Poingdestre

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Poingdestre family page
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Some claim that this is a name which is endemic to Jersey, but all the evidence points to its having been present in Normandy before it reached the island


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A 19th century portrait of an unknown Mrs Poingdestre

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The Rev George Poingdestre
Mr Poingdestre
Mr Poingdestre

Origin of Surname

The Rev George Balleine believes that Poingdestre means right fist, suggesting a pugnacious person. The name is claimed by some authorities to have been derived from the Latin word "punge", meaning to "Spur" and the French word "destrier", meaning "a steed or Courser". Its literal meaning under this reasoning would be "Spur the Steed" and it would probably have been originally used as a nickname.

It is considered more probable, however, that the name originated in the heraldic term 'point dexter' one of the nine chief local points of escutcheon or shield. The name is also frequently given the significance of "the right hand" from this last mentioned source, dexter being the heraldic term for 'right'.

During medieval times, the name was pronounced Pon'dest. Today, in Jersey, it is pronounced Poinchester, although some say that it should be Pondester.

Early records

The name appears in the Assize Roll of 1309 and the Jersey Chantry Certificate of 1550 includes Clement.

The American family historian, John Poindexter Landers, says: "evidence indicates that the name is actually endemic to Jersey, no traces of its early use existing elsewhere on the mainland of France or England". The earliest record he cites is 1250 in the archives at St Lô in Normandy, that mentions that Geoffrey and Raoul Poingdestre are land owners in Jersey. However, there is no real evidence for the name, which is fairly common throughout the Manche and Calvados departments of France, having been 'exported' there from Jersey.

Dr Judith Everard indicated in 2004 to Jamie Poindexter, of the Poindexter Descendants Association, that a Ricardus Poingdestre lived in the Bayeux district of the Bessin in Normandy in 1180 and in 1195. Her source was the Pipe Roll Society publications of the 1180 and 1195 Norman Pipe rolls. Dr Everard also mentioned that earlier pipe rolls from Henry I in 1130 AD also listed the surname.

This means the surname existed in Normandy as early as 1130. There are no records of the surname between 1195 in Normandy and 1250 in Jersey. It is possible that as a family in the Duchy of Normandy they owned land both near Bayeux and in the Channel Islands. Upon King John's loss of his duchy to Phillip of France in 1204, the land may have been divided between two sons. As stated in the book Jersey 1204 (Holt, Evarard) it was impossible to be loyal to two kings. To retain land in both Normandy and Jersey, the land would be divided between two sons. A few generations later, the connections between the two branches became forgotten.

Today

Today there are Poingdestres around the world, in Australia, New Zealand, England and in America. But there are few Poindexters outside the US where immigrant George Poingdestre's (1650s) Latinised version is used. According to Landers (Poingdestre Poindexter - A Norman Family), educated persons of the Renaissance would Latinise their surname. However, this appraisal of the use of the Latin form of surnames is almost certainly inaccurate. The fact of the matter is that in Medieval times official documents were written in Latin and a Latinised version of surnames and forenames was invented for inclusion in such documents. Because the landed gentry would be more likely to be recorded in official documents than the peasantry, it is assumed that they chose to adopt this form of their name, but it is more likely that it was imposed by officialdom.

In much the same way, immigrants from the Channel Islands to the United States are often said to have chosen an anglicised form of their surname on reaching America, whereas is many cases it can be shown that a revised spelling was arbitrarily chosen by officialdom there, in many cases against the wishes of the individuals concerned.

The New World

It has been more than 30 years since Landers' book was published. DNA testing and member research of the Poindexter Descendants Association has provided details of additional immigrants.

George went to Virginia in the 1650s as a businessman, partnered in ownership of ships, received land grants, built a colonial plantation and was the progenitor of the majority of Poindexter's living in the US today. He was third born to the Seigneur of the fief es Poingdestres. John Poingdestre, who was a secretary to Charles I and with Charles II at Elizabeth Castle and later became Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey, was George's great half-uncle.

