from the 1500s on, while elsewhere in Spain, there were a number of Buyzons and Bazans Valladolid.
Overall, I believe in Occam’s Razor – the most likely answer is, most likely, the right answer. However, the point with the German and Spanish entries is to show that we can never really write off the random. It’s perfectly possible that someone like a Gerardus Bezuijen (born Amsterdam 1671) or an ancestor of Giuseppe Bausan (born Capua 1793) could scupper all our best theories about Huguenot scions cavorting with Irish girls.
As it happens, familysearch.org throws up a couple of eerily close candidates for “random interlopers”. One is Bernard Basano, who had two children in 1638 and 1647 in Dublin, Roger and Mungo. Another is Germaine and Alice Bazine, who had a child, Thomas, in Dublin in 1675.
Riddle me this: Catholic Huguenots?
Nonetheless, because of three factors, one the timeline involved (early 1700s), the others being the locations involved in France (near La Rochelle) and Ireland (near Youghal), I think that most likely origin of Ireland’s Beausangs and North America’s Boozans and Bouzans is a Huguenot migrant to Ireland. And indeed it’s the most popular explanation among Beausangs, Bouzans and their relations today. But one nagging question remains: how could a Protestant refugee have a lineage comprising almost exclusively Catholic descendants? In my opinion, this is not nearly as improbable as it sounds.
For example, previous commenter John Beausang brought to my attention an 1854 article in the Ulster Journal of Achaeology on Youghal’s Huguenots. The author, Rev Samuel Hayman, records that most Youghal Huguenots were military men, not merchants, but that even by 1850, they were “with hardly an exception become extinct”. With such small numbers, it’s clear that the Huguenots who stayed past the early 1700s had small families.
Thus, all that’s needed for Beausangs to be descended from one Huguenot immigrant is a single Catholic-Protestant marriage. Suppose Jean Beausang moves over to Youghal from France in the 1690s. He has one son and two daughters. The daughters and their descendents disappear into the Church of Ireland community, while the son has one son himself, Richard, born about 1730, who marries a Catholic girl from the Manor of Inchiquin, just outside Youghal. If, like good Catholics did, they had a number of children – and thus a number of sons – in the 1760s, then all the ingredients are in place for about three Beausangs/Boozans born a year by 1840, what we see in the IFHF records.
As someone who has Catholic ancestors with the Protestant surnames of Boyd and Fields, I think without any smoking guns, this is the best we can do.
PS. For anyone wondering what my Boozan/Beausang connection is, it’s this: my maternal grandmother was the youngest daughter of Professor Timothy Smiddy, born 1875. His grandparents were Timothy Smiddy (b. ca. 1793) and Mary Boozan (b. ca. 1806), both of Ballycrenane in Ballymacoda, County Cork.