Church records and Annual Bulletins go on line

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Two long-awaited developments in the availability online of Jersey historical records were announced during April 2015.

  • La Société Jersiaise have redesigned their website and it now includes digital versions of some of their Annual Bulletins dating back to 1875.
  • Jersey Heritage have added online access to a variety of records, including the register of personal details for identity cards issued during the German Occupation and indexes of parish church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials from the 16th century to 1842

Société Jersiaise Annual Bulletins

The annual bulletins of La Société Jersiaise have been published since 1875, two years after the founding of the Société. In addition to 'business' information relating to the operations of the Société, its membership and its accounts, the bulletins include articles on the activities of the Société's various sections, reports of members' outings to places of historical interest, and learned articles about many and various aspects of the island's history, geology and natural history.

Work started on the digital versions of the bulletins during 2013 when the Société's States grant was increased to cover the cost of recruiting a full-time professional librarian. Until this post could be filled it was agreed that the funds could be diverted to digitising the bulletins with a view to adding them to the Société's website. Although there were originally suggestions that these bulletins would only be accessible to Société members, or on a pay-per-view basis, it appears that it has now been decided that they should be freely to all on the website.

Initially only the first 17 volumes of the bulletin have been made available, covering the years from 1875 to 1958, plus the centenary bulletin published in 1973, it is presumed that the full set will become accessible in due course.

The bulletins can be loaded individually and scrolled through from front to back. Unfortunately the list of contents for each issue is at the end, and there is no link back to the start of the articles, but the whole set of bulletins is fully searchable using a very fast and impressive search engine, so that a search for any name or topic can be made in each volume of bulletins or across the whole set. The results are returned in a fraction of a second using a high-speed broadband link.

A sample page of Jersey Heritage family records, photographed in plastic sleeves in their ring binder files

We have to say that we have been very impressed with this new facility, although Jerripedia users will be aware that well over 300 of the most important historical articles in the bulletins have been available on this site for some time, with a chronological index, and links to and from Jerripedia's main menu structure and associated articles. Also, many of the early articles were written and published in French. The Société clung stubbornly to the use of French even after the Liberation in 1945. The bulletin that year was the first to publish the annual report for the previous year in English, and even into the 1950s the minutes of the Société were kept in French, and only translated into English for the bulletin in 1952. The following year the final article to be published in French appeared in the bulletin, and in 1957 its title was changed from Bulletin Annuel to Annual Bulletin.

All bulletin articles which appear in Jerripedia and were originally published in French, have been translated into English by Jerripedia editor Mike Bisson.

We will continue to add further articles to the site later in 2015.

Jersey Heritage

Sadly access to the records added to the Jersey Heritage website is not free. Registration involves an annual subscription of £30, reduced by £10 for those already members of Jersey Heritage or the Channel Island Family History Society. Pay-per-view access is available on a 24-hours basis for those only desiring limited access to download family identity card information.

It's not altogether clear exactly what this gives you access to, because, true-to-form, the Jersey Heritage Archive catalogue menu has a long list of subjects, most of which have no viewable content lying behind them. Far from everything on the menu listing has yet been digitised, and it is not clear what will be digitised within the life of an annual subscription.

On the day the new subscription service was launched, the Occupation identity card records were all accessible, and Archive staff were proving extremely helpful to those having difficulty locating their relatives' records.

But the church family records which were a key reason for many people to take out an annual subscription rather than elect for pay-per-view, were largely unavailable. Depending on which direction you approached the desired data from in the mire of what is essentially a catalogue system for professionals, you were likely to end up going round in circles. Within days' however, it seems that many of the Channel Island Family History Society indexes to the baptism, marriage and burial records, have been added, but only trial and error identifies what is there and what is not.

And despite the fact that only about a dozen pages seem to be attached to each section of the index, they can take minutes rather than seconds to download; and that without a download failure which requires starting again.

Jerripedia records

All this brings back memories of 2012, when the same records, in sets of hundreds, first appeared (apparently in error) on the Jersey Archive website, and could take hours to download, if the attempt was successful. This was when Jerripedia editors started on the task of presenting the records in more user-friendly form, and today nothing has changed. They are all available in A-Z indexes in Jerripedia's Family records section, and fully searchable in our associated database site.

An enormous amount of work has gone into processing the records for Jerripedia, interpreting abbreviations, translating French terms and generally making them more easily and more rapidly accessible to researchers, and we are proud to be able to continue to offer this service entirely free of charge. And, as an added bonus, our database colleagues can also supply the same page views as Jersey Heritage, for baptism records.

You pays your money and you takes your choice, as the saying goes!

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