This is a brief introduction to local family history to help you get started on your research in the Library. Specialist advice is provided by volunteer research genealogists, who are usually available on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. If you are inexperienced in family history research, it is best to plan your first visit when the volunteers are in the Library.
The library contains a substantial collection of published and unpublished family trees, and it is advisable to look at these first as your family history may already been recorded.
Genealogical records in Jersey differ somewhat from those in the U.K. because the island retains many Norman laws and institutions. Whilst always owing allegiance to the British Crown, many records are in French and you will need to become familiar with the commonly used words and terms. It must also be remembered that there are occasional mistakes, omissions and gaps which the modern indexes do not rectify.
The parish is the most important civil and religious jurisdiction in the island; all original civil, Church of England and census records are kept by parish. There are twelve parishes (in alphabetical order) :
- St Brelade/St Aubin
- St Clement
- St Helier (the town parish)
- St Peter
- St John
- St Lawrence
- St Martin/St Catherine
- St Mary
- St Ouen
- St Saviour
It is important to establish and note the relevant parish for any family history enquiry.
The civil registers started in Jersey in August 1842; civil registration began in the U.K. in 1837 and in Guernsey in 1840. The Superintendent Registrar keeps copies of all civil registers of births, marriages and deaths from 1842 to the present day; no copies are available in the U.K. They are kept by parish and are mainly in English; there is no all-island index. A leaflet about the Registrar's research facilities and his fees for copies of certificates is available from the Library staff.
The library has a microfiche index to the earlier volumes of the civil registers; it starts in August 1842 to about 1900 (depending on the parish). It is in three sequences (births, marriages, deaths) and is then sub-divided by parish.
There are several alphabetical sequences to a microfiche so you need to check carefully for a surname. Ask the Library staff for further help.
The household schedules of the official census records for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 are available for research on microfilm; a reader/printer is available from which A4 prints can be obtained (coin-operated payment; 10p. per print). The schedules are in English. Indexes to the censuses by parish and enumeration district were mainly compiled by the Channel Islands Family History Society (CIFHS) and copies are in the Library (bookcase 4). The PRO has published guides to the census (classmark 929.2) Other census transcriptions include General Don's militia censuses of 1806 and 1815 (bookcase 4).
Information in the censuses is not always accurate. Literacy was not widespread : surnames are spelt inconsistently and age and place of birth may be wrongly reported to the census enumerator. In particular the 1841 census rounded the age of an adult up or down to the nearest five years.
The CIFHS has published all-island surname indexes to the 1851, 1871, 1891 and 1901 censuses. These indexes and the transcriptions produced by the CIFHS can be found at the Jersey Archive. They are a useful starting point for research in the 19th century; the introduction to each volume explains the format. The Church of the Latter Day Saints has published an all-island index on microfiches to the 1881 census. The Société Guernesiaise has published indexes for the 1841 and 1891 censuses for the Bailiwick of Guernsey (Bookcase 4).
The parish registers of the Church of England record dates of baptisms (not date of birth), marriages and burials (not date of death) of the twelve parishes. The earliest surviving records start in 1540 (St Saviour) and are mostly in French. There are many gaps in the records, particularly during the Commonwealth period (1640-1660). Entries usually follow a standard pattern, though some parish clerks may have recorded more information than others (especially godparents). Following the French custom, a woman's maiden name was always retained after marriage; she may even be buried under her maiden name rather than under her married name.
The CIFHS has nearly completed indexing the original registers; the Library acts as a repository for the typed and written copies of indexes to the registers can also be found in the CIFHS collection located at the Jersey Archive. The indexes to each parish are mainly in chronological order followed by the surnames in alphabetical order; there may be several sequences to search. A maximum of 5 photocopies per person per day is permitted. The files are colour coded by parish. (Bookcase 5).
Certain non-conformist and Roman Catholic Church records have been copied or indexed. After the English Reformation French refugee ministers who were Calvinists served the local French-speaking population in the 16th and 17th centuries; Huguenot ministers also took refuge in Jersey during the French religious wars. After about 1792, Roman Catholics refugees from the French Revolution were permitted to hold services. Many Methodist chapels were founded in the 19th century. Records are in French or Latin, although the Catholic Church had churches serving both French-speaking and English speaking congregations. (Bookcase 5). Marriages of French citizens also took place at the French Consulate in St Helier; the archives are in London. Original records from the Methodist Church, United Reform Church and St Thomas' Roman Catholic Church can be found at the Jersey Archive.
The monuments in certain cemeteries and churchyards have been listed and indexed; however these have been done only selectively. The Superintendent of Cemeteries is responsible for all St Helier cemeteries and is hoping to create a database listing the graves. The other parishes are responsible for their own churchyards. (Bookcase 5).
The Jersey Archive was appointed as the official repository for all public records produced by the Lieutenant Governor, Bailiff, States Assembly, States Departments and Administrations, Courts and Civil Parishes under the Public Records (Jersey) Law 2002. Under the law, all archival public records over 20 yeards old should be transferred to the Jersey Archive.
The Jersey Archive is located in Clarence Road, St Helier. All catalogued collections are available to search online at http://www.jerseyheritagetrust.jeron.je/archive.html
Almanacs and rate lists are useful sources of information. The all-island almanacs date from 1785 to the present day; there are sets in French and English. Parish rate lists date from 1858 to the present.