Jersey, Channel Islands Genealogy
As well as the main island of Jersey, the states includes the nearly uninhabited islands of the Minquiers, Écréhous, the Pierres de Lecq and other rocks and reefs.
Historically, the islands have been under the control of Brittany, Normandy and France. The government, the Assembly of the States of Jersey, came into existence in the 16th century but its origins go back to much earlier times.
The capital is St. Helier. The population of Jersey at the 2011 Census was 97,857.
Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom. Its membership of the European Union is governed by Protocol 3 of the UK’s Treaty of Accession to the European Community. In general terms, the effect of Protocol 3 is that EU rules on customs matters and quantitative restrictions apply to the Islands, but provisions relating to free movement of persons and services do not.
Getting Started with Jersey Research
The majority of records for family history research in Jersey are not online: critically the registrations of births, marriages and deaths after 1842 are only available in paper form from the Office of the Superintendent Registrar in St Helier - which means that any serious attempt at research will require either a visit or the services of locally-based researchers.
However, this does not mean that there is no data at all out there...
First and foremost there is census data: both Ancestry and Findmypast have copies of censuses from 1841 to 1911 online. Having said that, the OCR systems that they used to index the censuses do not cope terribly well with the rather unique challenges of Jersey personal and place names, so be prepared to think quite laterally about how you approach name searches.
A rather different (and later) form of census exists in Jersey Archive’s online public access catalogue (hereafter the Jersey OPAC). The largest document set in it is the 30000-plus identity cards issues by the German occupation forces in 1941 – these have addresses, names and dates of birth.
Searching for a name in the Jersey OPAC is a lucky dip exercise – you can’t be sure what you will find. You might find records of a will – and that will have a date when it was enacted, which is a helpful guideline to where to start looking for a death. You might find property transactions, or names entered in school logbooks, or possibly baptisms. Definitely worth a try.
There are military records. If you’re looking at Channel Island relatives who served in the First World War, it’s well worth investigating the website of the Channel Island Great War Study Group. Their list is rather more complete than transcripts of what’s in the National Archives simply because Jersey residents served not only with the British armed forces but also with the Canadians and Australians. There were also at least a couple of thousand French nationals who joined up with the French military, but records for them are rather scanty. But it could be worth taking a look at the French government's Memoire des Hommes website.
If you are looking at other periods (and bear in mind Jersey had a garrison to protect it from the French right up until the 1930s), you may find references to service in Jersey on the military records of Chelsea Pensioners kept on FindMyPast, or on the GRO Regimental Indexes of birth marriage and death.
There are scanned copies of Channel Island postal directories that may help to link a name to an address.
You may also be fortunate enough to find online family trees. Ancestry host them, as do Genesreunited, and there are also numerous independently-produced web sites. The general rule of thumb is to treat these as a guideline: they may be inaccurate, or they may tell the truth as far the researcher knows it – but not the whole story.
Jersey is divided into twelve parishes. All have access to the sea and are named after the saints to whom their ancient parish churches are dedicated:
- Saint Brélade
- Saint Clement
- Saint Helier
- Saint John
- Saint Lawrence
- Saint Martin
- Saint Mary
- Saint Ouen
- Saint Peter
- Saint Saviour
These parishes are further divided into vingtaines (or, in the case of St. Ouen, cueillettes).
- (helpful tools and resources, gazetteers)
- (language dictionary, handwriting guide or tutorial, etc.)
Did you know?
- Until the nineteenth century Jèrriais, a variety of Norman French, was the language of the island, although French was used for official business. Although today Jersey is predominantly English-speaking, Jèrriais survives and there have been efforts to revive the language in schools.
- The French writer Victor Hugo moved to Jersey in 1852 to escape the French government. He and his family lived near Le Dicq until he was expelled from the island in 1855 and sailed to Guernsey, before eventually returning to France.
- The famous actress and socialite Lillie Langtry (1853-1929) was born at St Saviour where her father was the Dean. She is buried in St Saviour's churchyard.
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