Genealogical notes on the Benests of St Helier

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Genealogical notes on the Benests of St Helier’s, their ancestors and descendants was compiled in 1906 by Charles Bernau, a member of La Société Jersiaise and Benest descendant, living in Walton upon Thames, and privately printed at the expense of E B S Benest, of Rio de Janeiro

Some sections of the original booklet have been abridged here, and where an Anglicised spelling of forenames has been used in relation to members of the family who would have been baptised with the French version, those names have been altered.

Origin of surname

The name Benest, so spelt, is peculiar to Jersey. There are certainly Benests living in other localities, but they all appear to be descended from the Jersey family of that name. [Editor's note: The writer is almost certainly incorrect. The name is well known in France and there is a small commune in Poitou-Charentes named Benest. No connection has been made between the family of Benests who live in the area and the Jersey Benests.]

In order to determine the origin of this surname it is necessary to inquire how it is spelt in the earliest records of the Island. As will be seen later, records of 1274 and 1309 give it as "Beneyt" and in 1331 we find it spelt "Beneest". The early parish registers (16th century) frequently have "Bennest".

In the Hundred Rolls a "Reginald fil Beneyt" is mentioned, and Bardsley, an authority on the origin of surnames, quotes this in the appendix of his work, English Surnames as an early instance of the name "Bennet". He says:

”Our Bennets, when not belonging to the class of baptismal names (as a corruption of "Benedict"), once performed the functions of exorcists, and by the imposition of hands and the aspersion of holy water expelled evil spirits from those said to be thus possessed.

The names "Bennest" and "Bennet" would he pronounced practically alike by a Jerseyman. [Editor’s note: That is not true today. Benest is pronounced ‘bennay’, Jerseymen preferring to sound the final ‘e’ in French words as ‘ay’ in ‘hay’ rather than ‘e’ as in ‘egg’. Bennet is pronounces as it is spelt, with the final ‘t’ sounded. Bennest is no longer found and, if it were, would probably be pronounced as it is spelt, with the final ‘t’ sounded. See our family page for alternative views on the derivation of the name.]

Similar surnames

  • Bennest is a surname we noticed some years ago in the directories of both Liverpool and Birkenhead.
  • Bonest - in the Visitation of Dorset, 1623 we find that Jane, daughter of a Thomas Bonest, of Bristol, married William Meer, of Cherborne. This Thomas must have lived about the middle of the 15th century. The surname Bonest is still to be seen in the London directory.
  • Bownest — John Bownest of Stonehury, Hormead, Herts, who died 16 June 1616, married Mary, daughter of ? Cooke, of Chishall, Essex. Thomas Bownest of St Nicholas Aeons, London, married Mary Gynne of St Mary Woolnoth, London on 17 November 1614.
  • Benoist — A well-known French surname. A stretch of imagination would be necessary to connect this with Bennet, though in 1603 one of the Benests of St Lawrence is referred to in the records as "Raulin Benoest".
  • Benested — This form occurs in Bank's Baronies in Fee. It is probably only a corruption of Bensted, a family of which name has been settled at Maidstone, Kent, for about four centuries.
  • Benezet - A French surname. Ant Benezet, Quaker, died at Philadelphia in 1784, aged 71.
  • Benesch can be found in the London directory.
  • Beneyt we have already noted above as probably the parent form of Bennet as well as Benest.
  • Bennet, with its variations, Benett, Benet and Bennett, ranks, we believe, among the hundred most frequent surnames in England.
  • Binet, frequently found in the records of Jersey, and a surname well represented now in the Island, may originally have been another spelling for Benest. This will be seen by comparing the Ententes, where a rente due by Binet in 1668 and 1749 is entered in 1607 as due by a Benest; though it ought also to be noticed that two rentes paid by Binet in 1528, 1668 and 1749 are entered as due by a Benest in 1607, from which it would appear that the compilers of the 1607 Extente may have been ignorant that the Binets and Benests were distinct.

