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Daphne du Maurier: Novelist Who Traced Her Ancestry to a French Debtors' Jail

5 Jul 2022 9:47 AM | Anonymous

Dame Daphne du Maurier, the English novelist who died in 1989, was fascinated by her French heritage.

The author of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn had been brought up on tales of an aristocratic ancestor who came to London during the French Revolution, fleeing the guillotine and the militant sans-culottes.

But when she began looking into her family history, she discovered it was all rather more complicated. Far from being nobles, her French ancestors were in fact bourgeois artisans whose trade was glassmaking.

And the 1790 émigré was not a runaway from the revolutionary mob, but from a debtors' prison.

You can read about her adventures in researching her ancestry, including disproving some of the "family stories: that had been handed down in her family over the centuries, by starting in the BBC web site at:


  • 6 Jul 2022 12:39 PM | Anonymous
    I hope your readers will enjoy this personal anecdote. I was thrilled to see the story of Daphne duMaurier in this week's Newsletter. For members of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society [ACGS] they may have seen the article I wrote a few years ago about The Glass-Blowers of France. My father's sister, Annette Cusson married Lawrence Cusson very distantly related to my direct line. When I started doing genealogy 35 years ago with my cousin Cecile, Larry and Annette's daughter, she always quipped that she got cheated because she only had one main name to research. So we decided she would research her father's side and I would work on our common Cusson line. She barely remembered her paternal grandmother, Malvina Verrier. I remember that Cecile told me then that her grandmother's last name was also an occupation in France in the 18th and 19th centuries for glassmakers or glassblowers. Astonishingly, I never pursued that name until the summer of 2020. When I googled the trade of Verrier in 17th Century France, Daphne du Maurier's name and book titled "The Glass-Blowers" popped up. I was able to download the book to my Nook and read the wonderful history of her French ancestry and the origins of the Verrier surname. I also found there is an Association of Verriers in France but it is more of an occupational history of the name than a genealogical history of the name. What struck me was that the first duMaurier was Mathurin Busson. It was his son who gentrified their family name by adding "du Maurier." But for one letter, I might have been a du Maurier!!! What an odd quirk of history for the Cusson-Verrier line. I wish my cousin Cecile was still around to see this although I think maybe she was kicking me in the pants to start looking at her father's line after 35 years of working on our mutual line. Pauline Cusson, ACGS-Manchester, NH
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