THE SEARCH FOR THE 'de CROISETTES' HUGUENOT ANCESTRY

Ethel Le Croissette (1890-1949)

Priscilla Le Croissette (1883-1961)

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When London was under siege during the Second World War, Ethel Smith, the wife of Harlow Le Croissette, began a journey of investigation that would finally be completed sixty years later by her descendants and relatives. It took the last years of her life, because Ethel was not a well woman: she was fighting cancer. What spurred her to begin this work was her husband's name, Le Croissette, and the stories that had filtered down through the generations.

Ethel Smith married Harlow Frederick Le Croissette after he returned from service in the Royal Flying Corps in 1918. For many years she had been increasingly curious about her husband's ancestry. He had stories to tell about his Huguenot forebears making their way to England, but few facts and no detail. The original branch of the French family, the story went, escaped to England to avoid persecution, supposedly hidden in a bread basket.

But in 1941, while Hitler was marching on Moscow, and British and Commonwealth forces in the Eighth Army were penetrating into the Western Desert of North African, Ethel found she had time on her hands. Her only daughter Eileen was away from home, serving as an officer in the Royal Air Force in the 'Filter Room', calculating the paths of incoming aircraft (and later, the trajectories of rockets.) Her son Dennis was at college, and her husband Harlow was working a long five-and-a-half day week, designing the tail fin of the Mosquito, leaving him little time for leisure. This was when she began her quest.

During those years of research Ethel had no recourse to the online records of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and the International Genealogical Index, or a shared community of interest in genealogy such as exists today. Yet much of what she and her husband Harlow discovered has stood examination even in this age of the Internet, the mobile telephone, the fax machine and the office copier.

She began by putting out feelers, without much sense of where to look. The first target was Charles Le Croissette, Harlow's grandfather, born, they believed, in about 1818. She used the disrupted public transport system to travel to the heart of London, combing through parish records in archives that had been hidden away to protect them from bomb damage, taking her life into her hands when the Blitz was in full spate. It is not hard to imagine the conditions in which most of Ethel's searches took place: this was London at war. There would have been no heating in winter, no strong light for reading, no comfortable seating. Many records were stowed safely against bomb damage. It must have been a strain of a high order for a woman whose health was already failing. Yet sometimes she was too late: fire had destroyed priceless collections.

Painstakingly, she made her way around the old French churches in the Soho and district area, and gradually unearthed birth and marriage records of the early generations in London. Her notes, jottings on rough scraps (paper being in short supply), reveal her struggle to make sense of the information she gleaned from parish records. Wherever she saw any name that could be linked to 'Croissette', she took lucid and comprehensive notes, now on delicate ageing yellow paper. These are clear and to the point, as are the letters she wrote in a broad cursive hand, signed with Harlow's name. As she explained to her son Dennis, she thought a man's name would gain more attention, especially because Harlow was the direct descendant of the people whose origins she was researching.

Here is a transcription of one set of notes:


Marriages 1744 Jn & Sara Cross Nicolas St Georges Mayfair

1745, crossed out, 7. John and Cath Tabary, Ditto

1751 Mary de la Crossett Married James Gastincane St George Mayfair

1770 John Le Croissett & Anne T Maryleb

1776 Chas Crossett Manchester

1735 La crois Claudia & Ste Brid Stepney

La Croisett

Aug 1770 John

628

Anne Taylor

Some notes she typed out, again on scraps of paper, all still in remarkably good condition in 2003. She took multiple carbon copies. She passed her notes around the family. She cast her net wide: from New Jersey in America, to Coventry, Manchester, Croydon and Essex, and up the distaff lines too. For instance, after making the notes below, she pursued the Orton pedigree as far as she was able.

The Year 1881 No 308

Frederick le Croissette Age 25 Bachelor

Sophia Orton " 23 Spinster

Father's name Charles le Croissette Cabinet Maker

"David Orton Master Watch and Clock Maker

Copy from the register of St Thomas' Bethnal Green

11 April 1881

Witnesses John Coldwell

Emma Lenton

John Coldwell, we now know, married Frederick's sister Caroline. As for Emma Lenton, the 1881 census shows a woman of this name, aged 20 years, in Shoreditch working as a machinist. It is now thought that this was Emma Lettin, a tie maker, whose brother Thomas Henry married Ellen Le Croissette, Frederick's sister. Thus four families - the Coldwells, Ortons, Lettins and Le Croissettes (as well as the Mitchells among others) - were linked through marriage although since these families were so large, it took some years to untangle the interconnections and put cousins back in touch with each other.

