Louis Theroux Family History
Louis Sebastian Theroux was born on May 20th, 1970 to Paul and Anne Theroux in Singapore. He was the younger of their two sons.
His parents had met in Africa where his father Paul, an American, and his wife Anne, British, had enlisted for voluntary service overseas. After Africa and Singapore, the family moved to south London which was where Louis grew up. His father Paul busied himself as a writer, his mother Anne as a BBC radio producer.
Both Louis and his older brother Marcel had private school education. Marcel became a writer like his father and a successfully published novelist. What could Louis do? He did not want to become an inferior version of either his father or his older brother.
It happened almost by chance. In 1993, at the age of twenty-three, he had moved to America and got a job with the documentary maker Michael Moore then working on his TV Nation. Michael saw something in this tall geeky Britisher and pushed him in front of the camera. And Louis realized that TV could be his medium for expression.
Louis returned to London and was able to get a TV deal with the BBC. In his Louis Theroux Weird Weekends, he developed an individual style of documentary making and of subject matter (he covered such subcultures as survivalists, white supremacists, and porn stars). And by hard work, diligence, and his ability to share the viewer in his curiosity, he built up a career and a public persona for himself.
Like his father perhaps, work came first and his personal side suffered, although he says he is now more attentive to the needs of his wife Nancy, a TV producer, and their three young sons.
French Canadian Theroux
Theroux is a French surname, originating from southern France but hardly to be found there today. Its meaning is unclear. Some have suggested that it is a topographic name for someone living by “the wells.” Theroux would here derive from the plural variant théron in the Occitan language meaning “wells.”
It is believed that all of the Theroux families in North America have descended from the Antoine Theroux, born near Toulouse in southern France, who came to Canada with the French Marines in 1693 and served in Detroit as well as in various places in Quebec. He retired from the military in 1708 and lived on until 1759.
He moved his family quite often, buying and selling property until he settled in Yamaska along the St. Lawrence river in southern Quebec in the 1730’s. He was one of its earliest settlers.
His descendants, indeed eight generations of them, would remain in this rural part of Quebec for a hundred and fifty years. Most of the family births, marriages and deaths are recorded in St. Michel d’Yamaska. This was in fact the same name as the parish in France where the family had originated.
These Theroux were country people. They were also Catholic and had large families.
Pierre and Eugenie Theroux for instance had ten children between 1865 and 1886 and might have had even more had it not been for a horrendous accident that occurred a year later in the winter of 1887.
Eugenie and her infant son Joseph Louis were upstairs when their family home caught fire. With her husband and children outside and helplessly watching, Eugenie dropped the baby to her family in the snow below and then perished in the flames.
Theroux numbers divide relatively evenly between Canada and America today. Theroux from Yamaska had begun crossing the border into Nashua, New Hampshire in the late 19th century to work in the mills there.
Joseph Louis Theroux – the baby who had been saved – in fact married his Canadian part-Indian wife Eva in New Hampshire in 1902. A few years later they had moved to a small house in the woods outside Stoneham, Massachusetts. Joseph worked there in the local shoe factory and as a night watchman.
Albert Eugene was their first-born. He grew up during the time of the Great Depression and considered humself lucky to get a job as a shipping clerk with the American Leather Oak company in Boston. He married his wife Anne in 1937 and they moved to the nearby town of Medford. Later he ran the shoe department at O’Briens in Medford Square.
His wife Annina (Anne in America) was the daughter of Italian immigrants in the early 1900’s who had come to Medford and prospered as tailors and as property owners. She was more outgoing than her husband, but – according to Paul – a rather mercurial and insecure woman sometimes domineering in her manner.
Of the two, Paul much preferred the company of his father, even though he showed little interest in Paul’s writing endeavors or later his books. Unlike his wife there was a quietness, a natural reticence. and a goodness about him which Paul found reassuring.
So where then did Paul and the other children get their literary and creative juices from, if not from their parents? Albert and Anne raised seven children in total, five boys and two girls. These children had talents that did not seem to come from them or from those who had come before.
These are their five sons and what they have done:
- Eugene Theroux, born in 1938, who is a prominent Washington DC lawyer. His son Justin became famous as an actor in the early 2000’s and was married for a time to the actress Jennifer Aniston.
- Alexander Theroux, born in 1939, who is a novelist and poet. He made his name with his 1981 book Darconsville’s Cat.
- Paul Theroux, born in 1941, who is perhaps the most famous of the lot for his novels and travel writing. He is Louis’ father.
