Blondell Family History Page  

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French Blondel Families
 
 

Name Origin

    According to Thierry Blondel, who lives in France, his research indicates that the name Blondel was derived from the first Blondel and was a reference to his fair complexion and blonde hair.  He was a Viking warrior who, with the Vikings, invaded the North of France.  The north of France, or Normandy, is where the majority of the French Blondel Families settled, acquired property and made their homes.
   And, according to the demographic studies of the Blondel families in France, the majority of the French Blondel population reside in Normandie or Northern France with a secondary population density in Flandres.   Men such as Jules Blondel, the French ambassador to the United Nations, were born here and to the Blondel family.
    There are also Blondel families with French origins in Switzerland, Luxembourg and other areas in the European continent.
    It is our hope and earnest desire to gather much more information concerning the European Blondel families and to record their histories and family stories, here for the heritage and the posterity of all Blondel -- Blondell family members.  So, please those of you who will read these pages, please consider spending some time to record your history, thoughts and cares and submit them for inclusion on these web pages!
 
 

Religious Emigration

    Beginning in around the 12th to the 16th centuries many families fled France because of intolerance and religious persecution.  We believe that during this time some Blondel families left France seeking religious freedom.  Some went to the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and some went to the British Isles.   We believe that this is probably the origin of the Blondel families in England who became the "Blondell" and "Blundell" families in the British isles and who later immigrated to other parts of the world, including the United States.  There is evidence today of French Blondel families who crossed the English Channel, but settled first in the Channel islands.  These were originally French Blondels who had their ancestral roots in France, but were loyal to the United Kingdom of the British Isles.  We believe that this loyalty change came about because of their religious convictions and desire to follow them.   That was the beginning of the name changes that would later affect the French Caribbean Blondel family that were refugees from Saint Domingue and assimilated into the population of the United States.  The French Caribbean Blondel family from Saint Domingue was subject to their surname being changed from Blondel to Blondell.
 
 

Political & Economic Emigration

    Several Blondel families settled in the French West Indies.  Their immigration there could have been for various reasons.  When the French began colonizing the New World the French King needed colonists to settle in the crown's colonies.  According to Jean Claude Blondel La Rougery's research he believes the first patriarchial Blondel of the Blondel La Rougery family in the Caribbean islands was "Le Commandere de Poincy" and his nephew "Robert de Longvilliers" who were both Blondels.  We concur with our esteemed cousin Jean Claude until proven otherwise.
    Apparently in the 1600's, the first Blondel, "Le Commandere de Poincy" was assigned the oversight of the colonization of the island of Saint Christophe.  As such, he also brought additional Blondel relatives to the French West Indies and they settled additional land holdings.  When the French colony on Saint Christophe failed the King of France reassigned the remaining colonists to the colony of Saint Domingue.  The French King also assigned Robert Blondel le Longvilliers de Poincy to the governorship of the French West Indies and as such was the head of government of all the French colonies in the Caribbean.   He enforced French territorial rights on behalf of the French Crown there.
    If this is indeed true, and if there was a direct relationship between the Saint Domingue Blondel family, the "Poincys" and the Martinique Blondels,  it would explain the reason the Saint Domingue family could not return to French residence in Europe after the beginning of the French Revolution.  Their relation to the French crown would have been well known and would have placed them in  danger.
    There were also such programs as indentures wherein passage to the New World would be provided for a man or woman by a wealthy individual or company in exchange for work for a period of time, usually three to five years.   Such an indentured individual would have accepted an agreement like this for the opportunity to obtain land and wealth in the New World after his indenture was served.  At this point in time, we have found no evidence that the original Blondel families in the French West Indies were established from such indentures.
    There were  many noble families of various surnames that fled France during the French Revolution.  They fled to escape persecution and the threat of death sentences.  While the Blondel family in France has many noble branches we do not yet know the exact reason the French Saint Domingue Blondel families chose to settle in the Caribbean or what their connection to the French government was, or even if there really was a connection.  We do believe that it may have been for the reason cited above.  Or, it may have been solely upon the invitation of Blondel le Poincy to family members.  This may have been inductive to bringing more Blondels to the islands during the French Revolution who were of noble descent as they believed they could obtain refuge from family members already on the French colonies and safely wait out the French Revolution in the Caribbean.
    There is also ample evidence according to Rudi Blondia that the some of the Blondel family members in Normandie took the surname Blondia, other Blondels accompanied William the Conquerer to the British Isles where they acquired the surname Blundell and became the royal foresters, and then many of their surnames were later changed back to Blondell with one additional "L" added to the end of their original French surname "Blondel."  There is additional information the "Blundell" family on Jerome Blondell's page at this link:  Jerome Blondell
    So, according to the research of Rudi A. Blondia  the Blondia name is a variant of the Blondel surname.  Rudi states that her original research and notes do show that the earliest Blondia can trace their heritage to the surname Blondel.  This occurred in Normandie, France.  The Blondia Family Web Pages have a lot of additional data in regard to the Blondia family that is accessible there.
 