There was a sudden breakthrough. Nellie, the wife of Harlow's brother Roland, mother of four rumbustious sons, was having a weekend break in Essex. On a bus ride, she spotted the name Croissette over a shop in Benfleet and had the presence of mind to get off at the next stop to retrace the route of the bus. There she made contact with Mark Croissette.

To her astonishment, he possessed a Family Bible that held details of the family's pedigree going back to the brothers, John Isaac and Charles. (Two sample pages are displayed here courtesy of the current owner, for which we are duly grateful.) The Bible was gifted by John Isaac to Charles on August 17th, 1815 and contained the full list of the children of John Isaac Des/Lecroissett and his wife Catherine Wohlmann (whose nephew Godfrey Frederick married her daughter Elizabeth). Their baptism dates and places were followed by a listing of deaths and burials, along with the chain of possession of the Bible. There was even a copy of a coat of arms with the crest and the motto Conservatus providentia a Dei - Saved by God's providence. The fact that the crest consisted of a sinking ship set within the phrase Naufragus Statione Sanctae Annae 1758 stimulated questions that have still to be answered in 2004, one theory being that a member of the wider family was caught up in the conflict between the French and the British in Acadia (Nova Scotia, one of the first areas to be settled) when several ships, both British and French, were destroyed close to St Anne's.

Ethel and Harlow were elated with the news and wrote to these new members of the family arranging to visit them. Both families were feeling a little anxious at the meeting but Ethel reported later that all went well and these new relatives were "very pleasant people". The discovery of the Bible opened up numerous new avenues. The Croisette family were stunningly close - second cousins, once removed. Mark was in fact baptised Alfred Mark, son of Frederick, whose grandfather was the brother of Harlow's own grandfather, Frederick Albert Lecroissette.

The earliest full letter in the family archives to do with this episode is dated 24th October 1944, just when the first Nazi V2 15-ton rockets began to hit London, launched from Holland and Germany. The Nazis had just razed Warsaw even while the Allies were liberating Belgian cities. At home, Ethel was recovering from her first operation, taking little account of her own deteriorating state of health, which improved so little that sometime later a cobalt 'bomb' was inserted into her leg to trickle radiation into her system.

Thrilled by the discovery of the Bible at Benfleet, she wrote to 'Bert' (her brother-in-law Albert David Le Croissette, the eldest of the four brothers), enclosing sheets of notes, including a rough pedigree chart, made after she and Harlow visited Benfleet to see the Bible. She described how the record of descent in the Bible from John Isaac de la Croisette showed a break in 1752. She made the point that the family came from France at the end of the 17th century, 'the Huguenot period', and emphasised the various forms of the name 'des Croissette (with or without two esses)' prefaced by 'la, le, les, or just Croissette'. She wrote at length about the Benfleet crest and its true colours, noting that Harlow's copy, made in coloured inks carefully selected to simulate the original, still fresh, colours, was 3 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider than the original. Harlow sent copies of his drawing to all the senior members of the family who were then known.

There began a further flurry of correspondence. Ethel and Harlow wrote to St Luke's rectory at Helmet Row, Old Street in London, enquiring about the death of an 'Elizabeth Croi at St Luke's Old Church, Old Street, date 1745/6, March 19th. Child.' They asked whether this referred to 'Elizabeth La Croissette or Cross who was born in 1734, and should like to have details of her Father & Mother & where they lived.' The reply, on a compliments slip, referred them to the Somerset House stores at Oxford, undoubtedly a safer place for such vital information than London itself in the middle of the Blitz.

On the 12th November, 1944, RAF bombers hit the Tirpitz, Germany's last big warship, with three 12,000-pounds. A week later, Winnie Croissette wrote from South Benfleet in response to a telephone call from Ethel asking for more detail about 'Charles'. Charles, Winnie said, was born 21 January 1752, son of Charles La Croissette and Sophie Ziebohn. The child lost his sight at the age of 10 and was 'brought up to music and Mess. Alfield, Scot Richardson & Morgan.'

