A simple, almost off-hand comment in this article (via 3QD), describing an interview with the estimable William Dalrymple:
"It was during the writing of White Mughals that Dalrymple discovered something about his own family: His maternal great-great-grandmother Sophia Pattle was the daughter of "a Hindu Bengali woman . . . who converted to Catholicism and married a French officer in Pondicherry in the 1780s." Like Virginia Woolf, who is descended from Pattle's sister, Dalrymple is part Indian by blood. "If you look at photographs, Woolf looks almost Punjabi," he laughs. "Indians haven't yet caught on to it."
So the outsider isn't that much of an outsider, even as he is lambasted for usurping the Indianness of the Indian English literature scene with his British oomph (The Battle of Plassey all over again. Move over, Robert Clive. It's Will Dalrymple's time to take on the 'nabobs of negativity' like Hartosh Singh Bal.)
He has a great-great-great....-great-grandmother who was Indian. At least that's what it would appear from the lineage, which I was able to piece together from searches.
But shared heritage with Virginia Woolf, that was a surprise!
So it runs-
Virginia (nee Stephen) Woolf, daughter of Julia Prinsep Jackson, daughter of Maria Pattle (sister of Sophia Pattle, the Dalrymple ancestress), daughter of Adeline de l'Etang, daughter of Therese Josephe Blin de Grincourt, daughter of Marie Madeleine Cornet,daughter of Marie Francoise Guerre... and there the trail stopped. Where was the missing link that would lead me to the Indian ancestress?
Here it was.
Marie Brunet, (mother of Marie Francoise Guerre), daughter of Marie Monique- the converted Hindu Bengali woman.
"It has been conjectured that Pattle sisters¹ beauty came from their
Indian blood, through Thérèse Josèphe Blin de Grincourt.
I was curious to know more about this possible Indian origin and
eventually found that Adeline de l¹Etang, and consequently, Julia
Margaret Cameron, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf had indeed an Indian
ancestor. This Indian ancestor was actually a Bengalee woman called
Maria Monica or Marie Monique. Her French marriage act says she was
"de caste gentille" i.e. her religion was originally Hinduism.
Here is the French genealogy of Adeline de l¹Etang, starting from the
Bengalee Marie Monique:
Marie Monique married the 2-07-1703 Claude BRUNET, a butler of the
French government in Pondicherry ("maître d¹hôtel du gouvernement"),
born in Bourges (France). They had 12 children, among whom:
Marie BRUNET, born in Pondicherry the 3-06-1704. She married
(17-11-1720) Abraham GUERRE, born the 24-11-1695 in Saint Imier
(Switzerland). They had 9 children, among whom:
Marie Françoise GUERRE, born in Pondicherry the 14-04-1725. She
married (29-04-1741) Etienne Mathurin CORNET, born in Paris in 1710."
Virginia could pass for an exotic foreigner under other strange circumstances, as she took part in what is called the Dreadnought Hoax. (She is on the far left in the photo on the left, click for a larger view).
"The hoax involved Cole and five friends— writer Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf), her brother Adrian Stephen, Guy Ridley, Anthony Buxton and artist Duncan Grant—who disguised themselves with skin darkeners and turbans. The disguise's main limitation was that the "royals" could not eat anything or their make-up would be ruined. Adrian Stephen took the role of "interpreter" for the 'Abyssinian royals' they pretended to be.
At least a long list of well-documented marriages and children born exist, that allow this degree of geneological tracking. As for Marie Monique, who knows where she came from, or what was her original name. The trail of ancestors on that side stops with her.
These kinds of details are lost to the great mystery of time, for the average Indian. We don't know who our ancestors were beyond perhaps our great-grandparents generation.It is of no consequence to us, as we disdain digging further back to find out our roots. So it isn't really a conundrum, just a question that has no way of being answered with the lack of written records to support any such searches.