The Origin of the Family Name Latourette (originally Latourrette) from Osse, Béarn
by John E. La Tourette
This posting represents ongoing research into the origin of the Latourette (Latourrette) family of Osse, Béarn.
For years now descendants of Jean Latourette in America have assumed that the origin of the family name is little tower. Indeed, in French the name implies an association with a small tower or turret. Historically, some of these descendants assumed there would be a castle or chateau Latourette in Osse, Béarn (now Osse-en-Aspe, France), or at least the ruins of one. Unfortunately for them, there was never a Count Latourette or castle in Osse (now Osse-en-Aspe, France). Not satisfied with the absence of a count or castle, hoaxes have been created since 1843, the latest within the past 50 years, to suggest family nobility. (All of these hoaxes have been shown to be false on postings to this site by Mr. Robert Hoadley-Latourette and this author.)
To understand how the name may have originated we must turn to the Béarnais language (or dialect) because early references to Gassiot de Latourrette, the first minister at Osse 1563-1595, was to Gassioo de La Torreta in Béarnais. In Béarn, the Béarnais language was used side by side even for official business down to the French Revolution when the French language was standardized and made the official language. The educated people of Béarn used the French language for business long before the Revolution and in the case of Gassiot de Latourrette in the 16th century it was essential for him as a minister and notaire. (Note: the only Bible available to Gassiot and his parishioners would have been in French.) So, during Gassiot’s lifetime, La Torreta became the French Latourette (Latourrette). The evolution can be seen by the entry in the records of the first synod of Béarn in 1563 where his name is entered as La Torrette.
See: Gassiot Minister
See: Gassiot Chronology
There is a comprehensive list of the origin of Béarnais family names found in Patronymes Bearnais: Origine des noms de famille bearnais. On the internet it is found at:
Of the many sources of the origin of Béarnais family names, we find under subsection 10) Patronymes relatifs aux metiers (ou fonctions), or in English "Names related to occupation (or functions)". Moulie* , Moulia, Molier, Molières, Molères*, Molinier, Molinié, Moulié, Touret, Latourette (meunier ou rapport avec un moulin),
The translation of the section in () is "milling or connection with a mill"
We know that the Latourette family of Osse had a mill on the creek (Ruisseau Larricq) in Osse. But hydraulic mills in Béarn on waterways were rectangular or square and this was the case in Osse. Therefore, "tour" (meaning round) would not describe a building which housed a mill. A good example of the square mill house in Osse along the Larricq creek is near what is now called the Mayerau house (Note: It was once known as the Latourrette-Casamayou house.) The current mill house in Osse stands as a historical reminder of the age of milling in the village.Another one is in Orcun, just east of Bedous off the road to Aydius, a few kilometers from Osse.
In Simin Palay’s "Dictionary of Modern Béarnese and Gascon", one finds "tour" and "tourret" to mean round. It is possible that the word "tourret" meant miller in ancient Béarnese because the word designated something round: a round structure, a millstone (that is a round stone).
I quote from Madame Gilberte Gaubil, an authority on Bearnais history.
"Hydraulic mills became common around the XIIth century, it was the force of the water that made the millstone turn and the (word for) miller became "mollier". But before that, wheat was ground by round millstones ("tours") that men, donkeys or oxen turned in the farm courtyards. In this case the "tourret" must have identified that man who went from farm to farm with millstones. "
This suggests that La Torreta is likely an ancient Béarnais family name that dates back before the time that the Latourette family is found in Osse, Béarn where Gassiot was born about 1540. Research by Mr. Jean-Luc Bilhou Nabera suggests that the family came to Osse in the Aspe Valley from the mountain valley to the west called Baretous, especially the village of Aramits, where the Latourette name is found historically.
The wealth of the Latourette family in Osse appears to have been based, in part, on the mill they owned. Moreover, mill owners collected the taxes on the wheat they milled. This wealth could have been the source of Gassiot’s ability to become a notaire, as well as the first minister of Osse in 1563 as only a few members of a village would be able to afford the education associated with these positions.
