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This is an original document from the family records of Basil Clyde Holmes, the Great-Great Grandson of Jean de Christains (Christy) and second cousin to the author of this document, Lilian Keigwin.  Basil Clyde Holmes inherited this document from his Aunt Roselynda Beck, who inherited it from her second cousin Martha Verhoeff, Lilian Keigwin's cousin.  I inherited this document through Basil Clyde Holmes, my Great-Grandfather.

Chris Litzsinger <>
August 20, 2000

Record of the De Christains Family
Related by Lilian and Reverend Albert Edwin Keigwin D.D.


What I have written in this short account of my great-grandfather's life was gathered from some hurriedly jotted down notes found in my father's notebooks.  These he evidently got from his mother, who in turn must have received her information from her mother, for my grandmother was only one year old when they left their home in Geneva, Switzerland, for America.  Some other information was received from my uncle, Reverend Albert Keigwin D.D. on my last visit to him in New York City.  On this visit he told me of a letter, then in his possession, which was written by his grandmother, Susan de Christains, to one of  her sons.  It was written in French, and she was telling him of the marriage of her youngest child, Jeanette, at the age of seventeen, to James Keigwin.  This letter was written in 1819 after the death of her husband.

My uncle told me also that he had a Frenchman translate it for him, and he was told that the letter was written in the French of a cultured person.  This letter is now in the possession of my cousin, Reverend Albert Edwin Keigwin  D.D., of New York City.

Lilian Keigwin.

Lilian Keigwin

We have little information regarding the early life of my grandmother's father, except that we were told that he was the Count Jean de Christains, a French Swiss; that he was born in Geneva, Switzerland; that he was a soldier in the French army,  and an officer in the Swiss Guard.  (From history we learn that the Swiss Guard was composed of noblemen whose duty it was to guard the King.)

We were also told that he married Susanah (called Suset) Brudit, a daughter of a family, tradition affirms, to have been in affluent circumstances; this family living in their own chateau in Geneva. That the Count de Christains had three brothers: James, Drewry, and Thomas.  Also three sisters: Mary, Frances, and Susan.  (Mary and Frances were said to have been perveyors to the Queen of France.)

On that fateful day of August 10, 1792, the Swiss Guard was on duty in the Palace of the Tuileres when the mob of Paris attacked the Palace.  The King, having been taken to a place of safety near by, sent orders that the Swiss Guard should not fire on the mob.  Then it was that the Swiss Guard made their memorable stand on the stairway since they had not received an order to retire. They fought the mob until twenty-seven of the officers were killed.  The remainder were saved when the fight reached the upper hallway, where they were pulled through an opportunely opened door. Thorvalsen's famous statue of the Lion of Lucerne is a fitting memorial of those faithful men who lost their lives that day fighting so gallantly.  In the chapel near the statue is a plaque bearing the names and the escutcheons of these officers who died that day on the stairway of the Tuileres.

After the Revolution and the accession of Napoleon, the Count de Christains, being a Royalist, was put in prison, and his property confiscated.  His family escaped to Holland.

After six months Count de Christains was released from prison.  Before joining his family in Holland, I think it probable that he went to Geneva to gather what he could of his wealth.  His home was gone, but he must have had other assets, for his daughter said that he brought much wealth to America; and, judging from the many investments which he made here, she must have been correct.  The loss of his home in Geneva does not seem to have been the main reason for his leaving his country.  The reason my grandmother gave was that if they remained they would have had to embrace the Catholic Faith.  History of that date corroborates his understanding and the reason for the change.

The year given when they were united in Holland and sailed for America is 1803.  My grandmother, Jeanette, the youngest, being only one year of age.  The family consisted of the father and mother and nine children.  They landed near Wilmington, Delaware, on the Christiana River.  After stopping some time there, they, along with other immigrants, journeyed westward over the mountains to
Pittsburgh.  The length of their stay here is not mentioned, but my great-grandfather invested in a coal mine while there; and here, his eldest son Abram later married and established a home on a farm in the township of Industry near Pittsburgh.  Also while in Pittsburgh, my great-grandfather placed his family records with a printer and while they were there in the course of preparation, the establishment burned, and thus all of his family history was lost.

From Pittsburgh their next move was to Louisville, Kentucky.  They came down the Ohio River, bringing two boat loads of coal with them; the remains, I suppose, of his first investment in this country.

Here in this settlement he found other French soldier friends and foregathered with them in the wine shops in the evenings; and, as one of his daughters told us, he often, after engaging in his favorite pastime of dueling, came home in need of "first aid" which the family administered.

