Researching family in Jersey, part 5: Nailing down dates without certificates
As I mentioned last time, there are occasions where you find something in the BMD indexes and you can’t get to Royal Square in time to see the certificates. But there are two sets of data in the Archive that can help you to nail dates of marriages and deaths down.
The first is what is referred to as the “third copy” of the marriage registers. Individual parishes maintain their own registers and then send copies of the certificates to the Superintendent Registrar to compile the full volumes. However, in between the two the Superintendent Registrar maintains draft registers – and it is this that the Archive now possesses.
To access the draft registers, you need to use the Reference search facility on the OPAC. The collection reference you need is D/E: this will get you to the top of the collection. Reference D/E/B covers the third copy, and you will find that it’s divided into individual collections from specific Church of England churches and general collections of nonconformist and civil marriages from 7 parishes. It’s not quite a complete set, but the vast majority of material is there and you will find that most of the time there is at least some degree of correlation between the indexes and the draft registers.
As far as recording deaths goes, the simple answer is that there will almost always be a burial shortly afterwards. There are two ways that you can attack this problem: one is to look at the records kept by the cemeteries, and the other is to check the funeral directors. Cemetery records exist for two of St Helier’s major burial grounds – Almorah and Mont à l’Abbé – between about 1860 and 1950, and there are also records for some of the other burial grounds around the island including Macpéla, the non-conformist cemetery at Sion Village. These are all in folders in the reading room. One cautionary word: women are indexed by their maiden name only (although the married name is given).
The Archive also received a major deposit from a local funeral director the other year, containing records of seven of their predecessor companies, some of which go back to about 1820. Again, you’ll need to use the OPAC’s Reference Search, and this time the collection reference is L/A/41. Be aware that for any given period you may have to look at two or three different companies’ books – but feel free to enlist the help of the volunteer from the Channel Islands Family History Society if you need advice. These records are fascinating, because they will tell you not only who was buried when, but how – the relative spends on funerals vary from parsimonious to lavish – and also who paid for it.
Death is one of the great certainties in life: taxation is the other, and we’ll take a look at that next time. Until then – À bétôt!
Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society