New genealogical discoveries reveal that the family tradition goes back more than 350 years !


Covid-19 confinement has a major impact on economy and on our working habits. Individual schedules have been completely changed but that new way of working is fine to work on files we don’t have time to treat in normal times.


Historical and genealogical research are a good example of this. Time-consuming and with no guarantee results, those researches are setting aside to deal with concrete daily files.


In 2017, according to my first genealogical research, I was able to prove that Jean Charlois (1807-1879) was already wood splitter during first half of the 19th century. While going back through the Charlois family history, archives of the municipality of Chaulgnes are showing that Jean Charlois’ father and grandfather were roofers. Interesting from a family point of view but not essential to establish the Charlois family legitimacy as a key player in forestry and stave mill.


Dating back to the beginning of the 19th century was actually an excellent evidence of an ancestral know-how. So, I was suspending my research keeping in mind that roofers shall certainly use oak tiles…


Three years later, Covid-19 confinement allows me to continue to consult archives that today reveal the ancestors of Jean Charlois, in the direct ascending line, were already wood splitters in the middle of the 17th century; the oldest one was Jacques Charlois (?-1688), great-grandfather of the great-grandfather of Jean Charlois (1807-1879).


This fabulous discovery means, among other things, that Jacques Charlois was splitting wood in the Bertranges forest in the reign of Louis XIV at a time when Colbert took possession of the Duchy of Nevers on behalf of Mazarin and when the Ordinance of Water and Forest (1669) was adopted.


One of the oldest document mentioning that a Charlois was splitter is the death certificate of Perrette Légaré (4 July 1668), wife of Jacques Charlois: “le quatriesme de juillet 1668 est décédée Perrette Lesgaré femme de Jacques Charloys fendeur demeurant en cette parroisse laquelle a esté inhumée dans l’église le cinquiesme du dit mois et an, en présence de Gabriel Lesgaré père de la déffuncte charbonnier [..] et de François et Pierre Charloys vignerons de cette parroisse frères dudit Jacques Charloys”.


We can also notice in that certificate that Jacques Charlois’ brothers, François and Pierre, were wine-growers. It is not surprising in a wine country where, for example, during the year 1730, 70% of the certificates in Chaulgnes concern inhabitants registered as wine-growers. That same year, the death certificate of Estiennette Charlois indicates that her father, Louis Charlois, first cousin of Jacques Charlois (1689-1733), was an oak tiles roofer.


Lives of labour testifying the obvious link between wood split, roof cover and viticulture in the Charlois family for centuries. Those activities having as common denominator the oak, and the Bertranges forest, always at the forefront of Charlois group activities.


Nothing better illustrates that link than a poem of Achille Millien about the wood splitters in the Bertranges forest: “Le bois sous le coutre éclate. / Voici pour nos toits la latte, / Pour nos ceps les échalas / Et le merrain pour la Tonne / Dont le vin doux, à l’automne, / Rend la verve aux esprits las” (“Wood under the coutre is bursting. / Here are the roof batten, / The stakes for the vines / And the staves for the tanks Whose sweet wine in autumn, Is giving back verve to weary minds”).




Guillaume Tozer




Picture: Death certificate of Perrette Légaré, 1668 © Archives départementales de la Nièvre