The Frederic de Coninck Letters
Translation Project

  • The images of people used in this historical account are for illustrative purposes only, and are not factual.
  • Since this is a 'work-in-progress', the Synopsis and other related essays are subject to change as more facts come to light through letters yet to be translated.

Frederic is at Amsterdam
1676 - [Letters from Mother only.] - Birth of Charles Crommelin; Overview of the houses from where the de Coninck/Crommelin letters were written; Frederic is in Amsterdam looking for work; He has recurring symptoms of epilepsy; Deaths in the Oursel family

1677 - Worries about Frederic's ongoing symptoms of epilepsy; the Seige of Cambrai; Catherine goes to Paris; Birth of a child to Jacob Crommelin in Paris; Death of Marie Testart, Pierre's sister; Frederic's plans to return home are suspended; Problems with shipping fruit and preserves to Amsterdam; Influenza and illness strikes hard; Daniel Crommelin suffers bankruptcy

1678 - Death of Pierre Crommelin; Jacob Crommelin regrets going into banking; Uncle Pierre Cadelan is sent to the Bastille; Treaty of Nijmegen ends the Franco-Dutch war; Baptism of Rachel LeFebure; Francois visits his brother in Amsterdam; Jean wanders away from his job in Paris; Frederic finally finds a job in Amsterdam and then gets fired

1679 - Catherine's letter to Frederic's boss; The Affair of the Poisons; Sugar cane from Martinique; Jean Camin and Catherine de Coninck get married; Frederick decides to go home. [Frederic left Amsterdam in August 1679 and returned home for two years.]

Intermission - [Letters still to be translated...]

1685-01-02 - Jean and Marthe have their first child; Frederic wraps up his business affairs in Hamburg and travels to Rouen; he proposes to Marie Camin; Rachel Tacquelet blesses Frederic's engagement; concerns about gifts; Marie Camin is embroiled in an inheritance dispute

Frederic goes to England

1685-09-02 - Frederic flees to England; another letter from Rachel Tacquelet; Marie Camin is captured at Dieppe and imprisoned in a convent; Frederic gives up his option to buy a farm near London; Worries about the dragonnades coming to Rouen

1685-10-22 - Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; Frederic remains distraught; Jean de Coninck flees to Rotterdam; Frederic relocates to Greenway Court, Kent; Marie Camin remains steadfast in prison; Frederic wavers; Francois abjures

1686-01-03 - Marie Camin has doubts in a convent prison; 2 letters of encouragement; Marie Oursel defends what she believes; the dungeons of Aumale; Frederic's remorse over giving some bad advice

1686-04-26 - Marie gets out on bail and goes into hiding; Daniel expects a great harvest; Francois reaches a bad settlement; Jean and Marthe have their second child; Rachel wins her last lawsuit; Frederic anxiously waits for his lover; Catherine tries to keep everyone satisfied

1686-08-03 - Jean is undecided about joining Frederic in farming; death of Rachel Tacquelet; Mr. Oursel suffers a financial setback; after hiding in Paris, Marie Camin prepares to leave for England from Rotterdam

1686-10-28 - Jean tries to retrieve 'Catin'; Marthe Duval is gravely ill; Jean and Robert can't find work in Rotterdam; Frederic and Marie get married at Hollingbourne; Manon contracts 'the pox'; Catherine considers fleeing to England

Quevilly Church Records
Huguenot Cemetery in Rouen
Old Rouen Maps

Frederic goes to Holland

1687-02-13 - Frederic's plans to rent a farm in England collapse; Frederic demands a legal document for his wife; Frederic goes to Holland to look for work; He accepts a partnership and prepares to leave for Schiedam; Marthe Duval, wife of brother Jean de Coninck, dies in London

1687-08-06 - Frederic presses demands for overdue outstanding loans; Catherine stays in France in order to settle the inheritance of her mother Rachel Tacquelet; Frederic moves to Schiedam, Holland, to set up a tannery with others; His first born child dies after 3 days; Frederic starts to trade in lace via Jeremie Leblanc in Hamburg; Catherine's excuses for not settling a debt with Frederic

1688 - Brother Francois becomes the manager of the 'Jardin'; Frederic returns a vital document to his mother; Frederic asks brother Jean to consider selling his lace; half-brother Robert Oursel Jr. emigrates to London and finds work; Uncle Daniel stops farming and plans to go to Virginia; Jean and daughter 'Catin' are re-united; Jean gets engaged to cousin Marie Testard-Crommelin; Frederic's wife Marie Camin miscarries a second time; Francois is seriously ill; hurtful rumours about Jean cause his engagement to Marie Testard-Crommelin to collapse

Providence - an essay about providence and our family's history in light of how the subtle experiences of Jean de Coninck eventually impacted the beginnings of the Irish and American lines of the Crommelin family.

