How many surnames?
Acording to a survey carried out by Charles Stevens in 1970, using a variety of historical sources and the Jersey telephone directory for that year, nearly 2,000 surnames had featured in Jersey records, and that excludes the mass immigration from Britain since the Second World War , followed after the survey by Portuguese and Polish, among others.
Stevens’ survey, in typescript form, is to be found in a bound volume in the Jersey Public Library, and also in the Lord Coutanche Library of La Société Jersiaise.
It is of such fundamental interest to Jersey family historians that it is reproduced here in full, together with the compiler’s introduction and list of sources . The names are listed alphabetically, a page for each letter, accessible from the index below:
The variations in spelling of surnames are grouped under the initial letter of the most common, which may mean undertaking some searching before you find exactly what you are looking for. Some of the links between names are open to question. For example, the common English surname Ball is unlikely to have the same Normandy derivation as Baal, but they have been associated in Stevens’ list.
This index was produced from a very stained carbon copy of Stevens work, annotated in poor handwriting (presumably by the author) and this has made it difficult to scan and digitise. Every attempt has been made to keep the index true to the original. The very rare obvious typographical errors have been corrected and illegible annotations ignored.
A list of sources for the names and dates appears at the bottom of this page. It is noticeable that this does not include the parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, which were not transcribed until some 20 years after Stevens produced his list.
In 2022 we embarked on a process of adding names to Stevens' list. It became apparent that there were many families established in Jersey for some considerable time and still present in 1970 (many still present in 2022) that had somehow escaped his research. We are adding these names to the alphabetical listings as time permits.
Please note that in order to group variations of the same family name together, prefixes such as du, de la, Le, La L' were ignored by the author in establishing the alphabetical order for his list. So, for example, Le Breton will be found indexed under B; Heaume and du Heaume will be found together unhder H; de Ste Croix is under S.
Where variants of a name are found with different first letters, the set has been indexed under the more common variant and there is no cross-referencing.
This is an attempt to catalogue the surnames of Jerseymen from the earliest times to the present day; that is, the names of those whose home, by birth or adoption, has been Jersey; but excluding the mass immigrations from Britain since the Second World War.
The surnames are collated from ducuments beginning with the Cartulaire, which contains pre-Conquest material, and ending with the 1970 Jersey telephone directory. It is an impressive list of authorities, but should not be considered exhaustive. The Extentes, for example, are mainly concerned with men who owed dues to the Crown, and the Assize Rolls with those who had infringed the law.
Dozens of island families which fell into neither category flourished in the early middle ages without betraying their existence on contemporary parchments; and a certain number of them, after surfacing for a chance mention in one of our lists, submerged again for five centuries or so, to reappear once more among the telephone subscribers of today.
They are every bit as genuine Jerriais as the more expensive people whose names sparkle in the armorials and the history books. There ought to be a great many more of them, but the 14th century sadly depleted their ranks through epidemics and war casualties.
The earliest names with reliable documentation go back to a decade or two before the Norman conquest of England. But with a little imagination one may retrieve echoes of the names of even earlier Jerseymen. There is Andwarith, for instance, Chief of the Island in 787, and his predecessor Boso in about 600; while in 565 the most prominent Jerseyman was Loyescon, whose name may survive in that of Robert Losce le Rey in 1234, and a memory of his queen in the name of William Genere Regine or Genceraine (of the Queen’s lineage) which alpears at the same date.
Then there was the cripple Anchitil whom St Helier healed in about 550, a name surviving to this day as Anquetil. And at some time in the Dark Ages a Scandinavian pirate named Geirr became so important that Jersey, which by rights should still be called Andium, became Geirr’s Island. It is a pity we have no fuller details of the deeds, and the names, of these famous Jerseymen of the dark past.
This catalogue contains about 1,900 names, of which about one half are still in use today. Among the most generous contributors to the total are the Extentes of 1607 (880 names), of 1528 (480) and about 350 names each from the Extentes of 1331, 1668 and 1749, and the Assize Rolls of 1299 and 1309.