It is hard, at this distance, to see why Ethel and Harlow were so interested in this particular Charles, not a direct ancestor, unless because Harlow's own forebear John Isaac had gifted the Bible to Charles, his brother, the namesake of their grandfather. Perhaps too, locating Charles's baptism would have cast light on the next generation back. Here is the reply to one of their letters of enquiry to do with Charles, two days before the lights were switched back on in Piccadilly, The Strand and Fleet Street, after five years of blackout:

St James Church, Clerkenwell, E.C.1

18/11/44

Mr H LeCroissette

Dear Sir,

In reply to your letter of Nov. 6th I have searched our Registers but can find no record of Charles La Croissette.

There is a St. James Church in Bethnal Green, which is much nearer Broad Street that [sic] St. James Clerkenwell. Perhaps you might write there.

I can find no record of a Mr Groves as the Minister of St. James Clerkenwell.

In regard to your other query regarding John Isaac Le Croissette - there is a record of a burial on 19th March, 1827, of Jn. Isaac Cross. Against the name is a note which says "see affidavit". The affidavit is of the undertaker which states that he gave the name of Cross in error, and that the proper name should read Le Croissette, and that Cross was the English translation of Cross [sic]. The affidavit was made in the Police Station in Hatton Garden. Mr Cross's place of abode was given as "St. Lukes".

If you would care to see the Burial entry & the affidavit you could see me at St. James, Clerkenwell, next Saturday at 4 p.m. (Nov. 25th).

Yours faithfully.

E. W. Sawbridge

(Churchwarden.)

There seems little doubt Harlow and Ethel accepted this invitation. To discover in this way such an interesting snippet about the burial of their great-grandfather John Isaac must have been irresistible.

The further letter in the series is addressed to Harlow as H. F. Le Croissette Esq., 28 Radcliffe Road, N.21. It came from the City of Westminster Public Library at St Martin's Street, W. C. 2, and was dated 21st November 1944, two days before French troops entered Strasbourg. The telephone number was WHI: 8311-2-3, typed over an older number, TEMple bar 0111, Ext. 15. This was presumably due to a switch of location during the war.

Dear Sir,

I have received your interesting letter of 8th of November regarding Huguenot connection with Westminster. So far as I can trace the two churches most intimately connected in this part of London were St. Anne's, Soho, and St. James's Piccadilly. Both of these, unfortunately, suffered badly during the air raids. It might, however, be worth while addressing an enquiry to the following addresses:-

The Rector, St. Ann's, Dean Street, W. 1.

The Parish Clerk, St. James's Church Room,

Jermyn Street, S. W. 1.

There were at that time at least two other Huguenot churches viz., Orange Street Chapel (1693-1776), the French refugee church, and the French Protestant Church in Soho Square which was founded in 1550 in Austin Friars and re-built several times, finally in Soho in 1893. I would also recommend you to the publications of the Huguenot Society. These may be seen at our Branch library in Great Smith Street. Possibly you can find there a great deal of information of interest and assistance to you, including transcripts of the Registers of a number of the churches used by the Huguenots in this country.

Yours faithfully,

L. R. McColvin

City Librarian

There follows an undated letter concerning the possibility of relevant records at St Anne's, a Huguenot church. The reply is dated 28th November, presumably 1944, just as Russian troops were poised to cross the Danube to pierce the German defences on the eastern front.

Dear Mr Le Croisette,

I am sorry to have to send an unsatisfactory answer, but unfortunately when the church was destroyed in 1941 the registers were lost also. It is most unfortunate, and in the short time I have been here, I have had to tell a number of enquirers that I cannot help them. I am so sorry.

Yours sincerely,

W. T. Williams.

(for P. McLaughlin.)

The enquiries went on. The next letter received at Winchmore Hill is dated 5th December from St. George's Church Vestry, Hanover Square, W. 1., telephone number Mayfair 0874. That very day, General Patton's troops reached the Siefried Line in Germany. The end of the war was fast approaching.

Dear MadamSir

In reply to your letter to the Rector the records in the Mayfair Registers do not give any information beyond the names and occasionally a place from which one of the parties has come.

In the case you mention the lady's name is given as Sophia Zierbohn of Croydon, Surrey. They did not sign the register and no names of parents, witnesses, or other information is given.

The Vestry is open for searching from Monday to Friday from 11 - 1 and 3 - 5 if you wish to see the entry. The search fee for above is 1/0 [note: one shilling = 5p in pounds sterling].

Yours faithfully,

A. Barton .

Vestry Clerk

The staff of St. James's Church Room, Jermyn Street, S.W.1., REGent 5244, wrote on January 16th, 1945, the day the first boat-train left London for France since before France fell.

