Napoleon was a giant jerk!

In Genealogy most records are run of the mill, birth or death records. The modern equivalent of “Move along people, nothing to see here”. That mundaneness of the records allows certain ones to jump out at you and make you want to immediately know more.

I’ve mentioned before that it is my fate to often come across things in bunches even though they are from very different locations. I’m at peace with this and find it a bit amusing.

Today, having run out of available Devon Records while recovering from Covid, I was unable to go to the Dallas Public Library to retrieve additional records. So, I set about a long-term project I have of incorporating Ian Henry Babb’s collected papers into the UK tree. The matter isn’t pressing so I only dabble in it occasionally when time permits. Well, I have nothing but time right now, so I decided to get back to it. I was just a few mundane records in when I came across this juicy tidbit that jumped out at me across the digital page. I’ve highlighted it below, just in case it doesn’t jump out at you the same way.

The Trinity House Petitions: A calendar of the records of the Trinity House, London in the Society of Genealogists

I immediately questioned what war was taking place in 1807 and where in the world was Verdun? I quick Internet Search later I had my answer.

It’s this guy again!

As I covered in my post yesterday, Europe had been through 23 years of constant war in 1814 when the Congress of Vienna was convened to settle these matters after the defeat of Napoleon.

Verdun, of course, is in France (and South Dakota, but stick with me)! It is also the setting for another battle in WWII (hey! I said stick with me! LOL). I came across a webpage that tells the story of Verdun from the eyes of one of the Prisoners of War who’s headstone is emblazoned with this story.

So why was he in Verdun?

The war with revolutionary France which had continued unabated since 1793 was temporarily suspended on March 25, 1802 with the signing of the Treaty of Amiens, the text of which was published by The Morning Post (London, England) 31 Mar 1802 (Remember to click on the image to see a full-sized image):

It was a shaky peace and lasted only until May 18, 1803, when a declaration of war was laid before the British Parliament. As a response Bonaparte issued an order on May 22 that all British subjects within the borders of the French Empire be detained. Initially concentrated at depots in Fontainebleau, Valenciennes, Nimes & Nice they were in December ordered to Verdun.

The Morning Post for September 20, 1805, carries a long article with lurid tales of how these events affected some of the higher caste detainees, such as the Marchioness of Tweeddale and Lord Elgin who was on his way home from an ambassadorial position in Constantinople with his marbles.


Get to the part with Nicholas Babb!

So, now that the backstory is in place, let’s talk about Nicholas Babb. We know from the record above that Nicholas’ wife is name Catherine, that she is 40 years old (Presumably in 1807) and that he was born in Paignton which is in Devon (Aha! A Devon record after all!)

We also know that in 1807 he is in Verdun, which either means he was a British Citizen in France in 1805 at the time they were rounded up and imprisoned, or that he was in the Military prior to 1807 when the fact is recorded.

A quick Internet search and I find that the Trinity House accepts petitions of merchant sailors or their widows, who were seeking financial assistance. The papers include over 6 million records and span 102 volumes!

Establishing his identity is the easy part. Nicholas was born to William & Mary (Austin) Babb. He is part of a branch I refer to as Devon Pedigree (Newton Abbot 1735) 21 (Devon Pedigree 21 under the old system). He was baptized on 27 Nov 1767. He Married Catherine and together they had 7 children from 1797-1806. He appears to have died by 1808 and his children were “apprenticed” which I refer to as slavery with a chance of parole. Given their young ages they may have easily been adopted and grew up bearing different surnames. Regardless, the trail on the children runs dry quickly.

It appears that the eldest child William got married in 1818 to Hannah Burrows in Paignton, but no other record of them appears to exist.

The second youngest (Joseph) appears to exist in the 1871 Census, but was living in a Workhouse, from which there was little to no escape.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Napoleon was a Giant Jerk! His endless need for battle reminds me some political figures in our modern world who would rather make everything into a battle and leave no real chance for peace to take hold. This isn’t a political blog, so I’ll leave it at that.

In my youth I used to think Napoleon was kind of cool. He certainly had everyone talking about him. But his incessant need for war destroyed the fabric of this family and no doubt countless others. They were scattered to the wind, and I hope there is a special place in hell for him!

This post is in memory of Nicholas Babb and all that he and his wife lost.

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