The spelling of names, which has not settled down until quite recently, presents infinite variety, according to whether the writer was a Jerseyman or Englishman, and writing in Latin, English or French. Some of the English attempts to put Jersey names on paper are rather weird, but can give useful clues as to how they sounded in an English ear. Too much reliance need not be placed on the name forms in the present text of the 1299 Assize Roll, the indications being that some of them have been misread, or translated into their modern form.
Nor can one always guarantee the work of transcribers of other documents. The letters U and N, and U and V, have always been difficult to distinguish in manuscripts, and in the Middle Ages V and W were interchangeable at the beginning of a name. You could sign yourself Vautier or Wautier at choice.
Origin of names
As the authorities on this subject tell us, surnames began in the early middle ages, the oldest being personal or font names handed on by a parent to his child, in the genitive case if it was in Latin. Thus the son of Philippus would be called Johannes Philippi, or Jean Philippe.
Then came the large group of names indicating place of origin, prefixed by le or de; we have le Gerseul (the manof Jersey), de Gernereye (the man of Guernsey), le Serquais (the man of Sark), and even de Ekerho (someone exiled to the Ecrehous). Within the island we have Laureneys (of St Lawrence) and Martinier (of St Martin).
Further afield we find le Francois (Frenchman), Gallichan (of Galicia), le Gascoign (the Gascon), Langlois (the Englishman), le Gallais (Welshman) le Irish, and le Cornouaillais (the Cornishman), this last label surviving in the name le Cornu.
There are men from Boulogne (de Bullone), from Calais (de Calais), Nantes (Ie Nantais) and Navarre (le Navareys). England provides a de Glocestre, a de Hamptone (a Southampton man, assimilated in Jersey as Hamptonne), a Hasteng, from Hastings (becoming the Hastains family), a Londoner (Londomoys), a Sevenoaks man (de Sevenok) and a man from Winchelsea (founder of the de Vincheles family). Side by side with these place-names is a group of names showing that the original bearer lived near a cliff (de la Falaise), at the pond (de La Mare), at the monastery (du Moustier) or at Mont Orgueil (du Chastel).
A lively fraternity of names tell us how the original owner spent his time. The same thing is still found in Wales, where the postman is still called Llewellyn the Post. One meets Le Carpentier (the carpenter), I 'Enginour (the engineer) Ie Feuvre (the blacksmith), Ie Machon (the stone-mason) Ie Sueur (the cobbler), Ie Marquand (the merchant), Ie Marinel (the seaman) Ie Segrestyn (the sexton), le Lerre (who dld not distinguish between meum and tuum), Heraut (the herald), Ie Sauteur (the acrobat), Ie Palfraieur (who looked after the saddle-horses) Larbalestier (the crossbowman) and Ie Skir¬misseur (who must have been a pioneer in skirmishing). There is a band of men whose ancestors had wolves to deal with, among other hazards of life: Bouteloup, Ozouf, Surcouf, Renouf among others. A man named William Cock the Archer, of great consequence in his day, keeps on appearing in the papers. At least two men were known as the Champion (Campio, or Champeneys).
This leads on to an entertaining collection of nicknames. Anything which singled a man out from his fellows, especially if you could laugh at it, was ripe material for this type of surname. Beards were an obvious target. If your beard bristled like a stable broom, you would be called Brussebarre. If you were getting on in years, you were a Blancbebarbe. A younger man might be a blackbeard (Nereberd, a name surviving in the fief of Nobretez). Anything else about you which arou¬sed comment could becooe a nickname. If you had a sing-song voice you became Ie Kukku; crafty, you were Ie Goupil (the fox) touchy, you were le Herissier (the bristling hedgehog); strong, your name was Ie Lion. If you put on airs above your station Iyou became a bishop (l'Eveque) , a duke (Ie Duc), an emperror (Lempriere), the King (Ie Roy) or even, in extreme cases God (Ie Dieu).
