Remembering the Huguenots. London's Huguenot Society prospers from `revived interest in family history'.

The Huguenot Society of London is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, concurrent with its commemoration of the 300th year since Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and sparked a mass exodus of Protestants from France. Randolph Vigne, president of the society, attributes his organization's increasing membership (from 200 or 300 to 1,000 over the last two decades) to the ``whole revival of interest in family history.''

Dr. Hugh Gough of University College, Dublin, praises the society for its long train of publications on the Huguenots. He also comments that the society fellows may be largely involved in what he calls the ``roots complex,'' or ``historical nostalgia.''

Interest in the family tree seems strong regardless of whether the forefathers were weavers or generals. Society member and retired civil servant Kay Christmas has found enormous pleasure in tracing her ancestry. She connects, on her mother's side, to a Huguenot goldsmith named Pierre Platel. A Scottish member can trace her family history back to ``a quiet family'' called Lafargue who provided the Church of England with two vicars in tranquil, out-of-the-way parishes. She finds the Huguenots interesting because they were such ``industrious people.''

Dr. Gwynn agrees. He says he believes it is hard for 20th century people to understand the religious conviction that made the Huguenots run fearful risks, lose all their possessions, and even break up their families rather than compromise conscience.

He characterizes them in his book as ``unusually determined and principled men and women [who] believed that to serve God was to give meaning to life. This belief engendered a strong sense of personal accountability for their actions,'' which in turn fostered ``the virtues which have marked out Huguenots and so many of their descendants: frugality, hard work, upright behaviour, responsibility, sobriety.'' -- 30 --{et

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