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This is not a photo of Christopher Jaques
(his death predated photography), but
it may be a photo of a drawing of him,
or of one of his sons, possibly John

Christopher Jaques
and the Jaques Fortune


According to family lore, the Jaques family of England were descended from French Protestants who lived near Caestre, France (about 5 miles from the present Belgian border). They were said to be of Norman descent. The story goes that, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, members of the family fled the subsequent persecutions by disguising themselves as carriage footmen and making their way to ships waiting to carry them across the Channel to England. An alternate version of the story places the time of their escape many years earlier, right after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572. So far, no one seems to have been able to document or otherwise verify any of this, but it's a lovely story.


The Jaques family 'cottage', Murton, England
The earliest actual Jaques ancestor of mine to be found is Christopher Jaques, born 1750 in Murton, Westmorland, England. He was a weaver, which is apparently the trade originally carried on by the family in France. He was married to Hanna (or Anna) Bellas, and had thirteen children, all born in or near Murton or Appleby. Many of his children left England to find their fortunes in North America. The first two to leave, William and Thomas, settled in Virginia and Tennessee in the early 1800s. Next, their brother John, who worked as a stonecutter in England, brought his wife Margaret and seven of his nine grown children to Pittsburgh in 1848, sailing on the "Ship of Rome". They later went to Buffalo briefly, where Maragaret died, and then settled in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, near Jarvis, Ontario in 1858. John died shortly after.

The Legend of the Jaques Fortune

Like the stories of the Huguenot origins of the Jaques family, the legend of the supposed fortune in the Chancery of England awaiting some lucky Jaques heir is probably more myth than fact - in fact, the entire scenario sounds a lot like the modern 'Nigerian email scam'. Some time in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, an ad was placed by the firm of Day & Co. stating that they were looking for heirs to this supposed fortune, and several potential Jaques heirs in Canada, the U.S. and England, made efforts to establish their claim. Nothing ever came of it (aside from a lot of money made by various lawyers), and as far as anyone was able to find out, there simply was no money to be had in the first place.

There were several explanations as to where this mythical fortune ($30 million according to some estimates) came from. One says that a million dollars in gold was brought from France by the apparently aristocratic Jaques', and was promptly confiscated upon their arrival and placed in the Chancery. Another version states that the money was left by George Bellas (Christopher Jaques' father-in-law) to his daughter's eldest son (John?), but by the time the lawyers got around to looking for him, he had already left for North America. Bellas supposedly earned this fortune either in the milk trade, or in the iron and steel industry of Sheffield. A related version says it was a Jaques family member who made all this money in Sheffield, having single-handedly established the steel industry there by discovering iron ore while fertilizing the soil on his farm, on the estate of Sir Digby Sheffield. There is also some mention of a falling-out between brothers having caused the money to be left in the Chancery.

Despite intense efforts, mostly by William Jaques of Simcoe, Ontario, a woman in Nova Scotia, and at least three Jaques' in England, no one ever sorted the whole mess out, and the $30,000,000, if it ever existed, still sits unclaimed in the Chancery in England.

(special thanks to Dr. Gary Alan Dickey for providing much of the above information)

Jaques Family Album


Jennifer's Genealogy Page
Created: Monday, April 06, 1998 - 1:23:56 AM
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 04, 2006