 

Blondel Immigration to the French West Indies

    There were at least two Blondel families in the French West Indies and a very strong probability of more.  One family had a plantation on the island of Martinique and another had several plantations in Saint Domingue.  There was one Blondel Plantation in Caracol and another Blondel Plantation in Jeremie, both of these cities were and are in Saint Domingue which is the present day nation of Haiti. The majority of the material on these web pages concerns the Blondel family from Caracol, Saint Domingue, and their descendants;  however, a significant amount of material concerns and is dedicated to the Blondel La Rougery family from the island of Martinique.  We have yet to learn of what happened to the Blondels in Jeremie, Saint Domingue, but we suspect that they may have lost their lives during one of the numerous assaults upon the city of Jeremie and the surrounding areas.  General Rigaud was a mulatto general who fought for the French against the English during the early stages of the Haitian Revolution, and was well known for allowing muderous assaults on defenselesswhite people in and arounbd Jeremie.  However, it is also possible that the Blondel plantation in Jeremie was owned by the Blondel family in Caracol, and as absent owners.  There is some information concerning ownership of the planations in Etat Detaille, but it has not been fully analyzed yet.
    We search earnestly to learn more of the Blondel history concerning all of these families and their connection to the European mainland in France.
 
 

Historical Summary
of the French Caribbean Blondel Family
that Immigrated to the United States of America

