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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EARLY DUCRAY FAMILY

By Susan M LUZY

France




Millions of people are today interested in their family history. In our case, some of our ancestors already began to research our family origins about 150 years ago. This is a brief summary of what we have discovered up until now, the year 2015.

The Name Giblot

Giblot is a rare name in France today. Only four Giblots seem to have been born there between 1966 and 1990 and one of these first saw the light of day in Martinique. It’s so rare today in France that it’s ranked at no. 149,out of a list of 893 in the list of family names. Even searches under alternative spellings such as Gibleau and Gibelotte reveal no further members of the family. Yet our ancestors were definitely of French origin, and there is evidence in many French archives to prove it. The archives of the city of Rennes in Brittany show without doubt that Charles Giblot and Anne Claude Convert, the earliest ancestors mentioned in the family papers, were living there from 1710 to 1716. The parish registers of St. Aubin de Rennes contain details of five of their children baptised there in this period. But Charles and Anne do not themselves seem to have been born in Rennes, nor  does their son Charles François. According to the Archivist of Ille et Vilaine, the present day “département” of Brittany, Giblot is not a Breton name. Charles and Anne Claude may have moved there from the neighbouring region of Poitou where several Giblot families can be found scattered throughout the parish registers of the 17th and 18th centuries, or even perhaps from further away, from the region around Orléans. Here the name Giblot occurs more sparsely over a much wider area, from Orléans in the west to Ouzouer sur Trezée in the east. Frustratingly the parish registers do not yet enable us to establish links between the various families recorded, as there are still many gaps in the indexes. Probably some of the registers have not been indexed, or perhaps they haven’t survived the rigours of climate, ill care, revolution or war. However, as time goes on and more records become available on Internet, Charles and Anne Claude may eventually emerge from obscurity.

In spite of our detective work to date, Charles and Anne Claude still remain somewhat shadowy figures. All we know about Charles is that he was “intéressé dans les affaires du Roi”, engaged in the King’s affairs, the King of France being at that time Louis XV. He was probably a financier employed in collecting taxes for the State coffers. Following the birth of their last child in Rennes in January 1716 they disappear from our records until 1729, date when the log of the sailing vessel “Duc de Chartres” shows they stepped on board at Lorient to travel to the French colony of Isle de France (now known as Mauritius) which was established in the Indian Ocean in 1720. Charles may by this time have been employed by the French “Compagnie des Indes”. He died not long after their arrival, in October 1729, and Anne Claude followed him to the grave in 1732. However, in the family’s own archives, there is a document bearing her signature dated 16th February 1731. It relates to the food shortage in the aftermath of the hurricane which had just occurred, when the island’s inhabitants were requested to furnish a certain quantity of grain to replenish the island’s supply. The Widow Giblot, as she was known, and a certain Giblot Ducray signed the declaration to the effect that they had no stocks of their own and depended on the common store. We can also see from documents in the National Archives of Mauritius that Veuve Giblot was granted various land concessions.

Charles and Anne Claude having already left the scene we now turn to the next generation to continue the story, and here we are on firmer ground. Charles and Anne Claude were accompanied to the Isle de France by their three grown-up children, their two sons Charles François and Jean Félix, and their daughter Marie Charlotte. Not much is known of the early life of these three either. Jean Félix and Marie Charlotte were baptised in Rennes in 1710 and 1711. Charles François’ birth place is unknown but according to a manuscript preserved in the National Archives of France he was registered in 1725 as an “avocat au Parlement de Paris”, that is to say, a magistrate in an institution which played an important role in the government of France at that time.

 The story now focuses on these three separate branches of the Giblot family and their descendants.

Charles François as the oldest son inherited the right to call himself simply by the family name Giblot. Jean Félix, the cadet, signed himself Giblot Ducray as evidenced by the 1731 document already mentioned. This was a custom adopted amongst families of noble rank, whereby younger sons took a second surname to distinguish them from the heir to the family name. But were the Giblots of noble rank? No evidence so far suggests this. They are not listed in any register (“nobiliaire”) of the noble families of France. It is far more likely that Charles Giblot was of “bourgeois” origin just below the rank of noble and that he aspired to nobility through acquisition of an “office” in the King’s affairs. There were various rules and regulations in France under the Ancien Régime (i.e. prior to the French Revolution in 1789) for attainment and maintenance of noble rank, and these changed from one period to another. Noble rank conferred certain privileges, the main being an exemption from various taxes, without doubt highly sought after. Claimants therefore had to establish their noble lineage through a certain number of generations and to show that they lived in noble fashion, i.e. that they lived off their land or exercised a noble profession as soldier, and above all, that they did not practise any commercial activity. Noble or not, the Giblots were obviously well educated and before leaving for Mauritius had frequented people of fairly high social status. Why Jean Félix chose the name Ducray remains a mystery. Usually the additional surnames referred to land owned or inherited. Was Ducray the name of a place connected with the family in France, or even in Mauritius? As it was originally “du Cray” and not “de Cray” it refers to  somewhere called “Le Cray”. There are a few hamlets in France called Le Cray or Le Craie but none are in places so far connected with the Giblots.

Charles François and Jean Félix were both connected with the French “Compagnie des Indes”. European powers were scrambling to create settlements around the Indian Ocean in an effort to secure trade in highly prized (and priced) goods such as exotic spices. The French, the English and the Dutch each had a rival East India Company striving for dominance in the area. Charles François was engaged in the Compagnie’s administrative activities and Jean Félix was an officer in the Compagnie regiment detailed to defend the new colony. But the colony stagnated and remained in a poor condition until 1735 when the energetic Mahé de la Bourdonnais arrived to waken things up.

Charles François under his administration quickly rose to a position of importance in the governing Council of the island, eventually becoming its President. In 1737 he married 17 year old Anne de Laval, daughter of an infantry captain stationed on the neighbouring Isle de Bourbon (present day Reunion), but originally from Blois, near Orléans.

In 1746 war broke out between France and England, each vying for supremacy along the eastern seaboard of India, in particular for control of the town of Madras. The French “Compagnie des Indes” ordered La Bourdonnais to arm a fleet to set sail for India and Charles François was involved   UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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