Almorah Cemetery chapel in 1976
The first true cemeteries came into existence in the early years of the 19th century. Until then burials had almost all taken place in graveyards surrounding the historic parish churches. However, capacity was rapidly running out in St Helier, and because the centre of the town is built on reclaimed marsh, there were concerns that putrefying bodies would cause pollution of the water supply and the spread of disease.
The first new cemetery was opened at Green Street, not far from the town centre, in 1827. However, the site was not a large one, and the island population was growing rapidly. Two further cemeteries - Mont à l'Abbé, at the top of St John's Road, and Almorah, overlooking Vallée des Vaux - opened in the late 1850s. These came close to capacity after the Second World War, so a new cemetery at Surville, on the boundary of St Helier and St John, was opened in 1949 and is still in use.
These were all general cemeteries, although Almorah tended to see more non-conformist burials. However, there were (in some cases still are) additional cemeteries designated for specific communities:
- The original Jewish cemetery was in Westmount quarry. The graves are still there, but there is now an active Jewish cemetery next to Mont à l'Abbé new cemetery in Tower Road.
- There was briefly a Quaker cemetery in Patriotic Place (there is now a multi-storey car park on the site). Those buried in the cemetery were disinterred and reburied in La Croix cemetery at Grouville.
- There is a specifically non-conformist cemetery, Macpéla, on Grande Route de St Jean in St John, and it is still operational. Other such cemeteries - Union Cemetery (next to St Martin Arsenal), and those next to Philadelphie Methodist Church (St Peter) and St Ouen Methodist Church - are no longer used.
- Next to the old Jewish cemetery at Westmount was the Strangers' Cemetery. This was used to bury those who had no family in the island.
Outside St Helier, the original churchyards were supplemented by parochial cemeteries at St Saviour, St Clement, Grouville (La Croix), St Martin, Trinity, St John, St Brelade and St Lawrence. In most cases these cemeteries are adjacent to the churchyards, but La Croix is about 600 metres from Grouville Church.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission there are 107 war graves in Jersey. The majority of the dead from the Second World War are buried in the St Helier War Cemetery (which, in spite of its name, is just across the parish boundary in St Saviour) on the south side of Howard Davis Park. The graves are unique in that the markers are not made of stone but of wood.
Jersey came late to the idea of cremation - the States did not pass a law permitting in until 1952, and the crematorium was finally opened at Westmount in 1960. However, neighbouring Guernsey opened a crematorium at Le Foulon in the early 1930s, and more than one local funeral director was willing to send bodies for cremation there, with the ashes either being scattered in Guernsey, returned to Jersey, or in a few cases scattered at sea.
Records are incomplete. Records of all Church of England burials up to 1842 are a key part of the records collection held at Jersey Archive (a copy of these records is also available at the Société Jersiaise library at Pier Road). Beyond this date records are available for burials at St Brelade (to 1882), St Martin (to 1960) and St John (to 1984).
Copies of memorial inscriptions for St Mary, St Peter and Trinity churchyards and Green Street cemetery are also available at the Jersey Archive. The Parish of St Clement created its own online database of burials in the churchyard and parochial cemetery.
Among the non-conformist cemeteries, listings for St Ouen Methodist, Philadelphie and Union cemeteries are available at the Jersey Archive, as are records for the Quaker cemetery and Macpéla. The Macpéla records run up to as late as 2003.
In addition, Vic Geary, has worked with the St Helier Parks and Gardens department (the department responsible for maintaining cemeteries in St Helier) and has transcribed all available cemetery records for Almorah and Mont à l'Abbé as far as 1949. These records include both the names of individuals buried and also the owners of plots. The research folders are held at Jersey Archive.
Aside from cemetery records, Jersey Archive received a substantial collection in 2009 from a local undertaker which included books of accounts and funeral records from seven constituent companies; the oldest of these go back to about 1820. A team of volunteers is transcribing the names of those buried, and this list will be added to the Archive website.