His early roots shrouded in mystery, family legend indicates Claudius Boatman, who is also known as Gloude or Glode Bouteman, was born in France, abducted from his Mother at an early age and inducted into the French Army. The Compendium of American Genealogy i states:
While the above leaves interpretation as to Claudius’ birth and age, currently available records point to a birth year of about 1728. Descendants of several branches of the Boatman family believe Claudius came from the Alsace, Lorraine area of France, although there is little to prove or disprove this. One genealogy indicates Claudius’ father was also a Claudius, although it seems there is no verification of this as a fact.
While only speculation, one reason for an abduction into the army could have been the ongoing persecution of the Calvanistic Protestants, or Huguenots, ii as they were known in France. The persecution lasted centuries but became increasingly brutal after the issuance of the Edict of Fontainbleau in 1685. A formal treaty signed in 1629 shortly after the 3rd and final Huguenot war, known as the Edict of Nantes, had given some rights to the Protestant populace in France. In 1685, the Edict of Fontainbleau, also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, removed those rights and a Protestant practiced his or her religion under the penalty of death. iii
What Claudius might have been doing in the French army at that age of seven is incomprehensible to us today, but speaks to the turmoil of the times. Emptying chamber pots, cleaning stables, gathering firewood all immediately come to mind along with any number of other onerous tasks that would need to be done to keep an army marching.
The French went on to fight the War of Austrian Succession, including King George’s War iv (1740 to 1748, the third in a series of Anglo French colonial conflicts fought in the Americas) which was waged primarily in the British provinces of New York, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia. If, indeed, Claudius was with the French Army as a young man, he may have participated in some of the early conflicts of Succession. Claudius, a Huguenot, would have had to convert or to hide his religion to be in the French Army.
The name Boatman does not seem to be very French. While some assume a literal translation of LeBattelier (ferryman) it could very well be likely that Claudius’ name here in the states is a mere “bastardization” of his French name. As others have pointed out, Claudius, while giving his name to officials (many who could probably barely write, and certainly not in any standardized manner) in his heavily accented speech, could have easily been misunderstood. The name Boatman could easily be a variation of the French names Baudiment or Beau de Monde or some other name that sounded like Boatman to the Colonials. Of interest, the name was carved as Bouteman on the Huguenot Memorial in New Rochelle, although the name was transcribed from Colonial records.
Claudius’ name in early records is often written as Gloud or Glode, and the last name spelled Bouteman. Around the time period of the Revolutionary War, Claudius’ first name begins to be written as Claudius or Claude and the last name begins appearing as Boatman. Alexander Smith, who served with Claudius in the local Militia in Pennsylvania, referred to Claudius as “Glode” in his pension papers, which is interesting because Alexander was a contemporary and certainly would have known Claudius’ name, and known how to pronounce it.
Why this change?
- Claudius could have, himself, adopted a more “American” sounding name, or over time lost some of his accent.
- The letter “G” is often confused for “C” in old script, and the changes could have been simply transcription mistakes.
- The unfamiliar name Gloude may have just been changed to Claude by officials, then “Latinized” to a more formal Claudius.
At this point, Claudius’ early years before he came to the Americas remain a mystery. We don’t know for certain if he stayed in the French army, what happened to his family or if he was married before he emigrated to the Americas. There are a few small suggestions in family lore that may give some indications of his early life:
- The above genealogy says Claudius was abducted from his Mother – it’s possible his father was deceased while Claudius was young.
- The genealogy also states he fought battles in France; if accurate, Claudius spent a part of his young adult life there.
- There’s a family legend that Claudius crossed lake Erie with his family on his way into New York from Canada, so he may have been married in France, Canada or the Colonies.
One thing we do know is that Claudius did get here, either through Canada or through New York, and the manner and means of his entry into the Colonies is a matter of some controversy for researchers.
I’ve had a lot of fun researching Claudius, and am pleased to share everything I’ve learned, much of it due to other researchers before me – please feel free to use anything on this site – I do ask you to source it, though, so others may find it. And please, share what you know in the same spirit this has been shared – I welcome all comments and discussion. mvkirby – I can be emailed directly at email@example.com
Sources and Links:
i Compendium of American Genealogy, Volume VII, The Standard Genealogical Encyclopedia of the First Families of America, edited by Frederick Adams Virkus, F.I.A.G., Volume VII, 1942. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968, page 561-