Baptismal name

The name Benest has been used as a baptismal name, both male and female. A Beneste Le Cerf was the wife of John Le Quesne, circa 1570. A Benest Viel is mentioned in the Extente for 1368.

Sources

The Benest family is one which is undoubtedly difficult to trace. Its members resided for many generations in the parish of St Lawrence, the registers of which prior to the year 1640 have unfortunately been lost, and, but for a Genealogie of his ancestors, which John Benest (1737- 1821) drew up in 1808, no connected account of the family before the middle of the 17th century could he attempted.

There are frequent references to Benests in the records of the Island, but these are of too meagre a nature to enable one to compile a pedigree from them. It is possible, however, by consulting these records (and we here refer more especially to the Livres des Heritages) to both check and add to the information contained in John Benest's 'Genealogie and, as we have made by no means an exhaustive search at the Registre Publique at St Helier, many interesting facts might also still be gleaned there.

From 1737 until the present time the family Bible, the parish registers of St Helier and other sources of information, as will be seen later, have been used.

The Genealogie

(Abridged)

The Genealogie gives a brief account of the family from the 16th century untill its writer's birth in 1737 and, together with various other notes, mentions the dates of birth of his son and grandson.

It is, in the main, accurate, though from external evidence the birth years of the first four generations would appear to he placed about ten to 20 years too late. The first and second paragraphs with this exception can certainly be relied on, but the third and fourth paragraphs confuse two Raulin Benests, as will be more fully explained.

From this and other internal evidence it would appear that John Benest based the first two paragraphs, which deal with his own ancestors, on family documents, such as partages then in his possession, but that when he wrote about collateral branches of the family he relied solely on hearsay and his memory.

In the fifth and sixth paragraphs the Noel Benest referred to is the second mentioned in the manuscript. This is evident from the fact that the first "Noe Benest" has been added at a later date. In paragraph seven it is left very uncertain which John Benest married Mary Gibaut. Without being able definitely to locate this John, we consider it highly probable that the writer here refers to his grandfather.

St Lawrence registers

As already stated, the existing registers commence with the year 1640. We have carefully searched them as follows:

  • Book 1 - 1640 to 1693 (the whole book).
  • Book 2 - 1693 to 1696 only
  • Book 3 - 1740 to 1757 only
  • Book 4 — Baptisms from 1783 to 1796) the whole book.
  • Book 5 - Marriages from 1783, to 1837 only
  • Book 6 — Burials from 1783. Not searched at all.

We give these dates for the benefit of anyone who may he willing to take up the work from the point at which we have left off.

Family Bible

The Rev John William Benest, the present head of the Benests of St Helier, is the owner of a family Bible, in which the majority of the entries (in French) appear to have been made by the same John Benest who wrote the Genealogie and they commence with his birth in 1737.

With the exception of two entries made in 1879 and 1881, the latest is of May 1821, and it was in the October of that year that the compiler of the Genealogie died. The baptisms of the two eldest children of his grandson, John, are recorded, but John Benest, jnr made no entries and consequently his ten other children are not mentioned.

Early family

That an Emelote Beneyt lived in Jersey before 1253 we are justified in stating, as in 127, we see from the Extente, or Royal Rent Roll of the Island, that a Drouet de St Martin held land from the King in the parish of Trinity:

”Three vergees which were forfeited by Mayn Picotel, and two vergees forfeited by Emelote Beneyt, together of the annual value of five bushels of wheat, which rente the King had not received since the time when Drouet de Barentine was Bailiff of the Island.”

There were two Drouets de Barentine, both Wardens of the Norman Isles. One is described as "very aged" in 1239, and the other, his grandson, was slain in 1253.

In 1309, a Robert Beneyt is mentioned (in the Rolls of the Assizes held in the Channel Islands) as the holder of five perches of crown land in St Peter, Jersey, received by him in marriage with the daughter of Godfrey Vasoun, who purchased it from Robert Pipon, who with John Bernard and other partners was the holder of seven and a half virgates of bordage land, of which these five perches formed part.