1689 - Frederic longs to hear some news about his shipment of lace; Catherine expects to be expelled from France; Frederic appeals to have her come to Holland; A baby boy for Frederic who survives, unlike the other two; Frederic suggests that Jean look for a wife amongst the Ammonet family; Ireland looks attractive to Frederic as a new destination

What Le Havre might have looked like when Catherine and Frederic
were exchanging their letters.
Le Havre
35 Rue d'Estimauville

1690 - Problems with selling Whale Oil and Lace; Death of brother Jean de Coninck; Jean Camin refuses to be the guardian of the two orphans

1691 - Collecting revenue from lace and an overdue loan; Esther Crommelin; Daniel Crommelin leaves his farm in England; Still wondering who is to care for the two orphans.

1692-01-12 - Robert Oursel Jr. decides to become the orphans' guardian; Chasing overdue accounts; Anne Testart to visit her father; Regrets at having left England

1692-03-31 - Business affairs before Robert Oursel Jr.'s voyage to Jamaica

1692-09-21 - Closing the lace-trading affairs before Robert's Voyage to Jamaica in February 1693

1693-05-18 - Various illnesses; News of the arrival of Robert Oursel Jr. at Jamaica; Death of a Patriarch: Pierre Testart

1693-11-23 - News of the Deaths of Robert Oursel Jr. and cousin Delachambre in Jamaica

1694-01-10 - Catherine's Grief; New Babies; Death of Samuel Crommelin; Letter of Inquiry to Anne Testart

1694-05-04 - Letter to Daniel who is somewhere between Jamaica and New York; Birth of Frederic's daughter Catherine

1694-08-05 - Bombardment of Le Havre; Invasion of Jamaica; Circuitous Letter to Daniel; Death of Catherine Crommelin

1695 - Condolences on Catherine's Death; Anne Testart Departs for America; Death of brother Francois de Coninck; Request for Curtailment of Lawsuit by brother Francois

1696 - Birth of Esther de Coninck; Marriage proposals to Marie Oursel; Letter to Daniel; Enlisting the help of Francois de la Chambre

1697 - Frederic and Jean Camin launch their lace lottery in Rotterdam; Peace concluded on September 20; Another appeal to Daniel; Marie Oursel plans to visit Frederic

1698 - Anticipation and disappointment regarding Manon's visit; Another appeal to Daniel; Pierre Testart of Amsterdam gets involved; Birth of Francois de Coninck

1699 - Persecution in France intensifies; Frederic considers using a proxy in New York to pursue Daniel

1700-1704 - Death of Madelaine Testart, wife of Samuel Crommelin; Problems with the disposition of Catherine Crommelin's estate

1705-1716 - Frederic and his brother-in law, Jean Camin, cordially end their partnership in the tannery business; Death of Jean Camin; Frederic struggles to repair two decrepit tanneries; Four years later Frederic pays off Jean Camin's investment in the tanneries; Marie Camin starts a boutique in Amsterdam which employs their children; Frederic and Marie make a trip to France; Jacob Crommelin writes a genealogy of the Crommelin family; Marriage of Catherine de Coninck to cousin Abraham Camin; A final appeal to Daniel Crommelin to return the orphans' money.

1718 - Marie Camin hastily closes down her boutique in Amsterdam which has been operating for 8 years; Frederic is in anguish over the rebelliousness of his youngest son, Francois; Trouble selling canes and dishes to raise enough money to send to Batavia; Frustration over a lawsuit involving a pair of church officials

1720-1721 - Some fatherly advice to son, Jean, in Batavia; Trading in tea, cornelians, varnish and cravattes; France's economy is in tatters; Peace treaty between Spain and the Quadruple Alliance; Dubious beginnings of a stock exchange; Illness amongst family members; Death of Jacob Crommelin; Declining value of tea

1722 - Death of Frederic de Coninck; Death of Elisabeth Testart (wife of Jacob Crommelin); Letters to son, Jean de Coninck, in Batavia; Crommelin-Torin cousins' assistance to Marie Camin; Storms at sea; VOC - the Dutch East Indies Company

1723 - The (Austrian) Company of Ostend; Financial problems related to the tanneries; Marie Camin's failing health; Tragic tale involving a Camin family; Making neck ties and bonnets

1724 - The death of Marie Camin


Our story begins shortly after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 which caused a great many Huguenots [French Calvinists] to flee from France into neighbouring countries. Amongst this exodus, were Jean de Coninck, a lace merchant, and his half-brother, Robert Oursel Jr. who chose London, England as their place of refuge. Their uncle, Daniel Crommelin, was already in England having settled at Greenway Court, Kent, a few years earlier with his wife, Anne Testart, and children, Charles and Isaac.

A later arrival was another brother, Frederic de Coninck, who stayed over a year with his uncle at Greenway Court in 1686-7 before marrying Marie Camin and then emigrating to Schiedam, Holland where he became a tanner.

Apparently Robert Oursel Jr. was appointed to be the guardian, or trustee of the two daughters of Jean de Coninck and his wife, Marthe Duval, should anything happen to their parents. As it happened, Marthe Duval died in London when the children were just toddlers and Jean De Coninck, their father, died three years later on a business trip to Rotterdam. Coming home late one night in August, 1690, he accidentally stumbled into a canal and drowned near the home of his brother-in-law, Jean Camin, where he was staying. [Jean Camin was married to Jean and Frederic de Coninck's sister, Catherine de Coninck.] Therefore, with Frederic de Coninck in Holland and Robert Oursel Jr. in England, the two half-brothers cooperatively tried to sell off an inventory of lace that was left behind when Jean de Coninck died in Rotterdam.

