Lewis Francis James Jeanneret

For the past three generations, Lewis Francis James Jeanneret was the end of the line in the search for our ancestors.


As the internet gains momentum, and more and more records are digitised, evidence of his existence in London begins to surface. At age sixteen in 1798 Lewis was granted Freedom of the City and apprenticed as a Stationer.


Charles Dickens’ describes the Stationer’s art his novel, Bleak House, Chapter 10:


On the eastern borders of Chancery Lane, that is to say, more particularly in Cook’s Court, Cursitor Street,Mr. Snagsby, law- stationer, pursues his lawful calling. In the shade of Cook’s Court, at most times a shady place, Mr. Snagsby has dealt in all sorts of blank forms of legal process; in skins and rolls of parchment; in paper — foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey- brown, and blotting; in stamps; in office-quills, pens, ink, India- rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing-wax, and wafers; in red tape and green ferret; in pocketbooks, almanacs, diaries, and law lists; in string boxes, rulers, inkstands — glass and leaden — pen-knives, scissors, bodkins, and other small office-cutlery; in short, in articles too numerous to mention, ever since he was out of his time and went into partnership with Peffer.


In 1782 when Lewis was age ten his eldest brother Samuel drowned in the East Indies. Around the same time two of his brothers, Abraham and Henry, became solicitors. Perhaps not suited to life as a stationer Lewis changed professions and became an Ironmonger. Land tax records indicate that he carried on his business at various addresses.


Lewis's mother Elizabeth died in 1791 when he was nineteen. His father had died nine years earlier. Elizabeth's will provided the clue to discovering his parentage and the thread back to Switzerland.


This is the Last Will and Testament of me Elizabeth Jeanneret of the parish of Saint Anne Westminster in the county of Middlesex widow first I desire to be decently buried in the same vault with my late husband in the parish church of Saint Ann aforesaid and that my debts and financial expenses be paid and satisfied I give to my sons Samuel Jeanneret and Theodore Jeanneret the sum of five pounds each for Mourning I give to my son Lewis Jeanneret the sum of thirty pounds of lawful money of Great Britain to be paid him at the time and in manner hereinafter mentioned I give to my sister Marianne Perret residing at Switzerland the sum of three guineas I give to my dear friend Miss Moser a ring of a guinea value which I beg she will accept as a small token of my love and friendship forever I give to Mr Simon Mattery of Basinghall Street London Gentleman and my son Henry Jeanneret my executors hereinafter named the sum of seven [pounds each for their trouble in the execution of this my will and direct that all my household goods and furniture plate silver and wearing apparel shall be sold as soon as conveniently after my decease and as to the money arising by sale thereof and as to all rest residue and remainder of my estate and effects whatsoever and whosesoever I give and bequeath one ?m or half part thereof to my said son Henry Jeanneret for his own use and benefit and I will direct that the other monies or half part thereof and also the said sum of thirty pounds hereinbefore given to my said son Lewis Jeanneret be laid out by my executors in the purchase of percent consolidated Bank Annuities in trust for the benefit of my said son Lewis Jeanneret and to be paid or transferred to him upon attaining the age of twenty two years and I direct that the interest or dividends of such bank annuities shall in the meantime be paid to my said son Lewis Jeanneret as and when the same shall become due and payable but if my said son Lewis Jeanneret shall happen to die without having attained the age of twenty two years and without having a widow or any lawful issue alive surviving then I give and bequeath such monies or half part of the money arising by sale of my said household goods furniture plate linen and wearing apparel and of the residue of my estate and effects and the said sum of thirty pounds or the Bank Annuities which shall have been purchased therewith unto my said son Henry Jeanneret for his own use and benefit and I do hereby nominate and appoint the said Mr Simon Mattery and my said son Henry Jeanneret executors of this my last will and testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the Twelfth day of May One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty Eight. Eliz. Jeanneret


On 4th March 1798, Lewis married Mary Anne Pryce who was the daughter of Elijah Pryce and Elizabeth Moorhouse. Elijah was the son of Edward the Elder Burgeddin Pryce. The family are described for many generations as 'gentleman'. Mary Ann died in 1800 and Lewis married his second wife Sarah Johnson Warren. Her father was Archdeacon of Worcester descended from a long line of clergyman and solicitors. He sired eighteen children by two wives and died when Sarah was twelve years of age.


On 5th August 1827, Lewis was sent to Fleet Prison by the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors.


Fleet Prison is described by Wikipedia as follows:


During the 18th century, Fleet Prison was mainly used for debtors and bankrupts. It usually contained about 300 prisoners and their families. Like the Marshalsea prison, it was divided into a restrictive and arduous Common Side and a more open Master’s Side, where rent had to be paid. At that time prisons were profit-making enterprises. Prisoners had to pay for food and lodging. There were fees for turning keys or for taking irons off, and Fleet Prison had the highest fees in England. There was even a grille built into the Farringdon Street prison wall, so that prisoners might beg alms from passers-by. But prisoners did not necessarily have to live within Fleet Prison itself; as long as they paid the keeper to compensate him for loss of earnings, they could take lodgings within a particular area outside the prison walls called the “Liberty of the Fleet” or the “Rules of the Fleet”.


In the years leading up to his incarceration Lewis's second eldest son Henry had attended Oxford, Paris and Edinburgh Universities and graduated as M.D. Edin. 1825; L.S.A. (Licentiate of Society of Apothecaries) 1824; L.R.C.S.Edin. (Licentiate of Royal College of Surgeons) 1825; B.L. (Baccalaureate se Lettres or Bachelor of Arts) Paris, 1822.