In the Extente for 1331, a Robert Beneest (who was most probably identical with Robert Beneyt of St Peter) is entered as holding two bouvées of crown land in St Peter for the yearly rental of 16 sous.

In the record of 1309 we find mention also of a John Bennes of the parish of St Saviour, Guernsey.

After 1331, owing to the lack of records relating to Jersey, we lose trace of the family for nearly two centuries. It is therefore necessary to imagine five generations, (living say 1360, 1390, 1420, 1450 and 1480), if one wishes to consider the probable relationship between Robert and those Benests who are named in the next Extente, dated 1528.

About the same date commence the records, now preserved at St Helier, relating to the descent of land in the Island, and in these records the name Benest is of frequent occurrence even in the first volume.

A Benest living about 1480 may have been the father of some or all of the following:

  • Jean Benest in 1528 owed two rentes to the King, one for herbage in St Lawrence, and the other for land on the fee of St Germain in the same parish. Jean died about 1569.
  • Philot Benest in 1528 owed three rentes to the King for land in St John and St Lawrence, all three in 1607 are debited to Nicholas, the son of Deonis Le Cousteur.
  • Nicolas (or Collas) Benest, of St Laerence, is mentioned in the records under dates 1534 and 1539.
  • Louis Benest, of St Lawrence, is mentioned in connection with the above Nicolas under date 1539.
  • Richard Benest, of St Lawrence. In the Extente of 1607 Jaques Rondell is debited with a rente in St Lawrence for John Hammon of Trinity in discharge of Richard Bennest in the right of his wife, a daughter of Gratian Le Grosse. Perin Le Gros paid the same rent in 1528. Another rente in Trinity, paid in 1528 by Perin Legros, was paid in 1607 by Jaques Rondell for John Hammon having the right of Richard Benost. This Richard may have been the Richard Benest, whose son, Louis Benest, in 1602, bought rentes.
  • Pierre Benest, who in 1533 is mentioned in connection with Julian Benest.
  • A Julien Benest was one of the 12 witnesses before the Royal Commissioners of Henry VIII in 1515.

From the first of the above seven Benests it is possible to trace the following connected genealogy down to the present day, but, as we also have many notes referring to Benests who find no place in the pedigree of John Benest's descendants, it is to be presumed that some others, or all, of the above seven are now represented by direct descendants bearing the surname Benest.

Benests of St Lawrence

Jean Benest, of St Lawrence, mentioned above as paying rentes to the King in 1528, died in or before 1369, as in that year we find that Noel Benest and Raulin Gibaut, causa uxoris, divided some of Jean's property. His children were:

