“du lieu de la Tremblade”

The history of our Ruland family in America begins (tritely enough) with three brothers, sons of one Pierre Rolland of La Tremblade in France. Pierre was born around 1650. It is unknown whether he or any of the brothers' hypothetical siblings were of the Roman Catholic faith, but the brothers themselves were Huguenots (Protestants—members of the French Reformed Church founded on the principles of John Calvin). It's likely, though, that the entire family was Protestant, since La Tremblade was long a Huguenot stronghold.

The three migrated in the early eighteenth century, Jean and Abraham settling in New York, and Pierre (the younger) obtaining land in New Jersey. Thus they were a part of the last major exodus of French Protestants which began in 1685 with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and continued more or less unabated until the French Revolution and the passage of the Edict of Toleration in that country in 1787. The brothers found refuge for a time in England, as will be seen below, but the ongoing troubles between Protestants and Catholics in that country during the reign of James II (which also began in 1685) may have spurred their further migration.

Why Pierre chose to settle so far from his brothers is also unclear. It should be noted that, while Abraham's and Jean's descendants largely adopted the name Ruland, Pierre took the name Rulon, which most of his descendants share to the present day. It may be that this family was prone to quarrels and friction. More on this subject appears below.

One of the most oft-quoted sources dealing with the Rolland brothers is History of the Huguenot Emigration to America, by Charles Baird. In it, we see evidence of the brothers' religion and place of origin, quoted from records of the French Reformed Church in London, where the three confessed their faith in May, 1698.

“Pierre, Jean et Abraham Rolland, du lieu de la Tremblade,” brothers, applied to the Consistory of the French Church in London, May 9, 1698, “declarant qu’étant nez dans notre religion et tombez fort jeunes entre les mains des Papistes, ils ont eu le malheur d’etre menez couvent à la Messe, mais que Dieu leur ayant fait la grace de sortir de France, ils souhaitent de rentrer dans l’Eglise.” They were admitted to make public confession on the following Sunday morning. — (Livre des Actes de 1692-3 à 1708.) Pierre Rolland was naturalized in New York, June 2, 1702. The will of John Roland, of New York, merchant, June 2, 1721, appoints as executors Peter Vallette and John Auboyneau.—(Wills, N. Y., IX., 347.)

This information appears as a footnote in a chapter wherein Dr. Baird lists refugees of La Tremblade who were known to have made their way to America. The inclusion of John Roland's will in the same footnote implies Dr. Baird thought this man and the Jean Rolland in the London church records were one and the same. However, a review of the will as listed in Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1893 casts some doubt.

Abstracts of Wills—Liber 9.
  Page 347.—In the name of God, Amen. I, John Rolland, of New York, merchant, being in good health. I leave to my good friend, Mr. Benjamin Godfrey, sometime resident in New York and sometime resident in Philadelphia, one gold ring and £25, for a suit of mourning. I leave all my lot of land in Rider street, in New York, which I purchased of John Savage, and now by me made use of for a garden, unto Mr. Peter Valette, merchant. I leave to my Cousin, Peter Elvord, of New York, mariner, and Jael his wife, the interest of £500, for life. After their decease the principal is to be divided between Mr. John Aulyneau Valette and Peter Valette. And I leave to them all the rest of my estate, and make them my executors.
  Dated June 2, 1721. Witnesses, Joseph Robinson, Jean Lafont, William Beekman. Proved, November 2, 1722.
This document clearly raises more questions than it answers. The reader is forced to one of two conclusions, first, that Jean Rolland and John Rolland are not the same man, or second (and more uncomfortably) that he disowned his entire family (nine known children, and wife Pieterjen Eschamp, who survived to 1763). Both works cite the same primary source, yet the information presented varies considerably. One or the other must be erroneous.

This problem is solved by reviewing the birth dates of Jean and Pieterjen's children. Joseph Ruland was born in 1727, and Lucas in 1731. Thus the first conclusion is correct. (Spelling and factual errors, as well as a lack of citation for Pierre's naturalization, lead this author to believe Dr. Baird may not have taken pains over information that was, after all, to be in a mere footnote.)

However, this conclusion leads one to wonder, who was this merchant, John Rolland? And, in what way (if any) was he related to Jean Rolland? (Rolland was by no means a common name in New York in the early 1700s.) This problem remains unsolved, and the subject of further study.

The scarcity of the name Rolland in this time and place returns us to the origins of the Ruland surname in this American line. Immigrants to this land often changed their family names, as a way of emphasizing they were making a new start. As we have seen, Pierre used the spelling Rulon, which, while different from Rolland, still has a decidedly French flavor.

Jean and Abraham, in Long Island, may have had a different motivation. The Ruland spelling has its origins in the Germanic languages (unrelated lines of Rulands in this country originally came from Germany, and variously spell the name Ruhland or Rhuland). It's possible, therefore, that these two brothers had the Ruland spelling thrust upon them more or less by default, by their Dutch neighbors, as had Walloon immigrants to New Amsterdam in the previous century. (New York had not been a Dutch posession since 1664, but the Dutch community was no doubt still strong there in the early eighteenth century. Abraham and Jean may have adopted the name themselves, to facilitate relations with this group.)

By mid-century, the Ruland spelling was firmly entrenched. Rulands figure prominently among men recruited from Suffolk County during the French and Indian War. (It should also be noted that some of their descendants later changed the name yet again, to the more English-looking Rowland. This is especially true of those members of the family who remained in Long Island; the Ruland surname is nowhere to be found in the 1870 Long Island census, although there is one "Rulund," who may or may not be related.)

A listing of the descendants of Pierre Rolland is beyond the scope of one web page. Known descendants can be found in the gedcom section of this site. The author's line is listed below.

Pierre Rolland (1650)
Jean Rolland (1675) m. Pieterjen Eschamp
Peter Ruland (1710) m. Mary Jackson
John Ruland (1749) m. Yuleaner Hulse
Jesse Ruland (1775) m. Densie Brown
Nancy Ruland (1817) m. Joseph Robinson
Philip Robinson (1839) m. Samantha Fogle
Guy Robinson (1882) m. Emma Louise Clark
Bruce Robinson (1921) m. Jane Morrisey
John Robinson (1960)