Huguenots in Germany

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History[edit | edit source]

After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 almost 50,000 French Protestants fled from France to various German States. About 20,000 of them settled in Brandenburg, where Duke Frederick William had granted them special privileges. Hessen, Hessen-Nassau, Franconia, the Palatinate, Braunschweig, and Baden were other preferred areas of settlement. During the early years local residents0 took them into their homes until primitive housing was built.

The Huguenots are generally well-documented and it is often possible to trace them to their French home town. Local church records and histories are very helpful in that regard. The Huguenot Museum in Bad Karlshafen, Germany has some fascinating exhibits. Several picture galleries can be viewed online, including Huguenot trades [Hugenottisches Handwerk].

Descriptive Terms
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• Hugenotten (Huguenots) – originally a derogatory term meaning “conspirer” – used as umbrella term for all early French-speaking Protestant groups
• Wallonen (Wallooons) – Protestant inhabitants of the French-speaking Wallonie, a region in today’s Belgium
• Waldenser (Waldensians) - A specific group of early Protestants founded in Southern France in the 12th Century and their descendants

Record-keeping practices
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In most areas the French-speaking refugees created closed communities and maintained their culture and language for well over a hundred years. Eventually most merged with local German-speaking Protestant congregations. The early parish registers reflect French record-keeping practices. They are usually written in French until well into the 1800s using the Roman, not German Gothic Script. Women are recorded with their maiden names.

The original spelling of French surnames may have been retained unchanged, modified for easier spelling or pronunciation, or translated into German [less common]. Descendants who emigrated to North America during the 19th Century may be thought to have come from Alsace-Lorraine because of their French surnames.

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The Huguenot society: “Der Deutsche Hugenottenverein”, founded in 1890, is today called “Deutsche Hugenottengesellschaft”. Publication: earlier: Geschichtsblätter des Deutschen Hugenotten-Vereins [FHL 943 F2gd], followed by Der Deutsche Hugenott [FHL 943 B2dh], now Hugenotten .  The Society maintains a genealogical research center and a database to serve its members [see the tab “Genealogie” on the home page]. Summaries of material available in the database are available online. The Society's library has an interactive webpage.These pages are in German.

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Numerous histories have been published about Huguenot migration and settlement, including many pertaining to local congregations. These publications can provide helpful historical background for the genealogist and add color to family histories. Many are available at the Family History Library, and some online.