  • Raulin Benest, of St Lawrence, who in 1573 divided lands aux Blanches Pierres with Noel Benest in St Lawrence. In 1564, Philip Le Couteur eldest son of Jean, recognised Raulin Benest, causa uxoris, as a kinsman, from which we may conclude that Raulin married a daughter of Jean Le Couteur. He appears to have had issue:
    • Nicolas Benest, who in 1602 sold a field du Quesne to Philbert Benest. Nicholas is described as fils Raulin Benest. In 1605 Nicholas fils Raulin Benest sold a field in St Lawrence to Edward Bisson. In the Extente of 1607 he is entered as owing a rente for herbage in St Lawrence; (we have seen that Jean Benost, in 1528, paid a rente for herbage in the same parish, but the amounts are not identical, and also two hens rentr to the fee of St Germains in St Lawrence, ‘for John Bennest’, though this latter rente is not debited to John in the Extente of 1528. Nicholas had a son
      • Thomas Benest. The last-mentioned rente was paid in 1668 by Joshua Ahier, causa uxoris the daughter of Laurens Hamptonne, for Thomas Benest, son of Nicolas. This Joshua Ahier was Rector of St Lawrence and married Elizabeth, daughter and eventual co-heir of Laurens Hamptonne, Viscount and Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey, who entertained Charles II on his visit to the Island. Laurens Hamptonne does not appear to have been related to this Thomas Benest, though his grand-daughter Elizabeth Ahier, married Raulin Benest, son of Raulin, son of Raulin. The reason the Rev Joshua Ahier paid this rente in 1668 for Thomas Benest would appear to be that, though the Rector's grand-father, Edward Bisson, had bought the field in question from Nicholas Benest in 1605 the latter was held responsible for the rente in the Extente of 1607, and his son Thomas Benest had evidently been responsible for the payment of it sometime between the years 1607 and 1668.
    • Elizabeth, daughter of Raulin Benest and wife of Peter Faultrart sold land to Helier Le Gros in November 1603. In the registers of St Brelade, under date 21 November 1630, we notice Elizabeth fille de Pierre Fautrart ministre enterree.
    • A daughter who married, before 1605, Thomas Le Goupil.
    • Philbert Benest, who, as already stated, bought a field du Quesne from Nicholas Benest, son of Raulin, in 1602.
    • Thomas Benest. In 1604 Collette, widow of Thomas Benest and daughter of Yvon Bisson by Sainte, his wife, is mentioned as selling rentes. This Thomas cannot be identical with Thomas, son of Nicholas, as, dying in or before 1604, he would not have inherited the land on which Thomas, son of Nicholas, paid rente. Nicholas was living in 1607. The children of Thomas are mentioned in 1604 as:
      • John Benest, elder son.
      • Isaac Benest, younger son.

Without any definite proof to support the statement, we are inclined to think that the Benest descendants of Raulin Benest (son of Jean) died out with his grandson or grandsons, and that a descendant of his brother, Noel, would then have become heir-male of their father, Jean, with whose name this account of the Benests of St Lawrence commences.

  • Nicholas Benest, (son of Jean) died before 1607, then in the Extente of that year his heirs or assigns are debited with a rente (for land on the fee of St Germains) which John Benest paid in 1528. In 1749 a descendant of his brother Noel (Elizabeth, heir of her brother Joshua Benest of the St Brelade branch of the family) paid the same rent, which would appear to show that Joshua Benest, who was heir-male of Noel, was consequently heir-male of this Nicolas, who evidently had no direct descendants living in 1749. The rente in question is untraceable in the Extente of 1668.
  • Noel Benest, (son of John)
  • a daughter of John Benest evidently married before 1569 to Raulin Gibaut
  • Peter Benest, the father of:
    • John Benest, (husband of Mary, daughter of John Sarre by Perretine), who sold an inheritance in 1602 to Philip Benest, son of Noel.

Noel Benest

Noel Benest, son of Jean, as already stated, divided lands with Raulin Benost aux Blanches Piorres in St Lawrence in 1571, having already in 1569 divided some of Jean Benest's property with Raulin Gibaut, causa uxoris.

This is the 'Noe Benest' who is described in the Genealogie as having been born about 1540; but, from the fact that his son Jean must have come of age in or about 1577, we are inclined to name 1530 as Noel Benest's probable year of birth, and 1555 (instead of the 1570 in the Genealogie) as that of his son, Noel. Noel Benest snr married Genette, daughter of John Regnauld, and had issue:

