Samuel and Isaac Duchemin of Virginia
According to the available evidence, Samuel Dishman (Duchemin) was born in France and immigrated to the Colony of Virginia in the late seventeenth century. Samuel and Isaac Duchemin (believed to be his brother) first appear in the public record in February 1693/94 when they purchase land together in Westmoreland County, Virginia from Malachi Peale, a merchant from Exon, Devonshire, England. Isaac died intestate in 1699, leaving a widow Martha and no known children. Samuel died testate in 1726, leaving a widow Cornelia and seven children. The clerk’s copy of Samuel’s will on file at the Westmoreland County courthouse is signed Duchmein, but the name Dishman is used throughout the document. Among the items listed in his estate inventory were “19 french books”. Cornelia died in 1729, and among the household items listed in the inventory of her estate was a “French bible”.
The best evidence of Samuel Dishman’s French origin comes from a 1798 chancery suit recorded in Essex County, VA, in which Samuel’s grandson David (son of David) sued Samuel’s grandson Samuel (son of Peter) over property issues. The record of the suit states, “a certain Samuel Duchemein, some time in the year ___ migrated from France & settled in this Country, & was naturalized here by the name of Dishman.” The source of this information is not given, but Samuel’s son James was still living and had given several depositions regarding his father’s land in Essex County, Virginia (for example, see Dishman vs. Hord, Essex County Land Trials Book, p. 37). He is the most likely source of the information.
It is believed that Samuel and Isaac were partners in the blacksmith business in Virginia. They were referred to as smiths or blacksmiths in many of the public records, and there are many court records where they collected money from a deceased persons estate for debts they were owed. Samuel and Isaac Duchemin were thought to be Huguenots (French Protestants). Most likely they fled France with hundreds of thousands of other French Protestants after 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was revoked by the Edict of Fontainebleau and widespread persecution of Huguenots resumed. They possibly went to England, where many Huguenots found safe refuge, before immigrating to America.
No record has been found in Virginia that indicates how they came to America, or that provides the ages of Samuel or Isaac, the dates of their marriages, or the origins of their wives. They simply appear in the records beginning in February, 1693/94.
Samuel and Isaac Duchemin of France
In the French book  Tinchebray et sa région, Au bocage normand (Vol. I) by L’abbé L.-V. Dumaine (a reprint of the 1883 original) there appears on page 359 the following paragraph:
“De là les émigrations qui se produisirent à cette époque; pour Fresnes, qui comptait cinq ou six cents protestants, on cite parmi les émigrés Jacques Martin, Jacques et Jean Sorel, Louis Thoury, Pierre et Nicolas Briand, Nicolas Huard, Jacques Marchand, Postel, veuve Huard, Onfroy; à Caligny Jacques Rabache, Michel et Jacques Huart; à Landisacq, Samuel et Isaac Duchemin; à Montilly, Nicolas Huart, Pierre Le Harivel, J.-B. Salle; à Tinchebray, Guillaume Duchemin; et enfin à Montsecret, Jean Vardon. Sortis de France, les réformés devinrent dans les rangs de l’armée de Guillaume d’Orange autant d’ennemis de leur pays. Forts de l’appui de l’étranger, ceux de l’intérieur commencèrent à s’agiter en vue d’arriver à ce qu’ils considéraient comme une délivrance.”
This translates to:
Tinchebray and Area, Norman Farmland (Volume 1) by Abbot L.-V. Dumaine
“This era caused emigrations; of five or six hundred Protestants of Fresnes, one quotes among the émigrés Jacques Martin, Jacques and Jean Sorel, Louis Thoury, Pierre and Nicolas Briand, Nicolas Huard, Jacques Marchand, Postel, widow Huard , Onfroy; at Caligny, Jacques Rabache, Michel and Jacques Huart; at Landisacq, Samuel and Isaac Duchemin; at Montilly, Nicolas Huart, Pierre Le Harivel, J.-B. Salle; at Tinchebray, Guillaume Duchemin; and at last at Montsecret, Jean Vardon. Out of France, the reformed joined the army of William of Orange as the worst enemies of their country. Strengthened by the support from foreigners, those in the country started to revolt in order to be freed.”