    The focus of our research has been targeted toward finding the history of the Blondel family in the ancient French colony of Saint Domingue, on the island of Hispaniola, and on the European continent in France.  We believe that the first of the French American Blondels were Anthony & Rosella Blondel.  They immigrated to the United States from the French colony of Saint Domingue in the Caribbean.  Anthony Blondel was known by the French as Antoine Blondel.  Please visit the  Anthony Blondel Page  for more information.  We are also currently looking at genealogical data of numerous Blondel families in France as well as the Caribbean.
    The Historical Society in Martinsburg, West Virginia has in their possession newspaper articles and other documents that report the story of the Blondel family that immigrated to the United States of America from Saint Domingue during the slave revolts.  The slave revolts, or the more correct term, Haitian Revolution, was and were the "undoing" of the French colony and the beginning of the nation of Haiti.  Those documents are available for viewing on the "Anthony Blondel Page."    According to Mr. Don Wood of the "Berkeley County Historical Society" on an evening in 1802 the Blondel family avoided being killed in the Haitian Revolution in Saint Domingue because a loyal servant (slavery had been abolished by General Sothonax)  warned them of their impending doom.
    Rosella, the mother in the family hid herself and her children in the shallow water at the nearby sea coast. They were later picked up by a rescue boat, she took a ship with her children and sought refuge with friends in Philadelphia in the United States.
    Anthony, Rosella's husband, who was gone at the time, returned to find his family gone, his home burned and his property destroyed.  He searched for his wife and children throughout the Caribbean.  He later realized Rosella would contact their friends in the United States if she were alive and went there with that hope.  His venture was rewarded as his family was miraculously reunited in the "City of Brotherly Love" -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    There is a record of Anthony Blondel as a witness to a wedding in the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia in 1798.  We believe the Blondel family fled with this group of refugees to Philadelphia and then later returned to Saint Domingue, having been assured the war was over and the colony had been restructured under the former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture's leadership.   Thus the colony was again under the French government's control. It is for this reason that we believe that the Blondel family friends who offered them refuge may have been Peter & Mary Pelain or Lucian Marie Duscuret and his wife Sarah.  We believe that Anthony and his family was with those friends who were also refugees in Philadelphia at that time in 1798 and four years before the events that caused the Blondel family to finally leave Caracol in Saint Domingue for good.  Anthony must have been comfortable with a former slave as governor of the colony.  He most certainly must have believed his plantation in Caracol to be safe and free of danger because he returned his family to their Caribbean home.
    The political and social foundation of the slave revolt of 1791 and Haitian Revolution of subsequent years in Saint Domingue had their roots in the French Revolution and the French Revolution had its roots in the centuries old feudal system of government with a side issue of the American Revolution.  French citizens struggled in many ways for the most basic forms of liberty, not to mention their ongoing battle to overcome poverty.  The enslaved Negro and the French peasant both fought for their freedom and a reversal of centuries of oppression.
    When, in 1776 the American colonies revolted against their English "oppressors" it was not long before the French government came to the Americans aid.  The French assistance was crucial in the American success in that revolution.  The French were happy to assist the American cause because the English had been the centuries old enemy of the French.  Thus, the seeds of revolution were firmly sewn into the fabric of French society and her colonies.  How could the French King assist the Americans in their fight for freedom against the English and not lift the oppression of his own subjects?  That was one of the questions and issues of the day that remained unanswered.
    When the French Revolution began in 1789 it quickly spread to France's colonies which helped ignite the Slave Revolts in Saint Domingue.  Saint Domingue was in a very precarious position. The colony was isolated from the European mainland and France was unable to quickly come to her aid.  Also, there was the Spanish colony on the Eastern end of the island and the Spanish were very hostile to the French.  During the Haitian Revolution the Spanish provided arms to the Negroes in their desire to overthrow the French authority on the island.  It is seemingly ironic as the Spanish wished to maintain the institution of slavery themselves.  Toward the latter part of the Haitian Revolution the Americans also helped provide arms to the Haitians.  The Americans feared French domination in the New World and the Americans desired to have free access to the port city of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  That was in direct contrast to established French international policy of the denial of American access to that port.
