Sunday, June 30, 2013

Attention: Witt Family Researchers: Do you have Guillaume Witt the Huguenot in your family tree? Read On Please!

When I first started doing genealogy back in the 1970s, a great grand Aunt - Edna Witt Bless shared her (our) Witt genealogy with me. I was a newbee at genealogy and really didn't have a clue what the heck I was doing in my new hobby. Since Aunt Edna was a big wig in the Huguenot Society (National Society Secretary-Treasure) ,I just new I had hit a Witt family genealogical gold mine thanks to her family research.

Well as time went along I began to doubt this whole Huguenot thing as I dug deeper into her research.

But I was not the only one who had doubts. Robert W. Baird has really dug into this Witt family myth and published a research analysis on "Were the Witts Huguenots?" online on his wonderful website Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet ( If you have this Huguenot myth in your Witt family tree right now (and a ton of Witt trees at Ancestry do), please use the click thru link above to Bob's website and get the straight skinny. Do yourself and your family a favor and get rid of this myth once and for all.

So how did this all happen? To quote Bob, "The founder of this Huguenot Society, Mary Latham Norton, was a descendant of William Witt who apparently assumed that William Witt was a Huguenot and an otherwise undocumented settler of the Manakin settlement. She relentlessly promoted that view in the society’s documents and in a number of other publications. She was, however, unaware of the Witt records in Henrico and Charles City County and thus did not realize that John Witt of Charles City County was the immigrant and that his sons were born in Virginia. Nonetheless, the Huguenot Society persisted until quite recently in listing “Jean” and “Guillaume” Witt among the “authenticated founders” of the Manakin settlement, claiming that they arrived in Virginia about 1700 from France. Although the Huguenot Society has abandoned this stance it remains a very difficult myth to dispel, despite the fact that there is not a shred of evidence to support it."

"Were the Witts Huguenots? Probably not. They were almost certainly English citizens, born in England, and members of the Church of England."

Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the word as William Witt was still included in a 2008 publication as an acceptable ancestor for membership in the Huguenot Society per a recent Google search on this subject.

Finally, as it turns out, I did get my Huguenot ancestor - old Nicolas Martiau, my 13th great grandfather, the Father of Yorktown, Virginia.

Naval action between the Huguenot fleet and the French Royal fleet, aided by English and Dutch ships, during the Capture of Ré island