THE MARRIAGE OF JEAN LATOURRETTE AND MARIE MERCEREAU ON JULY 16, 1693 WAS A FIRST MARRIAGE, NOT A CONFIRMING ONE
It has been demonstrated in my paper, “Jean Latourrette Leaving Osse: Why and How?”, that Jean was single when he left Osse in 1685. In the terms of the day in Bearn, he was a cadet, an unmarried younger son. (This has been verified by several sources in Osse.) The French Relief (Royal Bounty) records cited in that paper indicate he was a single male at the time he was in London with Pastor Peiret. Information presented in a later posting indicates that neither Marie Mercereau nor Jean Latourrette were part of the Schenectady massacre of February 1690. Moreover, given the correct date of Marie Mercereau’s birth and baptism in France, as cited below, a first marriage in 1693 for a French refugee at age 22 appears reasonable. And assuming an earlier birth date for Marie (1665) by Lyman suggests that having a child in 1710 (James) at age 45 is not likely. However, the evidence presented here against an earlier marriage in France is even more substantial than these considerations.
Of the two people who did the most extensive research on Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau in America, Lyman Latourrette (“Annals”) and Mrs. Verna A. Jacob (“Compilation” and extensive notes), it is only Lyman who believes there was an earlier marriage in France. Mrs. Jacob describes Jean as a single male, living with Jean Chadeayne in the Rhode Island Colony, which was settled in the fall of 1686, before he came to New York. This theory itself is not supported by the facts, which will be documented in another posting. But, it is clear that Mrs. Jacob did not interpret the marriage ceremony in New York on July 16, 1693 as anything more than a first marriage.
Turning now to why Lyman believes the New York marriage of Jean and Marie was a confirmation of an earlier marriage in France, his rationale is quoted in its entirety.
“Jean LaTourette and Marie Mercereau were undoubtedly married in France by a Huguenot minister prior to their flight, but, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the marriage was of no further legal effect inasmuch as all Huguenots were denied civil rights, and later a degree of King Louis XV (sic XIV), expressly declared that all marriages and baptisms by Huguenot preachers were null and void. (See New American Enc., Vol. X, p.298). Moreover the church records were destroyed, together with the Huguenot Temples, and it may be assumed that such proof or certificate of marriage as Jean and Marie may have had was lost or destroyed during their perils in reaching America or at Schenectady on February 8, 1690. It seems probable that they lost a child or children on the latter occasion also, and nearly lost their own lives. The fact that a godfather and godmother appeared at the christening of the daughter Marie tends to confirm the above.”(“Annals”, pp.18-19)
There are a number of problems with Lyman’s interpretation of a confirming marriage. First, if Jean and Marie were married in France before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes on October 22, 1685, based on her likely birth date of November 6, 1670, she would have been less than 15 at the time of the marriage. (Lyman speculates that she was born about 1665 and married about 1684 in France. See “Annals”, p.24.) As already explained by Lyman and Mrs. Jacob, Marie Mercereaux was the daughter of Jean Mercereaux and Elizabeth Du Bois of Moeze (Moise)-en-St.Onge (Saintonge). Various sources mention different birth dates for Marie. A birth date of Nov 6, 1670, with a christening on Nov 9, 1670, is the one accepted on the Mercereau Webpage. The 1670 date is more likely given that her last child, James, was born in 1710, which would have been at age 40. The estimated birth date of Lyman of 1665 would have had the 1710 birth at age 45. There are a few sources that place the birth date in 1660, which is even more unlikely. The 1660 date is actually the birth date of her older sister Elisabeth, according to the carefully searched family Webpage. Therefore, it is accepted here that the birth date for Marie Mercereau is October 6, 1670.
Second, in reviewing all the entries of marriages performed by Peiret at the French Church in New York, as copied verbatim in French by Wittmeyer and inspected by the author in their original form in the church records, there is no distinction made between the marriage of Jean and Marie and the others performed by Peiret. One would think that, given the Osse association between Jean Latourrette and Peiret, a confirming marriage would have been noted as part of the record as confirming their vows. This would be especially the case if Peiret had performed an earlier marriage of the two in Osse as suggested by Lyman. In that case, a second marriage wouldn’t even be needed, because Peiret could have given them a new certificate, reflecting the earlier ceremony. Furthermore, even if Peiret did not perform an earlier marriage in France, if one did occur, he would be able to certify it, given his long affiliation with Jean.
Third, there is no evidence to support the Mercereau family tale that Marie, and perhaps Jean, was involved in the Schenectady Massacre of February 1690. In fact, Lyman himself almost completely discounts the Schenectady tale in another section of his “Annals” (page 7). The Mercereau genealogical record also doesn’t give this much credence. (See the discussion of the Schenectady theory in a later posting.)
