Going Back to the Earliest Fournelle Ancestor (Part 1)

The FOURNELLE family has always been one of my favorites to research.

In 2013 I spent nearly a year working exclusively on finding the records for descendants of my 7th great-grandparents Jean FOURNEL (ca. 1655-1721) and Catherine SETON (ca. 1657-1702) of Saulnes, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France.

The FOURNELLE line is my maternal grandmother’s paternal line. She carried the name as did her father, his father, their grandfathers, all the way back to…

Variations of the Surname

In the earliest records found, Jean FOURNEL was seen as Jean FOURNELLE in 1678 and 1683 (baptismal records of daughter Françoise and son Nicolas), as Jean FOURNIER in 1686 and 1688 (baptismal records of sons Jean and Henri), and as Jean FOURNY in 1696 (baptismal record of daughter Marie) and 1708 (marriage record of daughter Françoise). At the time of his wife Catherine’s death in 1702 and his own death in 1721, the name was spelled FOURNEL. In the next generations, the name FOURNEL was more frequently seen as FOURNELLE.

Several records dated before 1678 were found for persons in Saulnes with the FOURNELLE, FOURNEL, and FOURNY spelling. Persons who appear to have been related to Jean FOURNEL. Will they take the line back another generation?

The Origin of the Surname

Forneri, Forneris, or Fornero are trade names frequently encountered in the Alpes-Maritimes and the Riviera area. They are of Italian origin, not surprising as, historically, the Comté de Nice (County of Nice) was for a long time Italian rather than French. In short, forni-, forno-, forne- and all their variants originate “in the bakery” as they have a relationship with a “forn” or an oven. This is usually a bread oven but the root word is also seen in Fornès or Fornies, names associated with persons who cared for the lime kilns used to melt metals.

In eastern France, we find Forny and Forney or Fornier working on or having brick ovens. In the Vosges and Ardennes, the Fournaises worked with furnaces or larger ovens. It goes without saying that all “For-” are also found in the form “Four-” as in Fournès, Fourny, Fournier, and in Fournel, Fournelles, Fourniol, for the stove or smaller oven.

Fournillier, Fourniaud, or Fourniaux, depending on the region, include one who comes from the site where there are many furnaces. This would mean that the person may not have directly worked on or with an oven but simply lived in the community.1

A Brief History of Saulnes

The earliest records found for Jean FOURNEL and his wife Catherine SETON show they lived in Saulnes, in today’s Meurthe-et-Moselle department in France. Jean and Catherine, per the age given at the time of their deaths, both were born in the decade following the end of the Thirty Years’ War. This fact, as well as the history of Saulnes, had to be considered in my research.

Saulnes had 29 hearths in 1443, 9 in 1473, 4 in 1495 and 1531, and 12 in 1585. During this early period, households, for the most part, had only one hearth and the numbers likely reflect the number of families living in the village. In 1646 the village of Saulnes was not inhabited. The Thirty Years’ War fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648 resulted in the deaths of over 8 million people.

In 1687, several decades following the war, Saulnes was once again inhabited by 20 people. In 1698, 8 farmers, 13 skilled workers, and 4 widows lived in Saulnes’ 25 houses and 11 hovels. There were 20 households in the village in 1716 and 26 in 1739.

Saulnes, until the last century, was only a modest village of a few houses with no more than 400 inhabitants; the main resources were provided by cultivation, breeding, a few vineyards, and working iron.2

A forge existed in Saulnes in the second half of the 14th century. No records exist to date its erection. However, the forge was enumerated in a census in 1474 with a small blast furnace. It was abandoned in the middle of the 16th century. Did my ancestors live in the area during this period? Did they work the forge and is this how they came to be named FOURNELLE?

Location of the Records

During the years the family of Jean FOURNEL and Catherine SETON lived in Saulnes, the village was identified as Sosnes or Sonne in the church records, and, as seen above, grew from having 20 persons to 26 households.

Nearly all records for this family group were found in the 1668-1773 collection for the commune of Herserange in the Archives of the department of Meurthe-et-Moselle in France. This collection of parish records includes the villages of Herserange, Saulnes, Rodange (today a part of Luxembourg), Mexy, and Longlaville.

The priests who kept the records noted the name of the village the record was created above each entry. This was extremely helpful when skimming through the records. However, I found that due to the newness of the records seven years ago, I missed things that turned up while I was reviewing the records in the last few weeks.

Availability of the Records

In 2013 images from the French archives’ sites were not allowed to be used on the internet or for commercial purposes without written permission. At the time this was not a problem for me as I was using them for my personal research only. I did not know that the following year I would begin blogging and wouldn’t be able to use the images in blog posts.

The visionneuse, or image viewer, didn’t have an option to save a permalink of the image seven years ago. I wrote source citations that included the waypoints (path) to easily locate the record if necessary. This must have been foresight.

The French archives sites have evolved since 2013 and many are now including permalinks. I have over 500 citations for records found in the Meurthe-et-Moselle area that will eventually need to be fixed. In the past few weeks, I’ve been accessing the records, copying the permalinks, and downloading images in JPG format for the FOURNEL-SETON family group. It is slow going as I pay special attention to the other records recorded for the little village of Saulnes – searching for connections missed the first time around. [I’ve acquired new genealogy research skills since 2013 and am still learning.]

