Rossignol 1634 — A nod to our Burgundy heritage

The Rossignol’s came from the “Côte de Beaune” in the famous wine country where the exquisite Burgundy wines are produced. They were growing grapes and making wines since 1634 in the extreme south of the Burgundy wine country almost at the border of the “Côte de Beaune” and the “Côte Chalonnaise”. The first winegrower known to us was Léonard Rossignol, his son Lazare, his grandson also named Lazare, his great-grandson François and finally the fifth generation also named François were all winegrowers and winemakers for more than 200 years from 1634 to 1850.

The documents of the era show that they were “laboureurs”, which means that they owned their lands and that they were not working for a landowner. They had some degree of education as shown by their handwriting and ironically the family would know a decline in both wealth and education in the second half of the 19th century after the defeat of France against Germany in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. It seems that for the Rossignol’s, with the exception of my direct ancestry, the transition from agriculture to industry during the 19th century industrial revolution was not always easy and successful. Antoine at the beginning of the 19th century became a blacksmith at Cheilly-les-Maranches, a village on the Burgundy Canal in the “Côte de Beaune”. A blacksmith is a metalsmith who manufactures objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal using a tool or a hammer. Blacksmiths in the 19th century were the initial step of industrialization of the countryside essentially constituted of people working in agriculture. They were also taking care of the horses in fitting horseshoes, which was essential in an era where horses were the only mean of transportation. The fact that circa 1835 well in the first half of the 19th century the Rossignol’s became professional metal workers is extremely interesting and will explain the careers of Jean-Baptiste, Joseph, René and Jean-François.

Antoine Rossignol had six children, five boys and one girl, in addition to Jean-Baptiste who in 1872 joined the railway company Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM), three other sons Pierre, François and Antoine Rossignol like their father became blacksmiths and worked in the nearby industrial city of Le Creusot but this time in the steel industry. In 1836 Adolphe Schneider and his brother Eugène Schneider bought iron ore mines and forges in the city. They developed a business in steel railways, armaments, and shipbuilding, which occupied most of the city itself making Le Creusot one of the first city in France totally devoted to industry and metal working.

Antoine began the evolution of my family from agriculture and viticulture to industry. The next three generations, my great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste, my grandfather, Joseph and, my father, René were all engineers, two of them built or managed railway networks in France from 1875 to 1935. It is the Rossignol family, which at the turn of the century started the famous ski company still today a leading makers of ski and ski-ware in the world. Finally on my father side I know nine generations of my ancestry in direct line; five of them were winegrowers in Burgundy while the next four generations moved out of Burgundy and joined the industry becoming blacksmiths and later engineers. I am the tenth generation alive and we are going back to at least 1634 almost 400 years ago.

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