A good boxer night be called Fierbrache (proud-arm); Curtnes must have had a snub-nose; le Gros was too fat, l'hermite kept too much to himself; Laffoley was off his head. The Malets must have had a curse on them; the Malnourris never had enough to eat; the Messervys never had a square deal. La Cloche limped. Torte-chavate had a twisted jaw. A clergyman named Papans-animas or Pape-les-Ames used to commend your soul to God the Father when you wanted to talk about something else. Osanne's mother must have been born on Hosanna Palm) Sunday; the girls of the village may have invented Percecoeur as nick-name for some local Adonis who never came to the point of marrying them. Poor l'Utlagh was evidently outlawed in days gone by; Last, but not least, is a man who used to say he would put off his bath until tomorrow. His contemporaries called him Bans Ie Demaigne.
There are a number of English names of long standing: Grant Gray Hales Hicks , Hamilton, Hopper, Hutton, Hughes, Nicholson, Read, Richardson, Selous, Walsh and Whiteley. Older English names may have crept into this catalogue from the Gorey garrison muster rolls of 1338-43, but in this compartment I have tried to sort out the Jersey from the overseas contingents.
The list of Rectors and priests may also have insinuated a few names of English or French extraction, and successive waves of refugees from both sides of the Channel may have dropped a few un-Jersey names into these pages. It is difficult to be sure. That there has been a steady intake from Brittany is obvious from all the names beginning Ker- (Kergozou, Kerhoat, Kezourec) and ending –ec (Le Pennec, Le Rrouillenec).
The catalogue makes some interesting additions to the list of ‘dit’ names, the bearers of which seemed unable to decide whether their real name was, for example, Durell or Le Vavasseur; le Roux or le Petevin. This indecision goes back for seven centuries or more, appearing in Latin as ‘’alias’’ and earlier as ‘’dictus’’. A Payn in 1306 is written as ‘’dictus Paganus’’ (known as the heathen).
In Russia today a wife is accorded the feminine form of her husband’s name, and this practice was common in Jersey in the middle ages. For example, Bandinel’s wife was la Bandenelle; le Caumais’ was la Caumaise; le Dubbeour’s was la Duwer; Varengot’s was la Warengotte.
(Editor’s note: Charles Stevens’ view of the derivation of some of these names is not necessarily shared by others. For example, the general feeling is that Le Cornu is derived from an ancient French word meaning ‘disagreeable’. Alternative versions for the derivation of other names will be found in the Jerripedia family pages.)
Names in capitals are to be found in the 1970 Jersey telephone directory.
I also bequeath a conundrum. Under Metere and Miere you will find An Mayteer and An Myre (assuming the names are transcribed correctly) in the year 1299. What is this ‘An’? Is it a prefix which Jerseymen once used to introduce their names? You have Andwarith, Anfray, Angare, Angot, Anley and Anquetil. You even have the original name of Jersey, Andium. Did ‘An’ mean something in the Dark Ages? If so, what?
- The Cartulaire
- Exchequer Rolls of Normandy 1180
- Lettres Closes (Close Rolls) 1205-1327
- Extente 1274
- Ancient petitions 1290-1454
- Extente 1292 (in part)
- Assize Roll 1299
- Assize Roll 1309
- Extente 1331
- Mont Orgueil garrison rolls 1338-1343
- St Saviour parish registers 1461-78
- Du Costil documents in the Marett papers
- Report of the Commissioners 1515
- Extente 1528
- Extente 1607
- Extente 1668
- Extente 1749
- Lists of Bailiffs, Jurats etc
- Parish muster rolls
- Lists of priests in Collas notebooks
- Frank Le Maistre: lists of names in Bulletin of Assemblie de Jerriais
- De la Croix
- Annual Bulletins of Societe Jersiaise
- G R Balleine
- Jersey telephone directory 1970 
Notes and references
- ↑ The author did not explain how his use of the 1970 telephone directory squared with the exclusion of post-war English immigrant families
- ↑ This list makes it clear that the survey largely covers the period from 1180 to 1749, ignoring immigration to the island from the United Kingdom in the first half of the 19th century and France in the second half. While the use of the 1970 telephone directory helps identify those families remaining in the island at the time of the survey, it does not help with the question of when they first arrived
- ↑ It should be noted that the author did not reference 18th and 19th century census returns, Aliens' registration cards, both of which would have extended the range of French surnames, nor almanacs and German Occupation identity card records