Evidence about early mills in Osse is difficult to come by, as pointed out by Madame Gaubil, but a map of the village in 1837 shows a mill owned by Pierre Latourrette-Casamayou who is described as an "instituteur" (instructor) with the properties identified as follows: #369-land across from the Latourrette-Pon house; #368 – the diversion or mill race from the Larricq creek running through the property; #370 the mill house itself; and #371 the diversion continuing to the next mill. Of the three mills shown on the 1837 map above the center of the village, presumably this site was the most favorable being located upstream from the other two. There are two more mills in 1837 on the creek downstream from the center of the village.
(Note Pierre Latourrette-Casamayou was born April 12, 1784 and died December 18, 1861. He was the son of Antoine Latourrette-Casamayou, ca 1748-1813, shown in the French genealogy in www.latourrette.net. This is the family that made a transition to just the surname Casamayou during the period of Pierre’s life. See tomb in "Tour of Osse" on www.latourrette.com. It was the Catholic branch of the family in Osse after Antoine’s conversion around 1774 with the death of his mother, Catherine Casamajor. Casamajor and Casamayou were interchangeable in Bearnais.)
A confirmation of the theory that Latourette name of Osse, Béarn may have evolved from the Béarnais family name La Torreta meaning the miller was found by Mr. Bernard Cazenave Latourrette of Pau and Jean-Luc Bilhou-Nabera of Paris and Osse in a proverb from the Baretous Valley cited by Simin Palay which reads:
"Et Tourret non pot de harie que d'ere qui a".
"The miller can only give the flour he has".
Meaning that the miller can not make more flour than the wheat he is given.
This suggests that "tours" or round millstones may have been used by the La Torreta family very early before the use of hydraulic mills in the 12th century and as an occupation or function of the family that became the source of the name which evolved into the French Latourette.
Another theory of the origin of the name La Torreta associated with milling is given by Mr. Cazenave. About Simin Palay (1874-1965), he notes:
I read that Simin Palay talked about a place, near Vic-en-Bigorre, named La Torreta, where there used to be a mill. Born in Gelos, near Pau, Simin Palay had moved to Vic when he was young. It is a small valley in the département des Hautes Pyrénées, in the province of Bigorre, where customs and patois (local language) are very close to Béarnese.
It is interesting to note that the observation about La Torreta made by Simin Palay was during his life time of 1874 to 1965 and that the nature of the mill would have been of a hydraulic type on the Abour river.
There is another possibility of "tour" or "tourret" or "torreta" being the source of a Béarnais surname associated with a family doing "milling." Mr. Cazenave notes that in the Béarnais plains north of the Pyrenees there was the absence of hydraulic power and there were windmills that were small towers and the family operating the mill driven by wind could have lived in the tower or near it and hence the surname La Toureta or La Torreta. However, there is no evidence that the Latourette family of Osse came from the plains area south to Osse. As noted above, they were mountain dwellers from the Baretous Valley. Therefore, it is more likely the name is associated with the early practice of bringing a millstone to fields for milling, before the advent of hydraulic mills in the 12th century.
Since the Latourette family of Osse is associated with mills, their operation and ownership of mills (field or hydraulic) could be the historic source of the Béarnais surname La Torreta which evolved into the French Latourette when the French language substituted tour for torr and ette for eta. See: Italy, Another Fable, especially near the end of the article where the transition to Latourette from La Torreta is explained.
This may be a big surprise for those who have run around France looking for a Latourette count from Osse or for a castle, especially, those who have to create hoaxes to keep the count myth alive.
As with all of this author’s research and postings on this site, constructive comments and/or additional "real" evidence supporting or contradicting this theory are welcome. As in the case of the string of hoaxes about the Latourrette family of Osse, fabricated facts or grossly misinterpreted information are not.