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Researching family in Jersey, part 1: where to start

by James McLaren on March 8th, 2011
An Old Jersey House
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You’ve traced an ancestor to Jersey, and you are wondering what you can find out about them. To your frustration, you rapidly discover that birth marriage and death records for Jersey are not available online. So what can you do?

Well, there are at least some useful Internet resources out there to help you get started. The most obvious one is the Census: Channel Island censuses from 1841 to 1901 are available both through Ancestry and Findmypast, and the 1911 census is on FindMyPast and will soon be fully available on Ancestry too.

A word of caution, though: the transcription is not entirely reliable on either site, and on top of that, some database search engines have problems with “divided” surnames like Le Sueur or Du Feu (not to mention Le Vavasseur dit Durell). So here’s a shameless plug: if you are going to do a lot of searching of censuses, you could do worse than purchase the paper census indexes produced by the CIFHS. They are a lot more accurate (well over 99%), and can (with a bit of fiddling) be cross-referenced back to the census images on the Internet.

There are also military records. If you’re looking at Channel Island relatives who served in the First World War, it’s well worth investigating at greatwarci.net – this is the website of the Channel Island Great War Study Group, and they maintain a very comprehensive list of people who served. The list is rather more complete than Ancestry’s transcript of what’s in the National Archives simply because Jersey residents served not only with the British armed forces but also with the Canadians and Australians. There were also at least a couple of thousand French nationals who joined up with the French military, but records for them are very scanty. If you are looking at other periods (and bear in mind Jersey had a garrison to protect it from the French right up until the 1930s), you may find references to service in Jersey on the military records of Chelsea Pensioners kept on FindMyPast, or on the GRO Regimental Indexes of birth marriage and death.

There are other useful resources too on Ancestry. There are three Channel Island postal directories – covering 1839, 1903 and 1927 – that may help to link a name to an address.

You may also be fortunate enough to find online family trees. Ancestry host them, as do Genesreunited, and there are also numerous independently-produced web sites. The general rule of thumb is to treat these as a guideline: they may be inaccurate, or they may tell the truth as far the researcher knows it – but not the whole story.

Aside from this, there’s a couple of major Internet resources based in the Channel Islands that may help you with your research. More about them next time. À bétôt!

Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society



5 Comments
  1. Richard Hallman permalink

    I’m Looking for my relatives “Hallman” in St Hellier Jersey, Have got back to early 1800 thro C isles census but struggling to get further back

    Any ideas that may help would be appreciated

    Thank you

  2. Hi Richard,

    The best sources for pushing back are currently all in Jersey. You’d probably want to use the transcripts of the Parish BM&D records if they are born here. These records are available at Jersey Archive and the Coutanche Library in St Helier and should be going online later this year.

    You’d probably want to combine that with the contracts in the Land Registry – PRIDE will certainly give you some help to start this process. The public PRIDE terminals are in the Archive – that requires a trip over, or someone local to do it for you (and yes I’m biased, but the CIFHS are very good for that).

    I presume you’ve looked at the Archive OPAC and found the baptism records for mid-19th century (those transcriptions are available online if you haven’t looked). If not: go to http://www.jerseyheritagetrust.jeron.je/archive.html, click on , click in the box and type HALLMAN, and then . Then click on the names to see details.

    Other ideas: there were the two military censuses taken in 1806 and 1815 – again, they are in the Archive.

    Having said all that, the name isn’t one that’s a familiar Jersey name – I could easily imagine that the family arrived here in the early 1800s from England or elsewhere as part of the large community brought in by General Don to upgrade the island’s fortifications. A check at http://www.britishsurnames.co.uk shows that the largest single family is in St Helier, but the name is most common in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

    Hope this is some help. A betot!

    James

  3. Thanks James, as ever, for your invaluable knowledge when it comes to Jersey family history.

    Nick
    NoseyGenealogist.com

  4. Priscilla Hartl permalink

    My ancestors were the Decarteret family from Normandy originally, and I am seeking more imformation on the Augustus Jean family who was from Jersey on the Decarteret side, and his name was changed from Augustus Jean to John Gustin, my Grandmothers name is Mary Gustin. Does anyone have any info on the Jean family and also the le Rossignol family of which they were related . Thank you, Priscilla

  5. James McLaren (CIFHS Jersey) permalink

    Priscilla,

    I’ve mailed separately. But there are one or two things you could do to help: if you can attach any date to the change of name from Jean to Gustin, it would be enormously helpful. Likewise if you can indicate what relation he was to your grandmother.

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