    The plot of complicity thickened further against the French with the English as an ever present and lurking danger seeking revenge against their French enemies for their aid to the Americans.  The English also wanted to further expand their territory in the New World.  The English made "secret agreements" with some French plantation owners and free black men (who also owned slaves) to protect their property rights in exchange for supporting English rule on the island.  So, to complicate things even more, when the Haitian Revolution or slave revolts did begin, the English and Spanish sought to interject themselves into the colony and attempted to wrest control of the colony from the French with armed force.  There were 40,000 white French colonists and 30,000 free black men in Saint Domingue who were for the most part slave owners themselves and whose loyalties shifted often.
    The slaves in Saint Domingue  revolted in 1791 and the colony quickly became a boiling cauldron of pain and suffering.  It was indeed a very, very dangerous and complicated political and social situation.  Many, many people of all races, nationalities and social positions lost their lives.  It was a time of suffering and destruction everywhere and for everyone, and was not limited to race conflict, but also included social and class conflict within all races.  For more information on these events please also visit the slide shows.
    The slave revolts or Haitian Revolution had began in 1791 but in 1798 the situation appeared to be headed for a friendly resolution.  Under the former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture as governor general,  Saint Domingue appeared to be once again at peace.  Toussaint L'Ouverture had become governor general in 1796 and had pledged his loyalty to France.  He received that commision from the French government as a reward for his protection of French interests in Saint Domingue.
    L'Ouverture believed that the best chance the Saint Domingue slaves had for freedom was with their allegiance to the French.  During some of the conflicts in the Caribbean wherein the British and Spanish had expanded their territories, those two countries had actually reinstated or reconfirmed their commitment to the principles of slavery while France sought to abolish slavery under the principles of the French Revolution.
    Louverture united the entire island of Hispaniola, and reaffirmed the abolition of slavery that the French General Sonthonax had declared on August 29, 1793.  However,  L'Ouverture sought to restore the colony to prosperity by instating forced labor upon the former slaves, albeit they were paid wages.  In 1799 and 1800 it appeared that the French colonial woes were coming to an end and that prosperity would continue.
    When Napoleon chose to attempt to depose L'Ouverture in his quest to use Saint Domingue as a staging point for French expansion and a new French empire in the Western Hemisphere peace became an unattainable goal for the French citizens of Saint Domingue.  Napoleon sought the capture of L'Ouverture, and he was arrested on June 7, 1802.  Near the same time, Napoleon invaded Spain and placed his brother on the Spanish throne.  L'Ouverture, who was actually a French soldier, died in prison in France.  The betrayal of L'Ouverture and the usurping of Spanish authority by Napoleon once again brought death and destruction to the colony of Saint Domingue.  The Spanish people on the island attacked the French to extract revenge because the French government had placed a Frenchman on the Spanish throne, and the former slaves of the island attacked the French in retaliation for Napoleon's betrayal of L'Ouverture.  If those two acts by Napoleon had not occurred, Anthony Blondel may have been able to raise his family in peace and safety in Caracol.
    But, Anthony and his family escaped this boiling cauldron of pain and chose to live in Martinsburg, West Virginia, after having arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1802-1805 from Saint Domingue.  Anthony's son Jean Marie (John M.) Blondel made his home in Baltimore, Maryland and began his family there.  He married Catherine Aimee Celeste DuBois in Baltimore.  Jean Marie and his wife's children that were born in Baltimore are Susannah Placette Blondel,  1821, and Theodore Alexander Blondel, 1825.  Jean Marie's third child, Eugene Blondel, was born in 1828, in Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Catherine Aimee Celeste DuBois Blondel wrote a letter thanking the General LaFayette for writing a letter on the Blondel family's behalf to the officials in France concerning the family's claim for reimbursement of their plantation in Saint Domingue.  The values of those properties are recorded in the official French document "Etat Detaille".
    Anthony Blondel's son, John Henry Blondel, who was born in 1800 and ten years younger than his brother Jean Marie, resided with his father,  Antoine.  We know that Antoine (or Anthony) was in Martinsburg at least by 1821.  John H. Blondel raised his family in Martinsburg.  It is also possible that there were additional children of Anthony and Rosella Blondel that we are not yet aware of.
    Both Anthony and John M. Blondel are listed in the Baltimore city directory that was published in 1817 and 1818.  Because of that fact we believe that Anthony, Rosella, and John H. Blondel also resided in Baltimore for a few years.