  • John Benest, who is described in 1577 as of St Lawrence and as fils Noel et de Jenette sa femme fille de Jean Regnauld, he being then interested with his brother-in-law Ambroise Le Breton, causa uxoris, in a division of property.
  • Noel Benest
  • Philip Benest, who in 1602 bought an inheritance from Jean Benest, son of Peter. A Philippe Benetz de Gerze was admitted to Holy Communion on 15 November 1596 in the Huguenot Church at Southampton.
  • Raulin Benest, son of Noel, who on 14 September 1603 bought the house called Hagays from a Messervy . He may have been the Rolin Benest who married Elizabeth, and whose children by her were baptised at St Helier:
    • Rolin, baptised 28 December 1603. This Rolin may be identical with the Raulin Bennest who married Elizabeth Baillehache at St Brelade on 17 January 1638, especially as on 8 February of the same year she, being then a godmother, is described in the registers of St Brelads as feeme de Raulin Benest, Jnr.
    • Rachel, baptised 22 May 1605.
    • Jean, baptised 19 April 1607.
    • Marguerite, daughter of Noel Benest, died in 1684, having married before 1577 Ambroise Le Breton, who died in 1630 leaving issue by her.

Noel Benest jnr

Noel Benest, son of Noel, son of Jean, would probably have been born about 1555, and not about 1570, as stated in the Genealogie. The latter date must be quite wrong for at least two reasons. First, we have already seen that his brother Jean must have been of age in 1577, and, second, if the property of Noel Benest (son of Noel) was divided entre ses enfans in 1605, as stated in the Genealogie,then at least two of his children must have been of age in 1605, which would make Noel not older than 13 years when his eldest child was born. He died in or before 1605, having had at least two sons:

  • Philippe Benest
  • a son, father of:
    • Maximilian Benest, who married and had issue, into whose history it is not our present intention to enter.

Philippe Benest

Philippe, son of Noel, son of Noel, born say about 1580. The Genealogie gives his birth year as about 1600, but this date is impossible as his eldest son, Raulin, could not have been born later than 1615, having a nephew and niece (children of his younger brother, John) both of age in 1657. The reason the Genealogie goes astray in the birth years of its first four generations is not hard to find. The writer worked backwards from the fact that Raulin, the great-grandfather of his cousin, Elizabeth Falle née Benest, died in 1675, aged 48, and was therefore born in or about 1627. He knew that his cousin was descended from a Raulin Benest, eldest brother of his own ancestor Pierre Benest, and naturally concluded that these two Raulin Benests were identical, when, as a matter of fact, the Raulin who was born about 1627 was son of the Raulin, brother of Pierre. Having made this mistake it is natural that he should conclude :-

  • that his own ancestor, Pierre, being the third son, was born about 1630.
  • that Pierre's father, Philippe, was born about 1600.
  • that Philippe's father, Noel, was born about 1570.
  • that Noel's father, Noel, was born about 1340.

The exact intervals of 30 years between those dates show clearly the reasoning employed by the writer of the Genealogie.

Philippe Benest, son of Noel, son of Noel, married Sara Luce by whom he had issue:

  • Raulin
  • Philippe - he and Sara Luce, his wife, are both described in 1657 as deceased.
  • Pierre, whose great-great-grandson was the ancestor of the Benests of St Helier and whose line we shall consequently follow in these notes.
  • Abraham, for whose descendants see Ancestors and descendants of Abraham Benest
  • Noel
  • Jean
  • Jeanne Benest, veuve de Thomas Blampied, buried at St Lawrence's on 13 April 1676.

Before considering the history of their third son, Pierre, and his descendants, we would draw attention to the fact that his other brothers, Raulin, Philippe, Noel and Jean, all married and had issue, into whose history and that of their descendants it is not our present intention to enter. In our Pedigree of the Benest Family of Jersey, July 1905 we have endeavoured to summarise our voluminous notes on these other branches of the family, but are conscious that there is still much to be done before they are sufficiently complete to warrant publication in full. We wish, however, to take this opportunity of stating in reference to the descendants of the eldest son, Raulin that:

  • the pedigree of the descendants of his eldest son, Raulin, given on page 124 of Payne's " Armorial of Jersey," is. utterly unreliable in its earlier generations.
  • Andrew, (1774- ) died after 1795, and in or before 1827 at sea, unmarried.
  • Philip Benest, who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Jersey Militia and a Captain in the Royal Navy, married Susannah Le Ber, daughter of Samuel Le Ber, of Guernsey. Their two children were:
    • Harriet-Susannah, who died unmarried.
    • George-Philip Benest, Constable of St Brelade, who married Ellen-Campbell Fitzwalter, only surviving daughter of Captain John Fitzwalter. George-Philip was the father of:
      • George-Philip, born in the parish of St Abb's, Oxford. He married Edith Maria Powell, eldest daughter of Thomas Powell, of Edgbaston. Their only child, Cleone de Hevningham Benest, was born on 13 June 1880.
      • Philip-George-Anthony, died young.
      • Raulin-Fitzwalter, born in Jersey, married 19 November 1879, at Brighton, Catharine Whetton. Their only child, Violet Benest, was born, in Jersey, on 3 November 1881.
      • Anthony Philip George, who died in Melbourne, Australia, had married in Sydney, Australia, Mary Maud Cobham, and left two daughters, Mary-Caroline, and Marion-Fitzwalter.
      • Ellen Georgina, now living, unmarried, in Australia.
      • Marion Rebekah Gasse, who died unmarried.

In view of the lack of sons to the children of George Philip Benest and Ellen Campbell Fitzwalter, it is most probable that Raulin Benest (son of Philip, son of Noel) will eventually be without a living male Benest descendant, and consequently the whole of this, the eldest, branch of the Benest family may become extinct.

Pierre Benest

Pierre Benest, son of Philippe son of Noel, was, according to the Genealogie, Philippe's third son and born about 1630. He may have been the third son, though it is doubtful where his brother, Jean, who is not mentioned in the Genealogie, ranked in the family (we know only that he was not the eldest son) but that Pierre was born about 1630 is certainly incorrect. How this error arose has already been explained. As his brother Jean had two children of age in 1657, we may take it that Pierre was born about 1615 — certainly not later. He received a share of his father's property on 23 September 1657; of this it is said in the Genealogie that:

"The house and lands which belonged to him in 1657 were in the same locality as the house which Jean Benest (the writer of the Genealogie), son of Philippe, ceded in 1784 to his brother, Francois, as the latter's share of a partage, and that this house (together with such lands as remained after the various partages which had occurred in the meantime, was from 1657 until then 1808 owned by the same family of the Benests."

Pierre was evidently still living on 16 September 1688, as his son is then still described as Pierre Benest, Jnr; he married Catherine Saison, and both he and his wife are described on 8 May 1703 as "deceased". They had issue:

  • Pierre, of whom hereafter.
  • Philippe, baptised at St Lawrence on 29 November 1657 (Godparents Philippe Benest and his wife). He was godfather in 1677 to Pierre Benest, son of Pierre, son of Pierre.
  • Elizabeth, baptised at St Lawrence on 21 April 1661 (Godparents Philip Tracy and his wife)
  • Catherine, baptised at St Lawrence on 6 March 1663 (Godparents Jeremie Baall, jnr and Francoise Enouf)
  • Abraham, baptised at St Lawrence on 23 March 1669. (Godparents the son of Abraham Benest of St Peter and Francoise Esnouf). Still living in 1703.
  • Sarah, godmother in 1677 to Pierre Benest, son of Pierre son of Pierre

Pierre Benest

Pierre, son of Pierre, son of Philippe), is mentioned in the Genealogie as being born about 1657. This date is almost accurate, but in view of his younger brother, Philippe, being baptised in November 1657, we prefer to put the approximate year of his birth as 1656. The writer of the Genealogie probably arrived at the year 1657 by deducting Peter's age at death from the date of death, which method frequently causes the result to be a year wrong, either too early or too late. On 9 May 1674, Peter married Elizabeth Luce at St Lawrence.