- Joe Theroux, born in 1953, who like his elder brother Paul joined the Peace Corps and later became a novelist too and an educator.
- and Peter Theroux, born in 1956, who was interested in Arabic literature and made it his life’s work. He has translated many Arabic works of fiction into English.
There is also their cousin James (Jim) Theroux, a well-known yachtsman in the Pacific and the founder of Explore Whitsundays Sailing Adventures. During Paul’s travels in the Pacific in the 1990’s he had met Jim’s wife Mimi who was living in Tahiti.
Paul, Louis’ Father
“Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it.” This was the opening sentence of his first travel book The Great Railway Bazaar, published in 1975, the book that was to make him famous as a writer.
In fact Paul Theroux had left his home in Medford, Massachusetts twelve years earlier in 1963 as a Peace Corps volunteer to Africa. He described himself then as an “angry and agitated young man” who felt he had to escape the narrow confines of his native Massachusetts.
A rebel wih the Peace Corps, he was thrown out of that organization in 1965 but remained in Africa as a school teacher in Uganda. Africa gave him a scope for his imagination and an incentive to write. It was there that he met his future wife Anne and his literary mentor V.S. Naipaul.
Afterwards he taught in Singapore and then moved to England in 1971 with his young family.
Eighteen years of his life passed by there, his children had grown up, and he and his wife had become estranged (Anne wrote about that in her 2021 memoir The Year of the End). In late 1989 Paul left England for a voyage across the Pacific, the subject of his subsequent travel book The Happy Isles of Oceania.
He did not return. His life as a writer, famous by now, continued in Hawaii – from his base there on the North Shore. He has remained in contact with his two sons Marcel and Louis. But it is a distant contact.
Louis Theroux’s Family Tree
- Jean-Baptiste Theroux (1810-1881) from Yamaska, Quebec m. Genevieve Badayac-LaPlante (1813-1894) in 1829
- – Pierre Theroux (1843-1918)
- – Emelie Theroux (1843-1896) m. Guillaume Arel and Louis Lincourt
- Pierre Theroux m. Marie-Eugenie Cardin (1844-1887) in 1863
- – Alexandre (Rene) Theroux (b. 1866) m. Emelle Gironard
- – Joseph Amable Theroux (b. 1868) m. R.A. Boisseau
- – Joseph Ovide Theroux (1870-1918) m. Marie Hebert
- – Joseph Alexandre Theroux (1872-1947) m. Sedulie Lacours
- – Louis Theroux (1879-1965) m. Leontine Bibeau
- – Leon Theroux (b. 1882) m. Aleda Badancouer
- – Joseph Louis (Eugene) Theroux (1884-1964)
- – Dorilla Theroux (1886-1965) m. Carona Valois
- Joseph Louis (Eugene) Theroux m. Eva Brousseau from Ontario (1881-1956) in New Hampshire in 1902
- – Albert Eugene Theroux (1908-1995), born in Massachusetts
- – Arthur Theroux (1910-1999) m. Lucille St. Gelais
- – Mary Violet Theroux (1912-2009) m. Erhart Schubert
- – Edward Theroux (1915-2000) m. Paula Jones
- – Florence Theroux (1916-2007) m. Richard Long
- – Eva Theroux (1919-2005) m. Paul Campion
- Albert Eugene Theroux (1908-1995) m. Annina (Anne) Dittami (1911-2015) in Medford, Massachustts in 1937
- – Eugene (Gene) Theroux (b, 1938) m. Phyllis Grissim (divorced), lawyer (one son is the actor Justin Theroux)
- – Alexander Theroux (b. 1939), novelist and poet
- – Paul Theroux (b. 1941), novelist and travel writer
- – Anne Marie Theroux (1944-2018) m. Peter Gailis
- – Mary Butler nee Theroux (b. 1951)
- – Joseph (Joe) Theroux (b. 1953), novelist and educator
- – Peter Theroux (b. 1956), translator and writer
- Paul Theroux m. Anne Castle in Uganda in 1967; divorced in 1993; rem. Sheila Donnelly in Hawaii in 1995
- – Marcel Theroux (b. 1968 in Uganda), writer
- – Louis Theroux (b. 1970 in Singapore)
- Louis Theroux m. Susanna Kleeman in 1994, divorced in 2002; rem. Nancy Strang in 2012
- – Albert Theroux (b. 2007)
- – Walter Theroux (b. 2009)
- – Frederick Theroux (b. 2016)
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