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.

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Byrne, baby, Byrne… Wicklow inferno!

OK, my blog titles are getting worse not better! Welcome, nonetheless, to another Irish genealogy post.

Earlier this week, I was contacted by my fourth cousin, Stephen Macken. Like myself, Stephen runs a family tree website on myheritage.com. Stephen worked out, through the SmartMatch system, that we share a set of great-great-great-grandparents. Thomas Boyd, whose first name I hadn’t known until now. married Mary Fields in November 1841. (Until now, I hadn’t known any details about her at all, so I’ve just found my 20th of 64 surnames at the 3-times-great-grandparents!) One of their daughters, Catherine, married a German migrant, Philip Mannweiler, and they had ten children including my great-grandfather, while her elder sister, Mary Anne Boyd married Michael Kinsella, and their son John was Stephen’s great-grandfather.

It made me focus a little more on my Wicklow roots, which had suffered from a bit of neglect as I was busy chasing my Cork and Tyrone roots. In particular, I’m interested in finding out how surnames like Boyd and Fields crop up in seemingly earnest Irish Catholic families in Wicklow in the mid-19th Century. Part of the reason, I guess, is that if a Protestant man married a Catholic woman, while the surname came from the father, the mother would typically pass on the religion, turning previously Protestant names into Catholic ones!

The very useful Failte Romhat website has lots of data on Griffith’s Valuations, the best Census substitute for Ireland for the mid-19th Century. In Wicklow, the valuation was taken in 1852-1853, so it’s a good post-Famine snapshot of Wicklow. Taking the data for the various civil parishes in Wickow, the most common surname – by a good Wicklow mile – is Byrne. Don’t take my word, here’s the by now customary word cloud:

Given that I’m looking for Boyd and Fields, it’s interesting to see that pretty much all the top surnames are Irish Gaelic surnames – Byrne, Toole, Kavanagh, Cullen, Kelly, Murphy, Doyle… (If I’m honest, I do actually have a Farrell and a McGrath, more than likely Wicklow-based, in the same neck of the family tree woods.) I think you’ll agree that Byrne is a little overbearing, though! So I did the cloud again, this time without Byrne. It allows a slightly better perspective of some of the medium tier surnames – in particular some non-Gaelic surnames like Wilson and (if you’ve got your glasses on!) Hopkins, Gilbert and even Powerscourt!

Wicklow Griffiths Valuations, excluding Byrne

Wicklow Griffiths Valuations, excluding Byrne

The good news for those like myself looking into North Wicklow for their roots is that the Catholic records in Bray, for example, go back well beyond what’s typical for Ireland – to before 1800. For those with Protestant ancestors, the news is even better – records for Bray and Delgany go back to 1667! And while it looks like those records are probably not on familysearch.org, they will be on the Irish Family History Foundation’s site ‘soon’, to quote their site.

So who knows where we’ll end up – or rather what surnames we’ll end up with – soon?!

John, Mary & Anastasia, take a bow: Cork’s Smiddys and Beausangs in 1901

The Irish Family History Foundation has started to put online its researchers’ work on the earliest complete Irish Censuses – those of 1901 and 1911. (Permit me to digress and lament the various circumstances, from bizarre mid-Great War bureaucratic decisions to Irish Civil war tactics, that led to the destruction of the 1821-1891 Irish censuses, one of the longest-running censuses in the world, in less than ten years.)

Being a quarter Cork, I decided to avail of the Cork North & East service and examine two of my main Cork surnames, both of which are relatively rare – Smiddy (could be a Catholic offcast of a branch of the Smithwicks, or maybe a Scottish name, no-one seems to know for sure) and Beausang (lots of fancy stories about this, most involving France, naturally enough – previously Boozan, Bouzane, Boosean and whole host of further variants!)

The first thing I did was check out all the first names in each of the Censuses. Being now entirely won over by the phenomenon that is word-clouds, I made a cloud of Smiddy 1901 Census first names from Cork, you can preview it below, or click on the link to see the full details.

Plain old John and Mary lead the way – no surprises there – followed by Patrick, Timothy, Maurice, Thomas and Michael for the men, and Catherine, Bridget, Margaret and Johanna for the ladies. Of all the names, only Timothy and Maurice stand out for being particularly family-related – all the others are very common 19th century Catholic names altogether.

I did the same for Beausang and all its variants here:

In the Beausang clan, poor old John is dumped off top spot by James, although Mary continues to dominate the ladies. William, Patrick, Michael and Thomas are still there – but sure enough, no sign (well hardly any) of Timothy or Maurice and instead Richard features. James and Richard would be expected to be there, given their prominence in the 1820s/1830s Tithe Allotment returns and again in the Griffith’s Valuation returns.

What I found fascinating, though, is the presence of Anastasia/Anastatia on both lists. The 1901 Census was conducted just as Irish society was connecting to the wider world in a less step-shift way than permanent emigration. Looking a the full database in my extended family tree, international communications seem to have caused a revolution in naming from the late 19th Century in Ireland. New names enter families as the old Irish naming procedure was replaced by a desire for the unusual. I must check up on which royal family boasted an Anastasia in the 1890s – presumably the Romanovs? – to inspire Cork-based copycats!

I’ve also wordled up the parishes where they lived, so I know which parish records to go back and have a look at. I did it for both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, for both surnames. Here’s Smiddy, 1901:

And here’s Smiddy, 1911.

Here’s Beausang, 1901:

And here’s Beausang, 1911:

I’m a bit sceptical about making comparisons across time based on the IFHF census records, as I don’t believe that all Beausangs and Smiddys based in St. Mary’s – presumably St. Mary’s Shandon – moved from there to Youghal on the Cork-Waterford border between 1901 and 1911. Much more likely, I should think, is that not all civil parish returns are there for both years. We’ll have to play the waiting game on that one, but in the meantime

As you can see, there’s a huge overlap between the two surnames, particularly in the four civil parishes furthest east on Cork’s coast – Ightermurragh, Kilmacdonogh, Clonpriest and Youghal – home incidentally to all our Anastasias!