Fourth, the fact that Jean’s and Marie’s daughter Marie was baptized on December 6, 1693 and was presented for baptism by a godmother and godfather, as stated by Lyman above as conclusive evidence of a confirming marriage doesn’t prove anything. Unless there is some more subtle meaning here, it proves the contrary. In reviewing the records of the 300 plus baptisms performed by Peiret over the period 1688- 1704, as recorded by Wittmeyer, it is clear that it was the custom of the French Protestants to have a godmother (marraine) and godfather (parrain) present the children for baptism. Jean and Marie performed this function for the baptism of the daughter of Jean le Chevallier and Marie de la Plaine on their day of marriage, July 16, 1693. Also, for example, the two oldest children of Pierre Peiret and Magdeleine Peiret, who came with them from Osse, acted as godfather and godmother for their sister Elizabeth baptized on December 29, 1700 and noted as “pierre payret et madelenne peyret parins et marine” (Wittmeyer, p 78) As noted by Wittmeyer in his introduction, Peiret and Peyret appears also as Pairet, Payret and Perret in the hand written records of the church. As a final example, look at the baptism of Jean, the son of Jean Latourette and Marie Mercereau with “dauid bon foy et Elizabeth Mercereau parin et marine” (Wittmeyer p. 43) (The French term for godfather and godmother: Parrain and marraine frequently appear as parin, parins and marine in the church records.)
In both his long and short introductions to the “Registers”, Wittmeyer explains the baptismal service performed by Peiret during his ministry from 1688 to 1704, which includes the sponsorship of a godfather and godmother. He first gives an example of the standard service used by Peiret in French and then translates it as follows:
“Baptism – On Sunday, the 4th of November, one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight, Magdalena, daughter of Ambrose Sicard and Jane Peron, her father and mother, was presented for baptism by Andrew Jolin, godfather, and Magdalena Vincent, godmother, and baptized by Mr. Pieret (sic), our minister. The said Magdalena born on Monday, the twenty-second of October last.”
(See original “Registers” ‘Introduction’, p. LXXX in the 1886 edition or short ‘From the Introduction’ -page 2 unmarked - in the reprinted editions)
The example of the baptism service given here by Wittmeyer is the first item recorded in the “Registers” on November 4, 1688. (“Registers”, p. 1) There were 333 baptism services, with the same inclusion of a godfather and godmother, performed by Pastor Peiret until his death on September 1, 1704. The names of these godparents are listed in the book’s index with an “s” for sponsorship” We note further that in the last baptisms performed by Pastor Peiret performed before his death, godparents are listed. (“Registers”, p. 100)
It is possible that Lyman Latourette assumed this was a confirming marriage as the result of misunderstanding the entry made by Pasteur Peiret to record the marriage. In fact, in his presentation of the entry (Annals, p. 19), he has left out some key words which, combined with perhaps only a general working knowledge of the French language, leads him to an incorrect interpretation of the meaning of Peiret’s words. Here we repeat the Lyman version from the Annals (p.19):
Marriage: Aujourhui, Dimanche, seize de Juliet 1693, avant le preire de soir, a este sollemne le marriage de Jean LaTourette et Marie Mercereaux, le dit LaTourette d’Osse en Bearn et la ditte Mercereaux de Moise en St. Onge au Royaume de France, après le publication de leur anounces il-y-a-atrois dimanches consecutife en cette Eglise sans opposition.
(Witness names are omitted here)
(See Collections of the Hug. Soc., Vol. 1. p.29)
It is noted that Mrs. Jacob’s version of the marriage record is exactly the same as Lyman’s. It is puzzling why they both have the same version because it is not the original found in either “The Collections of the Huguenot Society” (Vol. I. p. 29) cited by Lyman, or the separately printed “Registers”. The “Registers” are just a verbatim copy from the “Collections”. (The original record of the ceremony was verified by visual inspection.)
As suggested below, the marriage record, as presented by Lyman and Mrs. Jacob, may have been “doctored” by someone to cover up what was considered to be an embarrassing discovery. The count story, to be discussed in another posting, has been traced by the author to the descendants of Jean and Marie, who would most likely be embarrassed if there was no prior marriage in France. Therefore, one must seriously consider the prior marriage and count stories as possible genealogical frauds, given the fact that Jean Latourrette left Osse and arrived in New York as a single, unmarried male.
The original (printed) version of the record of the marriage appears in the Collections of the Huguenot Society, Volume I, p. 29- 30 as cited by Lyman above. This volume contains “Registers of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of the Eglise Francoise a la Nouvelle York, from 1688 to 1804” edited by Rev. Alfred V. Wittmeyer. This volume also contains a history of the church written by Wittmeyer (pp. I- LXXXVIII) and an appendix of historical documents relating to the history of French Huguenots in New York (pp 327-431). The “Registers” appear as pp. 1 -325 and there is an index of the names contained in the registers at the end of the volume (p. I- XLII). The Registers, appearing on pp. 1-325, have been reprinted several times with the index and an abbreviated version of the introduction.
It is apparent from Lyman’s version that changes were made to the original entry appearing in Wittmeyer (and the originals from which they taken, as inspected by the author) perhaps to make the French more modern, to correct what appeared to be misspellings, and to record the surnames of Jean and Marie to fit the transcriber’s preconception of how they should be presented. There are seventeen word, spelling, phase and name changes from the original. In addition, five words are omitted. The changes or, more precisely, the omissions, mislead or allow Lyman to incorrectly interpret the entry made by Pasteur Peiret. Rather than correcting the Lyman version back to Wittmeyer’s printed version of the original, we will focus on the changes he made to the record, or copied from some yet to be discovered source, which lead him to believe this was a confirming marriage (“Annals”, p 19) and to emphasize again that their marriage was “solemnized’ in the French Church, New York City, July 16, 1693. (“Annals”, p.24)
To make the comparison, we repeat the original version of the marriage record from a personal inspection of the church records and Wittmeyer’s volume.
“Mariage--- Auiourdhuy Dimanche saise de Juillet 1693 avant la priere du soir a Este Sollennellemt Beny par monst. Peyret Ministre le mariage de Jean la tourette et Marie Mercereau le dit la tourette dOsse en Bearn et la dite Mercereau de Moise en St. onge au Royaume de france aprest la publication de leurs anonces par trios dimanches consecutifs en cette Eglise sans oposition.”
Lyman’s version reads:
“Marriage: Aujourhui, Dimache, seize de Juliet 1693, avant le priere de soir, a Este sollemne le marriage de Jean LaTourette -------------“
Because of what has been omitted from the original church entry by Peiret, he takes the phrase “a Este sollemne” to mean that the marriage is “solemnized” –meaning to him the confirmation of a previous action. (See his “Annals”, p.24)
The original reads:
“Mariage-Auiourdhuy Dimanche saise de Juillet 1693 avant la priere du soir a Este Sollennellemt Beny par monst. Peyret Ministre le mariage de Jean la tourrette ---------------------------“
Reading the actual version in English, we have:
“Marriage: Today Sunday the 16th of July, before the evening prayer, has been solemnly blessed by Mr. Minister Peyret (meaning I, myself in official acts) the marriage of Jean de la tourette ---------------“
“Sollennellement Beni (y) is a customary way of performing the marriage ceremony and does not indicate a previous marriage. What it means is the marriage was conducted before the evening prayer and was solemnly blessed by Pastor Peiret.
In fact, the marriage of Marie’s brother, Josue (Joshua )to Marie Chadeayne (Chadaine) which immediately followed Jean’s and Marie’s on July 16, 1693 has exactly the same entry by Pasteur Peiret, with a small variation in spelling:
“Mariage- Auiourdhuy saisieme de Juillet 1693 avant la priere du soir a Este Sollennellement beny par Monsieur Peyret Ministre le mariage de Josue Mercereau ----------“
In the case of this marriage, no one has suggested a previous marriage that was “solemnized”!
In fact there was no reason to ever suggest that the marriage of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau on July 16, 1693 was to confirm a previous marriage in France, except perhaps for the romantic tale of a count fleeing from that country with his countess after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. That is, of course, unless there is a more subtle reason.
Too frequently people focus on the details of a single act and ignore the context in which it appears. During the course of his ministry from 1688 to September 1, 1704 at St Esprit in New York City, Pasteur Peiret officiated at 40 marriage ceremonies. A review of all the marriage entries in Wittmeyer (confirmed by reviewing the photo copies of the original records), Peiret essentially used the same phase “avant la priere du soir a Este Sollennellement beny”for 15 marriages between November 15, 1691 and December 2, 1694 and again for 7 marriages between April 22, 1697 and April 10, 1700. Thus the phase “solemnly blessed” appears to be the form in which Peiret generally conducted (recorded) the ceremony of marriage during the 1690’s. The 4 exceptions during the decade use phases like “a Ete celebre benit” which also was used for the 9 marriages after 1700 in slightly different forms like “a Este beni” and “a Beny”. In looking at the 5 other marriages he conducted before 1691, theyappear to be more ad hoc in format, before he adopted the ”solemnly blessed” phase used for the Latourrette-Mercereau and Mercereau-Chadeayne marriages. Then, that phase was dropped after 1700 to the shorter “a Este beni” or “a Beny”. (The phrase here would mean “blessed” rather than “solemnly blessed.”)The minister, Jacques Laborie, who followed Peiret after 1704 conducted only two marriages and in each case he used the phase “a Este beny”.
As already noted, Mrs. Jacob (“1965 Compilation”) presents the same text of the marriage ceremony as Lyman, but does not assume that this was a confirming act. This leads one to speculate that this version, which is flawed by omission and misinterpretation, may have come to both of them from another source. From material in the “1965 Compilation”, it is clear that there wasn’t a great deal of coordination between Mrs. Jacob and Lyman, although they were both working on the Latourrette genealogy in the early 1950s and Mrs. Jacob indicates an awareness of Lyman’s forthcoming publication. The confirming marriage theory, in fact, was precluded in Mrs. Jacob’s work, because she was pursuing the Rhode Island Colony theory which is based on Jean being single when he came to America. (The Rhode Island Colony also turns out to be a false lead as to the life of Jean Latourette in America. See in a later posting the discussion of the reasons why the theory doesn’t hold up.)
In conclusion, all the evidence indicates that Jean and Marie were married once on July 16, 1693 in NYC.
The only consideration that might suggest an earlier marriage is the fact that a daughter (Marie) was born to Jean and Marie on September 23, 1693 only two months after their marriage. Or, was Marie just pregnant at the time of the only marriage?The version of the marriage ceremony that both Lyman and Mrs. Jacob use, perhaps from some other yet unidentified source, may have allowed Lyman to read what he wanted to see in the record— -that there was a previous marriage. This would allow him to explain the birth of a daughter two months later and to cite the baptism with the godparents as confirming evidence.
Mrs. Jacob likely understood the problem of explaining the birth in September. Using the same version of the marriage ceremony as Lyman, she believed that Jean was a male single at the time of the marriage and that Jean came to Rhode Island with the colony that settled there in the fall of 1686. Presented with this problem, she lists the date of birth of the daughter Marie as September 23, 1694 and the date of the baptism as December 6, 1694. See her 1965 compilation “The LaTourette Family and Associated Families”, cited above. (Unfortunately, there is no pagination in the compilation to cite as a reference. In addition the American author has her handwritten note from the 1950s which repeats the 1694 dates.) In each case the birth and baptism dates are exactly a year after they are written in the records of the St. Esprit church. (See Wittmeyer, p.33). This was verified by a personal inspection of the photocopies of the original records at the church.
This could also be the more subtle reason why Lyman wants to believe the confirmatory theory and points to the baptism with grandparents as sponsors as confirming an earlier marriage.
One wonders how much Lyman was influenced by the family history and genealogy found in the notes and chart developed by the Rev. James A. M. LaTourette. The material developed by Rev. LaTourette forms the basis of Lyman’s Chapter XIV, ‘Latourette Line As Given By Rev. James A. M. LaTourette about 1882’. Lyman quotes Rev. LaTourette as follows:
“Jean LaTourette born in France at Osse, in Bearn, near Pyrenees, about 1651, married in France to Marie Mercereau, of Moise, St. Onge, born about 1665, marriage about 1684, fled to America about 1685; marriage in France legalized under English law in New York City in 1693.”
Lyman appears to accept all of this history created by the Rev. LaTourette, even to the point of Marie’s alleged birth date of 1665. We note here that Rev. LaTourette was the one cited by Lyman who, based solely of the similarity of names in the Romance languages, states without any reservation that the Latourrettes of Osse must have come originally from Italy. (See “Annals”, p. 3) No other evidence is given for this assertion. (The history of the Latourrettes in Osse clearly indicates that the name really is of a Bearnais language origin rather than Italian, or even French.) When the Count de la Tourette story is taken up in another posting, it is evident that Rev. LaTourette, although he did not author the fable, had a hand in promoting on an international scale that romantic tale, based on little or no documented evidence. One is tempted to conclude that, though the Reverend spent a considerable amount of time in pursuing his branch of the family (from the son David born December 29, 1699), he appears to have had an overactive imagination about areas in which there was no evidence to support conclusions that he reached.
Today, we would just accept the fact that they were married in July and had a child in September. Certainly, their life together appears to be exemplary and they had 7 addition children up to the year 1710.
How the “doctored” marriage ceremony relates to the count tale will be covered in another posting.
For background, see my Webpage: