The Latourrettes of Osse, Bearn, Came From Italy: Another Fable

This article originally appeared as Appendix 6 in the author's monograph, Jean Latourrette and Pierre Peiret, Huguenot Refugees: Their Roots in Osse, Bearn. (2006)

It was also posted on the Latourette Family Forum as

The story about the Latourrettes from Osse, Bearn, originally coming from Italy, found in Lyman E. Latourette's Latourette Annals in America, (pp. 3-4), has become a family tradition in the years since its publication in 1954. For example, it currently appears on a Webpage titled "The La Tourette Genealogy Resource Center," devoted to research on the family genealogy:

One finds on the first page of this site the following:

"The Origin of the La Tourette Surname:

The La Tourette family originated in Genoa, Italy, believe it or not.

The surname was originally della Torretta.
Then, when they migrated to France, it became de la Tourette.
And now it's La Tourette, LaTourette, Latourette, or one of several other variations."

(Note: As documented below, the name was originally spelled Latourrette. This is the form of the name used here and is still found in America.)

Also: on the same page one finds:

"The Meaning of the La Tourette Surname:

La Tourette means 'Little Tower'."

It is clear that these statements are taken directly from Lyman's Annals because della Torretta is mentioned twice as the source of Latourette in French and that it's meaning in French is "little tower." (See Annals, pp. 3-4)

First, it should be noted that the name was spelled by Jean Latourrette with a double "r" at the time of his marriage in 1693 and that is the form found for the family name in the consistory (parish) records of Osse (Actes du consistoire d'Osse) in the period (1665-85) before he fled from Osse, Bearn (now Osse-en-Aspe) with Pastor Pierre Peiret and his family in 1685.

See page 46a for Jean's signatures in the original records of the French Church of New York. (Note other signatures on pp. 46 a-c)

Also, see the author's long article on Jean's origin in Osse in

which reproduces several copies of Jean Latourrette's signature from the original church records of the French Church of New York (L'eglise Francaise du Saint Esprit), with the double "r". It is noted that the publication of the original records in 1886 resulted in all of Jean Latourrette's signatures being altered to Jean La Tourette. See pages 29, 30, 31, 43, 56 and 69 in Rev. Alfred V. Wittmeyer, Registers of the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of the 'Eglise Francoise a la Nouvelle York,' from 1688 to 1804, reprinted from the Collections of the Huguenot Society, Vol. I (New York, 1886) In addition, see relevant postings by the author on the "Latourette Family Genealogy Forum" :

Also, one finds the use of the double "r" in Pastor Alfred Cadier's, (minister at Osse 1871-1906 and honorary pastor until his death in 1933) authoritative history of Protestantism in Osse, Bearn, Le Bearn Protestant, pp. 139-198 and 202 (reprinted in 2003 from Osse: histoire de l'eglise reformee de la vallee d'Aspe, Paris, 1892)

The double "r" was important in the original form of the name in order to be pronounced appropriately in Bearnais, the local dialect of the Romance Language, spoken in Osse. Brother Victor Antoine d'Avila Latourrette, makes this point by emphasizing the "strong pronunciation of the double 'r' for which one needs to open one's mouth and roll the double 'r' as they still do in Bearn area, especially among the peasants, some of whom conserve the traditions (of the Bearnais dialect) better." This pronunciation is still followed by the Latourrette descendants of Osse who live today in the area that was known as Bearn. The descendants of the Latourrettes who went to South America in the 19th century, among them Brother Latourrette, maintained their language and customs, some of whom have been recognized by the French government for maintaining their French heritage. This is in sharp contrast to the experience in America where the Huguenot emigrants in the 17th century, including the children of the Latourrettes and Mercereaus, were quickly assimilated into the new culture and the ties with France were lost. * The difference between the 17th and 19th century experience is understandable because in the later case those who left in the 19 th century did so voluntarily and maintained strong ties through correspondence and, ultimately, visits back to the homeland. On the other hand, for those who fled from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there was a break of more than a hundred years between 1685 and 1789, when religious tolerance was again granted in France. **

* Jon Butler documents how quickly the American descendants of the Huguenots were assimilated, even in the most successful colony New York, after the death of Pastor Pierre Peiret in 1704 through exogenous marriages. His theme of the entire American experience is summarized by the title of the conclusion to his book, "Everywhere They Fled, Everywhere They Vanished." See The Huguenots in America, pp. 199-215 (1983). For the experience with the French Church of New York, see Chapter 5/ "New York: Refugees in an Ethnic Caldron," pp. 144-198.

