Four centuries of Jersey family records published online

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Four centuries of Jersey family records

published online


A typical page from an early 19th century burial register - not a copy made later in the century, but an original register

Since the beginning of 2017, people researching their family histories in Jersey have been able to see original records of their ancestors' baptisms, marriages and burials online. In co-operation with Jersey Heritage, Ancestry has added Jersey's Church of England records to their UK website and worldwide website.

The records are split into four data sets, which have to be searched separately.

  • Baptisms, marriages and burials records from 1540-1812
  • Births and baptisms 1813-1915
  • Marriages 1754-1940
  • Burials 1813-1940

The records are those from the 12 parish churches, as well as Gouray (St Martin) and All Saints, St Luke, St Mark, St Simon, St Andrew and St James (all St Helier). It is important to note that records are not available for the full 1540-1940 date range for all churches. Our page which provides advice on which family records may still be missing has a table showing the start and end dates for baptism, marriage and burial records for each of the 12 parish churches and the other seven Church of England churches.

Records you are interested in are most easily found using our Family Search facility, which allows you to find records regardless of parish or other churches and even if you are not sure of the correct spelling of names.

Page images

Most importantly, the new Ancestry collection of Jersey records features page images of all the original church registers, which can be browsed by Ancestry subscribers, allowing original handwritten entries to be viewed, many of them containing additional information to that included in the Jerripediabmd database. Ancestry have transcribed the entries to provide a search facility, but as indicated below, the quality of their transcriptions is so poor that many records will never be found through the search procedure.

Although those without subscriptions can access the Ancestry sites providing these records and search for an individual, and then use the pay-per-view facility to view the record, sufficient details are not shown to allow a record to be identified from others with similar names and the registers cannot be browsed without a full subscription.

And this process will still be frustrated if the transcription of the original record contains errors. These records can only be searched if a full surname, or a name with wildcard characters is entered, and if there is an error in the first three letters of a transcribed surname, the record will not be found.

Jerripedia search

Unfortunately Jerripedia cannot display the register page images, and with over 70,000 of these it would be impracticable to consider doing so, but a major effort has been put in during 2018 and 2019 to make our Family Search facility much more accurate. Our database now contains nearly half a million church records and we hope that our transcription process and stringent controls have eliminated the great majority of errors to be found in the Ancestry transcriptions. We don't claim that our transcriptions are error-free - that would be impossible given the near illegibility of some of the hand-written entries - we just claim that our knowledge of Jersey names ensures a much higher standard of accuracy.

Searches can be made for surnames beginning with any letter, for forenames without using a surname, for records between fixed dates, and for names sounding like the name being looked for. Searches can be made in the baptism data set for the father or mother of a child, in the marriage data set for bride or groom. Ancestry's search within the collection of baptisms, marriages and burials records from 1540-1812 is supposed to offer the facility to search for a type of event and in a particular parish, but our experience so far is that these filters do not work well.

Record numbers

Ancestry claims that the four data sets listed above contain a total of just under a million records. This is a gross overestimate, because in early records Ancestry have included original registers and later copies and they have have indexed each marriage record by the names of bride and groom and marriage and baptism records by the fathers as well.

Jerripedia promise

Whatever decisions researchers take about Ancestry membership, Jerripedia will continue to provide free access to the basic information, in a user-friendly format. We are committed to eliminating errors, and to correcting them quickly whenever they are identified by those using our search facilities. This has been happening on a daily basis since the new records were released and we have conducted our own review over more than a year to correct as many records as possible.

Typical errors

If you think we are exaggerating the level of errors in the Ancestry transcriptions, a few examples might help support our view.

  • We found an individual listed in a search for burial records as De Cette Paroisse. This is French for 'of this parish', and the burial register had to be studied to reveal that the deceased was a Mr Marett.
  • While searching baptism records for Le Sueur, we found over 100 records transcribed as Le Sneur
  • Bandains was as common as the correct surname; Baudains
  • Chevalier jnr was transcribed as Cheoalierijan
  • Le Blancq was transcribed dozens of times as Le Beveq, Le Broeg and other variations
  • Mauger was found 137 times as Manger in the baptism data set
  • Simeon Le Quesne was transcribed as Limeon Le Russed
  • Quesnel Larbalestier became Thesnel Sartalesh
  • Poingdestre became Paug LesIre
  • Le Boutillier became Doretillies
  • Priaulx became Ranly

and our favourite....

  • Bailhache became Dai Chacho

As amusing as some of these errors are, each means that a search for the real names would never find the desired records.

A very significant proportion of surnames and foreames in the Ancestry data sets have been wrongly transcribed and little effort appears to have been made since the records were added to make corrections. Some records which were originally correct now contain errors. If the continuing level of errors in Ancestry's census transcriptions is any guide, it will take a long time before their search facility is reliable.

Register contents

But at least those with access to Ancestry now have the opportunity to view for themselves the information that records contain about their ancestors. In the early years - indeed for most of the 16-18th centuries - the content was very limited. Often baptism records just recorded the name of the child and the father; sometimes not even the child's forename. Gradually Rectors began to record the mother's name, often noting no more than that she was the daughter of her father, named in the register entry. Eventually the mother's full names would be given, although even into the 20th century, as the records released recently indicate, some church registers recorded only the mother's forename, not her maiden name.

Researchers can often find valuable keys to tracing their family tree in the names of godparents. For a considerable time their identities were considered more important for parish records than that of the child's mother.

In the late 19th century and into the 20th century records began to contain more detail, such as the father's occupation and address at the time the child was born. Before the days of hospital births the child would almost invariably have been born in the family home.

It seems remarkable today, but it is a fact that early marriage records would often only name the groom and the date of his marriage, ignoring the identity of the bride completely. Later records would name the bride's father, and eventually it became standard practice to name both bride and groom. From 1842 the names of both the groom's and bride's fathers were recorded, and later on it became standard practice to name their mothers, too.

The content of burial records used to depend on the status of the deceased. A male head of houshold would simply have his own name recorded. His name would be included in the burial record of minor sons or daughter who predeceased him. A wife or widow would infrequently appear in the burial registers under her husband or late husband's name. It is not uncommon for a woman widowed twice to have both her husbands mentioned in her burial record. Sometimes, if she came from a different parish from that in which she died and was buried, her death would also be recorded under her maiden name in the parish register of her original church.

All of this valuable information - more valuable in some records than others, it must be said - is now available online to researchers who can first establish in which parish and on what day their ancestor's family event would have been recorded.

  • If you have used our Family Search facility to trace an ancestor and want to look for further information on Ancestry, we strongly recommend that you go straight to the relevant register, rather than using the Ancestry search facility to locate the page for you. There is a strong possibility that the record will have been wrongly transcribed and indexed, and corrected before being added to our pages, so you may never find it in the Ancestry index under the correct name(s).
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