THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BONDOUX

FAMILY HISTORY

MY BONDOUX ANCESTRY



Ancestry information in France prior to 1789 is often either twisted or lost, not only due to the fluidity of names during earlier eras but also due to the massive disorder caused by the Revolution, when fear caused many people to adopt new names. In addition, many old records disappeared during the confiscation and destruction of church property following the Revolution.

In the early 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte modernized administrative and justice systems, including creating a registry of births, deaths and marriages requiring that everyone adopt a surname. For earlier times, anonymity rules. The records "fog" resulting from that history has impaired the collection of BONDOUX family data more than for my other ancestry lines.

The BONDOUX are Burgundians, and proud of it. Most people with that surname trace their origins to the wooded hill country in the center of Burgundy. “My” BONDOUX show up in a picturesque town, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, in the northern part of the province. (A nice twist - during WWII, Father became the “liberator” of the city of Autun – and Autun is located at the center of Burgundy!).

Bridge at Villeneuve Bridge Across the Yonne at Villeneuve

The medieval town of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne achieved robust prosperity by meeting the hunger for plentiful and cheap firewood of the expanding city of Paris. The nearby forest of Othe on the limestone hills east of Villeneuve yielded large volumes of oak and other hardwoods such as elm, linden, and holly. The river Yonne, a tributary of the river Seine, afforded easy and cheap transport downstream to the capital.

The BONDOUX prospered by becoming wood merchants dealing in lumber and firewood.

GREAT-GREAT-GRANDFATHER

The birthdate of my great-great-grandfather, Victor BONDOUX (?-1854), is unknown to me, but since he died in 1854 and since his wife Elisabeth Augustine BOUGAULT (1807-1878) was born in 1807, I calculate that he probably was born shortly after the Revolution of 1789.

Victor BONDOUX became a very successful wood merchant, supplying the considerable demand from Paris. He built a large manor house on the outskirts of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, in the hamlet of Talouan, and named "La Fosse Rouge" (or "The Red Pit") after the red clay deposit on the property. He developed a tileworks, using the red clay, manufacturing roofing tiles.

Tileworks La Fosse Rouge ("The Red Pit")

GREAT GRANDFATHER

Victor's son Arsene BONDOUX (1828-?), my great grandfather, also lived out his days in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. He married Leontine BAUMIER (1835-?), the daughter of a notary whose practice was in the eastern part of Burgundy. She inherited her family's property, "Minieres", in the neighboring town of Ouanne and which the couple used as a second home. Arsene became a local notable, active in municipal affairs and serving on the organizing committee for the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris.

He expanded the business into brick-making, and was successful in shifting the focus of the wood dealing to tannin (derived from the bark of local oaks and used in the leather industry).

Arsene and Leontine had three boys: Henri, the oldest, obtained a law degree and became a respected judge in the Paris courts. Georges, the youngest of the three (by far, being fifteen years and thirteen years younger, respectively, than his brothers) was my grandfather, born in 1870, right in the middle of the Franco-Prussian war.

Inspired by the example of his older brother, Georges studied law and had a stellar career as a magistrate. More about him at the link below:

GEORGES BONDOUX