** Brother Latourrette and many of his Latourrette contemporaries in South America are fluent in French, as well as Spanish and English, and speak extensively and knowingly about their historical roots in the Aspe Valley.

The double "r" became less important in the French pronunciation than in Bearnais, when modern French became the official language after the French Revolution. This also appears to be one of the reasons why the name evolved to being spelled with one "r" in America, given the English pronunciation of the name, although one still finds the use of the original double "r" among some descendants.

The author checked telephone directories in American in July 2004 and found 61 listings with the double "r" as Latourrette and 7 forTourrette. There were 252 listings with a single "r" as Latourette, LaTourette and La Tourette and 4 forTourette. One cannot assume that all of these telephone listings in America represent descendants of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau from their marriage of 1693. Evidence gathered thus far by family genealogists in France and Mr. Robert Hoadley of California (who posts on the family forum) indicates that several Latourrettes from the Aspe Valley came to America, primarily California, in the 19th century. Others went to Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Vancouver, and South America (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). Moreover, it appears that most of these migrants were Catholic because of abjurations after 1685.

Other families with similar names in France, with no relation to the Latourrettes of Osse (Osse-en-Aspe), may have had descendants who came at some time to America. Moreover, because surnames frequently had local origins, it is possible that some of the people listed in US phone directories may not have any connection back to Osse and represent entirely different family lineages from France. It seems that ancestors sometimes forget that a surname like Smith had an independent origin in many villages where a person working at a forge was identified as (given name) Smith. Clearly not all Smiths are related. The same is the case with Jones or Johnson, meaning originally the son of John. Many names derived from occupations, physical features and structures were all independently determined on a local level. Hence, a word for tower or a small tower in the Romance Languages or some Medieval dialect could have been the basis for the establishment of surnames, all independently, like de la Tourette (de la Tourrette), della Torretta or de la Torreta in many small villages with towers across what is now respectively France, Italy and Spain, without any blood relationship between them. Yet, ancestors of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau from America have run around France looking for a castle assuming any Latourrette, Latourette or La Tourette found must be a relation to the Latourrettes of Osse. A good example of this is found on La Coste's Webpage, cited below. Unfortunately, as noted, La Coste was a victim of Rev. James A. M. LaTourette's promotion of a number of fantasies about Jean Latourrette's origins in France. As a result, reading the La Coste Webpage one could assume that somehow every person with a surname in France with a variant of Latourrette could be related. This is as illogical as claiming every Smith, Schmidt (German), Forgeron (Smith in French) Silversmith (Orfevre in French) or Jones or Bridge(s) (Pon or Pont in French) and so on, one finds must be related. This is also the basis for the senseless search for the Count de la Tourette in every corner of France, except Osse-en-Aspe (originally Osse, Bearn), from which Jean Latourrette originated. Osse-en-Aspe has never had a castle!

An old, but useful book on surnames can be found on the Internet at

On page 207, we find that there are six categories of French surname sources:

"Like other nations, The Source of Origin of names are for the French population grouped into five or six divisions; 1st, Patronymic (father's) surnames; 2nd, Place names; 3rd, Trade names; 4th Title names; 5th Nicknames; 6th Descriptive names."

Like its Italian and Spanish counterparts, Latourrette is a name with a place origin-a turret or small tower. The count fable suggests the turret or small tower must be associated with a chateau or castle. However, in Bearn, houses and other non-castle-like structures had (and still do) small roof-like turrets and, therefore, the de la Torreta or de Latourrette name could have originated as a means of identifying the people, as in Jean de Latourrette, who lived in and/or owned one of these structures. * One current example is the roof turret on the house in which Pastor Cadier lived in Osse. (See p. 46f) Another is the ancient turret-roof building along the Larricq creek that flows through the village. The mill race, mill and small building in the background of the picture have historically been associated with the Latourrette-Casamayou house. (See p. 46k) Also, note the comment about the Apouey tower house in the same set of pictures. (See p. 46h)

* Jean de Latourrette meant that Jean lived in L'ostau (the household) of the Latourrettes. L'ostau de Jean de Boulanger would be the Jean who lived in the household of the baker. L'ostau de Jean de Menvielle is the Jean who lived in a house in the middle of the village. L'ostau de Jean de l'Eglise is the Jean who lived in the house by the church.

The evolution of surnames in Osse from the location of households in the village, the structural features of the house or function is illustrated by an early census. Some ancient Bearnais households in Osse (from a census of households in 1385) were L'ostau de Grassiane de Cazenave (Grassiane of the new house)and L'ostau de Berdot de Salenave (Berdot of the new salt - possibly the house where salt could be purchased or identifying the family as coming from Salies de Bearn, west of Orthez where salt was found). Other households, omitting the given names, are de Casamayou or de Casamajor (of the large house); de Vinhau (of the vineyard or dwelling near the vineyard); de Lagun (house of or near the lake); de Forcade (house of the fork of the road); de Lavinhe (house of the vineyard - "he" "ho" "ha" suffixes are found in modern Portuguese/French equivalent today would be Lavigne, Spanish, Lavina); de Abadie (house of the abbey); de Sotrebit (house below the village or the lower part of the village); and de Soperbie (house above the village or high part of the village). It is noted here that these are samples of Bearnais surnames found in Osse in 1385 as interpreted by the author. (The author takes full responsibility for any misinterpretation of the meaning of these surnames.)

L'ostau or the household in Osse of the time (1651-1685) of Jean de Latourrette usually housed more than one generation. One still finds this to be the case in a few Osse households today where there may be two or three generations and relatives living under the same roof. Under the Fors de Bearn (discussed in Chapters 1 and 2) the household, land and other property would pass to the eldest son or eldest daughter, if there were no sons. It would be the role of the heir to maintain the household and its name which would identify its inhabitants. As a second son or cadet, if Jean de Latourrette married an heiress of another household, he would be known by the name of that l'ostau. On the other hand, it was typically difficult for cadets (younger sons) to marry and establish new households. This is one of the reasons why cadets and later in the 19th century even cadettes (younger daughters) left to establish new lives in other countries.

The interpretation above of the origin of the name Latourette as little tower is based on the modern French language which became the official language only after the French Revolution. Therefore, the statement above that della Torreta became the French Latourrette of Osse, Bearn when allegedly the family migrated from Italy at some time around 1100 or 1200 AD is completely erroneous. As we shall see below the name did not come from Italy and the evolution of the name from the Bearnais dialect (closer to Spanish than Italian) as de la Torreta to the French Latourrette came much later.

The assumption that the Latourrettes came from Italy several hundred years ago is also found on Ellisworth John La Coste's Web Site:

La Coste's attempt to support the theory of the family's origin in the area around Genoa, Italy is closely tied to the fable thatJean Latourrette was a count. Hence, he attempts to trace nobility across France, where none existed in the case of the Latourrettes from Osse, Bearn (now Osse-en-Aspe). Much of what is cited in terms of Jean's origin in France on La Coste's web site is erroneous, because he relied too heavily on earlier, faulty research. This includes the fable of a prior marriage to Marie Mercereau in France, the location of Osse, and the alleged involvement in the Schenectady massacre of 1690. The claim on his site that Jean had estates in Osse and in the department of La Vendee is based on the count fable and would be impossible because under the Fors de Bearn a second son (in Bearnais or French, a cadet), as Jean was, could not be an heir. The ruins of a castle cited by La Coste as overlooking Osse is the result of his confusion of the Basque village of Osses with Osse, Bearn, now called Osse-en-Aspe in the French postal code to avoid this very confusion. From the context of La Coste's posting about Jean Latourrette, it is obvious he, like Lyman Latourette, discussed below, is a victim of all the false information manufactured by Rev. James A. M. LaTourrette in the 19th century and repeated by Lyman in his Annals. Relative to the correct location of Osse, see Appendix 1.

Another example of Rev. LaTourette's undocumented assertions is the statement found in Lyman's Annals (p. 3) from the Reverend that Jean Latourrette was an elder at the French Church in New York on Pine Street in 1690, without any citation as to source. Actually the first church, built in 1688, was not on Pine Street, but on Petticoat Lane, later Marketfield Street. The church on Pine Street wasn't completed until after 1704, after Jean had moved to Staten Island and was associated with the church at Fresh Kills. Moreover, Jean's name never appears in the church Registers as an elder -ancien in French. None of the early church documents photocopied by Rev. John A. F. Maynard as mentioned in his history of the church, The Huguenot Church of New York: A History of the French Church of Saint Esprit (New York, 1938) support the assertion of Jean's appointment as an elder in 1690. (See Maynard's list of church documents on pages 12-13, particularly Volumes 1, 2 and 3 covering the period 1688 to 1710, which were photocopied and placed in the New York Historical Society at the time of Maynard's publication in 1938. The author examined these records at the Historical Society and found no record of an appointment of Jean as an elder in 1690.)

All of these fables and tales are corrected in these appendices.

Bearnais: The Language (Dialect) of Osse, Bearn

It should be noted that Bearnais is still spoken by many adults in Osse, now Osse-en-Aspe. Moreover, about one-half of the pastoral play performed in Osse in August 2005, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the reconstruction of Temple Bethel, to tell the history of Protestantism in Osse is in Bearnais, including several Bearnais chants and associated dances. It is estimated that several million people in the southwest of France understand one or more of the four sub-dialects of the Occitan language (langue d'oc) called Gascon of which Bearnais is one.

The history of Bearn and the Bearnais dialect indicates that historically before 1620, when Bearn was made part of France, strong geographic, language, cultural and economic ties existed with Spain, not Italy. This is the subject explored below.

First, one must consider how the alleged Italian connection was established. No evidence in Lyman's Annals, beyond the similarity of names found in the Romance Languages, is given to substantiate the origin of the name Latourrette in Italy. The Romance languages of Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian, derived from the Vulgar Latin, have a similar origin and the word tower today appears as torre (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) and tour (French).

The Italian connection is alleged by Rev. James A. M. LaTourette, who came across the name Della Torretta ("of the small tower") in Genoa and Rome in his travels during the latter half of the 19th Century. In both cases cited by Lyman the references are to locations in Rome: Piazza Della Torretta (the plaza or square of the little tower) and Via Della Torretta (street of the little tower), not family names as alleged. Would the Reverend have come to the conclusion that the Latourrettes had come from Spain if he had visited this country instead of Italy? In Spain one would find Plaza de la Torreta and Calle de la Torreta. As explained below, the Reverend might have been closer to the truth in the Spanish case, because the first written reference to Gassiot Latourrette, the first minister of the Aspe Valley in 1563 and of Osse in 1564, is in Bearnais as Gassioo de la Torreta, ministre de la parole de Diu (Minister of the Word of God).

The Reverend James A. M. LaTourette is discussed in Appendix 2, relative to the falsification of the marriage record of Jean Latourrette and Marie Mercereau. The discussion found therein of the reliability of Reverend LaTourette's conclusions is repeated here:

"One wonders how much Lyman was influenced by the family history and genealogy found in the notes and chart developed by the Rev. James A. M. LaTourette. The material developed by Rev. LaTourette forms the basis of Lyman's Chapter XIV, "Latourette Line As Given By Rev. James A. M. LaTourette about 1882." Lyman quotes Rev. LaTourette as follows:

'Jean LaTourette born in France at Osse, in Bearn, near Pyrenees, about 1651, married in France to Marie Mercereau, of Moise, St. Onge, born about 1665, marriage about 1684, fled to America about 1685; marriage in France legalized under English law in New York City in 1693.'

Lyman appears to accept all of this history created by the Rev. LaTourette, even to the point of Marie's alleged birth date in France of 1665, rather than 1670. (See documentation in Appendix 2.) We note here that Rev. LaTourette was the one cited by Lyman who, based solely of the similarity of names in the Romance languages, states without any reservation that the Latourrettes of Osse must have come originally from Italy. (See Annals, p. 3) No other evidence is given for this assertion. (The history of the Latourrettes in Osse clearly indicates that the name really is of a Bearnais language origin rather than Italian, or even French.)