Around 1698, a Henry Pendexter was a mariner who settled in Maine (United States). His descendants are generally in the New England area of Maine and New Hampshire.

Henri Puddester, a fisherman, settled in Nova Scotia around 1730. The language difference of the Scottish settlers may have led to the spelling. Today Wayne Puddester has extensive research on this family.

In the mid 1700s John C Poindexter emigrated to Virginia from France, according to his descendants. It is also possible that he came from Jersey. DNA testing of descendants indicate a close relationship to test subjects currently living in Jersey and in England.

Payne's Armorial of Jersey

So early as 1250 Geoffroy and Raoul Poingdestre are mentioned as landowners in Jersey, in certain documents preserved in the archives at St Lo, in Normandy.

In 1424 Jean Poingdestre was Bailly of the island; in 1452 his son, another John, filled the same office; and in 1467 the grandson of the first-named, a third John, occupied this honourable post. In 1485 Jean Poingdestre was Lieut-Bailiff, as was his descendant, still named Jean, in 1669.

This family has, for several generations, possessed the fief of Grainville, in the Parish of St Saviour; and it has always held a high social position in its native island.

One of its eminent members was John Poingdestre, son of Edward, who was born in 1609. [Editor's note: They were Jean and Edouard. Payne followed, or perhaps even originated, the fashion in 19th century Jersey to anglicise the names of ancestors.] He became fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and was one of the first who partook of the benefit, after their foundation, of the Jersey scholarships. He appears to have possessed every quality calculated to adorn public and private life, and these he exercised in the sphere of his eventful career. He was esteemed one of the soundest Grecians of his day, in the penmanship of which language he was an elegant adept. He prepared, for private use, emendations of the text of several Greek poets, which still exist in manuscript. He held an official appointment, the nature of which has been forgotten, under Lord Digby, Secretary of State to Charles I. He was ejected from his fellowship by the Parliamentarian visitors, when he retired to Jersey, and was with Sir Philippe De Carteret in Elizabeth Castle, during its siege by the Republicans. He had the honour of being deputed by Sir George Carteret to proceed to France, there to confer with Charles II, on the state of affairs in Jersey. After the ultimate expulsion of the Royalists from the island, he went into voluntary exile, as an earnest of his loyalty, until the Restoration, when he was rewarded by the office of Lieut-Bailiff, under Sir Edouard De Carteret, in 1669. After some years, he retired from this appointment, owing to an alleged informality; but he retained his seat as Jurat until his death.

Among many other works, Mr Poingdestre left the framework of Falle's History of Jersey, a copy of which, in the author's writing, was presented to James II, and is now in the Harleian Collection. He also wrote a series of articles, not so well known, on the Grand Coustumier de Normandie, showing the variation of the Jersey laws from those of the parent Duchy. This was a subject of which the author was perfectly master, and which rendered his judicial decisions models of justice and impartiality. He is buried in the Church of St Saviour, where a Latin epitaph, penned by Falle, exists to his memory. His portrait is still preserved at Grainville.

For five successive generations, the head of this family sat as Jurat of the Royal Court of the island, the last of whom died in 1831.

Variants

  • Poingdestre (The only correct form in Jersey. Poindexter is found as a transcription of some records, but further investigation inevitably shows the original to be Poingdestre. There are no other spellings in our database of church records)
  • Poindestre (sometimes found in Normandy as early as the 12th Century near Bayeux)
  • Poindexter (many in America)
  • Puddester (Nova Scotia through Maine)
  • Pendexter (Maine USA)
  • Podester (is not a derivative of Poingdestre, but is often confused for it. An Italian family settling in Jersey for a time brought this name to the island)

Family records

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Several of these trees overlap to a lesser or greater extent but all have been included because they cover the ancestry and descendants of an important emigrant to the USA and come from different sources


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