Robert Oursel Jr., as the guardian of the two young girls, received their substantial inheritance in trust, but shortly after becoming the girls' trustee, he was persuaded to partake in an enterprise that would take him on an ambitious voyage to Jamaica. Since he wouldn't be able to fulfill his obligations as a guardian, Frederic de Coninck, the other half-brother living in Schiedam, Holland, again enters the picture. He was willing not only to look after the two orphaned nieces, but also to have the official title of trustee transferred to himself, along with the inheritance money which he wished to place in a bank for the children's future welfare.

This brought about conflict because Robert Oursel Jr. was willing to hand over the children to Frederic de Coninck, but not the administration or trusteeship, and the inheritance money that came with it. Obviously he had ambitions to use this money for his own gambit in Jamaica. Trying to obtain a transfer of the trusteeship and the inheritance money is the subject of some heated correspondence between Frederic de Coninck and Robert Oursel Jr. Unfortunately Frederic never succeeded in getting the official transfer before Robert Oursel Jr. sailed off to Jamaica in February, 1693, along with uncle Daniel Crommelin [a brother of his mother] and his son, Charles Crommelin, and another cousin, Jean(?) de la Chambre Jr. [a grandson of Daniel de la Chambre and Marie Crommelin, an older sister of both Daniel Crommelin and Catherine Crommelin].

Two other characters play important parts in this saga. Apparently the voyage to Jamaica was the brainchild of Frederic's cousin, Jean de la Chambre, a Huguenot businessman in London, who had contacts in Kingston, Jamaica. He sent a son. Jean(?) de la Chambre Jr., to be on this voyage of potential prosperity.

Then there is Robert's father, Robert Oursel Sr., who was a wholesale merchant of fish and whale products and a ship-owner or privateer. He colluded with his son, Robert Jr., to have him go to Jamaica with the money that belonged to the two orphans. He was the second husband of Frederic's mother, Catherine Crommelin, thus he was Frederic de Coninck's step-father. He and Catherine had 4 children: Robert Oursel Jr., Marie Oursel and 2 other daughters.

Daniel Crommelin was the oldest of the party that set out for Jamaica, taking along his eldest son, Charles. So the foursome consisted of Daniel, Charles, Robert Oursel Jr., and Jean(?) de la Chambre Jr. After ten years of living on leased property at Greenway Court, Kent, England, Daniel Crommelin was probably chafing for a fresh opportunity to restore the fortune he had lost around 1681-2 following an abortive slave-trading scheme with an unscrupulous rogue named Nicholas van Horn who went on to become one of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean.

Frederic de Coninck, being well-acquainted with the kind of hair-brained ventures that his relations were capable of, saw this new risky enterprise as another grandiose pipe-dream. Frederic appears to be the most clear-eyed and clear-thinking of all the players in this saga. Unfortunately he was unable to dissuade his half-brother, Robert Jr., from taking the orphan's money out of the country. Frederic tried very hard to have Robert Jr. put the orphans' money in the bank where it could earn some interest for the two girls, but to no avail. Then when the two cousins, Robert Oursel Jr. and Jean(?) de la Chambre Jr. were dying shortly after arriving in Jamaica because of an outbreak of yellow fever in 1693, Daniel Crommelin became the executor of Robert's will which effectively transferred the orphan's wealth from Robert to his uncle, Daniel. Unfortunately Daniel Crommelin never repaid it.

It was the orphans' inheritance money that apparently made the Jamaican enterprise possible, and which later financed Daniel and Charles Crommelin's entry into the New World at New York in 1694. It could be that Daniel chose to go to New York rather than return to England because he suspected that he would never be able to repay the orphans' money that he had been living on. Some twenty-two years later, Frederic was still writing letters to New York in hopes of having Daniel Crommelin return the money that rightfully belonged to two orphaned nieces, raised in Holland, who struggled with poverty all their lives.

These letters were saved by Frederic de Coninck who wrote copies of his principal correspondence in a 'letter book'. He also managed to save every letter between himself and his mother, Catherine Crommelin. This correpondence is archived at the Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français, the French Protestant Museum in Paris, and was faithfully reproduced thanks to the hard work of Maryse Trannois, currently the President of the Saint Quentin Historical Society in Picardy, France. The letters are being translated into English by Miff Crommelin in Mission, B.C., Canada, having begun this project in November 2011. This correspondence dates as far back as 1676 and contains the evolution of a saga that led to the establishment of the Crommelin family in North America - a story of triumph and tragedy, rogues and heros, and with all the intrigue and adventure of a historical novel, or perhaps a TV mini-series such as Poldark, The Onedin Line, or the Forsyte Saga. As one reads these letters, it is interesting to note that all this family history was unfolding a century before the French Revolution, and 100 years before Capt. George Vancouver rowed into Burrard Inlet to explore a shore line that would later become the city of Vancouver, Canada.