Bisson family page
Church records suggest that this has been the commonest family name in Jersey over the past 500 or more years
John Chevalier Bisson, a tailor, great-grandfather of Jerripedia founder and editor Mike Bisson
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Origin of Surname
The surname Bisson is one of the oldest names in the Channel Islands, originally du Buisson.
The derivation of the original du Buisson name is thought to be from the French for bush or thicket, suggesting that a du Buisson ancestor was living in a bushy area, possibly outside a village or settlement. There are alternative suggestions that it meant a fiefless man, or even that it was derived from besson old French for 'twin', but neither of these is supported by evidence in Normandy, where the name originates.
The name du Buisson is first mentioned in relation to the Channel Islands in the archives of St Lo in Normandy in 1149 Sir Geoffrey du Buisson was given the rights to the Parish Church of St Martin du Grouville in Jersey. There is a mention in August a year earlier of the same Sir Geoffrey giving lands to Abbey St Trinité at Lessay. Sir Yon de Buisson is mentioned in the 1315-1339 records of the same abbey, as is Colin du Buisson.
There are various Bisson coats of arms of dubious authenticity, the majority of which feature a tree or bush as the main subject. The loss of the 'u' from the name came about because the pronunciation in Norman-French patois was identical whichever way the name was spelt.
The earliest claimed ancestors of present-day Bissons in Jersey are Nicolas Bisson, of the St Brelade branch of the family, born about 1440, Robin Le Gros Bisson, of the St Ouen branch of the family, born about 1450, and Perrin Bisson, of the Trinity branch, born about 1495.
The name du Buisson features in the Assize Roll of 1309, and this has been taken as the earliest reference to the family being resident in the Island. However, this reference is simply a confirmation by King Edward II of the donation of the church of St Martin de Grouville mentioned above, and it is by no means certain that the family had settled in the island by then. It would not have been long, however, because family historian Mrs Auguste Messervy, widow of J A Messervy suggests in a history of the Bisson family of St Brelade and St Lawrence written early in the 20th century that Nicolas Bisson and Perrin Bisson are both descended from Richard du Buisson, an elector of St Brelade in 1324, and Colin du Buisson, his son, who held land in the parish in 1330, as shown in the Extente of 1331. All the available evidence therefore points to the family having settled in the island early in the 14th century, but this could be seen as somewhat unusual given that the island had by then been separated from Normandy for 100 years and property-owning families did not tend to move from the mainland to the island at that time.
Eight Bissons are listed in the Jersey Chantry Certificate of 1550.
It is not known whether the earliest Guernsey Bissons arrived in that island direct from France or were from earlier Jersey families.
Le Gros Bisson
The Le Gros Bissons, farming people of St Ouen and Saint Mary in the north-west of Jersey were the first Channel Island family to have a double-barrelled name. It was not created, in the same way that so many more recent double-barrelled names were, by the marriage of a Bisson to a Le Gros, but is thought to have been used to distinguish between two Bissons living in the same area, one larger (or fatter) than the other.
- Le Gros Bisson
- Bisson, 1528
- du Buisson, 1315
- du Bisson 1315
- de Bussone, 1188
- de Buisson 1053;
- de Buissun 1140
- Bison, is found in the Savoie region of France, but is not thought to be a variant of Bisson, but to come from Italy, and to derive from the local dialect word for grey.
- Bissot is found in France and may be a diminuitive of Bisson
Bisson is by far the most numerous name in Jersey church records, and unlike many long-established families, the Bissons migrated from one parish to another. The Le Gros Bissons, sometimes shown as such in registers, sometimes just listed under Bisson, are largely to be found either side of the St Ouen-St Mary border until they began to move in the early 19th century.
Other branches moved from St Brelade to Trinity and then St John. All this can make the branches very difficult to track and not nearly as many trees have been assembled as should be for this substantial family name. Many of those trees which do exist online are full of errors.
We are working all the time to add trees wherever possible, and would welcome contributions from Bisson researchers.
- The Le Gros Bisson family of St Ouen and St Mary, the definitive tree of this branch, descendants of which emigrated to Marblehead, Massachusetts and became Bessoms (and various other spellings of the Anglicised surname)
- Family tree for the Besoms of Marblehead, the emigrants' tree
- Descendants of Daniel Bisson of Trinity
- Descendants of Nicolas Bisson 1440-1503
- Descendants of Jean Bisson and Jeanne Gruchy
- Descendants of Beniamin Bisson, there is some overlap between this tree, which goes back further, and the previous tree
- Descendants of Benjamin Bisson - 2
- Descendants of Jean Bisson and Jeanne de Gruchy - 2 another version of the tree with a different descendancy
- Descendants of Leonard Bisson
The two trees below link, with the second taking the first further down
- Descendants of Francois Bisson and Marie Bree of St Martin
- Descendants of Francois Bisson and Marie Bree, contains extra detail and some corrections
St John trees
Given that the set of Clement Bisson trees on the left all appear to relate to the descendancy of the same person, the differences are remarkable. We have yet to unravel the inconsistencies and are featuring all the trees until we are confident in the right relationships.
