Full Circle

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Eugene Aubrey Blanchette Age 16 British India Passport

The Blanchett's:

Thomas Blanchett 1
born England~1800 soldier, went to India 1817,  retired in India, died 1863 who was father to
Thomas Blanchett 2
born India 1838, Railway employee, died 1885 who was father to
William Blanchette
born India 1875, railway engine driver, died 1923 who was father to
Eugene Blanchette 1
born India 1905 railway boilermaker died in England 1985 who was father to
Eugene Blanchette 2
born India 1933, went to England 1949, went to Canada 1960, went to US 1962

The Roberts:

Robert Roberts
born Wales~1780 soldier died in battle South India (Trichinopoly)  1917 who was father to
Edward Roberts
born India 1809 headmaster died India "Mutiny" 1857 who was father to
Alexander Roberts
born India 1852 railway Station Master died India 1920 who was father to
Clarence Roberts
born India 1875 railway PWI died India ~1935 who was father to
Diamond Roberts
born India 1912 went to England 1949 who was mother to
Eugene Blanchette
born India 1933 went to England 1949 went to Canada 1960 went to US 1962


Various Maternal Relatives
Grandma Clemence (Baptiste) Blanchette born in  India 1881
Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indian, British  and (?)
Grandma Lillian (Nierces) Roberts born India 1885
Armenian, Irish, Indian(?) and (?)
Great Great Grandma Adeline Eugenie Baptiste born in India 1862
Spanish, Irish, Indian(?) and (?)
Great Great Grandpa Anthony Baptiste born in India ~1815
Frenchman, Superintendent of  Government Printing Press married Georgina Bolton, daughter of "General Bolton and an Indian Princess"
Great Great Grandpa John Baptist born ~1830 married  "an Irishwoman",  practised law (a pleader) in Bhagalpur" father of  Adeline Eugenie Baptist

Thomas Blanchett

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 England.

Robert Havelock Roberts

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 great grandson Eugene Adolphus Blanchette in India.  Eugene Aubrey the author of this memoir, Russell, Marcia and Clive Blanchette are the products of that union.

Eugene Aubrey Blanchette

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. 

He and his family landed at London’s Tilbury docks, about five miles from Thomas' embarkation point, on a gray, cold, Guy Fawkes day (November 5th) in 1949.  The same day they went to stay with his aunt Vera in Middlesex--the county in which Thomas was born.

Within three months Eugene and his family would move to Wolverhampton—a town a few dozen miles from Shrewsbury, the hometown of Robert’s regiment where Robert had enlisted with the Shropshire Regiment..

Two weeks before November 5th, on October 20 1949, I, Eugene Aubrey Blanchette, my parents, and my three siblings had embarked from Bombay on the P&O liner Stratheden, a steamship of 24,000 tons.  I had turned sixteen exactly one month before we left Bombay.  I distinctly remember being very unhappy to have left India, and apprehensive to be in England.  This story ends, chronologically, with my landing in 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.

Eugene, Marcia, Dad, Russell ca 1945 Eugene, Marcia, Russell, Clive -- England 2004

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 by marriage.

Because British laws mandate maintenance of British nationality only through the male side, and for other probably less salubrious reasons, the genealogical data for many of our female antecedents was not maintained officially and is therefore somewhat fragmentary. 

Most of the clear genealogical data are the records of my father’s male antecedents and my mother’s male antecedents.  Nevertheless I do have a smattering of the history of my paternal and maternal grandmothers, and an even smaller sample of the history of more distant female progenitors back for several generations.   

The female additions to our gene pool are particularly fascinating.  You will see a brief mention of some of them in the side bar.  Along the generations are the additions of the major Western European maritime nations—English, Welsh, Portuguese, French, Irish, and Spanish together with the blood of the home country India, and the blood of one of the oldest trading peoples of the world—the Armenians.  I am sure there are many other nationalities, almost certainly including Dutch entrepreneurs and Zoroastrian Persians (Parsees), mixed in over the last five or so generations --  I just haven’t found them yet.   On to Empire

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj

[Preface] [Full Circle] [Empire] [The Raj and Us] [India]