52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 6 – Valentines
PROMPT: Do you have any Valentines from any of your ancestors? Or maybe you have an ancestor named Valentine. (I remember when I was little being surprised to learn that Valentine was a “boy’s name.”) How about an ancestor that you wish you could exchange valentines with? Have fun with the theme!
The name Valentine comes from the Roman cognomen Valentinus, which was itself a derivative of the cognomen Valens meaning “strong, vigorous, healthy” in Latin. It has not been a common name in America, but it is currently one of the top one hundred names given to males born in France and Belgium.
In the French language, the spelling of the male name drops the final “e” and is pronounced “ˈvæləntaɪn.” I first became acquainted with the name when I began working at the Metropolitan Opera about thirty years ago and played Charles Gounod’s opera Faust. The character Valentin has two lovely arias in this opera, one of which you can see and hear below.
I was surprised to realize that I have almost thirty “Valentines” in my family tree, including one female ancestor given the name. Interestingly, the name is extremely common in a family to which I have a connection: the Hatfields.
I refer to the Hatfield family who engaged in the infamous multi-generational feud with the McCoy family in West Virginia and Kentucky.”
My connection to the Hatfields is through my Great-Grandmother Agnes Curry. But that’s another discussion for another day.
I have written before about my fifth Great-Grandfather Michael Antoine Garoutte whose family represents what is a very small number of my ancestors who hail from France.
One of Michael Garoutte’s daughters–Sophia Garoutte (1790-1835)–married into another French family. Her husband was Major John Sevier, Jr. (1766-1845). John’s grandfather was Jean Valentine Xavier II (1702-1803). Valentine Sevier II was born in London. His father– Jean Valentine Xavier I (1679-1718)–was a Huguenot who fled religious persecution in Paris, immigrating to England just before 1700. He Anglicized the ancient family name “Xavier” to “Sevier.”
It is the London-born Valentine Sevier II that I write about today.
In 1740, Valentine and his brother William left England for the American Colonies, arriving in Baltimore. Valentine settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in what is now Rockingham County. He was a Captain in the Virginia Militia. He also participated in the French and Indian war.
He was married twice and was the father of twelve children. He lost three sons due to violent encounters with Native Americans in the area. Because of these skirmishes, Valentine and his family were forced to move several times for their own safety.
The family’s final move took place after Valentine’s second wife had died. He and his children settled in North Carolina “Overmountain” Territory. This area would later become part of northeastern Tennessee.
One of Valentine’s sons, General John Sevier, is the more well-known of the Seviers. He was a Revolutionary War hero, and he became the first Governor of the state of Tennessee in 1796.
Valentine’s actual burial location is unmarked and unknown. In 1960, members of the Sevier family placed a memorial plaque for him in the Huguenot Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1999, family members placed a large memorial stone for him in Sycamore Shoals State Park Park on the Watauga River near the location of his last residence.