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Researching Family in Jersey, Part 3: Jersey Parish Records

by James McLaren on March 16th, 2011
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Jersey Archive

Jersey Archive

Most people will have at least some research to do which involves vital records – births, marriages and deaths. As in England, there are two categories of records. There are those kept by the state authorities – which record birth, marriage and death – and there are those kept by churches and record baptism, marriage and  burial. Jersey began civil registration in August 1842, but in this blog we’ll be looking at the parish records.

Parish records are available at the Jersey Archive. You won’t get to see the original registers, but instead there are copy transcripts made by the CIFHS. These go back to at least the late 17th century, and in some cases right back to the middle of the 16th century. Most of the transcripts end at 1842, but there are some more recent records available for the parishes of St Helier, St Martin and St John.

A typical entry in the baptism register might look like this:

17.02.1833 Mary fille de M. Philippe Du Feu et Mse. Elizabeth Amy

Notice the way that record is made. First of all, it’s in French – Jersey was very largely French- or Jerriais-speaking until the middle of the 19th century, and a lot of legal records long after that were kept in French.

More importantly, you will spot the fact that the mother’s maiden name is used. There were good reasons for this. In most parishes there were a relatively small number of surnames and forenames: as we observed last time there might be  several Philippe Du Feus living in one parish at the same time, and this helped to clarify who was who.

There are a couple of potential pitfalls to watch out for. Firstly, people were not always consistent about how they spelled their names – but the CIFHS transcripts usually gather the different spellings (for example Romerill, Romerill, Romrill, Rumerill) under a single heading. Secondly, it is always worth carrying out a check both of the married and the maiden name if the person you are looking for is female.

If your ancestor wasn’t a member of the Church of England, you might be less fortunate. There are records from two of the big Roman Catholic churches in St Helier (there were two because one was French-speaking and one was English-speaking), and there are a few records from non-conformist churches, but they are rather patchy.

One more thing to add on the parish records: work is in progress to digitise them and make them available online, hopefully towards the end of 2011. Next time we’ll look at the civil records – until then, À bétôt!

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


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