Jan 16th. 45.

Dear Sir

In answer to your letter of 3rd Dec: 44, we have now had time to look at our Registers, & have searched the years from Feb 1728 - March 1729 & to 1731, but we can find no trace of any Charles La Croisette. If you would like us to search any further years perhaps you could let us know & we will do our best for you.

The charge will be 2/-

yrs truly

(Mrs) E. A. Davies

(Acting Clerk)

Unfazed, Ethel and Harlow turned their attention to the family coat of arms with its elaborate crest, as discovered in the Bible at Benfleet. They wrote to the College of Arms at Queen Victoria Street, E.C.4. The reply was dated 20th February 1945, the day Churchill and Roosevelt met in Cairo to discuss bringing the war with Japan to a speedy conclusion:

Dear Sir,

With reference to your inquiry, I beg to report that as the result of the search which has been carried out for you in the Records of the College it has been found that no Armorial Bearings have hitherto been reigtstered [sic] to the family of Le Croisette, nor has any entry of pedigree been made.

It is accordingly suggested that you should make application for Armorial Bearings to be assigned to yourself and your descendants in the usual form by Patent. Should you wish to take this course, I shall be happy on hearing from you to forward to you for signature the requisite Memorial to the Earl Marshal in respect of the application. The fees and stamp duty payable in this office on application for a Patent of Armorial Bearings amount to one hundred guineas. It is suggested that the Armorial Bearings should be based upon those traditionally associated with your family, as shown in the sketch which you sent.

Yours faithfully,

Archibald G. B. Russell.

Lancaster Herald

An undated letter survives, probably written in 1945 given its references to war in France. It is on the headed quarto size paper of The Huguenot Society of London, now yellowing, and signed illegibly by the Hon. Sec. There are numerous typing errors and hand-written additions to the punctuation. Retyping it would not have been possible in a time of such scarcity.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of 28th ult. has been forwarded to me from my former address.

I am afraid I cannot give you off-hand any references to the family of Croisette without considerable search in the Proceedings and other Publications of our Society.

It is very probable that the name in some of its variants may occur in the old Registers of the former Huguenot Churches in London and elsewhere in this country, many of which the Society has printed in its quarto series of Publications, and its presence in these would be strong evidence of the Huguenot origin of the family.

I do not know whether you would be prepared to make a search yourself in the volumes concerned, but if so I would suggest that you should applyh to the Secretary of the French Hospital, Victoria Park Road, E.9. in whose library a complete set of both the Proceedings and Register Publications is kept. You may mention my name in applying.

With regard to the coat of arms, of which I presume you already have a copy, I do not wuite [sic] understand what is the information you are in search of, but, on receving [sic] more information from you, I shall be happy to ask the advice of an expert in Heraldry as to what course you might pursue. I am afraid however that in present circumstances enquiry in France is difficult.

I have taken the liberty of enclosing some particulars of our Society which might interest you.

Yours faithfully

Ethel returned to the question of the marriage register for Charles. Mrs Aileen Davies replied on June 4th 1945. By then Hitler was dead, and the German army was being demobbed to work on the land while the superpowers were haggling over the partitioning of Europe.

Dear Madam

We have at last been able to search our records for the names of Rev: Groves & Bowmill & have found no mention of them either in the Marriage Registers or Births & deaths. I am so sorry we have kept you waiting so long.

Yours sincerely

Eight days later, a letter arrived from Alexander George Mortimer Le Croissette, born in 1903. He was writing from Kenton in Harrow, and was a second cousin once removed. He had been approached by Ethel. He wrote in a fair sloping hand, neat and well-spaced, with perfect punctuation and spelling, on lined foolscap sheets in ink, by now fading. He told of a contact made by their 'young daughter' who 'told us that a young man with the same name had come to her firm.' Their daughter, born 1929, had met a son of Roland, a third cousin once removed. Another corner of the family tree was illuminated when Alexander drew his own pedigree showing that his earliest known ancestor was Edwin Le Croissette (1820-1872), the brother of Harlow's own grandfather Charles, and the youngest son of John Isaac.

My Great grandfather lived in Clerkenwell and was in the silver trade.... My brother had the funeral card and I saw it only last year, but when I called on him to check up on the date and name he told me they had destroyed it with some other old cards....My grandfather.... was a silver spinner....He lived with his wife and family for some time at Walford Road, Stoke Newington....My Father.... was a silver chaser....

We always understood that the name originally was La Croissette. My grandfather also told us that the name was changed to Cross for a time possibly during the French wars. He said that when one of his predecessors was married, although using the name Cross for everyday, the proper name had to be written in the register, and the bride suggested that they should continue using the name Le Croissette. This may have been the reason for the a being changed to e.

We have photos of all the people on this table, and the one of my grandfather's sister Elizabeth Catherine is signed.

It is not known what happened to these photographs.

Ethel busily disseminated what she and Harlow had been discovering, hoping to prompt more revelations. Their remote cousin Alexander wrote back on 26th August, 1945. He and his family had just had their first holiday since the war began, and he said he was pleased that Ethel had met his grandfather.

The enclosed papers have been of great interest especially the records from the bible. Two of the addresses mentioned appear to suggest that Charles Des Croisette born 1730 resided in districts that were French colonies in London. The first Cambridge St, near Broad St Carnaby Market, appears to have been in Soho, as there are Streets of similar names there now. The other in Primrose Street Bishopsgate is near Spitalfields which was one of the districts in which the Huguenots settled in 1685.

Perhaps I ought to mention that we are not on the Phone.

By now Japan had fallen, and the prisoners of war were being released. But still enquiries directed to France might receive no reply, so Ethel and Harlow turned to Canada. They wrote to the Quebec Provincial Archivist and heard back in a letter dated September 11, 1945.

Dear Sir:-

Your letter of the 16th August, 1945, has been handed over to me.

I warmly regret to be unable to give you any accurate information. Our records mention a wreckage in the St. Lawrence river in 1729. The ship was the Elephant; a large number of the crew was conveyed on shore and walked up to Quebec but their first halting-place was St. Joachim which is near Ste Anne de Beaupré, sanctuary of pilgrimage.

Moreover, we have no records of the anme La Croissette, Croissette, Crossett or Le Croissette. As to the poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson, we have read the biography of the latter in Britannica Encyclopaedica and we did not find any mention of it. I entertain the idea that Stevenson in his poem my allude to Ste Anne d'Auray, a sanctuary similar to ours at Ste Anne de Beaupré.

Nevertheless, I would suggest that you direct your researches at Oxford, at the Rhodes House Library, where you may find something on the poet Stevenson.

Like you, in London, we thank God every day to have favored us with Victory.

I remain, dear sir,

Yours very truly, (signed)

Antoine Roy

Quebec Provincial Archivist, Battlefield Park, QUEBEC CITY, Canada

The envelope in which this letter arrived at Winchmore Hill, still in prime condition in 2004, was posted at 7 pm on 11th September in Quebec.

Ethel next pursued the name Crossett, writing to the Canadian Military Headquarters in Acton on 2nd November 1945, the day riots broke out in Egypt against the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Her enquiry arose from a fresh set of family links that were made earlier that year by Ethel. The family archives contain a note on headed paper dated October 27th 1945, from

John D. Crossett, High-Class Civil and Military Tailor and Outfitter, of 22, West Street, Horsham, And at 112, Church Street, Croydon.

Stamped beneath are the words 'And 1455, London Road, Norbury'.

Dear Mrs Croissette,

Thank you for your letter. I am sorry I have not been able to send you any information yet, but have written to my father and to the friend I write to in Florida - not Canada, and if I hear anything I will let you know.

The one I mentioned to your sister in Canada, was a soldier who called in my shop & showed me his identity card, with his name spelt exactly as mine, but unfortunately I was very busy & he was in a hurry so did not have time for Conversation. I think he said he came from Quebec.

Would it not be a good idea to write to the Mayor or whatever they call them in Quebec asking him to send you any address of that name?

Yours sincerely

J Crossett

Ethel and Harlow took the first and easiest step by writing to the military headquarters in London itself at Acton, seeking to establish the identity of this soldier. For their pains they received a polite brush-off from W. D. Wilks, Lieut., on behalf of the Colonel in charge. Without full regimental particulars the military authorities were unable to chase out the detail.

Events moved on in the year to follow. The reconstruction of London was under way but elsewhere there was still turmoil. On June 3rd 1946 there was a referendum in Italy that called for the abolition of the monarchy. A letter arrived that day from the St. James's Church Room, Jermyn Street, S. W. 1. REGent 5244, in a hurried hand, again to do with Charles Le Croissette.

Dear Madam

We have searched our Records the last few days & can find no trace of either Rev Graves or Bowmill during 1730-1740. The only names appearing during the latter part of those years are Oxford & the Church warden. I am sorry we have not been able to help you.

Yours sincerely

Aileen Davies

Ethel and Harlow had made considerable progress and were now able to fill in the four generations from Charles Le Croissette (1818-1876) and his wife Elizabeth Hut(t) (1824-1895), down to the generation of Ethel and Harlow's own children (Eileen and Dennis), and from there up to John Isaac and his children. Most was perfectly accurate and can be checked against parish records and the online IGI. To have done so much, so precisely, in such a short time in times of such chaotic change was a feat of considerable persistence as well as intellect.

Typed-up versions of the family tree, different branches shown on separate sheets, were being compiled at this time. Several copies still exist, annotated over the years by Ethel's daughter Eileen with whose consent they are displayed here. They were typed out originally by Ethel on Eileen's own pre-war Yost typewriter, a strange machine with an unusual mechanism. They were laid out, landscape, on foolscap sheets, the horizontal lines made from the 'underline' key, and the vertical by descending lines of apostrophes. They still make interesting reading and go largely unchallenged on detail.

The quest to understand the family Arms continued. Harlow's sister Priscilla Padfield (nicknamed 'Did', abbreviated from Didymus, meaning a twin, her sister having died at birth) took to the pen. She wrote from 51 First Avenue, Bath, to the College of Arms. Arthur Cochrane, Clarencaux, King of Arms, replied on 23rd August, 1946, in calm and lofty tones that give no hint of the epic events taking place in the world. In Europe the Nuremburg trials were taking place, and rioting in India was causing great problems for the British who were shortly to appoint Nehru as head of a provisional government.

Dear Madam,

Thank you for sending me the outline of your pedigree and the copy of the Arms.

I have made a search in the records of the College and I do not find that your family have ever recorded the pedigree here or established the right to Arms.

The pedigree I should imagine could be amplified by a reference to the church registers, and Wills etc, and one day you ought to have it proved and recorded here.

With regard to the Arms I find the following Arms given in a printed book on Foreign Arms to a family of La Croisette:-

Azure semss of Crosses pattee

Or on a Fesse Argent

three Martlets sable.

No crest is given.

I return the papers you were kind enough to send me.

A second letter was soon on its way to Did, dated 23rd August, 1946, this time from an abject Robert Burbidge.

Dear Madam,

It was only when I came to pack your papers to return them to you together with Sir Arthur Cochrane's letter, that I discovered your letter to him, and I am therefore replying to this on his behalf.

From the family details you send I take it that your earliest known ancestor in England was John La Croissette, who died in 1766 aged 69 years, and whose children were baptised at St Annes and St James Wesminster [sic] 1727-1740.

Searches could be made with a view to tracing his parentage, but you will understand in view of what you say that he was smuggled over to England, Sir Arthur could not guarantee that he can discover anything.

These searches too would cost a certain amount of money and you ought to be prepared to spend say [ten pounds sterling] on them.

Perhaps, therefore, you will be kind enough to let Sir Arthur know your wishes in the matter, and in the meantime I am keeping your papers for him. I am explaining this to him.

Money was sent to cover further research. 'Did' received a letter, dated 7th August 1947, from Arthur Cochrane, noting sorrowfully that the College suffered from lack of experienced researchers. He had, however, exhausted the fee sent by Priscilla, discovering that John Le Croissette, who died in 1766, left no will, nor did his wife Alois [note: this is a misreading of Mrs] Catherine who died in 1759. Their son Charles Cross (or La Croissette) left no will either, any more than did Robert Croisette, who died in 1776. Already, it is worth noting, the custom had become established in the family of electing how to represent their surname. The letter continued:

I have searched all the registers of the French Churches in London and the only interesting discovery is the baptism 24 November 1719 at the French Church of the Savoy, Spring Gardens, London of Isaac son of Jean de la Croisette and Catherine his wife. No further details are given of the father Jean, but as Isaac appears to be a family name I take him to be the son of your John and Mrs Catherine.

Coming down to your immediate ancestor John Isaac Des Croisette, he, with a sister Ann (baptaised [sic] 1 December 1771) was baptised at St. Marylebone 4 July 1883 as the son of John La Croisette and Ann Taylor his wife whom he married also at St. Marylebone 9 August 1770.

Sir Arthur went on to point out the gap (as noted by Ethel already) between the Benfleet Bible entries for 'John Isaac Des Croisette' and the 'earlier entries of the descendants of John and Mrs Catherine': 'there is a gap of another generation between the lines'. However, he pointed out that there had been de la Croix and La Croix families in London as early as 1601, even if apparently unconnected.

The archives now show a gap. Ethel suffered a tragic remission in her cancer and died in 1949 before completing her project, the same year as her sister-in-law Did's husband Wilfred died. Despite her loss, Did took up the challenge, prompted by her daughter Daphne, who suggested asking whether there were archives in Beauvais after they came across a book on French heraldry at the Art Gallery and Municipal Libraries. An article in a local Bath newspaper told the story: Priscilla, a JP living in Oldfield Park, went with Daphne to visit the Beauvais genealogy archives (click here for a transcription of the document) and struck gold. It looked as if the family were descended from the Lords of Granville, with 'more than one.... a King's advocate'. The newspaper article noted that the coat of arms and crest were exhibited at the first Bath Assembly, and gave detail of Daphne's distinguished academic career as well as particulars of the death of her brother in a flying accident in 1941.

In Beauvais, they found that considerable work had already been carried out into the "de Croisettes" family. In one of Did's letters to her niece Eileen, she described how excited the librarians were in Beauvais, when initially unable to find any records, they were told that the family was Protestant and Huguenot. The officials then rushed to another corner of the room where separate records were kept and found the crucial papers telling of the 'de Croisettes' family history. A careful transcription in French was made in 1950 and posted to Did.

The document was in essence a catalogue of legal documentation in the Beauvais archives to do with the family over the centuries. It detailed the descent of the Seigneurs de Granville - a most important question for establishing title - with notes on each individual and linked families.

The descent tree began with the parents-in-law of Colard de Croisettes, early in the 15th century, then followed the de Croisettes line down to Francois Ladvocat who was still alive in France in 1789, the only son of Marie de Croisettes (Dame de Granville) and Louis Ladvocat. Other pages showed related lineages: the Seigneurs de la Motte et Meremont, and Seigneurs de Russon (near Senlis), all descended from Colard. A description of the family arms (without any crest) was included in this original French document:

d'azur á la fasce d'argent, chargé de 3 merlettes de sable - l'écu semé de croisettes toutes d'or

After Ethel's death, Harlow moved to live in Wokingham at Doles Lane. He wrote to the Huguenot Society to offer them copies of Ethel's papers. Two hand-written letters from The Huguenot Society, keen to recruit new members, tell this story.

... from 67 Victoria Road

London. W.8.

28.12.56

Dear Mr Le Croisette.

Your letter of 15th Dec. has been passed to me by the assistant secretary. It is most kind of you to think of letting us have a copy of your family's genealogy and 'coat of arms'. We would be pleased to have it for inclusion in our Library and thank you for offering it to us.

I am enclosing you a brochure which gives particulars of the activities of the Society. I thought you might be interested to see it and perhaps join the association. Should you think of becoming a Fellow and wish for further information please let me know. The next election of Fellows takes places on January 9 and Proposal Forms should reach me on, or any time before, that date.

Thanking you once again for your kind offer.

Yours faithfully

Irene Scouloudi

P.S. I write this letter away from London and find I have no 'Proposal Forms' with me. Please let me know if you wish one forwarded to you.

Irene Scouloudi wrote again on 10th January, 1957.

Dear Mr Le Croisette

It is most kind of you to send us a copy of your family genealogy and the photograph of their coat of arms. I must apologise for taking so long to acknowledge its receipt but I have been busy with the business of the preparation for the first meeting of this year, which took place yesterday.

With our thanks for your generous gift.

Astonishingly, Ethel's papers were rediscovered years later in Paris, having been sent there by The Huguenot Society of London. Other complete sets of papers are, however, still in the hands of the family in Britain.

Yet the final connection between the English and French branches continued to elude Harlow and Ethel, Priscilla, and the generation that followed, Dennis and Eileen Le Croissette, and their cousins, sons of Roland, together with other descendants whose names no longer bear the stamp of their Croisettes history. The story of their hunt for the French connection is told in a later section.

For a list of villages mentioned in the Beauvais Colard de Croisettes document click here.

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