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France - Nourrices & the surname Blanc

Discussion in 'Europe - More resources' started by Bob Spiers, May 15, 2013.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    In a French Blog I recently read an article about “Nourrices” (Wet Nurses) in 19th Century France. Nourrices, as well as performing as wet nurses in their commune, were chosen by the Nuns running Hospices to look after babies abandoned or left at the Hospice. Such babies were known as either enfant abandonnè or enfant trouvè depending on how they were discovered.

    An example of the latter is when the baby was found in the Hospice ‘tour’ (a device built into the wall, a round, wooden, cylindrical turntable where mothers could leave their babies). Many such children were wrapped in swaddling clothes and usually had a tag giving the date of birth and saying un-baptised.

    Abandonment of babies was commonplace in the 1800’s and was considered preferable to infanticide. The ‘tour’ was designed to allow mothers to leave them anonymously.

    For example in the 1846 Census for Saint Pierre, Alpes de Haute Provence, of the 199 residents in this tiny Commune a QUARTER of them were recorded as being enfant trouvè/enfant abandonnè/enfant naturel (illegitimate).

    Nourrices were said to abound in certain areas, and “such women were excellent for the occupation”. St Pierre being one such Commune. Nourrices –usually with husbands -went on to become Foster parents to the foundling children placed in their care.

    Apparently it was common practice at that time to give foundling children the surname Blanc. Although this literally translates as White it also stands for ‘Nothing’.

    The above information came from a Researcher who set out to seek an ancestor shown as an “enfant trouvè” who had been abandoned in a tour in 1811. His surname was NOT Blanc but further research uncovered he had originally been given the surname Blanc, and only later given a new surname.

    So if anyone is seeking someone with the surname Blanc (or finds he/she was given the name originally) there is a good chance that an ancestor way back was abandoned as a child. Will you tell Raymond Blanc or shall I?
  2. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Apologies to all French grammarians, I put the wrong accent over both 'e's' ["grave" rather than "acute"] They should read abandonné and trouvé

    Mes excuses les plus sincères (and here the accent is grave]
  3. Jennie

    Jennie LostCousins Member

    Merci, Bob, a fascinating read. It is thought that this practise, now often referred to as "Baby Hatches", originated in Italy in 1198, and is still used today by many countries, including Switzerland, Germany and Japan.

    I'll let you inform Monsieur Blanc - I have enough work trying to unravel my own WHITE/GREEN/SMITH branch......

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