Spurious Chastain Genealogy


Anyone who investigates Chastain genealogy will eventually encounter the list of French Chastains going back to the 11th Century (1084). The list, which follows, is taken from pages 260 and 261 of A Brief History of the Huguenots and Three Family Trees, 1932 by James Garvin Chastain.


The early spelling of the family name Chastain was Chastaignier, which meant a lord, a count or nobleman.

  1. Chateigner, Seigneur de la Chateignier, lived in France in about 1084 A. D.
  2. Jean (John) Chateigner, Chevalier Sgr. de la Me.
  3. Gilbert Chateigner, Chevalier (first of the name Gilbert), was living in 1246.
  4. Gilbert Chateigner, Chevalier, Sgr. de la Melleraie et de Reaumur (second of the name Gilbert), died 1318, m. Jeanne Barrabin.
  5. Jean Chateigner, Sgr. de la Melleraie, living in 1304.
  6. Simon Chastain (Chateign), Sire de St. Georges et de Rexe, was living in 1322. He married Letice de la Guerche.
  7. Jean Chastain, Chevalier, Sgr. de Reaumur, m. Isabeau Jousserande.
  8. Jean Chastain, Chevalier, m. the young Isabeau de Gourville, living in 1364.
  9. Helie Chastain, Sire de St. Georges, died in 1396; m. Philippe de la Rochefatou.
  10. Geoffroi Chastain, Chevalier, killed in the battle of Patai, Oct. 29, 1429, with four of his brothers. He m. Louise de Preuilly.
  11. Pierre Chastain, Chevalier, m. Jeanne de Varere, their marriage contract being signed March 20, 1443.
  12. Gui Chastain, Chevalier, Marechal de France, m. Madelene Du Pui (Dupuy), Jan. 4, 1502.
  13. Jean Chastain, Chevalier, was in the siege of Pairre, 1522; m. Claude de Monleon.
  14. Jean (or Janet or John) Chastain, Gentilhomme, d. at Poitier, Jan. 6, 1581; m. Jeanne de Villiers, 1564.
  15. Francois Chastain, m. Louise de Foutlebou, 1605.
  16. Rene Chastain, Page to Louis XIII., King of France from 1610 to 1643.
  17. Rene Chastain, m. Marie Madeliene Helen de Dampiere. He was the father of Pierre (Peter) Chastain the emigrant.
  18. Pierre Chastain (1660-1729), b. in the Province of Dauphiny, in southeastern France, m. Marie Madeline de la Rochefaucald, of Doffine (Dauphiny). His father and grandfather both were named Rene, which name comes from the Greek word eirene, meaning peace. The corresponding feminine name is Irene.

We now know the list has no validity as the ancestry of Pierre Chastain. Its origin and significance are unknown, but it has nothing to offer us. James Garvin Chastain is the first to publish this list, as it seems he possibly received it in unpublished form. His preface to the list states:

History based on fable or tradition is of little value, and names and dates that are not accurate are not only valueless but misleading. The greatest care should be taken that family records be compiled from authentic sources, such as names and dates on tombstones and in family Bibles, church registers, war records and county record & in the form of land deeds, wills, etc.

Mr. Ben J. Kincaid, of Miami, Florida, and Mrs. Mary L. Norton, of San Francisco, California, two expert genealogists, have both rendered the author valuable aid in collecting material for the Chastain Family Tree. The early part of this history Mr. Kincaid secured from the genealogical archives in Paris, France, and Mrs. Norton very kindly furnished an English translation of the same. They trace the Chastain pedigree back to the eleventh century.

James Garvin Chastain certainly understood the importance of good sources, and he cannot be faulted for publishing the spurious list, as he had every expectation that it was from an authentic source, coming from an "expert genealogist".