The section of the book where this appears is describing the emigration of French Protestants from the Tinchebray area just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The village of Landisacq is located between Tinchebray and the town of Flers. Tinchebray (also spelled Tinchebrai) is a town in the Normandy region of France about 70 miles southwest of Caen.
The name Duchemin, or du Chemin, belongs to an old family of Tinchebray . The name appears in numerous records beginning in the 16th century. Only one branch of the family was known to be Protestant, or Huguenot, and they lived in the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Tinchebray, at the estate of La Madeleine.
The common ancestor of all the Duchemin Huguenots was Remy Duchemin of La Madeleine (an estate in Tinchebray). He was born about 1550 and had at least two children: Jean Duchemin (died about 1664), sieur of La Madeleine (sieur is a title of respect used to refer to feudal lords in France before the revolution of 1789), and Jacques Duchemin (died 12 Aug 1670). Jean Duchemin married Guillemette de Monbray with whom he had three children: David, Isaac, and Daniel Duchemin. After the death of his first wife, Jean remarried with Anne Le Noir, daughter of Christophe Le Noir, sieur of Landavran, and Esther de Coisnon, of Vitré in Bretagne. They had four children: Samuel, Charles, Jean, and Rachel Duchemin.
Isaac Duchemin, youngest son of Jean Duchemin and Guillemette de Monbray, was probably born about 1620-25. He was one of six “elders” of the reformed Church of Fresnes (parish of Tinchebray). Isaac Duchemin married Jacqueline Onfrey (marriage contract dated 5 Feb 1645 in Tinchebray ), widow of Jean Buffard, and daughter of Guillaume Onfrey and Jeanne Chretien of the parish of Fresnes. They had at least two children, Daniel and Marie. Daniel Duchemin was born about 1656 and died about 1705. In 1695, Daniel married Madeleine Maubant, of the parish of La Graverie (Manche). Marie Duchemin was born about 1666 and died on 12 Jul 1741. She was buried in the family cemetery at La Madeleine.
Samuel Duchemin was born about 1635-40. He married Marie du Mont (marriage contract dated 3 Sep 1661 in Fresnes ), daughter of Philippe du Mont, sieur of la Chesnée, and Elisabeth d’Eschalou of the parish of Fresnes. They had at least three children: Judith, Samuel, and Marie. Judy (Judith) Duchemin was born 7 Jul 1669, Charles Duchemin and Judith Monbant named her when she was baptized at the church of Fresnes on 14 Jul 1669. Son Samuel Duchemin was known to be a soldier in 1694.
Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Isaac and Samuel Duchemin were forced to renounce their protestant religion by making an abjuration of heresy. They did this at the Catholic Church of Saint-Quentin-les-Chardonnets (district of Tinchebray) on 10 Mar 1686 . The two half-brothers then left Normandy and most likely immigrated to Jersey (Channel Islands) about 1687-90 so that they could remain faithful to their religious convictions. They are believed to have left their families in France. It is possible that they were both widows at this time, and because their children were adults, it was not unusual for them to emigrate alone.
Isaac Duchemin owned, with his brother Samuel, several houses and about 22 acres of land at Landisacq in the village of La Haute Hagrie that were confiscated in 1688 by the king due to the emigration of Isaac and Samuel from France. This property was returned to Isaac’s great-grandson Nicolas de la Fontenelle in 1791 following a successful claim for restitution. The request for restitution  includes a genealogical chart tracing the line of descendants from Jean Duchemin to Nicolas de la Fontenelle (reproduced below). This document included the following statement (translated):
“About a hundred years ago, Samuel and Isaac Duchemin, brothers, having the business of the supposed reformed religion, were constrained to emigrate to protect themselves from the sanctions against those that had religious opinions different from the roman [Catholic] community. Their assets situated in the parish of Landisacq, in the district of Tinchebray, were then confiscated.”
