The true lineage of the Hemery Family

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The true lineage of

the Hemery family



This article by Trevor Labey first appeared in the 2002 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise


Though a great deal of time and effort can be spent in planning and effecting historical research, it is surprising how often serendipity, the tendency to find one thing while looking for another, can lend its hand to the discovery of intriguing new facts. Indeed, it was thanks to just such an accident that the true lineage of the Hemery family of Jersey was recently revealed. and the burden of mistaken assumptions finally thrown off.

Payne's Armorial

Before examining these new discoveries and their implications, it might be best to start with those very assumptions and how they came about.

Although the article on the Hemery family in James Bertrand Payne's work An Armorial of Jersey was fairly limited (being just an article and an engraving of the family's coat of arms), its opening paragraph may have been at the root of the problem, for it was there that Payne began: "Jacob Hemery, of the parish of Vidouville, Bishopric of Bayeux, Normandy, settled in Jersey at the period of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and was traditionally supposed to have descended from the Seigneurs of Villiers".

He then goes on to describe the manner in which members of the Hemery family posed for John Singleton Copley's Death of Major Pierson. However, despite the juxtaposition of Jacob Hemery with members of the Hemery family proper, there seems to be no explicit intention to imply that the two were one and the same. Therefore, it must have been Payne's intention (and, it could be claimed, the intention of his Hemery 'subscribers' also) to merely identify what was believed to be, at the time, the first person of that surname to set foot in the Island.

Even so, once he had been associated with his more enduring namesakes, and the more accessible Church records examined, it became the habit to assume that Jacob was the father of Jacques Hemery, the man who is without doubt, the earliest traceable ancestor of the Hemerys of Jersey. Their forenames are similar, and the times in which they lived certainly provide a plausible case for that assumption. Eventually, that assumption appeared in print, most notably in George W Croad's work, A Jersey Album.

For years afterwards this belief lay unchallenged, and, in the light of the known evidence, there seemed no reason to question it. However, an accidental discovery among the records of the Cour du Samedi in 1999 prompted further research and, with the generous assistance of Mrs Pat Neale (who has a similar interest in this family), resulted in the compilation of the following scenario.

Three arrivals

The principal contention of this new research is that there appears to be not one, but three ostensibly separate 'varieties' of Hemery to have set foot in the Island. The first Hemery in Jersey that can be traced in surviving records was not Jacob Hemery, but a citizen of Saint Lo by the name of Estienne Hemery who stood before Jersey's Ecclesiastical Court on 11 June 1687 to renounce the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Court's records it is claimed that while he had recently participated in its sacraments, he had been "constrained by the violence of the persecution in France to subscribe to and to participate in the errors of the Roman Church and its Cult". But, on touching Protestant soil, he had recanted and was now eager to embrace the 'true' Protestant faith once more. This renunciation was to be reinforced by a similar ceremony to be held at the Parish Church of Saint Helier.

From this statement one can only assume, therefore, that Saint Helier was his parish of residence. What happened to Estienne after that time is not known, nor, indeed, does there appear to be any evidence to identify him as a blood relative of the other Hemerys that settled in Jersey.

Although it may not have been the second 'variety' in purely chronological terms, the very fact that the family of Jacob Hemery petered out relatively quickly forces us to examine it next. Although we cannot be absolutely certain on this point, surviving records do imply that Jacob's daughter, Anne, was the first to settle here. What is more, she seems to have made her home in the parish of Saint Lawrence, for it was at the parish church there on 29 June 1703 that Anne Hemery, refugée, married Henry Le Cras, by all accounts, the son of Benjamin Le Cras of that parish.

However, her father Jacob might not have followed her to Jersey until some nine years after her marriage, both he and his first known wife, Louise Tancrel, standing before the Ecclesiastical Court to renounce the 'Superstitions and Idolatries' of the Roman Church on 24 March 1712. Said to have come from the Bishopric of Bayeux, their parish church in Jersey at that time would also appear to have been Saint Lawrence.

Within months after that time Jacob was effecting financial transactions, in particular, issuing bonds to local individuals in return for the extension of credit. Three of these items, dating from the summer of 1713 when a total of at least 1160 livres was lent to three local individuals, were the subject of litigation and were thus recorded.

Among the debtors was none other than one Benjamin Le Cras, undoubtedly the same character who was his daughter's father-in-law. Indeed, it may have been because of the closeness of their relationship that Benjamin became the first to benefit from Jacob's credit and, it would appear, to the greatest extent, Hemery, lending him at least 1000 livres.

Wife's death

Sadly, while he may have enjoyed some successes in his more material pursuits, on a more personal note things went awry for Jacob in the late autumn of 1715, his first wife Louise being laid to rest in the churchyard of Saint Lawrence on 28 November that year. Louise may have been ill for some time, and her passing expected, for Jacob remarried relatively quickly.

His new wife was Judith Williams of Saint Helier, a merchant in her own right, whose own efforts in the world of commerce had yielded decidedly indifferent results. She was thus no stranger to the proceedings of the Royal Court. The wedding was held at the Town Church on 26 March 1716, the record of the event providing us with the sole proof that Jacob was indeed from Vidouville in the Bishopric of Bayeux. Furthermore, after his marriage to Judith, Jacob seems to have chosen to stay in what must have been his wife's established home in the town of Saint Helier and remained there for the duration of his mortal existence.

Legal records provide us with a useful peek into his livelihood. In particular, a reference in the records of the Cour du Samedi dating from 28 September 1717 describes how Jacob Emery and Judith Williams, his wife, were being summoned to appear before the Court for the benefit of Nicolas Dumaresq, farmer of the Impots on foreign liquor. By all accounts, Jacob and Judith had failed to satisfy Dumaresq's demands and were now being compelled to declare, under oath, the amount of brandy they had sold since Michaelmas 1716.

It might be safe to assume, therefore, that Mr and Mrs Hemery dealt in liquor, though whether or not this was the only line of merchandise they handled is another matter. But, be that as it may, within some two and a half years, Jacob was dead and buried, his mortal remains being laid to rest in Saint Helicr's churchyard on 17 March 1719.

It is then that our Island's Court records come into their own and reveal the true fate of Jacob's estate. Within weeks of the funeral, his widow Judith stood before the Cour du Samedi to terminate her liability to her late husband's debts. A week later, on 16 April 1720, Benefice d'inventaire was granted to Henry Le Cras, in right of his wife, daughter of the late Jacob Emery.

However, it was not until a little ovcr a year later that on 22 April 1721, the inventorv of possessions and debts having been published four times, responsibility for the estate of the late Jacob Emery now rested in the hands of Henry Le Cras, in right of his wife, 'principal heir of the said deceased'.

Heirs dispute estate

But though Jacob Hemery may have been a wealthy man, the settlement of his estate soon proved a bone of contention for his heirs. In particular, while Judith Williams had renounced her share of her husband's liabilities, she still benefited from a share in his assets, the debts thus falling on the shoulders of her stepdaughter's husband, Henry Le Cras. Unfortunately for Henry, his attempt to force her to contribute towards Jacob's liabilities failed, the Cour de Samedi ruling, on 24 November 1722, that Judith was exempt, despite being in possession of 'considerable sums from the estate of the said deceased' in terms of bonds.

Moreover, having been sued for the sum of 131 livres by Edouard Lc Brun in January 1720, Judith seems to have been forced to address her own problems by selling the 1000 livres bond that Henry's father had issued in Jacob's favour back on 9 July 1713. The buyer was the more powerful figure of Jean Durel who, unfortunately for Henry Le Cras, proved only too willing to press his claims. Therefore. while Judith was sitting pretty on some B70 livres or more, Henry found himself obliged to either clear, or at least service, the full burden of his father's debts as well as those incurred by his father-in-law.

But the session of the Cour du Samedi held on 24 November 1722 provides us with more than just an interesting example of Judith's shrewdness, for in recording the details of the case, the clerks of the Court have provided us with a phrase which finally despatches any lingering suspicions that the Hemerys of Jersev were descended from Jacob Hemery, Quite simply, it states that the wife of Henry Le Cras was the 'only daughter and sole heir' of the late Jacob Hemery. Some six years after fter Henry was forced to accept his father-in-law's debts on behalf of his wife, he died, his remains being laid to rest in the churchyard at Saint Lawrence on 11 October 1728. A guardian for his children was appointed eight days after the funeral. His widow. Anne Hemery, surviving him by nearly ten years before her own burial in Saint Lawrence's churchyard on 24 September 1738. Therefore, what Payne would have described as Jacob Hemery's 'posterity' must have continued among Anne's descendants, the Le Cras family of Saint Lawrence. However, of all the characters in this little drama it seems to have been Judith Williams who proved the most enduring.

The registers of the Town Church reveal that the mortal remains of someone of that name were laid to rest in the cemetery there on 21 December 1740, what must have been this character's will of personalty being proved a few weeks later on 10 January. Although she never made an explicit statement to that effect, as one of the witnesses to this testament was none other than one Jean Durell, we may have some reason to believe that this woman was one and the same character as the widow of Jacob Hemery, Composed in August 1734, it is clear from the text of this document that Judith was incapacitated for some time before her death, already complaining that was she 'weak and feeble in body' and suffering from 'great infirmities and illnesses' at that time (though her handwriting seems to have been steady enough). Therefore, much of the wealth she had inherited from Jacob may have been consumed by her vital needs in the last years of her life, Certainly, her bequests were very minor: to the poor of Saint Helier, 6 livres, to her sister Esther, wife to a Mr Fiott, 10 livres, and the same sum to her niece, Marie Fiott. What remained was to go to her faithful companion, Sara Asplet.

Surviving Hemerys

It is now time to turn our attention to what turned out to be the sole surviving Hemery family in Jersey. This appears to have begun with the arrival in Jersey of one David Hemery, Though not as expeditious in his flight from Normandy as Estienne, he was still quite an early arrival, being listed only third in the Oath of Association Roll of 1696 for the parish of Saint Martin. As he was undoubtedly a merchant, one can only assume that his presence in that parish stemmed from his need to be near Gorey harbour.

In due course, he decided to move to Saint Helier, though he appears to have had some association with the neighbouring parish of Saint Saviour, where the young man who may have been his nephew, David Guillaume de Val Seme (the 22 year-old-son of Pierre de Val Seme by one Marguerite Hemery, was christened into the Anglican faith on 1 July 1714. David was chosen as the godfather, and the chosen godmother one Marie-Marguerite Bertrand, the widow Hallée. It may have been shortly after this time that his supposed relative, the young Jacques Hemery, appeared on the scene, perhaps as his apprentice. As David Hemery eventually died without legitimate issue, one can only assume that he was, perhaps, forced to look among his cousins for a successor in business. However, unlike Jacob (let alone Judith Williams), David seems to have kept within the bounds of the law, the only reference to him in the records of COur du Samedi being as a witness rather than a litigant. He died in the summer of 1730, being buried in Saint Helier churchyard on 12 of June that year.

Though he left a will or personalry behind him, composed on 14 July 1726, stipulating that he was to be buried in Saint Saviour, the document in question was not discovered until the summer of 1742, when it turned up in a bundle of old papers some 12 years after his death. His bequests were relatively modest. Fift livres were to be paid to each of his two Le Touzey nephews (born to another sister whose forename is not known). The eldest of these would have been Jean Le Touzey of Saint James in London, and the other probably Jacob Le Touzey, a sculptor and gilder living in the parish of St Giles-of-the-Fields in the same ciry.

As David Guillaume himself remarked, "what generally remains of all I possess, without exception or reserve', was to go to his dear friend, David Darthenay, who Hcemery had "always regarded as another self'. In the meantime, and in the absence of any instructions to the contrary, all hell broke loose.

First, on 15 June 1730, three days after the funeral, 'Monsr Jacques Hemery' was appointed administrator to the heirs of the late 'Monsr David Hemery'. However, when the news of David's death reached London, his most senior heir, 'Jean Le Tousey of the parish of Saint James, Westminster, in the County of Middlesex, Gentleman' , set about obtaining Letters of Administration from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury as the next of kin to what was then assumed to be the intestate David Hemery.

Clearly, these two claims conflicted, a legal dispute soon boiling up on that precise point. On 17 October 1730 Jean Le Touzey appointed Abraham Gosset, a Jersey merchant, as his attorney with the aim of pursuing his interests in this respect. Likewise, the de Val Seme brood appointed Francois Guillaume Le Maistre with the same purpose in mind. Thus Jacques, who may have been David's heir in business, now stood in direct conflict with David's next of kin, his heirs at law. Therefore, on 7 November 1730 the two sides appeared before the Cour du Samedi in an attempt to settle their differcnces.

