While reading the latest news from the Society of Genealogist I came across an announcement for a half day course being held at the society’s head quarters in London called:
“My Ancestors Came from the Channel Islands”
It had previously been scheduled for the end of the month and has now been brought forward to 24/10/2015 10:30 – 13:00 – So anyone who hasn’t realised this yet and who intended to go then make a note in your diary that this course has been moved from its original date of 31 October.
If you have forbears form this part of the world and want to learn more about how to research them then as I write this they still have some space.
On which of the Channel Islands did your ancestors originate?
Are your cousins still there?
This half-day course will cover sources of genealogical and historical sources of information about Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The course will include data that can be accessed in the Society of Genealogists library, online and on the islands in archives, libraries, registries and museums. Relevant contact details of historical and family history organisations will be provided.
with Dr Colin Chapman.
Books on Channel Island Ancestors
Pen & Sword books have the following editions of Marie-Louise Backhurst’s comprehensive book on Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors for sale. Check out the different editions with these links:
Its May the 9th and here in the Channel Island of Jersey it is the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of this island from the Nazi occupation.
As a child, in 1960s Jersey, I grew up understanding the importance of the day to many of the people around me who had lived through the German Occupation.
As I have grown older, so many of these people have sadly passed away. I felt, this morning, that it was important for me to go to what is now named Liberation Square, but was then known simply as the Weighbridge and to stand witness for all those that I have known who lived through the five years under the swastika.
At the re-enactment of the first raising of the British flag on the Pomme d’Or hotel, I found the commemoration very moving especially as covering the scaffolding on the next door building site is a blown up image of the actual raising of the Union Flag on the hotel that had served as German Naval Headquarters.
This afternoon has seen a visit from H.R.H The Countess of Wessex and a sitting of the States of Jersey (the legislature for the Bailiwick) in her presence. It was held in the open air in People’s Park the setting for the first anniversary of the Liberation. But the most moving part was a bit of theatre where some of the island’s youth told the story of the occupation, relating stories about real people who lived through this era.
It is this social history that is so important to family history and so it is appropriate that I conclude this weeks post by mentioning the unique pictorial records of over 30,000 people who lived in the island during the war.
Family history researchers searching for family who lived in Jersey during the WW2 German occupation can now download their registration card, which includes a photograph of their ancestor, in this fantastic recently made available online resource from Jersey Heritage.
The collection, which has been recognised by UNESCO for its importance and has now been digitised and added to the Jersey Heritage website by Jersey Archive, gives access to 90,000 images that can be searched for free at the link below:
It is free to search, although there is a fee of £5 to download a card. Researchers with Jersey family may wish to take out an annual subscription for £30 to make the most of other resources, including thousands of historic photographs, many with named individuals.
I was back in the area of Jersey where I grew up today.
It was not my family history that I was researching, but ancestors belonging to someone else.
I had received a request to take a photograph of the house in which my contact’s forebears had lived and so I went to my computer and opened TheGenealogist.co.uk and looked up the head of the household in their Channel Island records.
This site has some “Jersey Almanacs” which are very useful trade directories for the islands and soon I was on the trail.
The Genealogist also has the full run of census data and images, which I next used to quickly find the person in question.
Unless you are new, to family history research, then you will be aware that the census collections are also available on Ancestry and Findmypast as well. I tend to use all three sites, as sometimes the transcription on one may help me better locate a person with a difficult name spelling.
In the 1901 and 1911 census it was quite plain that the family in question lived around the harbour at St Aubin, in the parish of St Brelade. The census in each case clearly gave the name of the house, though it was different in 1911 from 1901 so there was the possibility that the family had moved a very short distance. Either that or they had changed the name of their house.
So a simple task, you may think. All I had to do was pop along to the road in question and snap a building. Even if the house name was no longer visible, or had changed, there was bound to be a property in the road that had retained its name and I could use as a reference point. All I would need to do is count down the houses from that one.
Oh that it was so easy! You see the harbour front has some alleyways off it and these had different road names today from the ones used in the census. It seems to me that the parish has gone back to using the older French names for these roads from the Anglicised ones used in 1901 and 1911.
Another problem was that off these alleys were some semi-detached cottages, some of which are reached via foot paths. Also there were a set of steps, leading up to the steep Market Hill that rises behind the harbour, on which three more un-named cottages perched.
Both of the census records ignored the Methodist Church, that sat in the middle of the harbour frontage between one of my reference properties, as is to be expected if it had no residents to be counted. But it was also obvious that, in times past, some of the other buildings would have been warehousing, or other uninhabited commercial buildings and so these too were not enumerated. This made my task of counting down the houses to the ones for which I was searching, difficult.