Here in Louisville he and his son Abe made a second venture in business, for it is recorded that he bought "Old Skidmore's Foundry."  This venture, his daughter says, "lasted only one year."

Their next move was to Sandersville, Kentucky, where he invested in a wool factory.  His youngest daughter must have been able to "sit up and take notice", for her only remark about this move was, "The life in Sandersville was gay."  The time of their stay here was not given.

Then came their move to Cincinnati.  It is not told why he moved to Cincinnati, or just what he did there in the two years of their stay.  Many years after his death we learned that he bought land in that city, which in later years lay in the heart of the city.

From Cincinnati they returned to Louisville.  But on the evening before leaving Cincinnati two of the daughters were married and remained there.  The daughters were Mary, the eldest daughter, who married first Mr. Reid and who later married Mr. Morton; and the second daughter, Susan, who married a Frenchman named Jonte.  Later Frances married Mr. LaMarr, also a Frenchman in Cincinnati.

Here my grandmother says, "When my father came to this country he had plenty of money, but he was unfortunate in business and every move he made reduced his funds still more."

This move back to Louisville seemed to have been his last one, for it is recorded that he died there.

My grandmother's mother, Suset de Christains, lived to see her youngest daughter married.  This was Jeanette who was seventeen years old, and who married a young man from Connecticut who had come west seeking his fortune.  His name was James Keigwin.

(The name was changed to "Christy" after coming to America)

Francis Marion, who married Roselynda Burritt, Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Mary, who married first Mr. Reid, and later Mr. Morton, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Abram, who married and lived in the township of Industry, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jaque (Jake), who married and lived in Memphis, Indiana.

Pierre (Peter), who married and lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Susan, who married Mr. Jonte and lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Frances, who married Mr. LaMarr and lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Harriett, who married Mr. King and lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Jeanette, who married James Keigwin and lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky.


As a young man he went from his home in Louisville, Kentucky, on an excursion to Cincinnati.  While he was there he made a visit to his aunt Mary Morton, his mother's eldest sister.  And it is from this visit, and from what aunt Mary Morton told him that day, that we have the only record of their life and home before coming to America.

Their home, she said, was built on grounds overlooking the Lake of Geneva, with the wide lawn sloping down to the lake.  The house was built around a court, the upper rooms opening on the gallery.  As a child she says she remembers leaning over the banister overlooking the court below and seeing her father and Napoleon ride in on horseback.  Other things my uncle said of what she told him of their home life and the magnificence of their entertaining show them to have been of great wealth.

Another thing he told was that when they had to flee the country, they had time only to gather what gold there was in the house; and, that after coming to this country, she was often sent out to change French money into American coins.

My uncle Albert many years later visited Geneva and located the de Christains home.  It was then owned by the Baroness Rothchild.  He jokingly added, "But I did not like to turn the poor widow out."

It was of course impossible at that late date to establish ownership, for what records that were not carried off had been burned.

I, too, got very near my ancestral home at on time, but not inside the grounds.  As we reached the high, ornate, wrought iron gates, hoping to get a glimpse of what lay beyond, we looked instead into a high barricade of living green set ten or more feet back from the front of the gate and which obstructed any other view.

Another story that my uncle told me is of interest because it is connected with another sister of my grandmother; her sister Susan Jonte, who, as you remember, married and lived in Cincinnati.  After my cousin, Reverend Albert Edwin Keigwin, had been established in the Amsterdam Avenue Prspyterian Church in New York City, he had in his congrgation a gentleman and his wife who became very fond of him, paying him marked attention, which they explained by saying he was so much like a son they had lost.
Sometime later the two families were dining together and the gentleman repeated something he said his aunt Susan Jonte of Cincinnati had said.  Whereupon my uncle exclaimed, "Why I have an aunt Susan Jonte in Cincinnati!"  And thus was disclosed the reason for the likeness of the two young men who were cousins.

Among my father's (Reverend Henry Keigwin) old letters I found a letter from Mrs. J. M. DeForest who said she was the daughter of Mary Morton.  She was then living in Port Union, Butler County, Ohio.  She said that aunt Susan Jonte (1884) was the only one living of her mother's family.  She speaks of cousin Herriett Wade who went to California, and also of a cousin Lizzie Copren, also of her own married daughter, but gives no names.

Lilian Keigwin.

Submitted by:
Chris Litzsinger (
August 21, 2000

# # #

Biography provided by
Chris Litzsinger
Source of Biography:
Private family holdings
Date Biography provided:
August 21, 2000

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