However, if they were hoping for a quick conclusion to the matter they were to be sadly disappointed, for the case dragged on for over ten years. This seems to have been due to two factors. First, persistent 'lack of numbers' (manque de nombre), though of what is not stated. Secondly, there were the complications added by the intervention of David's creditors: Marie Scale, mother and attorney of Pierre-Daniel Tapin in his capacity as the eldest son and principal heir of the troublesome French merchant Daniel Tapin; and Gedeon Darthenay, a merchant of Chesterfield in Derbyshire acting in his capacity as heir to his brother, the said David Darthenay, who had since died.

Eventually, by a judgement of 4 May 1741, Jacques was ordered to relinquish all claims on the estate of David Hemery in favour of the deceased's next of kin, Messieurs de Val Seme and Le Touzey.

Naturalisation

In the meantime, Jacques had had other fish to fry. Besides pursuing his normal business interests, he had taken steps to have himself naturalised as a subject of the British King. As was the practice in Westminster, the States of Jersey introduced an Act to this effect on 19 November 1736. In this document Jacques was described as: 'Monsieur Jacques Hemery who has resided in this country for more than twenty years whence he came in his childhood, and where he did his apprenticeship as a Merchant, being born of French Protestant parents, and professing the Protestant and reformed religion, and communicant of the holy sacraments of our Church'.

Interesting though this statement is, it still leaves us bereft of any hint as to his more exact origins. For example, though his need to have himself naturalised as a subject of George II proves that he was born outside the British Isles, who were his French Protestant parents, and in what parish and province of France did they reside? Sadly, no such statement was ever recorded, nor, indeed, was it necessary in this context or any other local context. As aliens, his parents would have had no right to hold any form of realty in the island, a prohibition which precludes evidence from appearing in a number of the island’s legal records.

Moreover, while the records of the Cour du Samedi have been searched for mention of their inventory (in the same manner as the inventory for the estate of Jacob Hcmery) no trace has been found. Nor were they buried locally like their supposed relative, David. Therefore, in the absence of any explicit statement or even inferences regarding the precise identity of his parents, the likelihood of being able to take the Hemery lineage further back than this first Jacques, let alone establish his relationship to David, seems, at present, very remote. Furthermore, it is abundantly clear that neither documentary proof nor oral tradition regarding their identity and origins had survived by the middle of the nineteenth century, when Payne's work was compiled.

Admittedly, there was a library at Colomberie House, the family's principal home, which was later destroyed. However, it is extremely unlikely that it would have contained any lost treasures in this respect, for had they survived it is only reasonable to assume that their contents would have graced the text of the Armorial. Therefore, the most likely scenario is that Jacques' parents never set foot in the Island. Instead, he was probably indentured to the man who may have been his father's first cousin, David Hemery, while still a teenager. Thus, the comma which stands between 'whence he came in his childhood' and 'where he did his apprenticeship as a Merchant' may have been unnecessary. The two events may well have been simultaneous. Admittedly, to the modern mind the use of the word childhood (enfance in the French original) may summon up images of a child of school age. However, one must not forget that the concept of a 'teenager' was not in currency in 1736. Therefore, any male in the Island who had not reached the age of 20 was still effectively in his 'childhood'.

Nevertheless, once naturalised, Jacques soon made his mark in his community, laying the foundations on which successors would build. At the time of the 1730 Rates List he was still a fairly modest ratepayer valued at only 6 quarters, being then a resident of what would haw been the Vingtaine de la Ville. His only marriage was celebrated three years later at the Town Church on 20 October 1742, his chosen bride being Anne Elizabeth Chevalier, daughter of Clement Chevalier (1674-1719), Constable of Saint Helicr from 1717 -19 and a Captain in the local Militia. Her mother was Marie Dumaresq, daughter of Benjamin Dumaresq, Jurat of the Royal Court from 1679-81, and sister of Philippe Dumaresq, also a Jurat of the Royal Court and Seigneur of the Fief d'Annev1lle.

At Philippe's death without issue in October 1729, the fief was inherited by Jacques' mother-in-law Marie before passing to his brother-in-law, Clement-Benjamin, As Messervy and Croad have already indicated, Mrs Hemery was also a direct descendant of Jean Chevalier the diarist.

