Who was Francis Romeril's father? - a genealogical detective story
A study of who was his real father by Lee T Romrell, a great-great grandson
he purpose of this work is to consider the different possibilities of the father of Francis Romeril, born on 18 August 1799, at St John, Jersey. The choices are between five men who were the common law husbands of Jeanne Hotton.
The best way to start is to look at each person in a chronological order, using the earliest date as the starting point. Jeanne Hotton, or Houghton, was born on 17 December 1775 at St John. She spent her whole life in this parish. She died on 22 June 1834. (Some sources say 1824.)
Generally, a child is born about a year or 18 months after a couple are married. This gives people a pretty good chance of figuring the marriage date, or at least a common law wedding between the couple.
[Editor's note: It is not known where the writer obtained this statistic, but extensive analysis of family records in the preparation of family trees leads the Jerripedia team to believe that more firstborn children make their appearance within nine months of a marriage than do later than 12 months]
Jean Le Brun
The first record that we find of Jeanne Hotton being with a man is the birth of Jean Le Brun, born on 3 November 1873. His father was Jean Le Brun. This means that the couple were together in 1872.
Jeanne decided to separate from this young man, but to make him pay for assistance for the child. In 1875 she sued Le Brun for maintenance. Her tutrice (guardian) Marie Hooton had Le Brun brought to court in chains, being dangerous, and he was ordered to pay 20 sous per week until the child reached the age of seven.
Since Le Brun is no longer connected with Jeanne Hotton, from as early as 1875, he is not a candidate for the father of Francis Romeril. One note of interest: When Charles Abraham, son of Francis Romeril, was christened into the church in 1842, a Susanne Le Brun was one of the witnesses. I am sure there was some relation to Jean Le Brun.
Our next candidate is Francis Romeril. He was born on 29 December 1779, at St Lawrence. Since Francis was born in 1799, this means that he and Hotton were a couple about 1798 or earlier. Francis was a fisherman.
We do not know when Francis died. All that is known is the fact that he died at sea. This means that he was with Jeanne for not more than a couple of short years before he died. He would have been only 19 or 20. There were no records at this time for deaths at sea.
This is the main reason that some say that he could not be the father, because he died well before the child was born. No one knows any of this for sure.
Of the baptism of Francis, a researcher, Anne Mourant, notes: “Francois Romeril, natural son of Jeanne Hotton, was specially baptized on 18 August 1800 and presented in the church on 16 September 1805 by Elie Syrvret and Mary Falle, widow of Nicholas Hamptonne.”
The child was baptised at home as soon as he was born so it is presumed that he must have been very sick. He was then baptised a year later in his family parish, St Lawrence, and he was named after his father, Francis Romeril.
(Note: In 1948 research was done and could find no record of Francis being at St Lawrence, but that does not mean that he was actually not there.)
A couple of significant things here: It is significant that he was taken to St Lawrence to be christened because this is where Francis snr and his father were born. This is the family parish. It is also significant that he was brought in 1805 to the parish for this is about when Jeanne Hotton was with her new beau — Thomas Ferrell. Maybe he wanted to make sure things were somewhat proper between the couple. This second candidate is neither dismissed nor honored as a father, but right now is in the running for the best-case scenario.
[Editor’s note: The baptism of Francois Romeril, the illegitimate son of Jeanne Hotton, is recorded in St Lawrence on 18 August 1800, and again on 16 September that year. There is no record of a birth or baptism in 1799. There are further records of baptisms on Francois Romeril, illegitimate son of Jeanne Hotton, on 18 August and 11 September 1805. No godparents are recorded in the St Lawrence register at this period. It is not clear why the writer believes that Francois was born in St John. Unfortunately there are no transcriptions available for Romeril baptisms in the parish between 1656 and 1715. The double dates for baptisms of Francois Romerils in St Lawrence in 1800 and 1805 would suggest two different births, rather than the same child being baptised four times.]
Thomas Ferrel is the next candidate. Thomas jnr was born on 8 February 1806. This means that he was with Jeanne Hotton at least by 1805. It also puts the time about right when she brought young Francis to be christened. At the time she would have also had young Jean Le Brun with her in the family.