I consulted the “Description of the Enumeration District” as in some cases this can give you a good idea of the enumerator’s walk. In this case it mentioned the names of the roads, in general, but did not explain how he had dealt with buildings set behind each other or to the side.
By finding some more reference buildings, that is those that have retained their names through to today, I was able to tie down the house in the 1901 to being on one plot. I am not certain that it is the actual building as it may well have been built later, it not having many of the period features of its neighbours to give away its age.
So only a partial victory for family history research this week, but the Description of the Enumeration District can be a useful tool elsewhere and browsing through a road on the census can often be illuminating in other ways. Sometimes you may find more members of the family living close by and a child missing from one house in its grandparent’s or Aunt and Uncles. I remember finding this in my own family in Plymouth.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above when discusssing the resources of:
With a little time on my hands this week I’ve been researching my late Godmother’s family, the Kerdals who ran a very successful shop in St Helier that went under the name of Maison Kerdal from at least the year 1893.
Monsieur and Madame Kerdal were French nationals who moved to Jersey, met and married in St Thomas’ church and set up a general grocer’s shop in St Helier. They then had several children including my godmother, whose nickname throughout her life was “Mimi”, though it bore no relation to her given names of Julia Marie Felicite.
Mimi, I can remember, had many tales to tell of her family and its business and at the time she was living I paid only a passing interest. It is so often the lament, of family historians, to claim that they wished they had taken more notice of these stories told by their seniors when alive, and in this case I can confirm that I again fall into this category.
So starting from my hazy recollections of Mimi’s remembrances I thought it was time to take a look at what records survive.
One of Mimi’s stories, that I recall, was of her saying that as a girl she was not at all interested in working in the shop and was once left in charge of it, in her parent’s absence, and simply threw the money given by the customers onto the shelf under the counter for her parents to account for on their return! This was recounted with a wicked grin on her elderly face as she felt sorry for the trouble she caused her parents.
Another memory was that her father moved the business, in the late 1800s, to a corner opposite the General Post Office in Grove Place, St Helier and then, when the GPO moved to Broad Street, he moved the family to live above a grander shop on the King Street/New Cut corner so as again to be close to the footfall that the Post Office provided.
My investigation, this week, began online at TheGeneoligist.co.uk to use their master search and found Julien Kerdal in the 1889 Kelly’s Directory of the Channel Isles at 7 Burrard Street in the trade of Wine and Spirit Merchant and in the 1911 Kellys listed as a Grocer at 45 King Street and again in 1939 as Wine and Spirit Merchant.
In the 1901 census, on TheGeneoligist, M.Kerdal has been listed as a Potato and Butter Merchant and in the 1911 in his own handwriting he has stated that he is simply a Grocer.
Mimi, meanwhile, was a boarder in 1911 in a convent school in Wales run by a group of French Nuns.
I then took a walk to the Jersey Archive. Here I looked at the parent’s Aliens Registration Cards (the children, being born in Jersey, were British and had no need for cards), the rates books to determine when each move was made, the death indexes – provided by the Channel Island Family History Society – to find when they died and where they were buried and the actual will testaments.
Armed with the information, I had gleaned, I was able to visit the sites of their various shops as they moved from Bath Street, to Burrard Street and then to King Street – the main high street of St Helier. I was able to pay a visit to the Almorah Cemetery, above St Helier, to find their graves and notice how so many are unloved and damaged by the years of rain and growth of holly and ivy.
Family history is an absorbing pastime when you mix together the dates, names and information that you obtain from a data collection, with a visit to the actual places where your forebears tread. It is then that it comes to life.
Check out the powerful Master Search tool that is a particularly different feature of TheGenealogist.co.uk where all the records on their site are easily accessible at the click of a button.
Allowing you to use one simple form to search across millions of records, including Parish Records, Wills, Newspapers, Census, Non-Conformist Registers, and more, I used this to research the Kerdal family online.
The simple to use interface allows you to search for a person, family, or an address, incorporating the previous searches such as the Family Forename Search, House & Street Search, and Keyword Master Search.
Disclosure: The above links are compensated affiliate links.
I’ve been looking at my house history this week and in particular the people who lived in what has become my home, way back in 1901 and 1911.
To do this I went to TheGenealogist.co.uk and selected that I was looking for an address and then the 1901 census and the palace, in my case Channel Islands as I live on the outskirts of St Helier, Jersey in an area called First Tower.