The Count de la Tourette story is discussed extensively in Chapter 3. It is evident that Rev. LaTourette, although he did not author the fable, had a hand in promoting that romantic tale on an international scale, based on little or no documented evidence. One is tempted to conclude that, though the Reverend spent a considerable amount of time in pursuing his branch of the family (from the son David born December 29, 1699), he appears to have had an overactive imagination about areas in which there was no evidence to support conclusions that he reached."

Location of Bearn

In order to understand the Bearnais origin of the name Latourrette, one needs to focus on the location and history of Bearn. What was Bearn is now found in the French department of Pyrenees-Altantiques (Dept. #64), with Pau the capital city, along the Spanish border, defined by the Pyrenees, and east of the French Basque country which is on the western slopes of the Pyrenees. For a map of France showing the traditional province of Bearn, see

Its location within the current French department of Pyrenees-Atlantiques (Dept. #64), which includes the French Basque area in the southwest corner on the western slopes of the Pyrenees, is shown in

The three old provinces on the French side of the border with Spain, west of Bearn, claimed by the Basque as part of their traditional land are described and mapped on the following website:

Anticipating the discussion of the Bearnais language below, the reader's attention is directed to the following, quoted from this website:

"The Basque Country is a little nation: just 20.864 sq. km and 2.9 million people. Only 650.000 of them speak Basque, mostly in the Spanish side (only 70.000 in the French side). There is another minority language in the Basque Country: Occitan; several hundred people (or a few thousand) speak Gascon and Bearnais dialects of Occitan in the French side of the Basque Country."

History of Bearn

Bearn was included in the original borders of France as established by theTreaty of Verdun in 843, but the inclusion was not consummated. The first parliamentary body, the Cour Major, was formed in 1080, 185 years before England's parliament. Bearn became a part of the Kingdom of Aquitaine, which passed to the King of England with Eleanor of Aquitaine, and was subject to England for a little over a century (1242-1347). Bearn passed to thecounty of Foix in1290. In 1347 Count Gaston III Febus claimed Bearn as an independent fiefdom, with its chief capital his stronghold at Pau. Later, the territory passed through heiresses to the Kingdom of Navarre, which included land both north of the Pyrenees (Lower Navarre, now in France) and south of the Pyrenees (Upper Navarre, now in Spain).

Bearn was independent of France until its forced annexation in 1620 by Louis XIII, the son of Henry IV of France, who also claimed the title Henry III of Navarre. This act combined Bearn with the area north of the Pyrenees, called Lower Navarre, and the Kings of France continued to use both titles, and were referred to as Rois de France et de Navarre until the French Revolution. The southern part of the Kingdom of Navarre, called Upper Navarre, had already been annexed by Spain at the time Henry III of Navarre (Henry IV of France)inherited Bearn from his mother Jeanne d'Albret.

In 1539, the Edict of Villers-Cotteret ordained that laws in the Kingdom of France would be enacted in French (to the detriment of Latin and regional languages), but Bearn was not yet part of France and the edict did not apply there. Instead, after its incorporation into France, laws continued to be enacted in the langue d'oc until after the Revolution when modern French became the language of the nation. The Fors de Bearn, described in Chapters 1 and 2, historically granted the people of the mountain valleys of Bearn a pastoral democracy which promoted a fierce local independence for hundreds of years. Even after the forced annexation of Bearn by France in 1620, the people of the mountain valleys strongly resented the encroachment of the royal power on their autonomy which also resulted in a strong attachment to the Bearnais dialect down to today. *

* For this strong independence in the Aspe Valley, in which Osse is located, see Gilberte Gaubil, "Les Protestants d'Osse-en-Aspe," Bicentenaire de la Reconstruction du Temple d'Osse-en-Aspe, 2005. (This article celebrates the 200th anniversary of the reconstruction of the Protestant Temple in Osse.)

Occitan or Langue d'Oc: Bearnais

Bearnais is one of a number of dialects of Occitan

Occitan is the customary name given in France to the dialects of Occitanie, including Bearnais, spoken in the South of France.

