Your Family Tree Magazine Features Channel Islands

 

Your Family Tree Magazine

 

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 “researching  your family history on Jersey”. 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. 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 learnt  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!

 

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The Channel Island Monthly Review

CI Monthly Review

 

The Channel Islands Monthly Review at TheGenealogist.co.uk

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.

November 1941
December 1941
January 1942
February 1942
March 1942
April 1942
January 1943
February 1943
March 1943
April 1943
May 1943
June 1943
May 1945

Take a look now and see this and other great data sets they have to offer at TheGenealogist.co.uk:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Jersey Marriage Records

Jersey FlagI was doing a bit of research, this week, on a person who had been part of an Army family that moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands, at the end of the 19th century from England.

From the 1891 census I could see that this young girl, aged 14, was listed as a Daughter and was living in the household of a Colour Sergeant and his wife in the Parish of St Saviour. By the time of the next census, in 1901, they had moved a few miles further east, within the island, to the Arsenal in the Parish of Grouville. The head of the household would seem to be listed as a Quarter Master Sergeant, on the permanent staff for the Royal Jersey Militia Infantry and his daughter as a Music Teacher.

Using the various online databases at The Genealogist.co.uk, Ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk, the next time that the daughter appears, in any of their records, was in the probate records for her mother back in England in the 1930s. From this we see that the daughter has married, revealing her new surname. But there seems to be no record for the marriage in any of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands are British Islands that are not, of  course, part of the U.K. and they have their own administrations and their own marriage registers.

None of the Jersey marriage records are online and so on one of my visits to the Lord Coutanche Library at La Societe Jersiaise, in St Helier, I took the time to consult their copies of the indexes to the island’s marriages. If you have read the guest post by James McLaren on this blog on Jersey BMD records after 1842 as part of the Jersey Family History Section, you will know that this is a somewhat lengthy affair as they are not kept quarterly, like in England, but are simply run until they are filled up. Indexing is alphabetical by the first letter of the surname only, being added to the list in the order that the marriages take place. Each parish runs indexes for Anglican and non-Anglican marriages and in St Helier, the town parish, each C of E church has its own index.

I was faced with the prospect of going through thirty or so indexes, looking for the chance marriage of this couple at some unknown date after the 1901 census. My best guess was to start with the Parish of Grouville, where she had been resident in 1901. Sadly, I had no luck and so I began the trawl through the different parish indexes until I hit St Helier.

There, in 1902, at the main Parish Church of St Helier, married by the Dean of Jersey, G.O.Balleine, was my research targets! It had taken me hours of persistence to find them and, with quite some satisfaction, I now noted down the details on my pad. I would need the Parish, the dates between which the index ran, the Page number and the bride and grooms names to obtain a certified extract from the Superintendent Registrar’s Office in the island, on payment of the required £20.  The time it had taken me to find them, however, meant that this office was now closed for the day. They are only open to the public on weekday mornings and then only when no civil weddings are taking place at the office.

The next day, however, I was able to request the certificate and collect it the day after. A speculative search had revealed the Jersey marriage of this couple in September 1902. A good result and another piece in the puzzle of this family’s research.

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Family History Data, Should It Be Free?

There seems to be a trait among many family historians who all seem to want information to be available to them at the drop of a hat, for free and provided instantaneously as well.

Now, I’d like to raise an argument that this would seem to  defeat the object of much family history research. Is it not the thrill of carrying out a piece of detective work, in order to find an ancestor after ploughing through the databases online and then visiting the County Record Offices in person to read page after page of parish registers on the microfilm machine, that makes this pastime of ours fun?

Certainly, a good few newcomers to family history seem to believe that all they will need to is log onto the web, enter a name into a search box and they will instantly find their ancestors going back to Adam and Eve. Many do not think that they should pay anything for this, as if the state has some sort of obligation to give them the information on demand.

I don’t know if you have you ever looked into the searches that are carried out on the likes of Google for keywords? Take “family tree” as an example. I’ve noticed that the number of people typing in a search on how to get their family tree for free, was quite high. It would seem that some people express the idea that as its “their family” that they have some sort of right to be given the research.

When most of the newbies, to family history, find that they need to pay for a subscription to a website, in order to progress, they either descend into rudeness, or give up before they even get properly started. This latter scenario being an absolute shame, in my view.

From my website I offer a tips and tricks email which gives the people, who have signed up to my list, valuable free content. At the bottom of the email I often have an advertisement for my paid for products and it amazes me that I get aggressive emails back saying things such as “I’m not made of money you know”. To these people I would just like to humbly suggest that they enjoy the 98% of the rest of the email, that comprises the free tip, and just try to ignore the advertisement for my products at the bottom.  Do they have such a problem with commercial television, I wonder?

Expanding the discussion a little bit more, I’d like to bring in the arguments of the Open Genealogy Alliance – http://www.opengenalliance.org/

As I understand it, they are arguing that our public records should be made free to view online. They make the point that, in a large number of cases, many public records have now been licensed to private companies. These business need to make a return on their investment and so the public can only gain access to the data if they pay for it. The OGA are challenging this idea, saying that the digital versions of, what are, public records are effectively being privatised.

In my opinion there certainly needs to be some sort of balance, the record offices and archives are all facing up to the shortage of funds in the present economic climate and perhaps we should all make a bit of an effort to go out there, whenever possible, and visit the various archives more often. A vicious circle where they many have to cut their hours, due to less visitors coming to see them and reacting to spending cuts could see the record offices and archives closed or amalgamated.

Until absolutely every record is available online, a situation that is never likely to happen, then we family historians should stop expecting instant records to be available to us at our finger tips. And, what is more, I do think that we need to get out of depending only on our computer and just go out there into the world to find the information for ourselves. Believe me, it really is much more fun that way!

What do you think?

The National Archives at Kew

The National Archives at Kew

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