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Amiraux family page

This was the Huguenot family of two, or perhaps three of Jersey's early silversmiths, one of whom emigrated to Canada.

A c1750 porringer or loving cup by Pierre Amiraux,sold at Christie's in 2006 for £4,560

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Origins of surname

The name is derived from the French amiral, meaning 'admiral'. This originated in the Arabic 'Amir' and could be applied to an army chief, as well as a naval officer

Early records

The name first appeared in Jersey records in the early 1720s, with the baptism of the children of Pierre and Marie Aimee Tifneaux in St Helier. Pierre was a Huguenot refugee and went through the abjuration process in 1719, under the name Pierre de la Galaire. The records show that he came from Saumur.

The situation is very confused, however. A timeline of silversmiths in Jersey shown a Pierre Amiraux in business in 1696, and a second Pierre in 1747. The family tree below shows that there were three Pierres in successive generations. It is suggested that the middle one emigrated with his family to Canada and returned to Jersey, where he died, his son Pierre remaining in Canada where he married and raised a family. There are also at least two generations in which a son Pierre died in infancy and was followed later by another son given the same name.

Online trees are no help. Those at Ancestry are mainly copied from each other and get very confused with the profusion of Pierres.

The first Pierre Amiraux appears to have arrived in the island from Saumur after the revocation of the Edit of Nantes in 1685. Either he, or his son, or both, worked as a silversmith at 1 Queen Street, St Helier. The son Pierre was a lieutenant in the East Regiment of the Royal Jersey Militia, the owner of a privateer, the Revenge, and a town surveyor. In addition to all these activities he was a founder member of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the first chamber in the English speaking world.

Pierre Amiraux also played a significant part in the Battle of Jersey in 1781. Having been arrested by a French officer and bound to Captain Charleton, he was forced to lead his captors to the residence of the Governor, Moses Corbet, to accept the surrender.

Other researchers suggest that this Pierre was in Canada from 1772 to 1804, having travelled there after the birth of his son Pierre in 1772. However, Jersey records show clearly that this son Pierre was followed by three further children, Matthieu, Marguerite and a second Pierre, all born in Jersey, which suggests that any emigration did not happen until after 1781, and perhaps it was only the last-born Pierre who crossed the Atlantic.

There are other possible explanations for this confusion. One is that there are baptism records missing, the other is that two children of the middle Pierre by his second wife Jeanne Canivet were named Pierre, and that both survived, one living in Jersey and the other emigrating to Canada. We have to admit that we have yet to unravel all these complications to our total satisfaction.


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