The internet has fundamentally changed the way we conduct genealogical research, connecting people to each other and allowing access to historical records or databases that would not otherwise be possible. Ancestry.com is helpful for a wide range of genealogical research, however it can easily lead us down the wrong path with a click of a button. More importantly, once added to a publicly shared family tree, this information can be perpetuated at the pace of a viral post on social media.
The viral nature of this information is especially problematic when it is inaccurate. This type of genealogical "fake news" creates a reality of its own where the alternative facts are perpetuated so widely it creates a 'virtual' historical reality.
One of the many alternative histories on Ancestry.com is the parentage of my ancestor, Marie Maret, wife of Pierre Maret (aka. Peter, in German records). When searching family trees through Ancestry.com, most rearchers have accepted Marie Maret as the former "Maria Tyderleigh" (over 846 trees), daughter of Robert Tyderleigh and Anna Abigail Coggan. The Tyderleighs appear to be natives of Devon, England. Some trees also cite the record of an unrelated Pierre Marette and a "Marie Louise Gouverneaux" who married in 1756 in Sempigny, Oise, Picardie, France (those trees show that Marie was 87 at the time of her marriage, which also occurred after her death...raising any eyebrows?).
Additionally, there are over 1,830 family trees that list Maria Apollonia Maret as the daughter of Pierre Maret and "Maria Tyderleigh".
On closer examination, the same Mary Tyderleigh who many connect to Pierre Maret as "Maria" was born 16 September 1669 in Chardstock, Devon, England. She was one of six known children of Robert Tyderleigh Esq. and Anne. The Tyderleighs are found in the well indexed parish records of Chardstock. There are no Tyderleigh marriages in this database and Mary appears to have died at the age of 23 with a record of death on 3 June 1693 (listed as the daughter of Robert Tyderleigh Esq.). All of the children of Robert Tyderleigh Esq. listed in the parish birth records are later accounted for in the parish death records. Considering Mary lived and died in Chardstock the connection of the Tyderleighs with the Marets should end here.
How can we correct the record? Let's start with MariE's daughter: Maria Apollonia (maret) Bechtel.
Maria Apollonia Bechtel was the wife of Rev. John (aka Johannes) Bechtel. They were the parents of my ancestor Maria Susanna Bechtel, who married John Levering, Sr. Their other known surviving children were: Maria Agneta, wife of Corneilus Weygandt; Anna Margaretha, wife of (1) Rev. Gottleib Buttner, (2) Rev. John George Jungmann; and Maria Apollonia, wife of Andrew Christian Weber.
Maria Apollonia Bechtel and Rev. John Bechtel are buried at the Central Moravian Church Graveyard, in Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. From her tombstone we find that she was born in the Pfalz (Palatinate), on 14 May 1691 and died 7 February, 1758.
Prior to his death in 1777, Rev. Bechtel wrote a short story about his life. In which he stated:
"In 1714 I allowed my friends to convince me to become a master craftsman in Heidelberg. In February 1715 I married my dear wife, who went to the Savior here on February 7, 1758. We were married 43 years and had 9 children, of whom 5 daughters are still alive and from them we have 38 grandchildren, of whom 7 have gone to the Savior, and 16 great-grandchildren. [...] In the year 1717 I moved from Heidelberg to Frankenthal until in 1726 I moved to Pennsylvania with my wife and 3 children. I lived for 20 years in Germantown."
We are fortunate to have this story from Rev. Bechtel, as it is rich with first hand information about his life that can be used for hints to original records. From this document, we learn that he was married to his wife in Heidelberg in February 1715. In a search of the marriage records of Heidelberg, I found the following:
Transcription: d. 13 Febr.
Johannes Bechtel B. und derhe allhier, weÿl: Joh. Peter
Bechtel gewessen B. und Krämer zu Frankenthal hinterlassen
ehel. sohn, und Fr. Maria Apollonia, weÿl: Peter Maret gewessen
b. und lichtenamacher allhier nachgelasse ehel. tochter.
Indeed, Johannes Bechtel was married to Maria Apollonia Maret on the 13th of February, 1715. Maria Apollonia was a resident of Heidelberg and the daughter of Peter Maret. According to the record, Peter had passed away prior to the marriage of his daughter.
Although, at present, there is not a known birth or baptismal record for Maria Apollonia from 1691, the marriage and death records of Pierre and Marie Maret provide a clear evidence of her parentage. After settling in Frankenthal, Mannheim and Heidelberg many Huguenots were forced to flee the French invasion of the Rhine during the Nine Years War 1688-1697. This may also be why we cannot find a birth record for Maria Apollonia in 1691.
Her mother, Marie Maret died on 11 January, 1731 in Heidelberg at the age of 71. The record states she was the wife of the late "Peter Maretts" and was born in Metz. This means we have evidence that Marie Maret, was born about 1660 in Metz, at the time located in France.
Peter Maret died much earlier in September, 1707. His burial was recorded as September 27th in the records of Heidelberg. He is listed as citizen and merchant of the city.
Maria Apollonia was only 16 at the time her father passed away. She was 24 at the time of her marriage to Johannes Bechtel in 1715 and 35 years old when they departed for the new world with their three children. Marie Maret, her mother, survived their departure by about 5 years, living until 1731.
Marriage record of Pierre Maret & Marie Decombles
Maria Apollonia's parents were married nearly 5 years prior to her birth. I found the marriage of Pierre Maret and Marie Decombles in the records of the Magdeburg Congregation of French Huguenots. This colony of Huguenots was established in Magdeburg following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes - which stripped them of their rights and property in France.
Transcription: Pierre Maret et Marie Decombles le 23 Juillet 1684
Pierre Maret jeune homme natis de Heidelberg fils de fen Josias
Maret bourgeois de Heidelberg, et Marie Decombles, jeune
fille native de Metz, fils de fen Isaac Decombles bourgeois
de Metz ont este espouse le 23. Juillet 1684.
From this document, we find that Marie Decombles, formerly of Metz (as mentioned in her death record above), was the daughter of Isaac Decomble, citizen of Metz. She was married to Pierre Maret on 23 July 1684.
Turning to the records of Metz, Moselle, Lorraine, France - I found Marie de Combles, born on 11 January 1660, the daughter of Isaac de Combles and Anna Girard. In addition to a match with her father Isaac listed on the marriage record, this birth aligns with the age (71) and origin provided in her death record from Heidelberg in 1731. [Also, note the subtle change of "Decombles" to "de Combles"]
From this trail of documentation we can be reasonably certain that Marie de Combles, born in 1660 in Metz was the same Marie/Maria that married Pierre Maret and was the mother of Maria Apollonia (Maret) Bechtel. There is no credible evidence that Mary Tyderliegh was the wife of Pierre Maret, the mother of their children, or the same Marie Maret who died in 1731.
Who are the "de Combles"?
What is the ancestry of Isaac de Combles of Metz? Is he a descendant of the noble family de Combles de Naives?
I'll leave that for a future post.