Court case over lost ship

However, a case brought before the Cour du Samedi on 20 June 1747,in the midst of the War of the Austrian Succession, also provides us with an interesting insight into some of Jacques' business ventures. In this case Jacques, part-owner of a vessel called The Anne, stood as the plaintiff, both on his own behalf and that of his fellow owners, suing both the commander (namely, Jean Valpy dit Janvrin) and the crew of the ship for negligence. Jacques demanded that they both repay the advances that had been made to them as well as £100 Sterling in damages, Valpy dit Janvrin and his crew having failed, despite the owners' clear and frequent instructions to the contrary, to leave Jersey at what 'Hemery and his Associates' had considered the best time for the safety of the vessel, Britain being then locked in combat with the French.

As safety was thought to lie in numbers, it had been the owners' wish that the Anne would embark in the company of another vessel, Le Rolland, commanded by Jean Pipon, in an effort to avoid capture at the hands of 'His Majesty's Enemies'. Unfortunately, owing to the 'negligence and disobedience' of the crew, the vessel was late in its departure from the Island and, travelling alone, fell prey to enemy forces, much to the owners' 'great prejudice and considerable loss'. Interesting though this little tale of ineptitude may be, what is even more intriguing was the vessel's brief to: 'fish at Grace Harbour Newfoundland', thus proving that, even at this early stage, Jacques Hemery had his fingers in the Newfoundland cod 'pie'.

Jacques was also well trusted by most of his contemporaries, there being instances when he was appointed attorney by both Jersey people living in England (George Le Gros, merchant of London, Anne Durell and Marie-Elizabeth Le Brun of Westminster) and Englishmen wishing to pursue their interests in the Island. Specifically, a grant of attorney was made out in Jacques' favour by John Goddard, executor to the estate of Stanley Goddard, also a merchant of London. Moreover, some seven and a half years after his marriage, Jacques also appears as a Lieutenant in the Southern Regiment of the Jersey Militia, but it was not until 1751, fifteen years after he was naturalised as a citizen of the Island, that his name finally appears in the ledgers of the Contracts' Registry as a party to a deed.

Royal Court contract

The contract in question was passed before the Royal Court on 4 May 1751 and concerns Jacques' loan of 400 livres to one Henry Le Feuvre, credit that was extended in return for the creation of two quarters of wheat rente secured on Le Feuvre's house and orchard. The only other deeds that were passed in his lifetime concern an investment of some 2212 livres in seven quarters of wheat rente, Jacques' involvement in retrait lignager proceedings, and the acquisition, by a deed passed on 11 October 1755, of a property known as Les Vielles Maisons de Stool. Even so, Jacques was not always as proper as these evidences suggest.

There was at least one instance in November 1753 when one Charles Alexandre, owner of the sloop Gratitude, felt compelled to sue Jacques for three guineas, being the remainder of a larger sum owed to Alexandre for freight, the aptly named Gratitude having been used to transport goods belonging to one 'Louis Weston' from Jersey to Salcombe. Jacques even failed to turn up at the hearing of the case.

Be that as it may, Jacques breathed his last in the spring of 1757, being buried in the cemetery at the Town Church on 27 April that year. He was survived by three sons: Jacques, Clement and Pierre, his eldest son, Jean Hemery, having died at the age of roughly ten months in May 1745. Sadly, there is no hint of his antecedents in the choice of his sons' names, for while it tended to be customary to name the second son after the child's paternal grandfather (so long as the name of the man in question differed from the child's father), in this particular case all of the children seem to have been named after their godfathers: Jean Pipon (Greffier) and Jacques Lempriere (Constable), Clement Faille and Pierre Daniel Tapin respectively. Therefore, there seems no evidence to suggest that Jacques treasured any nostalgia for his origins, being, perhaps, a man entirely preoccupied with the Island that had been his home for the best part of his life.

After all, Jersey may have given him a much better opportunity to prosper than would have been available to him back in France. Indeed, he may have been sent over in the hope that his childless, supposed relative David would be able to provide him with that very thing. Judging by his modest rating in 1730, it seems very likely, therefore, that Jacques' whole future and prosperity depended entirely on his ability to step into David's shoes, rather than any legacy he brought with him from his native land. From this, one can only assume that he was indeed David's close, but far more junior, blood relative.

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