Genealogist Cameron Allen rejected this document in his 1964 article, The Chastain Families of Manakin Town in Virginia and Their Origins Abroad, published in The American Genealogist and reprinted along with Allen's later article, Pierre Chastain Revisited, by the Pierre Chastain Family Association. Allen says,

The Rev. Mr. Chastain, knowing that Esteinne Chastain came from DAuphine, and believing that Estienne and Pierre were "perhaps second cousins," stated that "Pierre was born in the Province of Dauphiny and married Marie Madeline de la Rochefaucald."...Not content with giving Pierre such a wife and such a birthplace, the Rev. Mr. Chastain giddily leaps the centuries and takes us back from Pierre no less that eighteen generations via such personages as "Rene Chastain, page to Louis XIII," to "Chateigner, Seigneur de la Chateignier, lived in France in about 1084 AD." The data set out on each generation are so skimpy, that one has no opportunity to test for plausibility either chronologically or geographically. However, we are assured that the information is derived "from the genealogical archives in Paris, France."

Despite Cameron Allen's protest, the list has circulated for many years, and was published as late as 1983.

The book of descendants of Jason Coward Chastain was published in 1976. On page 22, the list is simply assumed to be correct.

As we read about Jason Coward and his family let us keep in mind that Jason himself is a twenty-third generation of Chastains since the year 1076 and that Jason is the sixth generation of Chastains in his line to live in America. These are the twenty-three generations of Chastains who are the immediate and direct ancestors of Jason Coward Chastain.

The list is then reproduced from 1084 to the birth of Jason Coward Chastain in 1818.

On page 81 of Karyl Lynn Chastain Beal's Our Family History, published in 1979, the list is treated as historical.

Avilla Farnsworth-Milligan published Chastain Kith and Kin in 1981. She includes a note that is really a disclaimer that seems to indicate some doubt on her part.

The information on this page is taken from A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUGUENOTS AND THREE FAMILY TREES: CHASTAIN, LOCKRIDGE, STOCKTON by James Garvin Chastain, D.D. He credits the research done in France to Benjamin J. Kincaid, now deceased, who "personally searched the genealogical archives in Paris, France." No attempt has been made by this author to verify the above. It is published in the hope that it will assist someone researching in France on this line.

The list and disclaimer are on page 4. However, there is a page 4a that is pasted in that has new information indicating that Pierre's parents were not Rene Chastain and Marie Madeliene Helen de Dampiere, but John Francis Chastain and Frances Jane Reno. This was suggested in a work of Dr. P. M. Agee. Avilla adds a note:

Above data not available for first printing. It casts further doubt on authenticity of page 4, which Cameron Allen has never accepted. I regret that I included page 4 contents in this publication. Avilla

Since then, Chastain genealogists have done actual research in Europe and we know that both sources were wrong.

In his 1983 Virginia Chastains, genealogist Lowell B. Chastain reproduces the spurious list beginning on page 5. His comment on the list is favorable.

Some readers have ridiculed this history which went back to 1084 A.D. But in my opinion, the people who have criticized this history are people who can't prove it to be right or wrong. In which case silence and praise for the author, Dr. James Garvin Chastain, Mrs. Mary L. Norton, and Mr. Ben J. Kincaid are in order.

Finally, the issue was laid to rest by the same Cameron Allen in his 1989 article, Pierre Chastain Revisited, also published in The American Genealogist and reprinted by the Pierre Chastain Family Association. Allen reports two substantial research efforts. First, in 1983, he examined the registers of Vevey at the cantonal archives in Lausanne. Vevey is where Pierre stayed in Switzerland after his escape from France. Secondly, he consulted the original Huguenot registers of Issoudun, France in 1985.

In these sources, he found considerable information on Pierre Chastain and his ancestors. Pierre's parents were Estienne Chastain (1625-aft 1694) and Jeanne Laurante. Estienne's parents were Jacques Chastain (c 1599-bef 1675) and Jeanne Audet. Jacques' father (or grandfather) was Estienne Chastain. Cameron Allen states categorically that Pierre's first wife was Susanne Renaud,

Not the mythical "Marie Madeline de la Rochefaucald" foisted on the Rev. James Garvin Chastain by an unscrupulous French entrepreneur-"genealogist"

In addition to the genealogy itself, the spurious list makes a second error. It states that "The early spelling of the family name Chastain was Chastaignier, which meant a lord, a count or nobleman." This is not so. Chastain and Chastaignier refer to the European or Spanish Chestnut tree. It is unclear whether this tidbit was part of the original document received from Kincaid or an addition by James Garvin Chastain. It appears that other material on the list about Pierre was from James' hand, such as the note on the Greek word eirene. Both items fit James' style and interest.

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