From my own research I know that the house was only built around 1900 and was near to what use to be a railway station. The railways are long gone from Jersey but around the turn of that century the Jersey Railway ran along the seafront from St Helier to St Aubin.
So it was no surprise to find that the occupants of my house worked for the railways.
In 1911 the head of the household was a 29 year old Ship’s Cook working for the Marine Department of the Railway Company and was born in Portsmouth. His wife was a 24 year old Jersey girl and they had a one year old son. The head’s brother, a single man from Portsmouth, lived with them and worked in a wine and spirit works. To complete the household they also had a boarder as well. Five persons crammed into this small seaside cottage must have been difficult for privacy.
The boarder was another railway worker, a Loco Engineer Foreman from Durham. He was slightly older than the others at 34 and was married, but no sign of his wife in this property. Perhaps he was working away from home to earn a crust?
One of their near neighbours was a Railway Clerk thus indicating to me how the railway was an important employer at this time.
If I look at the 1901 census my house is not yet inhabited, but the neighbours include a Telephone Company worker and a manager of some sort; but no railway workers!
Having found this interesting I may now go and look at some of the other places I have lived in England and Jersey.
Have you looked into your own house history? Why not take a look at what you can find on TheGenealogist by clicking on the image below?
Disclosure: The links are compensated affiliate links that may result in me being rewarded by The Genealogist if you buy their subscription.
I’ve been on a little road trip around the UK recently. Some of you may know that I live in St Helier in the Channel Island of Jersey and so a trip to the mainland with the car on the fast ferry needs some planning.
Although having been born in Jersey ( not “on Jersey” if you are an islander, you’ll understand) my family roots, however, are north a bit in England and Scotland. Although my Scots line turns out to be Norman when you trace it back to the 12th century, but that is another story.
Last week, with the freedom of my own car, I was able to go to the County Record Office in Dorchester, the Guildhall Library in London, the Portsmouth History Centre in the central library there and many other places as well that were not especially connected to family history.
My purpose in the Guildhall library was quite specific. I was there to look at their extensive run of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. I spent a good few hours going through the old books looking for the details of an iron built paddle steamer to find the name of its Captain.
Now while I could have accessed copies online at the really useful resource of the Crew List Project website www.crewlist.org.uk/
What I gained from handling the actual books was a greater familiarity with their layout and content. I was able to read the rules and regulations that they set out for the construction of vessels and what was very interesting was to find that at the back of each register was a set of alphabetical pages that listed new vessels to the registers that year. If I had been searching online I would never have come across those extra pages of ships and so I could have missed an entry that was in the book after all.
A lesson to us all that not everything is online and also the value of the fantastic resource that an actual archive and a visit to one affords the serious family historian.
As to my other archive visits, I’ll talk about them in another post!
One of the tutorials in my new course the Family History Researcher Academy, is on the Merchant Navy. If you want to get on board, so to speak, its available at www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com
Hooray! This month’s Your Family Tree Magazine ( May 2013 Issue 129) has a feature on uncovering your Channel Island kin and it is very good.
Naturally, as a local – I am a Jersey-born resident of this most southerly point in the British Isles – I was immediately attracted to this article. I flicked through to page 34, as soon as I opened my copy.
You may have noticed that I say above “I am Jersey-born” and not that “I am a Jerseyman”. This is because, when you live here, you become aware of certain linguistic conventions that we islanders abide by.
To be regarded as a proper Jerseyman I would need to have not only been born here, but to have come from a line of Jerseymen and women that have roots here stretching back several generations. It is also best that those roots can be traced to nearby Normandy and that your name has a French origin to it. My roots and name just do not qualify!
I am the son of incomers, my father is English, and my Norman blood is courtesy of an ancestor called de la Haye who emigrated to Scotland from Normandy, around the 12th century, established the Clan Hay and has filtered down to me here.
I can, however, and do claim to be a local.
Within this blog I have several pages written by guest contributor James McLaren of the Channel Islands Family History Society that will complement the YFT magazine’s feature. Take a look at Jersey Family History for tips on researching in Jersey.
For the record, here in Jersey is how we refer to what goes on within our island. Locals may wince if you refer to “researchingÂ your family history onJersey”. We are, after all, a separate legislative jurisdiction.
We do owe allegiance to the English Crown – the successor to the Dukedom of Normandy and are British. We do not owe allegiance to England, nor are we part of the United Kingdom. We are a Crown Peculiar.Â So to avoid annoying Channel Islanders, do not insinuate that we are loyal to England, and then you will find that we are a friendly and welcoming bunch.
