The Channel Island Family History Society

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Channel Island
Family History Society

The Channel Island Family History Society was formed in Jersey in 1978 with the intention of having branches in Guernsey and the other Channel Islands, but it has remained a Jersey organisation

The society has been responsible for the transcription of large numbers of parish registers (most of these are held at the Jersey Archive) and other historical documents, and it provides volunteer support at the Archive for visitors. It produces a quarterly Journal and holds 11 meetings a year to present various aspects of genealogical and local historical research.


From the CIFHS journal of 2008 - the history is much out-of-date and will be updated when relevant information is forthcoming from the society.

The first meeting of people interested in their family histories was convened at Grouville Parish Hall in October 1978 by Alf Pipon and Marie-Louise Backhurst. At this meeting the following officers were appointed:

President: Marie-Louise Backhurst
Vice-president: Alf Pipon
Secretary: Ruth Egre
Treasurer: David Horman
Assistant secretary: Doreen Bisson

The original subscription was set at £4 for joint membership.

An inqugural meeting of the Jersey branch was held at St Lawrence Parish Hall in November 1978.

Meeting schedule

The society began having monthly meetings at the members room of the Société Jersiaise on the last Monday of the month and eventually established a pattern of the AGM in March, an outdoor meeting in July, no meeting in August and a Christmas party in December. To begin with members offered their services, and many still do, and gave talks and slide shows about their research and associated topics.

Several of the first outdoor meetings took the form of a walk around one of the parish cemeteries led by the late Robin Cox.

Whatever the form the meeting takes, there has always been opportunity for members to talk about their research afterwards over a cup of tea or coffee.


The society also decided to produce a quarterly journal. This began under the editorship of Roger Long, with the early ones being typed and consisting of only a few pages.

Later, as the society entered the computer age, Alex Glendinning brought the Journal to a new standard and it received the Federation of Family History Societies Elizabeth Simpson Award for good content.

A prime function of the Journal was, and still is, to bring people together who are pursuing similar lines of research. To this end, Journal No 3 (Summer 1979) introduced the membership list which gave names and addresses of members and the names of families they were researching. This has continued to the present day.

Another feature of the Journal has been the list of 'strays'. These lists note people of Channel Islands origin who have married, died etc away from their native island and is a useful source for finding a missing ancestor.


Research and the means to be able to research have been paramount in the society's history. A research service by volunteers is offered at a reasonable charge. The researchers realised that, in order to make more efficient use of their time, materials for this purpose were needed. So began the transcribing and indexing of church registers, censuses etc.

Before the advent of Jersey Archive there were two possibilities for looking at these indexes. We were fortunate to have the use of a room at Hilgrove Books and later at Bokay. Volunteers were available to help.

Also, for several years, indexes were taken along to Trinity Parish Hall once a month, in the evening, so that researchers could go and work there.

It was also thought worthwhile to look at the cemeteries in more detail and the recording on monumental inscriptions began.


It was decided to publish census indexing work in book form so that it was available to a wider audience. The first one was published in 1994.

The 1891 census index was not the first book published by the society. The first publication was in 1991 when Family History in Jersey was published. The book gave the beginner useful guides on researching in Jersey. The de Gruchys of Jersey was the next publication, which later had a pamphlet of amendments, and a second revised edition. 1992 saw the publication of Eye on the Past Yearbook covering historical events in Jersey. A second similar book was later published, as well as one about Guernsey. These were followed by Did your ancestors sign the Jersey Oath of Association Roll of 1696?, the 1851 Census of Jersey, the Le Quesnes of Jersey, the 1871 Census of Jersey and the 1901 Census of Jersey.

The Jersey branch and the Channel Islands Family History Society became one society in 2003 and a new constitution accepted. A good rapport was established with Alderney where the late Peggy Wilson helped with research; latterly Eileen Mignot has helped out.

The membership grew steadily over the first 20 years. New members are still joining the society. Some have been members since the society's inauguration. Some people only join for a short while as they may only have a passing connection with the Channel Islands.

The society has held several successful exhibitions over the years. The first was at Les Freres Chapel in 1981. Various parish halls were then used as venues and relevant information on that particular parish was often available. Two particular exhibitions stand out as being particularly successful. 1995 saw an exhibition at La Société Jersiaise to celebrate the island's 50th anniversary of the Liberation. In 2000 a Millennium Fair was held at Highlands College with exhibits, research facilities, family trees and guest speakers. Another was held at Trinity Parish Hall to celebrate the society's 25th anniversary.

Jersey Archive

The original article in the Jersey Evening Post about the formation of the society called for the States of Jersey to preserve all their relevant records. A past president of the society, Henry Coutanche, sat in the States as a Deputy and was a prime mover to establish an archive. In July 2000 Jersey Archive was officially opened in Clarence Road. The society now have their collection of records in this building and provide a volunteer service during opening hours to help people with their reseach.

The society is represented on a local family history forum, which meets about twice a year. This body endeavours to encourage liaison between the CIFHS, La Société Jersiaise, Jersey Library and the office of the Superintendent Registrar. A leaflet is produced by the group to show facilities available, useful addresses etc. It also tries to make sure that research is not duplicated.

The society joined the Federation of Family History Societies early on in its life. One of the vice-presidents, Colin Chapman, has visited on several occasions. The federation endeavours to help with any problems that a society may encounter. At one stage we exchanged journals with many of the member societies to help local residents with any research they may have had on the mainland. This was eventually discontinued due to lack of use and also storage problems.

Life members

A recent idea has been to honour particular members with life membership. This was in recognition of work done or services rendered. The first three life members were Walter Le Quesne, Estelle Egglishaw and Tertious Hutt. Later Mr and Mrs Michael Vautier were honoured in this way. More recently these members have been acknowledged: Yvonne Le Riche, Henry Coutanche, Sue Payn, Mr and Mrs Doreen Bisson and Margaret Long.

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