Michel Ney, Marshal of the Empire.
Portrait by François Gérard, 1805

On occasion, I find items potentially related to my ancestry at auction. It was a rarity to acquire a letter reporting to a fallen soldier’s family of his death, signed by Napoleon Bonaparte’s future Marshal of the Empire, Cavalrymaster Michel Ney, complete with the remains of the wax seal.

Its remarkable to realize that in the matter-of-fact coldness of the content, this is a form letter from 229 years ago, produced by a hand-operated letterpress, then the blanks filled in and signed with the new technology of the time, the metal nib pen, which replaced the quill pen in 1792.

Original document ~ Property of Lea Savoy
Letter signed by Divisional General Michel Ney, Landau-France in 1794, reporting the death of a soldier to the Records division of the deceased’s hometown of St. Laurent.
Reverse of letter by Michel Ney, note the wax seal marks.

The following is the best I can translate the French cursive that is legible to me. If anyone can correct syntax errors or omissions in my translation, especially words I have placed in parenthesis with a question mark, please contact me.

“Landau on the 23rd of the Year 3 (1794) of the one and indivisible French Republic

The Public Registrar of the Municipality of Landau, Department of Bas-Rhin; to the Citizen Public Registrar of the Community of St. Laurent

You are alerted, Citizen Colleague, that the name Jean Cretin, rifled to the 2nd Battalion (Trerailluro?) 3rd Company, a native of your community, died at the military hospital in this place (Vrngt Lyst Vintos?).

I am giving you this notice, so that you can share it with the family of the deceased, and mention it in your records.

Salutations and Fraternally,
Michel Ney”

(Written in 1794, while Michel Ney was a Divisional General in service of the Army of the Rhine, prior to his appointment to Marshal of France by Napoleon Bonaparte.)

Michel Ney, Marshal of France, at Waterloo.

Michel Ney’s life in the service of France under Napoleon was heroic, controversial and bizarre all at the same time, with a mysterious unsubstantiated twist at the end that through strong Masonic influence, he may have faked his death by firing squad and escaped to America. Intriguing theory to say the least:

Wikipedia has a fairly exhaustive article on Michel Ney’s life:

History classes in K-12 school bored me, there was never enough meat-on-the-bone for a thorough examination of the events we were assigned to study. That’s when I turned to other books to delve deeper into more independent academic analysis of great battles and events in history. Since then, an even more interesting venture to discover history again for the first time, is through my own parents’ bloodlines. My late mother, the staunch family genealogist, who constantly revised her charts as new documented evidence displaced the errors of nostalgic oral tradition, had told me shortly before she passed away that she had found a citation that directly connected my ancestry to Napoleon’s cavalrymaster Michel Ney.


I purchased this Michel Ney letter on the chance that this is true. If not, it’s still a rare piece of French pre-Napoleonic history to be able to hold in “gloved” hands and read. I am still searching through my mother’s vast genealogical notes for the reference in the event she wrote it down. I descend from the Byrds of Broxton, England/Westover Virginia USA and The Savoie/LeJeune lines fr0m Italy/France/Acadia. The closest Michel Ney bloodline connection to me I have found is potentially from the LeJeune line in France from his relative Louise Cécile Marie LeJeune. I have a French-Acadian Great-Grandmother, Catherine LeJeune, the “matriarch of Savoy Cajuns”, who immigrated from France to Port Royal, Acadia/Nova Scotia in the 1700s, but little to nothing is known about her ancestors and there is a dead end going backwards in time from her. If anyone reading this has a tip for me with regards to the direct connection of Michel Ney’s ancestry to any of the aforementioned families, please use the Contact Me form here on the main menu.


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