I'm trying to fill in some blanks in my family history.

In May 1805 an ancestor of mine traveled from Koblenz (Germany) to Paris (France).
He left most likely on May 16 or 17, maybe a few days later.
He embezzled a large amount (approx $200.000 in today's money) on the morning of May 16. He knew he had at least a week before it would be discovered and I assume he probably wanted to create some distance fairly quickly.
He was accompanied by his accomplice and girlfriend, a French woman.
My ancestor was a good horseman, but the woman most likely was not. They probably traveled by stage coach or just purchased a coach or wagon and horses.

They would have avoided the Moselle river and river valley at all costs as my ancestor was well known along the river all the way south to the city of Trier.
(I presume that up the Moselle to Metz or Thionville and then west to Paris via Reims would be the logical route otherwise.)

I know from family records that end of January 1806 my ancestor was in Paris, had lost all his money and his girlfriend (or she took of with the money) and he had to enlist (maybe forced by a press gang) in Napoleons army.
There is no record of when exactly he arrived in Paris, but it was at least 2-3 months before that.

To complicate matters the French Grande Armee was that summer on the move, redeploying from the Atlantic coast to southern Germany because of the "War of the 3rd Coalition". But my ancestor was probably early enough to have avoided that troop movement altogether. According to my sources the Grande Armee reached the Moselle around September. My ancestor should have been clear of the area already by that time.

What route could they have traveled? How long would it have taken?
(West of Reims would river-travel on the Marne have been a possibility?)

  • 1
    It looks like this was slightly before railways or steamships, which pretty much leaves river barge travel, horse/stage travel, and foot as options.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 13, 2020 at 21:00
  • 1
    I feel you really overestimate the travel time, Koblenz - Paris are roughly 500 km. That's around 12-18 days on foot. On horseback, coach or boat, the journey should be 6-10 days. So, he'll have easily avoided any force movement happening in September, a good three months after his arrival in Paris.
    – Dulkan
    Jul 14, 2020 at 6:58
  • @T.E.D. Regular stage coach routes were already a thing then. I just don't know if they existed along that route. Likewise if river barges were taking passengers along the river Marne. Heck.. I even don't know how far up stream that river is usable for barges.
    – Tonny
    Jul 14, 2020 at 8:50
  • @Dulkan The Grande Armee reached the Moselle in September but they big troop movements on the coast must have started much earlier. I think you're right, as I mentioned in the question myself, but I just don't know enough about that period. Hoping someone can enlighten me.
    – Tonny
    Jul 14, 2020 at 8:54
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    @JeanMarieBecker Good find. Unfortunately my French doesn't go any further than ordering a drink in a cafe. I do know that "diligence"' is a stage coach. 6 days is a bit faster than I expected, but it does fit with a (tentative) arrival in Paris late May. Since I wrote the question a couple of letters written by my ancestor have surfaced in a family archive. One letter (written years later to his mother, in which he apologies for his misconduct) has a brief summary of his travels and says "I arrived in Paris a few days before my birthday" and his birthday was June 2.
    – Tonny
    Jan 22, 2021 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


Self answer as more information has surfaced recently and I now have his full travel itinerary.

In 1834 my ancestor, who had eventually settled in The Netherlands, had a large farmhouse/estate build. My family still owns this house today and it is currently occupied by my aunt. In April 2021 we embarked on renovating the attic space to convert the attic from storage-area to a master-suite bedroom and add much needed roof insulation as well.

We knew that the gable-end wooden wall on one side was actually a false wall, behind which would be a very rickety old chimney.
So we took down that wall to remove that chimney altogether and gain an extra meter of floor-space.
As we took the wall down we discovered that the chimney was flanked on both sides by a build-in cupboard.
In one of those cupboards we found a large (woodworm riddled) travel-trunk containing a bunch of notebooks and assorted papers.

While most of the loose papers in the chest disintegrated into dust as soon as we touched them the notebooks turned out the be more sturdy.

We found they had been so-called day-books maintained by my ancestor and later his son.
Day-books are similar to diaries. They typically give account of important events (travel, new job, births/weddings/funerals in the family) in the life of the writer, but (unlike many diaries) they mainly stick to facts and add little personal information about the writer.

It took a while to decipher his handwriting but I managed to distill the following from the day-book entries in May 1805:

  • May 17: Managed to reserve seats on tomorrows stage-coach to Clervaux via Nürburg
  • undated: Arrived at Clervaux, onwards to Bastonge.
  • undated: Bastonge at last, need to stay and wait for next coach to Sedan
  • May 23: Leaving Bastogne to Sedan and then to Reims.
  • May 26: Another layover in Reims.
  • May 28: Paris. Finally.

From other reasearch I have established that on the Koblenz to Bastonge leg layovers at Clervaux, Prüm (halfway between Nürburg and Clervaux) or Nürburg were all possible.
From the undated entry for Clervaux I presume they stayed there for 1 day. The layover at Bastonge was 1 day (else the dates wouldn't match up), but could have been 2 if there was no layover at all on the section from Koblenz to Bastogne.

  • @njuffa You are right. It should be Bastogne (aka Bastenaken) in Belgium. It is a typo. In my defense: Even many Belgians (mainly the Flemish speaking ones) get this wrong all the time.
    – Tonny
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:39

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