At the East India docks in London, on the 24th of February in the year 1817, an English woolcomber named Thomas Blanchett born in Middlesex, (London), England, embarked for India on the East India sailing ship “Marquis of Wellington”. Five months later, traveling around the Cape of Good Hope, Thomas landed in Bengal at Fort William (Calcutta) on 1st August 1817. The Suez canal was not to open until 1869 -- fifty years later.
Thomas was enrolled as a Private in the
Honorable East India Company (HEIC) Army
on 1st November 1818 where he is recorded as being 27 years old—the age
is almost certainly fictitious. Thomas was probably born in 1803, making him
15 when he enrolled in India in the "Bengal Europeans". Thomas retired from the Army in 1836. He
married twice (sequentially!), raised a family in India and died in 1863. He never returned to
In April 1805 another young man a (approximately) 25yr old Welsh laborer born in St. Asaph, Flintshire, one Corporal Robert Havelock Roberts with the 53rd Shropshire Regiment embarked for India after service with his regiment in the West Indies fending off the French. Approximately five months later Corporal Roberts also landed in India at Fort William in September 1805. Robert married a year after he arrived in India and had at least one child. He died while campaigning in South India, at Trichinopoly, in the same year Thomas landed in East India.
Robert' s GG granddaughter Diamond Roberts married Thomas Blanchette's
grandson Eugene Adolphus Blanchette in India. Eugene Aubrey the author
of this memoir, Russell, Marcia and Clive
Blanchette are the products of that union.
Almost exactly one hundred and thirty one years after Thomas enrolled as a
Private and set out for India, and one hundred and forty four years after
Robert embarked for India, an open circle closed. One of Thomas’ great
great grandsons, and one of Robert’s great great great grandsons, Eugene
Aubrey Blanchette, “returned” to England.
The photographs below, nearly 60 years apart, are a pre and post script to that landing. The photo on the left was taken in Mhow, India -- Clive was not yet born. The picture on the right was taken at Clive's house in Brewood, a tiny village outside Wolverhampton. It shows the siblings who landed that Guy Fawkes day 54 years before the photograph was taken.
A Genealogical Bird's Eye View
To set the stage, I have compiled an abbreviated, two branch, "Family Tree" of Blanchettes and Roberts starting in the 17th century and ending with my latest grandchild Sarah born in the 21st century. The yellow portion is the emphasis of this memoir. I have also compiled a somewhat more involved family tree including the Baptistes and the Baptists and the Nierces's which is designed to fit on one typed page. The first two names are two of the families in my father's mother's family tree. The last one is my mother's mother's Armenian family.
In brief, Huguenot (Protestant) Blanchetts went from France to England in the late 17th century to escape persecution in Catholic France. One of their descendants (Thomas Blanchett) went to India early in the 19th century to escape poverty during the Industrial Revolution, after the Luddite riots in England and the Napoleonic wars. Many of Thomas' descendants returned to England in the middle of the 20th century. One of them (Eugene Aubrey Blanchette) then left for Canada and eventually settled and raised his family in the US. This memoir tells the story of Eugene's and his ancestors' time in India. It ends when Eugene and his family land in England in November 1949.
I have no information on the antecedents of my mother's Welsh antecedent Robert Roberts. I suspect that he was from a rural family and that he too was fleeing the poverty in Britain generated by the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
Genealogical Data Sources
To “return” to England, a country my forefathers left more than a century
before I was born, my parents Eugene and Diamond (Roberts) Blanchette had to
prove British descent through the male line. The genealogical data I use in this story are derived principally from these
“proof of citizenship” documents. I also use various birth, marriage,
baptismal and death records and oral and written data from family
members and from a certain genealogical researcher who is part of the family