No known records in France indicate what happened to Samuel and Isaac Duchemin after they left France.
While there is no direct evidence (so far) that connects Samuel and Isaac Duchemin of Tinchebray with Samuel and Isaac of Virginia, the circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that they are most likely the same people.
- The obvious connection is that they share the same names, and that Samuel and Isaac of Virginia appear in the public records shortly after Samuel and Isaac of France disappear from the public records.
- Their approximate ages are in agreement. Isaac would have been about 70 years old when he came to Virginia and would have died at the age of about 80. In Virginia, he married Martha, but did not have any known children. Samuel would have been about 50 years old when he arrived, and 85-90 years old when he died. He married Cornelia and had eight children over a twenty-year period when he would have been 60 to 80 years old. The order of their deaths in Virginia and the fact that the supposed younger brother Samuel was able to start a new family, while Isaac was not, is consistent with the approximately 20-year difference in their ages. Emigrating from France and beginning a new life in Virginia at relatively advanced ages is surprising, but still possible.
- Both sets of men engaged in joint property ownership. According to the request for restitution of Nicolas de la Fontenelle, Samuel and Isaac owned property together in France. Their first known act in Virginia was to jointly purchase land from Malachi Peale. Joint ownership of land was not a common occurrence, so the fact that two people with the same name engaged in joint property ownership is probably more than a coincidence, and indicated a close relationship between the men.
- The occupation of Samuel and Isaac in Virginia is consistent with the area where Samuel and Isaac of France lived. Tinchebray is in the middle of an area long renowned for its ironworking. We know from the records that Samuel and Isaac Duchemin were both referred to as metal smiths and likely carried on a metal working business in Westmoreland County. Isaac is referred to as a “smith” in a 1696 deed, and Samuel made a bequeath of his “Smiths tools” to his eldest son John. Samuel’s inventory contains a “sett of Smith’s tools”, large quantities of metals (90 lbs of new steel, 366 lbs of old iron, 27 lbs of old brass, 108 lbs of pott iron, 79 lbs of good pewter, 68 lbs of old pewter, 74 lbs of pott iron), and “money scales & weights”. The Court Order Books of Westmoreland County contain numerous references to judgments Samuel Dishman obtained from the estates of deceased plantation owners, indicating that Samuel was owed money as the result of some service.
Since the discovery of Isaac and Samuel Duchemin of Tinchebray, research efforts have concentrated upon establishing a firm connection between the the French and Virginian families. Efforts are underway to obtain copies of all documents in the French archives pertaining to Samuel and Isaac Duchemin.Notes:
- Dumaine, L.-V. (l’abbé), Tinchebray et sa région, Au bocage normand, Tome I, (Res Universis, Paris, 1993), p.359, (Originally published: H. Champion, Paris, 1883-1885), available from Histo.com. Special thanks to Stephane Guillon of Flers for bringing this source to my attention.
- Special thanks to Jacky Delafontenelle for providing valuable information about the Duchemin family of Tinchebray.
- The notary’s record of the marriage of Isaac Duchemin and Jacqueline Onfrey is contained in an inventory by Gérard Villeroy and is preserved in the Departmental Archives of Orne.
- Marriage contract witnessed by Robert Maillot, tabellion (notary) of Fresnes. The original records were destroyed in 1944 by allied bombs, but an inventory of the records of the notaries of Fresnes were made before the war by Auguste Surville and are preserved in the public library at Flers-de-Orne.
- Record preserved in the Departmental Archives of Orne.
- Request for restitution of assets made 27 May 1791 by Nicolas de la Fontenelle, private papers of Elise Delafontenelle.