    In the years that Anthony's son John Henry Blondel, and grandchildren were in Martinsburg they prospered and became quite prominent.  They acquired a substantial amount of property.  There are two buildings owned by the Blondel family still standing.  The "Blondel Building" is a large building in Martinsburg that was called the "Brick House" when the Blondel family owned it and the "Richard Anthony Loche Blondel Home" is presently being restored.  Richard Anthony Loche Blondel was John Henry Blondel's son.  The original "Blondel Mansion" owned by John Henry was razed to make way for a beautiful hotel called the "Shenandoah Hotel" which is now called the "Gateway Inn." The "Shenandoah Hotel" was opened for business in 1926.  Photographs of these buildings are available for viewing on the Anthony Blondel Page.
    The documents that are stored in the archives of the Berkeley County Historical Society do indeed identify Anthony Blondel as the patriarch of the French American Blondel Family. Here is the link to Anthony Blondel's Page where there is more information:   Anthony Blondel
    Jean Marie Blondel also moved to the Virginian states. He lived for some time in Richmond, Virginia, and several other towns and cities.  Jean Marie Blondel,  known to the English as John M. Blondel died in 1838 in Bowling Green, Virginia.  His descendants, like their West Virginian cousins,  also became prosperous.  But, they made their homes in the state of Virginia.  Jean Marie's son, Theodore Alexander Blondel, owned a substantial amount of property in Appalachia, Virginia and he is buried, as is many other family members, in the "Blondel Cemetery" in Appalachia.  To learn more about Jean Marie Blondel and his descendants follow the various links on this page.
    There has been some speculation that the Blondel family  was connected to the crown as jewelers in Paris, France and fled France during the French Revolution to relatives already in Saint Domingue.  There is an old letter in family archives that briefly alludes to such.  And,  there is evidence that Antoine Blondel operated a jewelry business in Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S.A. as is recorded on the "West Virginia Database CD, Jefferson County Module Norris XIII: PRIMITIVE TOWN AND COUNTRY;  In 1819 Anthony Blondell conducts the jewelry and silversmith buiness."  There is also the Blondel watches and jewelery manufactured and sold in Switzerland that exists even today!
    It is clear that many Blondels were already in Saint Domingue and the Caribbean when the French Revolution began.  There was a pirate, an accountant appointed by the King of France, a French military officer, an engineer, and many more.  For more information on these men or women please visit the  Historical Accountings of Blondels or Blondells  web site.
    There was also another Blondel Plantation on the island of Martinique that was owned by a Blondel family there.  One of the Blondels that lived there was Sebastien Blondel.  Sebastien was knighted by the king of France for his valiant defense of the french crown during the French Revolution.   He was given the title of La Rougery and thus, he and his descendants' surname became Blondel La Rougery.  There is some information on the Martinique Blondels on the Martinique Blondel Page.
    It is interesting to note that there was a Frenchman named Paul Blondel who made a watch that was recovered during an underwater excavation in 1960. The watch had been lost in an earthquake that dropped 33 acres of land into Kingston Harbor at Port Royal, Jamaica on June 7, 1692.  And, there was a very wealthy jeweler named Blondel who was arrested in Lyon, France for his faith in Jesus Christ.  His property was confiscated and he was burned to death in Paris.  This event is recorded in "Foxe's Book of Martyrs".  But, we have no evidence yet of these men being direct ancestors of the French American Blondel Family.
    The spelling of the Blondel surname was changed in many of the Blondel family's descendants. One example is the change sometime during the life of Theodore Alexander Blondel.  A second "L" was added to the end.  This was apparently a result of an Anglo Saxon influence.  Theodore Alexander Blondel's father, John M. Blondel's obituary in the newspaper "The Richmond Whig" records his name with one "L" at the end.   Theodore Alexander's tombstone also records his name as Blondel.  Theodore Blondel is buried in the "Blondell Cemetery" on  Dixon Street in Appalachia, Virginia, USA.  Additional information is stored on various family member pages.
    Ironically there is a family legend that has been passed down through some branches of the family that tells a tale of several Blondel brothers who were possibly orphans that sailed to the Americas from Paris, France.  We now know the accuracy of the legend is close to the actual history of the Blondel family. Credible documentation shows us that there were at least two brothers known to us: Jean Marie (John M.) Blondel, and .John .Henry .Blondel.  When Rosella arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania she may have well believed that her husband had been killed in the slave revolts and that her children were indeed orphans.  It is also likely that Jean Marie Blondel went to Paris for business (to file a claim for reimbursement for the lost plantations) and returned in 1826 on a ship that disembarked in the harbor at New York.  The evidence to support that are shipping records that indicate that Jean Marie Blondel left the port of Le Havre, France and sailed to New York in that year.  The letter from Jean Marie's wife Catherine to General La Fayette in 1827 confirms contact between the Blondel family and the Parisian government offices to that effect.  Therefore, in light of what we do know, that legend may be based more upon fact than myth.
 

