Huguenots in Bedfordshire

Started by Keith Millard on Wednesday, October 31, 2012


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10/31/2012 at 6:55 AM

Our family name is Millard, believed to be Maillard in Flanders, and believed to have settled in Cranfield, Maulden, Luton, and Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire in the early to mid 1500s.

Earliest parish records in those communities show the name as Myllward, later as Millward, and then either Miller or Millard.... often for the same person.

The question is, is there any way of obtaining parish records for Flanders, before they immigrated/fled to England?

Keith Millard

Private User
10/31/2012 at 7:04 AM

Hi Keith,

Not very likely that there are vital records as we know them now around 1500 Flanders , in case they were Huguenots there are some listings on the website from the English Huguenot Society but mainly surnames, no proper records from individuals.

But maybe George J. Homs can answer this question better for us ??

I have a Millard in my direct family tree too, and battle with the same issue as you, can only guess for now that they were Huguenots
Robert Millard

Private User
10/31/2012 at 7:12 AM

early to mid 1500 would be a bit too early for them to be Huguenots I reckon, as this started after 1680.

10/31/2012 at 8:12 AM

Actually, the emigrations from France began in 1559 - Following the accidental death of Henry II in 1559, his son succeeded as King Francis II along with his wife, the Queen Consort also known as Mary Queen of Scots. During the eighteen months of the reign of Francis II, Mary encouraged a policy of rounding up French Huguenots on charges of heresy, in front of Catholic judges, and employing torture and burning as punishments for dissenters.

In what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes.[23] Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone.[24] The exact number of fatalities throughout the country is not known. On the 23–24 August, between about 2,000[25] and 3,000[26][27][28] Protestants were killed in Paris and between 3,000[29] and 7,000 more[30] in the French provinces. By 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone.[31][32] Outside of Paris, the killings continued until the 3 October.[31] An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.

10/31/2012 at 8:14 AM

Parish records in Cranfield, Bedfordshire are only available beginning in 1600, the same exists in some other parishes as well.

Private User
10/31/2012 at 8:34 AM

You are 100 % correct, the troubles started long before 1680.

10/31/2012 at 8:53 AM

No parish records anywhere iin the world before 1600, as they only started the practice after the Council of Trent. So, no good in this case to discover something about Flemish origins.
Lots of information can be found in deeds, business transactions, wills, of course.
In the case of Millar - I would say if there's smoke there's a fire';-) if there's a family tradition that says Flanders, you obvisously need to look. in this particular case, it could well be the 'bigger' Flanders of those days, which means a big part of the North of France, where there was strong mingling of French and Flemish. Also a reasonably rich region with weaving industries, and you'll usually find that many emigrants to England were weavers. If there was a big weaving industry in the regions mentioned above, there could definitely be a connection.
Like Anne-Marie suggests... I would hope that the Millards were Huguenots, because then there might be a chance that they recorded the family (the Huguenots wanted to keep track). If so, the records might be in French, and will probably reside in London, at the Huguenot Society.
Having said that, I'll have a quick look at some French sources and see what I can find.
I don't suspect any typical Flemish origin, not language-wise, given the way the name evolved (most obviously a transcription from something that phonetically was French).
My 2 cents :-)

Private User
10/31/2012 at 8:59 AM

Thanks for your two cents George, very much appreciated :)

11/1/2012 at 6:43 AM

Thanks to both Anne-Marie and George.

My great grandfather, Henry Richard Millard, immigrated to Canada in 1858 from London. He left an old family Bible (from the 1700s) that stated the family was descended from Huguenots... and that is the only "proof" we have!

However, Henry Miller b. 1638 in Maulden, Bedfordshire (signed his Will as Henry Millard) and his son Henry Miller b. 1661 in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire (also signed his Will as Henry Millard) both were shown on parish records as being collar makers (fancy lace collars were the "in thing" for nobility at the time).

Sadly, those are the only real Huguenot clues we have, besides the name (Myllward to Millward to Miller and to Millard) in parish records.