From an Internet source of the origins of the French language:


we find:

From the 6th to the7th centuries, theVascons crossed over the Pyrénées, a mountain range in the south of France. Their presence influenced the Occitan language spoken in southwestern France, resulting in the dialect called Gascon.


Langue d'Oc , the language where one says oc for "yes", is those dialects in the south of France and northern Spain ( Ibero-Romance dialects) which remained closer to the original Latin, like Gascon and Provençal, etc.

As noted below, Bearnais is a sub-dialect of Gascon.

The medieval versions of Occitan are referred to as Langue d'Oc. Langue d'Oc was the dialect of the south of France, as opposed to Langue d'Oil, the language of the north. The following from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001-05, describes the medieval Langue d'Oc (the dialect of the south of France) and Langue d'Oil (the dialect of the north of France):

"(The) names of the two principal groups of medieval French dialects. Langue d'oc (literally, "language of yes") was spoken south of a line running, roughly, from Bordeaux to Grenoble, whereas langue d'oïl (literally, "language of yes") was prevalent in central and northern France. The two dialect groups were named after their respective words for "yes," oc having been the form of "yes" in the south andoïl (now oui) having been used for "yes" in the north. Langue d'oc developed intoOccitan, and included Provençcal, a dialect that became the language of the troubadours in the south of France. Of the langue d'oïl dialects, that of the Paris region gradually supplanted all others as the standard idiom and developed into modern French. Both langue d'oïl and langue d'oc dialects persisted, however, in some rural areas as patois, or popular, provincial speech."

As noted here, modern French, after 1790, drew heavily on the dialect of the north, Langue d'Oil, and the dialect of the south, Langue d'Oc, was suppressed. Therefore, up to 80 percent of modern French is based on Langue d'Oil. As noted above, modern French comes from Langue d'Oil which was influenced by invasions from the north and west and, therefore, has less of a Latin base than Langue d'Oc.



Although there were several sub-dialects of Occitan, including Bearnais, found in the southwest of France and northern Spain historically, all of its subdivisions were mutually intelligible. That is, all of the dialects used common roots and grammar, based on a common core, although there were local variations. This allowed people from Aragon (now Spain), Navarre (both Lower Navarre, now part of France, and Upper Navarre, now part of Spain), Bearn and Gascony to understand each other at the time of the seasonal transhumance (the seasonal transfer of livestock between the lower and higher elevations) and to conduct trade and commerce.

The area in the southwest of France, identified immediately above, where the several sub-dialects of Occitan were historically used and are still spoken by up to 2 million people, including Osse-en-Aspe and the Aspe Valley in which it is located, encompasses the existing departments of Pyrenees-Atlantiques (Department #64); Hautes-Pyrenees (#65); Landes (#40); Gers (#32); Gironde (#33); and parts of Lot-et-Garonne (#47) and Haute-Garonne (#31). For the region comprising these departments, see

Across the southern border of France with Spain is the Aragon region of Spain which is immediately south of what was Bearn. It is directly south of Osse-en-Aspe (originally Osse, Bearn) going over the Pyrenees on N 134 or E 7 approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles). For the location of modern day Aragon, see

Likely Evolution of the Bearnais de la Torreta to the French Latourrette

As noted above, one of the first written references to Gassiot Latourrette, the first Protestant minister of the Aspe Valley, in which Osse, Bearn (now Osse-en-Apse) is located, is as Gassioo de la Torreta in Bearnais. He was first the minister for the valley in 1563 and then Osse in 1564. His ministry continued to 1595, when he died in Oloron (now Oloron-Ste Marie). One sees from the consistory (parish) records of Osse for 1665-85 that one hundred years later the name had evolved to de Latourrette or Latourrette.

According to Encarta, Evolution of the French Language, "the primary phonetic difference between the langue d'oc and the langue d'oil was the treatment of the unaccented "a", which the langue d'oil changed into an "e". For example, the Latin word mare (sea) became mer in langue d'oil and in modern French, and mar in Provencal (langue d'oc)."

