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:
With the holiday season well and truly in swing, I’m on a weekend in London as you read this hopefully getting my fill of museums and heritage sites.
If you are like me and end up visiting parts of the country that you are unfamiliar with, then I’d recommend The History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 to you.
Not content with this current short break, I’m also planning another few days in the South of England in September, perhaps going to the Record Offices and archives there. Plus I’ve a visit to the Midlands in the next few months. Back in June I was in Salisbury and saw the copy of the Magna Carta that is on show in the chapter house of the cathedral there and visited some other historical venues while there.
The new History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 edited by Andrew Chapman and published by Heritage Hunter came out only recently and is invaluable to help people like me make the most of our visits.
The book is a comprehensive guide to almost 3500 places and organisations in the UK , the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Each of the entries provides the contact details and a brief description, many of which give specific information about specialist collections and all listed across more than 500 pages..
I recommend you use it to
research your family history: as the book includes details of county record offices and family history societies
find thousands of heritage sites to visit on holiday or for day trips
learn about special archives in museums and libraries across the UK, ideal for researching local, social or military history
Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?
Learn how to discover the many records and resources to find your forebears within
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.
If you caught the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? this week then you too were treated to a really interesting story.
It was that of Billy Connolly and in particular his ancestral links back to India.
His maternal great-great-grandfather was a soldier in British India who married the daughter of another British soldier. One who had seen the atrocities of the Indian Mutiny first hand and who himself was married to a young Indian girl at the time.
The Anglo-Indian aspect is another fascinating subject that could be examined in detail, but today I wanted to concentrate on the 1857 Indian Mutiny, as the British called it, or the First War of Indian Independence, as it is known to Indians.
What was good about this episode of the TV series was that it explained a bit about this historical time. There were brutal killings on both sides and it reminded me to go and look in my notes for an inscription that I had once seen on a headstone in one of the old cemeteries here on the other side of the world in Jersey, Channel Islands. There is no connection to Billy Connolly other than it is a person who also witnessed the brutality that his ancestor had in Northern India and the effect that it had on her.
Last year I was looking at some of the old Victorian monuments in Mont A L’Abbe Old Graveyard in Jersey when I came across this one:
Lavinia Fanny Kelly Hicks
Granddaughter of the above Mary Symons and the beloved wife of Captain W.J. Hicks H.M.E.I.S, who died at sea on her homeward voyage on the 28th of April 1858 in the 19th year of her age. Her constitution having been destroyed by the suffering she experienced during the mutiny at Allahabad.
So many other questions spring to mind from this.
This particular headstone can be viewed in its entirety as part of the Diamond subscription of TheGenealogist. This site has published photographs and transcriptions from several churchyards and cemeteries and I am told by my contacts at TheGenealogist that there are more to come in the future months.
Just search for Lavina Hicks and you can see the actual headstone that I was so moved by.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above.
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.
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.
I 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.
If you are trying to research your family tree in Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark or Herm then you’ll be pleased to know that Pen & Sword Books have brought out a useful paperback called: Tracing Your Channel Islands Ancestors. Marie-Louise Backhurst has written an expert introduction for the family historian tracing forebears from these islands which, while not part of the United Kingdom owe alligiance to the English Crown. Indeed, the author refers to them as being officially “Islands in the British Seas”.
For those who need to trace their family history within these self-governing smaller British Isles, where the laws and customs are sometimes very different from the “mainland”, then this work will point you to the wealth of material available to researchers in libraries and archives in Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. As an example, civil birth, marriage and death records are different in format from those in England and Wales. The family history researcher will also find that they are only available in the islands themselves and the book gives the reader full information on how to gain access to them.
Marie-Louise Backhurst sets out to cover the census data, church records, nonconformist registers, rating lists, newspapers, wills and inheritance, official records, as well as a variety of other sources which can help top flesh out a Channel Island ancestor’s life. As migration has played a large part in the history of the Channel Islands the details of these records are fully explained within its pages.
This authoritative and easy-to-use guide to these collections, and the authorâ€™s advice on how to use them and get the most out of them, will be invaluable to anyone who is trying to find out about the life and experience of an ancestor who lived in the Channel Islands, or was connected with the. Available from The Printed Word Bookshop and all good bookshops
Following on from the series earlier in the year on researching family history in Jersey, we turn our attention south to France.
Over the centuries there has been considerable immigration into Jersey from France. The principal waves of immigrants arrived firstly as a result of Huguenots fleeing around the time that the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685; secondly as a result of political uncertainty during the period after 1789; and thirdly as a result of famine and rural poverty in Brittany and western Normandy from about 1850 onwards. The last wave was the largest of the three, with some thousands of people arriving and settling â€“ and consequently there are a substantial number of Jersey families who have a French connection.
Aliensâ€™ registration cards (those issued under legislation passed in 1920 are in the Archive catalogue in series D/S/B, and the registers that accompany them are in series D/S/C. Those relating to French nationals present during the Occupation are at reference D/S/A/24)
If available, records of public bodies such as the courts, the prison and the hospital (all of whom would want this information for accounting purposes). These could be your best bet if your ancestors arrived in the early part of the third wave
French law set a series of benchmarks in 1803 as to what needed to be recorded to legalise registration of births, marriages and deaths, much as England did in 1837. Part of this was that every commune had to keep a book recording births marriages and deaths. The book would cover ten years: there would be an index to every year and an overall index for the whole ten year book. While the entries are numbered one-up each year and include births, marriages and deaths in a single numbering sequence, the indexes for birth, marriage and death are separate.
We are looking at the book covering 1843 to 1852 so we find it among the 17 books listed and click the image, then we click the image on the right-hand side of the page. This launches the viewer software.
We actually need to start not at the first page but at the last page â€“ the tables decennales covering all ten yearsâ€™ worth of entries are there. Working backwards we start with the deaths, then come to the marriages, then the births.
A more typical entry is that for the marriage of Jean-Pierre Le Gentil in 1844. There is a format to entries: each entry always begins with the date (and indeed the hour of day), and is followed by the name of the official and his credentials (usually the mayor). In the case of a marriage we then have the prospective husband, his date and place of birth, where he is living and the names of his parents. In this case his mother has died and the necessary papers have been presented to prove it. At the end of that you spot the phrase dâ€™une part; this means that what follows is the same details for the prospective wife. The rest of the documentation is the legal wording affirming that the marriage has been notified and legally witnessed, and also gives the names of the witnesses.