Friday, February 13, 2015

a Huguenot connection?

Every self-respecting family tree needs a Huguenot ancestor. Our best bet for this is Johanna Bondam (Bodang, Bondamm, Pondam, Bontam), the mother of the emigrant Johannes Klundt, who left the Palatinate for the shores of the Black Sea and left descendants around the world.

Maria Johanna Bondam, protestant, was born in Mörlheim (today a part of Landau town) around 1735 as one of at least three children of Johannes Bondam and his wife Maria Sara, last name unknown. Her older sister Maria Eva Bondam (born at Mörlheim as well) went on to marry a Jacob Frary of Swiss descent and went on to have nine children. Her descendants are listed on GedBas. The younger brother Pierre Bondam was born in 1737 at Billigheim, a few kilometres south of Landau.

Now both Mörlheim and Billigheim are not just any old villages in the Southern Palatinate. Mörlheim was the first place in Germany where Waldensians from the Piedmont (then part of the Duchy of Savoy, now in the northwest of Italy) settled after they began to be expelled from their home region. There is a whole book about the trek of the Waldensians from the Alps to Germany with a big chapter about Mörlheim, complete with lists of inhabitants of the manor, which had been founded in 1148 as a subsidiary to the Cistercian abbey of Eußerthal.

There were originally only three or four families of peasants working there, but in 1655, 15 families of Waldensians arrived, with 60-70 people in total. In the privileges set out for them by the prince elector, it is specified that there should be at least 40, but no more than 1000 families of settlers. They moved into the abandoned buildings of the abbey, which had been dissolved with the reformation in 1560. The first list of settlers, consisting exclusively of Waldensians from the Piedmont, does not contain a Bondam person.

But further fugitives arrived, as the colony began to thrive. The settlers planted mulberry bushes and produced silk. By 1670, there were around 100 families represented by a council of 12.

However, most of these fled when French troops advanced in 1688/89, although the invadin troops ended up using the former abbey for storage and didn’t destroy it. In the spring of 1691 some of the refugees returned, along with a few new settlers, among them our Jean Bonnedame. He is listed among the group of 11 new arrivals as owning 1 Pflug (i.e. around 20 hectares) of land.

The next round-up, made in March 1699 on the occasion of a lawsuit against the lease holder of the land, who apparently tried to cheat the peasants out of their land and possessions, lists Jean Bonnedame among the group of “Walloons, Huguenots”, kept separately from the Piemontais. In 1697, a group referred to as “the Walloons” left the place due to the animosities surrounding the lawsuit. This group includes two from the five people named in the Walloon/Huguenot mixed list but not Jean Bonnedame, so we conclude that he was one of the Huguenots (of which there were only three left at most, after deducting those identified as Walloons).

Considering that Jean Bonnedame was listed as a grown-up in 1691, so must have been born no later than 1670, he will have been too old to be Johanna Maria’s father in 1735 and is likely to be her grandfather.

At the same time, Billigheim was also a place that hosted refugees persecuted for religious reasons. The church records from the 17th century are lost, but in 1699 there was also a Bonnedame person living there, so the family appears to have been split between these two locations, which might explain why Johannes Bondam’s family seems to have moved from Mörlheim to Billigheim before the birth of their son in 1737. Also, there is a Jakob Bondam who was born at Mörlheim in 1720, but his father was called Wilhelm, so the connection to our Bonnedames isn't very clear at all. (To confuse things further, there is a prominent Dutch historian called Peter Bondam (1727-1800), but I don't know where his ancestors came from either.)

So, we’re still not entirely clear what happened there, nor where the Bonnedame families came from prior to 1691, but I think the case for a Huguenot ancestry is growing stronger. As always, any hints appreciated.


Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre
Image source: Wikipedia

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