There is no evidence to show Thomas as being with Jeanne before this time. If we also look at the track record for Jeanne of being with a man for only a couple of years and then moving on, then she would have been gone from his sight by 1807-8. I find it interesting that she always kept her Hotton name all this time.
At the christening of the oldest boy to Francis Romeril, Francis Thomas, 1829, one of the witnesses was Thomas Ferrel. Apparently Francis was given the middle name after him, but it is not clear if this is the uncle or stepfather. I personally think it was Francis’ step-brother.
This gives us some evidence that Thomas Ferrel may have been the father of Francis Jr. but the time frame is not there.
Philip Le Marquand
The last possible candidate would be Francis or Philip Le Marquand (or Marguard). Mary Ann was born on 24 July 1811. This is the date on the headstone. The christening date says 27 July 1810. This would mean that Philip was with Jeanne Hotton around 1809-8. This is eight or nine years after young Francis was born. It would be a real hard stretch to have him as the father of Francis by any means. The really sad thing is when I look at some of the Ancestral File sheets and I see that his name is there as the father of Francis, I have to question how a person could even consider him as the biological father of Francis I have to shake my head. This is not good researching. Some of these people are well meaning but the research with regards to Philip does not add up.
It is interesting that when Anne Mary, daughter of Francis was christened, Mary and her husband, Samuel Langlois, were the witnesses.
We now need to look at the time when Francis and Mary Ann Langlois, his step-sister, were baptised into the LDS church. It reveals some interesting things. First, when Francis and his wife Mary decided to be baptised into the church, it was the happiest time of their lives at that point. They found something that meant very much to them and their family. They were good, upstanding members of the community, honest in all they dealt with and associated with good people.
At the baptism, the important facts were written down: The birthdates, who baptised and confirmed them, the dates, the witness, and who their parents were. Francis listed as his parents, Fr Romril, Jane Hotton; and Marie listed Billot and Gilaut. This would have been a good time for Francis Jr. To come clean and state who his real father was if it were not Francis snr. After all, he was entering into something very important and something that meant so much to him.
Francis’ step-sister and husband was also baptised around the same time. She listed her father as Philip, not Francis, Le Marquand. The full name could not be spelled out so we just see the first part. Her mother was Jane Le Marquand, and for the first time we see that she used the last name of her husband. This is why some feel that she was finally married, for she had a different last name. This also meant that she could not have married her until after she left the last person, Thomas Ferrel, which would have been after 1806.
Francis’ wife died in 1866. He had been so busy that he had not had a chance to take her to the temple. Francis finally got his chance to go to the Endowment house in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19 June 1871. Her daughter, Jane Pierce was the proxy for his wife. The record states that he was sealed to his parents — Francis Romriel and Janet Houghton.
The Witnesses for this special sealing of Francis to his parents were the President of the Church Brigham Young, Franklin Richards, (who was an old family friend), and George Smith. It seems this would be one time it would be easy for Francis to do the right thing and list another father if that were the case. Francis was always an honest and caring person and I think he stated who he should be sealed to, Francis snr.
I think that there is enough evidence to show that the real father to Francis Romeril, was the same one who I have always thought; Francis Romeril snr. I think there is one remaining item that we must consider. Francis never once indicated having any other father than the one with his own last name. Early on Francis went by the name of Romeril. He never once went by Ferrell or Le Marguard. This means that the community accepted him as Romeril.
I think that we owe respect to Francis and accept the same conclusion that he has already given to us. After all these years of studying and researching the same feeling keeps coming back to me. Francis accepted his father as Francis. He had several chances to change that in his baptism and endowment, but never did. The research shows that no one else came close to that time frame as to being his father. I hope that his maybe will the put the matter to rest, or at least settle some questions. Francis knew who his father was and we should honor that.
[Editor’s note: It seems clear that Jeanne Hotton did not marry any of the men who supposedly fathered at least her first three children, so she would have not been able in this era to adopt the surname of any of them. Baptisms of illegitimate children were registered in the mother’s name alone, but some rectors in some parishes were willing to attach the surname of the person the mother indicated was the father to the baptism record. This is what appears to have happened in this case. Jeanne Hotton clearly believed, or wanted people to believe, that Francois Romeril was the father of her son Francois (or sons, if the baptisms represent two different children) and Francois jnr was presumably brought up to believe the same, and using Romeril as his surname.]