Thanks again, Keith

11/1/2012 at 7:20 AM

Keith, any chance that you came across more 'French-sounding' names in the parish records? I mean, it's rare for those days that Huguenots would migrate alone. They usually 'clustered', and would especially concentrate on a trade or industry that they would share among fellow refugees. A quick glance at the history of Maulden and Leighton Buzzard doesn't tell me much about their economic importance. Also, they're pretty far from the sea (and again, Huguenots would primarily cluster around places near the sea - like Ipswich, Norwich, Sandwich, London etc). Of course, Maulden and Leighton Buzzard may have been a second stop - and perhaps this was already a second generation. The French records wouldn't be of any help, I think. What seems important is to see where the Miller/Millards you mention above may have come from, in other words: what was their first stop in England. A look through the Huguenot archives in London might really be interesting to see if there are similar names and patterns in the first names. Plus, possibly an indication if more people moved to those places.
I'll try and have a look.

Private User
11/1/2012 at 10:46 AM

My Irish Millards were in England (army) before settling down in Ireland, one ended up in Cork no idea what happened to the rest of them after they arrived in Ireland, they might have returned to England

11/2/2012 at 4:41 AM

The following is from -

The Huguenot influence

Lace was probably made in the Eastern Counties (Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire) prior to 1563. This was, and still is, a flax growing area.

The first wave of lace makers from the continent came in 1563 to 1568. They were Flemish Protestants who left the area around Mechelen (Mechlin / Malines) when Philip II introduced the Inquisition to the Low Countries:

1563: Twenty-five recent widows, makers of bone lace, settled in Dover, Kent;
400 settled in Sandwich, Kent;

1567: It is estimated that 100,000 left Flanders when the Duke of Alva became head of the Spanish Catholic Army. Most of that number came to England.

Second wave of lacemakers, many from Lille, left in 1572 after The Massacre of the Feast of Saint Bartholomew. Exactly how many is not known but many hundreds came to Buckinghamshire and Northampton.

From this time Bucks point lace developed: it is a combination of Mechlin patterns on Lille ground.

In 1586 Lord William Russell, son of the Duke of Bedford, owned property near Cranfield, Bedfordshire. This is about 10 miles from Olney. He had fought for William the Silent in the Low Countries and he was married to Rachel, daughter of the Huguenot Marquis de Rivigny. He invited many refugees to settle under his protection.

Another English gentleman, who had fought for William of Orange, was George Gascoigne: he invited other Huguenots to settle near his manor at Cardington, Bedford.

Huguenot emigration continued untiI the Edict of Nantes in I598. However when the Edict was rescinded in 1685 by Louis XIV, there was another wave of religious refugees. About 10,000 left Burgundy and Normandy. The lace makers found their way to the by now well-established lace villages in the counties of Buckingham, Bedford and Northampton.

Flemish and Huguenot names still common in this area are listed below; naturally most have been anglicised over time:


Minard (Mynard)
Mole (Mohl)


De Ath

Other places

Dudeny (Dieu donner)


Perrin Waples
Lathall Francy
Simons Cayles
Bitchiner Le Fevre
Sawell Le Fevier
Glass Conant

11/2/2012 at 7:58 AM

There are some examples of Bedfordshire lace in a Blog entry at

11/2/2012 at 8:09 AM

Wow, that's a lot of good material. That should help (let's hope :-) )

Private User
11/2/2012 at 9:40 AM

MILLER = also milner or molenaar -dutch- and that word originally is the one who runs the mill, either a Windmill, Kornmill or other pre-industrial Building that is of help to get energy to get the water streaming out of the 'polder' or to get the stones turning to get meal from yeast and corn and some mills where very constructed to press oil out of vegetable, like in Spain: olives etc.

Private User
11/2/2012 at 10:27 AM

Yes Keith Millard thanks a million for all the information

11/3/2012 at 5:58 AM

Thanks for the input from y'all!

Here's the rub, many Millards from different backgrounds and countries share a family tradition of having come from Huguenot origins. Millard is recognized by the Canadian Society of Huguenots as being a Huguenot name.

What is difficult to grasp is what the French or Flemish name might have been to result in parish priests writing it down as Myllward or Miller or Millard. @-jM‧Vu- states, many of these words, including Millwarde, meant a job as a miller.

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