This likely explains why and how de la Torreta became de la Tourrette. The double "t" at the end is necessary for phonetic reasons, since the final "e" is silent


The consistory records of the minutes of the meetings of the ministers, anciens (elders) and diacres (deacons) from 1665-85 are the only documents of the parish that remain after the destruction of Temple Bethel of Osse and the cemetery in the spring of 1686, as a result of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. As such they provide a rare insight into the accelerating pressure from Louis XIV leading up to the Revocation, to eliminate Protestantism in France. Protestant temples and records across Bearn and France were destroyed and most church records were lost. In 1814 a fire in Osse destroyed some the community records (Alfred Cadier, La Valle d'Aspe, 1906, p. 63). Early in the 19 th century additional records were consumed by fire in the regional archive at Pau. As a result it is difficult to trace the precise evolution from the 16th to the 17th century of the Latourrette name or the lineage between Gassiot Latourrette (ca 1540-1595) and David Latourrette (ca 1625-1697).

As explained above, however, there are some very good reasons why the Bearnais de la Torreta became Latourrette as Protestantism came to Osse in the 16th century, but as yet no precise documentation is available to the author as to when the change actually occurred. In a recent article, which provides a significant amount of new information on the origins of Protestantism in Osse, Professor Philippe Chareyre, President of the Center for the Study of Bearnais Protestantism (CEPB) at the University of Pau, identifies the Latourrettes as being one of the "intellectual and political elites" in the Aspe Valley. Three or four elite families brought the Reformed Religion to the Aspe Valley and Osse, in particular, and endorsed in 1569 the State Protestantism of Queen Jeanne d'Albret of Bearn. (Queen d'Albret was the mother of the famous Huguenot, Henry IV of France and Henry III of Navarre and Bearn.) The family also provided Gassiot Latourrette as the first minister in the Aspe Valley in which Osse is located. *

* Philippe Chareyre, "Nouvelles Recherches Sur Le Protestantisme a Osse-en-Aspe" (New Research on Protestantism in Osse-en-Aspe), Bulletin No 38, Centre d'Etude du Protestantisme Bearnais (CEPB), December 2005, pp.1-16. The author's "La Famille Latourette, XVIth - XXth Siecles," is found in the same Bulletin, pp. 17-20.

Coming from a family of "intellectual and political elites," it is likely Gassiot Latourrette learned French as a young man, in addition to the local Bearnais dialect. Fluency in French was essential to becoming the first Calvinist minister in the Aspe Valley in 1563. John Calvin's teachings were written in French. The bible and hymns were not translated into Bearnais and were available to the people of Bearn only in French. The Protestant pastors, educated in French, who came to the mountain valleys of Bearn, were not native to the area. Gassiot was the exception being born in Osse and, therefore, was the only pastor to successfully establish a ministry in the mountain valleys, according to Chareyre. Also, Gassiot (or Gassioo Gassie, Gatiot and its many variants because Bearnais is a phonetic language), as a given name, is unique to Bearn and its mountain valleys. (It appears that, perhaps with one exception, the given names of the Gassiot's sons, grandsons, and great grandsons thereafter were in French, including the son Pierre who was a minister at Castetnau for more than 50 years.)

In order to understand Calvin's teachings, to read the bible and hymns in French, to record the acts of the consistory (parish), to participate in the synods and communicate with pastor colleagues, Gassiot would have had to be fluent in French. Unfortunately, we do not know where he studied theology,* although it is speculated that he may have been influenced by Gerard Roussel. (See below) It is known that the well-off Protestant families of the Aspe Valley sent their teen-age sons to colleges in Pau, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Montauban where they were educated in French. We do know that Gassiot was appointed as the minister of the Aspe Valley by the synod of 1563, "after a favorable examination," and then confirmed minister at Osse by synods from 1564 to 1595. **

* Alfred Cadier mentions the academy at Orthez in conjunction with Gassiot, but that school was only established in 1566 after Gassiot became the pastor at Aspe and Osse. See Le Bearn Protestant, cited above p.84.