General History
    There are more history and research links on the main page.  That page is accessible from the link at the top of this page.
    Click on the globe below to read a very good historical essay on the Haitian Revolution, the political climate of Saint Domingue and the interaction between races and social classes of people living in the French colony of Saint Domingue and what it was like to be a slave there. This article also discusses, in depth how the events that occurred in Saint Domingue affected the entire world.   This is a good article.
 
    Prejudice was, in places in the United States, rampant and commonly exhibited against people of French descent in spite of the assistance of the French to the colonists during the American Revolution.  Because of the scandal called the "XYZ" affair French men were simply not trusted.  The "XYZ" affair was a situation wherein three French agents known only as X, Y, and Z were accused of attempting to arrange American bribes of French officials.  The French agents were never actually identified.  In fact, President Jefferson believed that the entire "XYZ" matter was a political fabrication and invention of political factions seeking to undermine the Republican party led by Jefferson, and to gain control of the American government.
    The "Alien and Sedition Acts" laws were passed in 1798.  The Federalist party passed these laws in opposition to the Republican party.  They were passed during a period of time when America was close to war with France and a direct reflection of the country's desire to limit the freedoms of alien peoples, most markedly those who were French.  The "Naturalization Act" made it a requirement to have lived in the United States for fourteen years before one could become a citizen and it made it illegal for an alien to serve in the armed forces of the United States.  The "Alien Act" made it legal for the President of the United States to deport any alien he considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States."  The "Alien Enemies Act"  gave the president broad power to arrest, imprison and deport all citizens of an enemy nation, and the "Sedition Act" permitted the prosecution of anyone who broadcast verbally or otherwise, "scandalous and malicious" statements about the government.  Clearly this sought to destroy any freedom of the press.  Under these laws 25 different people were indicted and 10 were convicted.  Although these laws expired in 1801 many American citizens continued to support them for many years and there was a "quasi" enforcement of them, although through a prejudicial nature for some time and in many differing geographical areas.  Certainly many French immigrants sought to lose their cultural differences of an identifiable nature that would invite increased suspicion and even perhaps persecution.  While we can only speculate as to what some of their adjustments would have been it would have been likely that they sought to lose all French language accents when speaking English and they would have most certainly allowed their surnames to become more readily adaptable and adjusted to become more similar to their English versions.
 There was also a certain amount of prejudice against the French Caribbean refugees that began arriving in Philadelphia in 1793.  Even though the citizens there greeted them openly and funds were raised to help them, they were viewed with suspicion as having the wrong views on slavery or as to being on the wrong side of the French Revolution.  Many Philadelphia citizens did not like anyone that supported slavery or were loyal to the French King.  It is possible that some of the refugees migrated to the Southern states simply because they would have been more easily accepted.  It is also ironic that in spite of many claims of abuse by French white men toward their Negroe slaves that many of the Caribbean slaves chose to flee the Haitian Revolution with their masters and also became immigrates to the United States.  An example of this is the clear historical record of Louisiana.  There were more slaves who willingly immigrated to that area with their French masters then there were white French refugees.
    The city of Philadelphia was struck by a plague of "Yellow Fever" that killed 10% of the city's population.  Many of the city's residents blamed the plague on the Caribbean immigrants.  And, they probably were not far from the truth,  as "Yellow Fever" was also responsible for devastating the French army that was sent by Napoleon to stop the Haitian Revolution in Saint Domingue.
    Some famous residents that lived there who became infected were Alexander Hamilton and his wife.  Ironically they were cured by the application of the "French Cure."  The most effective treatment for the disease was the "French Cure" and was administered by the French Caribbean doctor who was himself a Saint Domingue refugee, Dr. Jean Devéze .  An indication of the prejudice against the Saint Domingue refugees is apparent in that Dr. Jean Devéze is scarcely mentioned in the news accountings of that period in the city's history as being a success.   Dr. Jean Devéze was the most successful doctor working in Philadelphia at that time and fighting to save the area's infected population.  Other physicians such as Dr. Benjamin Rush applied a "Heroic" treatment of bleeding and purging the patient to acquire healing.  To learn more about these events click on the picture of Dr. Rush:
Dr. Rush

Data Submission
    We hope to find out more about the entire history of the Blondel/Blondell family both in Europe and the Caribbean.  We are asking that anyone that may have additional information to please submit that material to us by contacting one or all of the family members in the mail contact links.  Please try to be as complete as possible in sending us information.  To submit photographs, please include full names of everyone in the photograph, their ages, and the date and location the photograph was taken.  For documents, please include all original source information such as author, date written or published, the publisher, and the names of any people that were interviewed, if any, and as much as is possible contact information for all these people or entities.  Basically please just include all the information you have!  While these requests may seem trivial, the accurate preservation of this data is very important to properly establish family relationships and history.
 
Copying, reprinting or reproducing in any form, any of the information, images, or content in whole or in part of this page and the associated pages is strictly forbidden without the express written permission of one of the family members listed above in the mail contact links.

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