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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Debeneau of Meerut Should Be Dubignon

I was curious about the daughter of Major Owen (John) Jacob (he died 1857) whose daughter (according to Mesrovb Seth 'Armenians in India' Page 141) married a Frenchman called Debeneau, I thought I’d do a little research on her.

Seth says: “[Major John Jacob] had an only daughter who married a Frenchman Debeneau, who was distantly related to General Ventura of Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Army. Their son, James Denbeneau, with his wife and children lived at Sirdhana with their grandmother, Major John Jacob’s widow, in rather crippled circumstances.”

Having spent a few hours researching, it would appear that Seth doesn’t seem to have got it quite right.

The name is not Debeneau but Dubignon, James Dubignon was a son of Robert Walter Dubignon and an Armenian lady called Ellen nee Moses his wife. Ellen’s sister Ann married the well known Colonel Jean-Baptiste Ventura.

James Dubignon married Ellen (or Helen) Jacob Petrus daughter of Major Owen (John) Jacob. Ellen died after giving birth to her second child in 1861, the child also died and was buried with her in Meerut Cantonment. James and Ellen’s first child John Dubignon survived, married and went on to have issue with descendants living today.

This is something to be aware of. If you are using Seth's book as a reference for Armenian family history you should remember he does not source or cite references to his work, so it is imperative to independently verify anything that he quotes. The British Library is a good starting point for such verification and now that their birth, marriages and death records are online, it makes researching and double-checking a whole lot easier


  1. Posting on behalf of Clive Ross.
    Part 1.
    Your caution about using Seth’s book as a reference is well founded. At page 140 Seth says: “They had two daughters, Pherine, known as Mutrujan, who married Major Stephen Raghelini (sic) of Begum Samru’s army, … .” and also “A lineal descendant, in the female line, of Colonel Jacob, is Mr. John Michael Reghelini,(sic) until recently the popular Munsarim (Registrar) of the Agra Chief Judge’s Court. Mr Raghelini (sic) is a grandson of Mrs Pherine Reghelini, (sic) the granddaughter of Colonel Jacob, as stated above.
    At page 133 Seth says:“Mrs. Phelomina Reghelini’s only son, Mr. John Michael Reghelini, was until recently, the popular Munsarim (Registrar) of the Chief Judge’s Court at Agra. He is a great grandson of Colonel Jacob Petrus of Gwalior, from his mother’s side. His paternal great grandfather, an Italian was an officer in Begum Sumru’s Army. He was the architect of the Cathedral at Sardhana…”

  2. Posting on behalf of Clive Ross:
    Part 2
    Seth is correct, stating that Pherine married Stephen Reghelini, son of Major Antonio Reghelini of Begum Sumru’s Army but Stephen born 1828, was 8 yrs old when the Begum’s army disbanded in 1836. He was not in any army in any capacity.
    Stephen and Pherine’s daughter Phelomina never married and did not have children. Had Phelomina married, it would have had to be to a Reghelini, for a son to be Reghelini. Seth’s paternal lineage is incorrect as according to Seth’s lineage, John Michael’s father was the son of either a brother of Stephen Reghelini or a son of Stephen (i.e. parents were brother and sister or cousins). Phelomina’s only adult male Reghelini cousin was married and living in a different part of India at the time of John Michael’s claimed conception/date of birth.
    The Reghelini cousin’s family history is: a stranger, John Michael, met Pherine and Phelomina who sought legal help at Agra Court, befriended the aged ladies, moved into their home and assumed the surname Reghelini so as inherit the Reghelini property on the death of Phelomina in 1927 and obtain a pension from Gwalior. He succeeded despite legal challenge in Agra Court by an undisputed Reghelini descendant.

  3. Posting on behalf of Clive Ross:
    Part 3
    Descendants of John Michael cannot find any records to validate their claim that John Michael was born John Michael Reghelini. There are no records of schooling despite a claim of education at St Peters, Agra. There is no record of marriage in c1911 and no Court records of employment. The records that have been found are the gravestones for Pherine and Phelomina erected by John Michael, Seth’s records sourced from “his friend” John Michael himself and information in the baptism records for John Michael’s children, also supplied by John Michael in support of his claim to the Reghelini name and inheritance.
    Because of Seth’s failure to independently verify information or clarify with his friend John Michael why his mother and father purportedly had the same surname, the fraud perpetuated by John Michael has been given a level of historic substance. The descendants of John Michael Reghelini are using Seth’s book to create a false record on the internet with additional false names and dates to substantiate their claim about John Michael’s heritage. They have even created other fictional Reghelini lineage which confuses true historians. The John Michael Reghelini family tree on Ancestry with over 20,000 people creates a minefield for historians.

  4. Posting on behalf of Clive Ross:
    Part 4
    Other researchers have encountered the same issues with Ancestry and request: “This sort of misrepresentation by "adoption" is likely to lead to people removing their accurate trees from the public member section. This "poaching/adoption" is confusing for GENUINE relatives. It sends a false message to future generations. In the end, everyone will lose out. Please, double check your records.”
    I applaud your integrity and hope that there will be a forum for people to voice and record these concerns. Ancestry must insist on verified documentation. Surely a marriage certificate from c1911 for John Michael Reghelini, an officer of the Agra court was an important document for him to preserve and pass on to his descendants?