** Albert Sarrabere, Dictionnaire des Pasteurs Basques et Bearnais du XVIe et XVIIe Siecles, CEPB, 2001, p. 170.

Although the Latourrettes were not "of nobility," they were the aristocrats of the day, large landholders, "business people" in the sense of the times, and community leaders in Osse since at least the early 16th century. It is in this role they were among the educated elites of the valley. Certainly, given their position, they would have been aware of the role that Marguerite de Navarre (born Marguerite of Angouleme) was playing to bring Calvinism to Bearn after she married Henri d'Albret, titular King of Navarre, in 1527. Marguerite established at Nérac and Pau miniature courts, which yielded to none in Europe in the intellectual brilliancy of their frequenters. Marguerite was at once one of the chief patronesses of letters that France possessed, and the chief protector and defender of advocates of the Reformed doctrines. Gerard Roussel, the chaplain of the Queen, became the Protestant Bishop of Oloron in 1536 and there were regular visits of emissaries of Calvin from Geneva at the time. The Queen died in 1549 and her daughter, Jeanne d'Albret succeeded her father as sovereign. She established Protestantism as the state religion after the short war of 1569, when Osse was destroyed.

As educated and aristocratic leaders of the Osse community, one would assume that the Latourrettes would have acquired a reading and writing knowledge of French at least during the period of time that Calvinism was being introduced to the courts of Marguerite, between 1527 and 1549. We also know that Gassiot was in his formative years at this time being born ca 1540. By 1563, when Gassiot became a minister, Protestantism had come to Osse and the Aspe Valley, although as explained by Professor Chareyre Protestantism only took hold in Osse. (Citation above)

A hundred years later, as revealed in the consistory records in the years (1665-85) leading up to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, we see that the Protestants of Osse had acquired a reading knowledge of French in order to be able to read the bible and sing the hymns as required by their religious faith, and to sign their names, but the ability to write in French was limited to the educated elite. During this time, one would still find that ability limited to the Protestant ministers, who wrote the entries in the consistory (parish) records and the educated elite, like David Latourrette, notarie. From this point, we can be quite certain that David Latourrette attended one the colleges mentioned above as a young man.


Based on no other evidence than the similarity of the Latourrette name with one of the Romance Languages, in this case the Italian della Torretta, Rev. James A. M. LaTourette, who visited Rome in the 19th century, assumed that the surname originated in Italy. As with many of his other assumptions with no basis in fact, except for the wish for a romantic and noble family origin, his fantasies have been perpetuated like the count fable now for more than 150 years.

Actually, the Latourrette name of Osse has its origins as de la Torreta in Bearnais, a dialect of southwest France and northern Spain and a variant of the Medieval Langue d'Oc. Bearnais is based more on Vulgar Latin and Spanish roots than Vulgar Latin and Italian roots. Modern French is largely based on the Medieval Langue d'Oil, the language of northern France. As noted above, in the evolution of modern French from 1539 (the Edict of Villers-Cotteret) Latin roots and regional languages were suppressed. Therefore, the common core of Langue d'Oc on which Bearnais is based in the southwest of France was largely suppressed in modern French. Eventually, in modern French we have Latourrette with the Béarnaise eta in de la Torreta being replaced by ette and the u being added because the French word for tower is tour. Although as documented by language experts many of the Latin roots were suppressed in Langue d'Oil, which evolved into modern French, we have a curious incongruity in the treatment of the modern French word tour. The roots for tour come directly from the Latin turris. The ou of modern French is the phonetic equivalent of the u in Latin and all other modern Romance Languages. What is surprising, considering this, the Italian and Spanish languages changed turris to torre rather than keeping the u pronunciation, whereas the modern French preserved it.

The use of the surname Latourrette in Osse likely evolved in the 16th century from the Bearnais de la Torreta, which has more in common with the Spanish language than della Torretta in Italian. Therefore, there is no evidence that the Latourrettes of Osse came from Italy. A closer tie is suggested with Spain, given the ties between southwest France and northern Spain described above, especially prior to Bearn becoming part of France in 1620. In the form it originally took, de la Torreta, the name is likely indigenous to Bearn. One privileged (not to be cited) source suggests the name de la Torreta may have originated in a neighboring valley with a highly localized meaning. The author hopes that our distant Latourrette cousins in France, who have conducted extensive genealogical and historical in Bearn, can one day document the original source of the name, as well as trace the lineage from Gassiot to David.