Hello & Welcome ! (Dia dhuit & Tá fáilte romhat)

                                                     A Brief summary of our family’s history in Bordeaux      



John Davidson

John Davidson’s parents were George Davidson and Beatrix Wallace and they were married in Peterhead, Scotland on 27 April 1739. Apart from this, nothing is known of his life between his birth in Scotland (in 1760 in Aberdeen) and his arrival in France, and no records have yet been found concerning his emigration from Scotland to the USA.

However, his life as a Scot in France is well documented.

He arrived in France around 1784  [1] and first resided near Chartrons Quays in Bordeaux.

The port of Bordeaux was at that time the main port of France: the country’s commercial heart, and the suburb of Chartrons (named after a Carthusian monk) was very prosperous due to international commerce and, in particular, to the wine trade. From around 1550, Scots and Flemish came to trade herring and salted fish for wine.  Whisky as we know it today did not exist and the Scots at the time drank Bordeaux wine (claret).

On arrival, John was employed by Fenwick Mason and Cie  (Established 1788) as a wine trader; he then joined the U.S. Consulate where Joseph Fenwick was Consul, and held the post of  Chancellor from 1791 till 1796. [2]

Like Consul J.Fenwick, John Davidson was almost certainly Catholic, which his American employers saw as an advantage in a Catholic country like France. What is more, John spoke and wrote French fluently, facilitating his work as Vice-Consul.

When the Consul was absent,[3] John took over his duties, assisted by John Woods, Consular secretary.

We also know that John Davidson was interpreter for the Captains of riggings from New England, U.S.A., since he acted as Harbour Customs Officer, signing petitions presented by these Captains. He was also responsible for keeping the Consulate’s register of statements, passports, etc., up to date.)


John left his post at the Consulate in December, 1795  [4]  after an extremely demanding year and in 1796, together with John Woods, set up a company trading in wine, brandy and groceries called " Davidson-Woods and Cie.

This company handled the trade of Joseph Fenwick when the latter was absent [5]for which J.Fenwick remunerated the company to the tune of FF 25000F [6].

However this company was dissolved due to a difference of opinion in 1801 and Davidson and Woods parted company.


In 1802, John Davidson decided to set up a new company called Davidson-Forster Cie (with an Irish associate), ensuring the transport of goods to Salem in Nova Scotia and Charleston in the U.S.A  [7].


In the meantime, he married Martha Bowie in 1794  [8] and they had 7 children. It would seem that due to the influence of Martha Bowie, the family then became Protestant.


Between 1796 and 1810, all of John and Martha’s family , as well as Martha’s brother and sister, moved from the rue de Charron to 110 Chartrons Quays. 


Troubled by the "Terror" of the French Revolution ( 1793-1794 ), the family endured the "cold war" between France and United States from 1797 until 1801. These major events had repercussions on John's activities and on his family’s lifestyle.


A directive from the Home Secretary dated April 6th, 1804 ordered that due to “the cold war" with the United States of America, all English, Scottish and Irish retailers should move 40 kms away from the city, the harbour zone and the coast.

The Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux reacted quickly, sending a reply on May 5th, 1804, listing the traders and indicating:

-         that they were well integrated in Bordeaux,

-         their major role in commercial activities

-         and vouching for their honesty.


As a result, seventeen traders were allowed to remain in Bordeaux, one of which was our ancestor.  

In 1811, John, perturbed by these events, decided to leave Chartrons Quays, and with Martha and their children, moved into more modest, discreet houses situated firstly in the rue de Coussé and then in the rue de Poyenne.


Although not far from Chartrons Quays, they no longer enjoyed their previous panoramic view over the River Garonne”.

In the rue de Poyenne, Martha died [9] when their youngest child, William, was only ten years old, but the family rallied round and he was brought up by his father and his elder sisters.

They then moved to the rue de Minvielle (census 1831), where John died. [10]

The fortunes of the Davidson family took a turn for the better.

The boys were all apprentice traders or brokers and enjoyed a good standard of living.

- Eléonore, the eldest daughter, lived alone. [11]

- The youngest sister Eliza [12] lived with the twins, John-Joseph and Mary-Ann.[13]  

- William [14] the youngest son also lived alone and was the most prosperous.

- Georges Charles [15] lived alone, and as he was an invalid, he spent his time between the hospital and his house.

All were unmarried and lived at 20, 30, and 36 rue de la Course .


Jacques Davidson:

- Only Jacques [16] the third child, although unwed, lived with Elizabeth Roque [17] as a married couple in the rue de la Coussé.

Elizabeth’s sister, Jeanne, also lived with them. [18]

Jacques, an apprentice trader, and Elizabeth had a child together, and when Elizabeth died at the age of only 33, he brought up his son with his "sister-in-law Jeanne" who later became his wife. [19].


Jacques and Jeanne formally adopted Hypolite in adulthood [20] when he announced his intention to marry, wherafter he took the name of his biological father, Davidson.


Many of our ancestors who lived in Bordeaux still had not acquired French nationality as late as 1847



Hypolite Davidson :

Hypolite was a candle maker, then foreman. (1880).

His first marriage was to Céline Durban  [21] with whom he had three children

-         Jean-Jacques, born on 23 November 1859, died only two days later

-         A still-born girl in 1861 [22]

-         Emile James  [23]

Céline herself died in September 1864 at the age of only 25. It would appear that Hypolite brought up his child, Emile, with the help of his mother Jeanne, his Aunt Eliza, his Uncle John-Joseph, and his sisters-in-law, Jeanne and Marie Durban. After six years as a widower, Hypolite married for a second time, to Marie Bentéjac. [24]

Around 1872-74, the couple settled in the village of Le Bouscat, a suburb of Bordeaux, together with Jeanne Davidson. ,[25] and later with Marie Bentéjac’s mother. [26]

Until now, the Davidsons had been bilingual English/French but with the family now living in two different towns, their use of the English language diminished. The two youngest children of the first generation did however continue to live together in Bordeaux. [27] [28] [29]

- In 1891 a young Davidson of independent means figured in the town annals of Bordeaux : this was John Joseph,  one of the twins, the only surviving child of his family.


Hypolite and Marie had two children who were born in Le Bouscat :

-         James Henry Adolphe  [30] an accountant who married Jeanne d’Hioré.(Bordeaux) on 10 February 1900

-         Gabriel Florentin [31] retail employee, who married Marguerite Louise Dhios on 19 October 1905 .(Le Bouscat)


Hypolite no longer worked as a foreman, but was in the retail trade, also exercising the functions of Deputy-Mayor of Le Bouscat. [32].


Emile-James Davidson : (child of the first marriage)

Emile’s upbringing must have been rather difficult, since following his father’s second marriage, he was sent to live with a family outside Gironde for several years, far away from his father.

After his apprenticeship, he became a blacksmith in 1881  [33] and returned to the Bordeaux region in 1887, where he married Catherine Duberga and they had three children. [34]:

-         Clotilde [35]

-         Marcel James [36]

-         André [37]


Prior to 1900, Emile was a train driver with the Midi Compagnie, during which time he trained students of engineering from the Polytechnic in the practical functioning of machinery. After the First World War, he was involved in various aspects of the automobile repair trade, and, in retirement, his beautiful wrought iron artwork delighted his grandchildren.


André Davidson :

In December 1917, before leaving for the Front, he saw his grandfather Hypolite die in his arms. He married Marguerite Dumaulié on 12 July 1921. André worked as a garage mechanic with his father, then with a Mr. Thomas in Bordeaux, who invented a prototype for a car, following which he was an workshop mechanic for the S.N.C.F, before establishing his own company in 1956. This company manufactured materials, some of his own invention, relating to woodworking, one of which was a complex machine, capable of forming wood into crates incorporating racks for storing bottles.


In 1929, he moved to Ruffec (Charente) after an accident at work, then to Agen (Lot et Garonne) with his father and family. At this time, he was workshop foreman. In 1933, he returned to Le Bouscat where he opened a garage workshop.


Later in life, when he retired, he became an engineering consultant and was President of the Association of Inventors of Gironde. He was a regular participant at exhibitions in Lyon and Bordeaux. He also devoted himself to charity work for the under-privileged in Le Bouscot.




Following his second marriage, Hypolite and his direct descendants continued to live in the South-West of France, in Bordeaux, Le Bouscot, Taillan-Médoc, Eysines, Asques, Pessac, Tarnos and Bayonne.


After the War, the succeeding generations spread out to the Landes, the Var, Le Gard, the Bouches du Rhône,l’Yonne and the Paris region.



Throughout the generations, our family members have had many diverse occupations :


In the retail trade


Two Deputy-Mayors

One President of the Association of Inventors of South West France


Garage workshop owners and mechanics

Travelling salesmen

A priest

Automobile mechanics

Civil servants


One Naval Officer

Biological technicians

A doctor

Technicians in Moderns Technologies



Between 1891 and 1990, there were only 181 people with the name Davidson in France and the surname ranks 4626th out of 4793 for 1,330,000 surnames in France.



Translation : Michel Davidson, Brenda Coyle-Davidson

[1] Letter from Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce to the Home Secretary 1804

[2] 13th  May 1791: letter signed by J.Fenwick

[3] From April to October 1793, April to November 1795, August 1796 to October 1797(BMBxD71215)

[4] He signed  his last  act for  Thomas Whipps  Capitain of  vessel  Ganges  on  22nd /12/1795

[5] ADG 3.E.23459 procuration of Fenwick-Mason to John Davidson and John Woods 1st /08/1793.

[6] ADG 3.E.20625, legal act  16th June1796 (ADG=Achives Départementales de la Gironde)

[7] On 22nd  December 1807 John made the crossing Bordeaux-Charleston as negotiator

[8] Married 17th  March 1794 –(AMBx=Archives Municipales de Bordeaux REgistre.2.E.4  act n° 209).

[9] Martha died   31st  December 1821 – AMBx Reg 3.E.110 act n°182 S (50 years)

[10] John died 9th  August 1845-AMBx 4.E.1179 act n°691 (85 years)

[11] Born 17th  February 1795- AMBx Reg 1.E.7 act n°365- Died 14th  May 1861(66 years)

[12] Born 6th  March 1796 – AMBx Reg 1.E.10 act n°464- Died 4th  May 1883 (87 years)

[13] Born 1st  August 1805 – AMBx Reg 1.E.37 acts n° 775 et 776- Mary-Ann died 19th  May 1864 (58 years)

[14] Born 10th  September 1811 – AMBx Reg 1.E. act  n° 754 –Died 18th  May 1861 (50 years)

[15] Born  23rd   January 1803 – AMBx Reg 1.E.25act n°304 – Died 23rd  April 1851 (48 years)

[16] Born 10th  July 1798 – AMBx Reg 1.E.16 act n° 922- Died  6th  February 1861 (62 years)

[17] Adopted  22nd  December 1857- AMBx 4.E.1313 act n°77 ter

[18] Born 12th  August 1812 – AMBx Reg 1.E.16 act n° 922- Died  24th  December 1894 (82 years)

[19] Married  17th  May 1851 – AMBx Reg 2.E.142 act n°259

[20] Adopted  22nd  December 1857- AMBx 4.E.1313 act n°77 ter

[21] Married  2nd  March 1859 – Notaire Pery 3.E.29121- Bordeaux

[22] 1861 was a bad year  for the family  with 4 deaths: Jacques  6th  February, a daughter  of Hypolite and Céline born and died 12th   February, Eléonore 4th  May, and William le 18th  May. Family vault (Cemetery La grande Chartreuse) was bought by Jacques on 25th October 1854 .

[23] Born 10th  January 1862 in Bordeaux- Died  24th  March 1945 in Le Bouscat.(83 yearss)

[24] Married  13th  August 1870 – Archives Départementales de la Gironde act n°382

[25] Census of 1886 cours Louis Blanc : Jeanne died in 1894.

[26] Census of  1906 72 route du Médoc : Marie died in 1925.

[27] Eliza died 4th  May 1883(87 yearss) ADG 2MID 5/92 act n°572

[28] John-Joseph died 3rd September 1893 (88 years)- 2MID-5/103 act n°1208.

    John-Joseph inherited from all his brothers and sisters and had been of independent means for 30 years.

[29] John-Joseph and his brother  William were not of French nationality in 1847 (letter Royal court of Bordeaux 17th  June 1847)

[30] Born  9th  March 1875 – Archives Municipales du Bouscat. Died 29th January 1949 – La Cannet (Alpes-Maritimes) (74 years)

[31] Born 18th  July 1881 – Archives Municipales du Bouscat-Died 10th May 1945 –Bordeaux (64 years)

[32] He had Mayor ‘s functions ( December 15th,1883 to May18th, 1884), replacing the outgoing Mr Feuillet. He regained his duties as  Deputy-Mayor  with the new municipality.

[33] His half-brother  was only 6 and  Gabriel was a newborn…

[34] Married  4th   July 1888 – Archives Municipales du Bouscat.

[35] Born 17th    April 1889 .Died 24th  December 1891- Archives Municipales du Bouscat.

[36] Born 11th  February 1892 – Sergeant died in 1st World War 3rd  October 1914 (22 years)

[37] Born 14th  May1894  Bordeaux -Died 28th  January 1984  (89 years)