Another change on the French archives sites is their terms of use. Before you access the records, you are required to confirm the following:

En application du règlement sur la réutilisation des données publiques adopté par le conseil départemental de Meurthe-et-Moselle (délibération de sa commission permanente n°17, en date du 16 janvier 2017), je m’engage à mentionner la source du document téléchargé (Arch. dép. de Meurthe-et-Moselle, [suivi de la cote complète]), en cas de réutilisation.

In application of the regulation on the re-use of public data adopted by the departmental council of Meurthe-et-Moselle (deliberation of its permanent commission n ° 17, dated January 16, 2017), I undertake to mention the source of the downloaded document (Arch. Dep. De Meurthe-et-Moselle, [followed by the full path]), in the event of re-use.
[Google Translate]

I can now screenshot a record and use it in a blog post as long as I include the full path to the Archives Départementales de Meurthe-et-Moselle. I believe this will be a good learning tool for my readers and a wonderful advertisement for the French archives sites that are more rarely used by non-Europeans.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Jean FOURNEL
Siblings: TO BE PROVEN: Anne and Pierre
Spouse: Catherine SETON
Children: Françoise, Nicolas, Jean, Henri, Jeanne, Sébastienne, Marie Catherine, and Jacques
Whereabouts: Saulnes (Sonne, Sosne), Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 7th great-grandfather

1. Jean FOURNEL and Catherine SETON
2. Jean FOURNEL and Jeanne BERKIN
3. Pierre FOURNELLE and Jeanne NEU
4. Pierre FOURNELLE and Marguerite SCHMIT
5. André FOURNELLE and Marie Catherine PHILIPPART
6. André FOURNELLE and Odile Lucie SCHLOESSER
7. Jean Joseph FOURNELLE and Catharina FRANTZ
8. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE and Nicolas WILDINGER
9. Living WILDINGER and Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
10. Catherine Ann DEMPSEY and Living MEDER

Now that I’ve covered the surname variations, a short history of Saulnes, and where the records were found, I’ll leave you until next week when I’ll begin to share the story of Jean FOURNEL and Catherine SETON’s family.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Étymologique, Le Mot du Jour posted 20 October 2012; online http://www.etymo-logique.com/le-mot-du-jour/personnalites/forneri-pascal/ : accessed 11 Sep 2013. 
  2. Histoire de Saulnes, online https://www.saulnes.fr/saulnes-historique/histoire-de-saulnes/ : accessed 10 July 2020. 



One of my 15 known (of 16) great-great-great-grandmothers was a PHILIPPART from Rodange in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. I have her line documented back through 5 generations in Villers la Chèvre, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, between the 1660s until 1744 and Rodange, Pétange, Luxembourg, from 1744 until her death in 1843 and her parents’ deaths in 1849 and 1851:
Marie Catherine Philippart 1801-1843 (3ggm)
Michel Philippart 1777-1849 (4ggf) md. Catherine Meunier
Jacques Philippart 1749-1824 (5ggf) md. Catherine Singer
Jacques Philippart 1714-aft 1764 (6ggf) md. Elisabeth Burkel
Jean Philippart 1678-1755 (7ggf) md. Jeanne Dorion
I have birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records from France and Luxembourg for the 1600s to 1800s to document these five ancestors.

The PHILIPPART line goes back further with the name changing to PHILIPPART DE FOY and earlier to DE FOY. At this point, I have names and approximate dates for 11 generations back to the 1300s (18ggf) but have not been able to document the information which was found on the website of Dr. Robert L. Philippart. I share with him PHILIPPART, MEUNIER, BURKEL, FOURNELLE, and NEU ancestors (4C1R, 5C2R, and 5C1R). It is not known if Dr. Philippart is the person who researched the earlier generations or if it was done by another researcher. Unfortunately, the genealogy information has been removed from Dr. Philippart’s site http://robertphilippart.eu/accueil.htm.
[To-do list: contact Dr. Philippart to determine the source of his information]

The surnames PHILIPPART DE FOY and DE FOY are Belgian nobility according to the list found on the Europedia website. The giveaway, when looking at surnames, is that families issued from the old nobility typically have a particle, such as de, de la, du or le in French. The PHILIPPART DE FOY and DE FOY lines are at the bottom of the nobility totem pole being esquires and preceded by knights, barons, viscounts, marquises, princes, and dukes. Does this mean that I can trace my ancestry, like other families of nobility, back to Charlemagne (742-814), and by doing so also to Clovis (466-511) and older Merovingian kings?
[Europedia, online http://www.eupedia.com/belgium/belgian_nobility.shtml#Esquire]

“The idea that virtually anyone with a European ancestor descends from English royalty seems bizarre, but it accords perfectly with some recent research done by Joseph Chang, a statistician at Yale University. The mathematics of our ancestry is exceedingly complex, because the number of our ancestors increases exponentially, not linearly. These numbers are manageable in the first few generations—two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents—but they quickly spiral out of control. Go back forty generations, or about a thousand years, and each of us theoretically has more than a trillion direct ancestors—a figure that far exceeds the total number of human beings who have ever lived.”
~ Steve Olson, “The Royal We”, Atlantic Magazine published May 2002, online http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/05/the-royal-we/302497/ : accessed 9 Dec 2013.

You can ask whether everyone in the Western world is descended from Charlemagne, and the answer is yes, we’re all descended from Charlemagne. But can you prove it? That’s the game of genealogy.” ~ Mark Humphrys, a computer scientist at Dublin City University

© 2013, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.