When I was a schoolboy, here in Jersey, I learntÂ a splendid repost to someone from the Mainland asking: “So how long have the islands belonged to England?”
The answer always was: “I think you will find that we conquered you in 1066.”
The logic behind this is that the Channel Islands are the last remaining part of the Duchy of Normandy that remains loyal to our Duke, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. That as Normans we conquered the English with Duke William. Simple!
Â Find out about Your Family Tree Magazine by clicking the image below:
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Your Family Tree Magazine should you sign up for their subscription.
I’ve received an up date from TheGenealogist.co.uk to say that we can now search a newspaper containing Births Marriages and Deaths from the time of the Occupation of the Channel Islands on their site.
A selection of issues that cover the period 1941-1945 are available from the time when some evacuated from their homes to England. To keep in touch the refugees produced this journal.
The background is this. In 1940 German forces were threatening the Channel Isles as they advanced across France and the British government consulted the Islands representatives. It was decided then that the islands were not defensible and so they would be demilitarised. A massive evacuation was carried out during late June 1940 and those residents of the islands that wanted to leave, boarded a flotilla of ships to the UK where they settled.
It is a matter of history that the Channel Isles were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during WWII and by the 1st of July 1940 they had surrendered to the German Army.
During the war ex residents kept in touch with ‘The Channel Isles Monthly Review’. These journals listed Births, Marriages and Deaths plus allowed islanders to keep in contact with friends and family. TheGenealogist has now included pdfs that can be searched in their newspaper section of the site and they promise that it will grow as new issues become available.
Just read the following excerpt for a flavour:
Nov 1941 issue “A young Jerseyman has escaped from Jersey. Three days and three nights in an eight foot boat without food.” This was his third attempt and he had previously spent four days on a rock that featured in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” . This attempt he managed to evade two German E-boats that nearly swamped his boat.
Conditions in the island weren’t good as the Jerseyman reported:-
“The food supply is not the best. Fuel is short. Income tax is 4/6 in the pound to pay the expenses of the army of occupation.”
He also said to the Times that food is rationed and very scarce with Jersey butter, cream and other products exported much against the will of the population.
“There is a total absence of fats on the island so there are no cakes or pastry etc. The curfew is at 11pm”
People used the review to publish excerpts from letters about relatives on the islands and give news of family members.
The selection of issues covers 1941-1945 and are available to Diamond subscribers.
Following on from the last article here I got a comment posted byÂ James McLaren of the Channel Island Family History Society regarding using Rate books both in his specialist area of Jersey family history research and also for London by using the Land Tax assessments and the Electoral Registers on Ancestry.co.uk.
As my interest was piqued I have done a bit more research on the subject and share some of my findings here.
A rate book is a document that was used to record the payment of property taxes that was applied to both residential and business properties in the U.K. until its replacement with the council tax during the 1990s.
As a resident of Jersey I am well aware that, in our island, Rates are still levied by our civil Parish administration along with a recent addition of an island wide rate collected at the same time. Some part of that rate pays for the upkeep of roads, lighting, bins emptied while a small part of it is still used to upkeep the ancient Parish Church in each of the twelve parishes of Jersey.
I was, therefore, interested to find that rates in England and Wales were originally a levy for the parish church that, by the time of Henry VIII’s Reformation, were also being used for non ecclesiastical purposes such as repairs to bridges and local goals. Many rates collections were to support the Poor Law to maintain the workhouses and provide money for the elderly or incapacitated parishioners.
The theory of rates was that a property would be assessed at what its annual rental value was and each year I am intrigued to see what my house in St.Helier has been deemed to be worth in rent – if I didn’t need to live in it, that is!
Returning to my look at rates collected in bygone England and Wales, some householders will no doubt have objected to the level of assessment of their property. Appeals were then heard by the Justices of the Peace.
The collection, of these land taxes, would have been the responsibility of the parish constable, until the establishment of professional police forces when a full or part-time rate collector would have done the job. It was up to the constable to record the payments, and any arrears, in rate books which were then perused by the parish officials.
My investigation revealed that the earliest rate books stretch back as far as the 16th century, but you would be very lucky to find one from then. Most seem to begin in 1744, which was the year when ratepayers were given the right in law to inspect the rate records. Needless to say not all will have survived the passing of time and so gaps will occur.
So where does one look for rate books? The answer is in the County or City Record Offices and also at local history studies libraries.
The websites that I use the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To Take your family history further I recommend that you too consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.
I have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.
I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.
Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.
At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of JoÂ»B| I jL C. Foord...
becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord…
And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.
As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.
To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to: