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A History of the Broucard/Bragaw/Brokaw name

Broucard: is not a French name! It was originally a Flemish name that was later transformed into a French version. The original name is "Broeckaert" or "Brouckaert". In attachment I send you a list of names of people living in Mouscron (or Moeskroen in Flemish) with this name. What does the name mean ?

You most certainly have heard of Brussels (Bruxelles in French), the capital of Belgium. The original name (in the middle ages) was "Broucksella" meaning "Place at the swamp" ("Brouck" means swamp). So Brouckaert means "Person living at the swamp". Commonly called "The Lowlands", much of the region was constantly submerged since a big part of Flanders is under the sea level only protected from the sea by embankments.

France in the early part of the seventeenth century was constantly besieged by religious wars and the early 1600s, during the reign of King Louis the thirteenth (1601 - 1643) was arguably the worst of all. The Huguenots ( French Pro-test-ants) had under the reign of Henri gained must ground in their battle against the minions of the Mother Church in Rome. Under the Edict of Nantes they were allowed to own land for the first time and be represented at court. When Henri died and eventually was replaced by his son Louis XIII with his advisor Armand Jean de Plessis, Duke of Richelieu who in 1622 was named a Cardinal of the Roman Church and in 1624 was elevated to the position of Chief of State, their fortunes were reversed. All that they had gained was being taken back, and they resisted, leading to the three Bearnise Revolts.

By the third revolt (1627 - 1629), hostilities between the Huguenots and the French government were at their peak with the seige of La Rochele under the direct supervision of Cardinal Richelieu. The majority of the protestants, those who had not escaped to Switzerland, the Spanish Netherlands or the lower Palatinate, were surrounded at La Rochele on the southwest coast of France.

A lengthy seige ensued that was finally ended by a combination of vigorous land attacks and a naval blockade that repulsed British Naval reinforcements, choked off the city, and tens of thousands of French Hugeunots died of starvation, disease and bombardment. At the same time the Duke of Montmorency's defeat of the Duke of Rohan in Lanquedoc put a permanent end to Huguenot hopes of political autonomy within France. All resistance collapsed when Richelieu, realizing the potential economic contribution of the Huguenots, guaranteed them their religious freedom in the "Peace of Alias".

They were not however allowed to own the land they worked and had no say in government, thus they were virtual slaves to the royalty. Over the next years, many began the movement away from this supressive way of life. A great number of the Hugeunots moved north to the "Low Country" of the Spanish Netherlands, an area encompassed in part by Flanders, Luxembourg, and lower Belgium. This movement was akin to jumping out of the pan into the fire, as soon they were immersed in the Spanish Inquisition, a period of suppression and violence that made what they had suffered in France pale by comparison.

At the time of the Hugeunot exodus from France, all of northern Europe was immersed in a war. In 1546, the Palatine elector Frederick II became a Lutheran, and, in 1562 Frederick III made the Palatine Calvinist. It soon became the center of the Protestant movement in Germany. The Palatinate Electors intervened in both the French and Netherlands civil wars and the election of Frederick V (The Winter King) to the throne of Bohemia in 1619 helped to precipitate the Thirty Years War. The Palatinate was one of the war's principal battlegrounds and Frederick lost the upper Palatinate to the Duke of Bavaria. With the signing of the "Peace of Westphalia" at Munster in 1648, a new electorate was created for Charles Louis the son of Frederick V.

The war devastated large portions of northern Europe, in particular the Palatinate and especially the central Palatine city of Mannheim. After the peace agreement was concluded and the Palatinate was restored to Charles Louis, he was hard pressed for craftsmen and laborers to rebuild his city. Hearing of the Hugeunots plight he sent word to all who were interested that any one who would come to his domain and help rebuild the city would receive land to farm, tax free; they would not be transcripted into the military and would be allowed to practice their religion.

The Protestant movement had begun when Luther nailed his 95 theses upon the door of the Court Church at Wittenberg more than one hundred years before in 1517, and by the time of the end of the war, it and Calvanisim were the majority Pro-testant religions in most northern European nations, none more so than the Palatinate. The Hugeunots were welcomed by their fellow protestants and by the mid 1600s many thousands of French Huguenots had moved to the Mannheim area of what is today Southern Germany, to take advantage of Charles's offer, and to escape the horror of the Inquisition. The family "Broucard" was part of this exodus.

The emmigrants settled there and possibly would have remained there if peace had prevailed, but, the middle ages in Europe were constantly plagued by wars. During the "War of the Grand Alliance" (1689-97), the troops of the French monarch Louis XIV ravaged the Rhenish Palatinate, causing many of our Hugeunot ancestors, along with many Germanic protestants to emigrate overland to Holland then on ships to England or New Amsterdam (America).

(see: theory by Dennis Brokaw)

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