These trees suggest that a Clement Bisson moved to Jersey from Canada, had a son, Clement, left him in Jersey, and returned with his wife to Canada, dying there soon after. We have been unable to find any records which support this view.
Jerripedia's editor Mike Bisson is a descendant of the Le Gros Bisson line (quite distinct in Jersey from Bisson), neither of which can be traced back far enough in Jersey records to say when early generations may have moved to the island from France. Le Gros Bisson is not known in France, and the likelihood is that the two branches separated in Jersey some time in the 14th century, or earlier.
Mike says: From the earliest Le Gros Bissons to the many descendants still living in Jersey, there is no known further connection with France and none at all with Canada. Looking at other Bisson lines, which I have been studying for many, many years, because they are also present in my tree many generations back, I can find nothing to support a link with French Bissons after the 15th century, and probably much earlier. While some Jersey Bissons may have emigrated to Canada, there is no evidence that they returned. I find it very hard to believe the suggestions that Bissons with no previous connection with Jersey, having arrived in Canada direct from France, then emigrated to Jersey, left children there, and returned to Canada. There are undoubtedly some Bisson records missing from Jersey parish registers, and it seems to me that researchers have plucked at records for Bissons with the same name and within the same timeframe to fill those gaps, rather than accepting that there are simply records missing from Jersey records.'
Clement Bisson descendancies - see box on right
- Descendants of Clement Bisson The only one of these trees we believe to be accurate
- Descendants of Clement Bisson - 2
- Descendants of Clement Bisson - 3
- Descendants of Florent Bisson, a much longer tree showing descendants and ancestors of Clement, and claiming a France-Canada-Jersey connection.
Bisson baptisms and marriages in Jersey
- Bisson baptisms in Jersey, drawn from our database, this list includes Bissons and Le Gros Bissons up to 1915
- Bisson baptisms to 1842, This is our original list of Bisson baptisms in the 12 parish church registers from their inception to 1842, when births were recorded centrally in Jersey. It includes some members of the Le Gros Bisson family whose births have been indexed in certain parishes under Bisson
- Bisson baptisms 1842-1915
- Le Gros Bisson baptisms to 1842, This is a list of those members of the Bisson family whose births were indexed under Le Gros Bisson
- Bisson marriages to 1842, a full list of marriages, by parish
Note: We are now aware that some Bisson records are missing from these lists, yet can be found in our searchable database. Conversely, there are records missing from that database which appear in the lists above. We are working to correct these anomalies, some of which are caused by confusion between Bisson and Le Gros Bisson records.
Bisson family histories in Jersey
- Bisson Family of St Brelade and St Lawrence, history by Auguste Messervy
- Bisson family of St Lawrence, from Payne's Armorial
Bisson lineages in Guernsey
Great War service
- Halkett House, No 6 King Street, was occupied from the 1860s onwards by draper W Bisson, who traded there over the turn of the 19th century. Later Jersey's Woolworth store was build on the site.
- C J and W Bisson were drapers at 14 King Street
- John Chevalier Bisson was a draper at 77 King Street during the 1880s and '90s
- Watchmaker Winter Bisson was at 11 Queen Street from the 1890s to the 1920s
Brothers Charles John and Walter Bisson operated a drapery business at Halkett House, 6 King Street, where the island's Government House was previously situated. For much of the 20th century this site was home to Woolworth
Le Fief du Buisson can be traced back to the 14th Century, although in these early records it has already passed out of family possession.
- Rock Vale, Trinity
- Mayfield, Trinity
- Les Fougeres
- Le Manoir de Malorey, St Lawrence
- Manor House, St Lawrence
- Le Mottee, St John
Family baptism names
Emigration to the New World
Bissons from Jersey were among some of the earliest emigrants to both Canada and the United States of America. In Canada the name was usually retained by immigrants from the Channel Islands and France but the descendants of three Le Gros Bisson brothers and a nephew who emigrated to Marblehead, Massachussetts, in the early 18th century adopted anglicised versions of the name, including Besom, Besome and Besume.
- Philip Besom's will
- Besom vessels
- Family tree
- A privateer's tale A narrative of a privateer's life by Captain Philip Besom 1760-1836
Bissons in battle
Mike Bisson looks back at the role of some of his ancestors in conflicts of the past - see article
Notable family members
- Benjamin Bisson, Constable of St Lawrence, Jurat and Parliamentarian
Click on any image to see the full-size version
A Mrs Bisson photographed by Ernest Baudoux
An unknown Mr Bisson photographed by Ernest Baudoux
Click on any image to see a larger version. See the Jerripedia gravestone image collection page for more information about our gravestone photographs. Images of gravestones in other cemeteries will be added progressively
- Bisson family - Stephen Foote's Family History pages.