Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Finding the LeJays: Parlez-vous Francais?

I have written before about the difficulty I have had finding the Lejay family. My great grandmother was Sylvia Lejay Gines and her mother was Syntrilla Brayboy Lejay. I believed that Sylvia's father's, and Syntrilla's husband's, name was Lewis. I know that they're connected to both Louisiana and South Carolina. Finding records of them has been very difficult especially in the case of Syntrilla Lejay.

We know that an Isaac Lejay came to South Carolina in the 1680's with his wife Madeleine Fleury. After that we basically lose track of the Lejays until the 1870 census of Louisiana. So what happened to them? Well, I didn't really know, but finding out has been one of my research priorities.

Isaac Lejay apparently was one of many thousands of Huguenots who came to America, indeed specifically to South Carolina, in the 17th century. Some sources have said that can be difficult to track Huguenot descendents and other French surnamed individuals because the use of articles such as "le," and "la," fell into disuse for various reasons. if that's the case then it would be difficult to distinguish a John Jay, who had Huguenot ancestors, from any John Jay, who may have been an Englishman. [The Founding Father John Jay was of Huguenot descent.]

Of course the novice researcher soon learns that variations in spelling become important in genealogical research. Looking for Lejays, for example, one might look for the spelling "Legay,"or "Legauy," or "Lejau." None of these particularly fruitful in my research.

Having run into what seemed to be a fairly thick brick wall, I recently put out in several media a request for help. a correspondent on the AfriGeneas forum gave me the clue I had been missing. he suggested trying the spellings "Legere" or "Legire." I would not have thought of either of these. Another AfriGeneas correspondent explained the reason for this suggestion: "the name Leger or Legere (sometimes with an accent grave ` over the second "e" in the second spelling) [are both] pronounced l'jay in French . . . ."

In the 1880 census of De Soto Parish, Louisiana, there appears the household of Lewis "Legire" and his wife "Sintrilla." Among their children is a teenaged "Silvia." This appears to be the family I've been looking for. Living nearby is a couple named Edwin and Mary "Legire" who may be Lewis's parents.

So had I known a little a bit about French pronunciation, this may have been a lot easier! Now I'm excited to find more Lejays hiding behind their francophone names.


Taneya said...

What a great discovery! I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts - you are very thorough in your research.

Craig Manson said...

Thanks, Taneya. This is some of the most enjoyable "work" I've ever done! Over the next several months, I hope it gets more thorough as I start to analyze some key documents.

Susie Day said...

I'm curious as to the ancestors of the Lejay family. I'm descended from a Legere Sollee who lived in Charleston SC, and was born in France in 1769. Perhaps they are related? I'm having an "awful time" finding the name of his father, and this might give me a clue.

Fenix said...

I am also very interested in this family as Sylvia Lejay is my great-great-great grandmother. Please contact me with any information.