On 3 May 1684 Philippe Luce and Elizabeth Luce, wife of Pierre Benest, (children of the deceased Elias Luce and of the deceased Jane Gallichan, his wife) ceded all the property coming to them from their parents to John Luce, their elder brother. On 31 October 1687, Pierre Benest Jnr ceded to his eldest son, also called Pierre Benest Jnr, his house, etc, and one cabot of wheat-rente due from the heirs of Noel Benest. On 8 May 1703 Pierre Benest (the husband of Elizabeth Luce) was described as his father's eldest son.

His children were:

  • Elizabeth, baptized at St Lawrence on 29 November 1674 (Godparents Peter Benest and his wife, paternal grandparents).
  • Pierre, baptised at St Lawrence on 5 August 1677 (Godparents Philip and Sarah Benest).
  • Raulin, baptised at St Lawrence on 2 March 1678 (Godparents Jeremie Ball and Sarra Le Masurier, his wife). He may be the Raulin Benest of St Lawrence who married on 20 July 1700 at St Helier, Anne Le Gros, of St Lawrence, though we are inclined to think that Anne Le Gros' husband was a son of Maximilian Benest
  • Jean
  • Marie, baptised at St Lawrence on 19 April 1685 (Godfather :—Raulin Benest).
  • Philippe, baptised at St Lawrence on 16 September 1688 (Godparents Philip Luce and his wife).
  • William, baptised at St Lawrence on 13 November 1692 (Godparents Philip Le Boutillier and his wife).

Jean Benest

Jean, son of Pierre, son of Pierre, was baptised at St Lawrence on 8 October 1682 (Godparents John Belin and his mother). According to the Genealogie he was born about 1681, this date also probably being ascertained by deducting his age at death from the date of his death. He is most probably identical with the Jean Benest mentioned in the following extract from the burial register of St Helier:

"Jean Benest Se fut enterre le vingtcinquieme jour de Mars Mille Sept Cents quarante deux."

He may be the Jean Benest who married Mary Gibaut. His children were:

  • Jean, who was born in 1710, married Anne, daughter of a William Benest. His is probably the burial recorded in the register of St Helier in 1747:
"Jean Benest fils Jean fut enterre le dix-septieme jour de Mars Mille Sept Cents quarante sept."

Another entry in the same register in 1735 refers probably to a child of this Jean by Anne Benest:

"Jean fils de Jean Benest fils Jean fut enterre le neufieme jour de juin Mille Sept Cents trente cinq."

However this may be, they had a son, Jean, born in 1741, from whom, at his death in 1783, his uncle:

  • Philippe Benest, (born 1712), inherited the family house, presumably situated in St Helier
  • Marie. In 1740 we find Jean Benest and his daughter, Marie, were godparents at St Lawrence to Joshua, son of Philippe Benest. Marie Benest, of St Lawrence, was married there on 29 September 1745 to Joshua Gallichan, also of that parish.
  • Abraham, who was godfather in 1742 to Sara, daughter of Philippe Benest. He may be identical with the Abraham Benest, of St Lawrence, who married at St Helier Jane Esnouf, also of St Lawrence (our note says "on 22 September 1748", but this is obviously incorrect, as their son Philippe, was baptised at St Lawrence on 2 February 1745 (Godparents Philip Maret and his wife). An Abraham Benest was buried at St Lawrence on 21 November 1748.
  • Sara, buried at St Lawrence on 30 January 1742, widow of Matthew Trachy. Or Sara, who married Raulin Le Gros.
  • Anne, who married Jean de Ste Croix. She was buried at St Lawrence on 8 June 1747, being then described as his wife, so he evidently survived her.
  • Jane "Benee" of St Lawrence, who married at St Helier on 28 May 1739, Laurence Langlois, also of St Lawrence.

Philippe Benest

Philippe, son of Jean, son of Pierre), born 1712, inherited in 1783, as stated above, a house from his nephew Jean Benest, son of Jean. He married first Sarah Vautier. We do not know much at present about her family, but she probably had two sisters, Elizabeth, wife of Philip Poingdestre, both godparents to Philippe Benest's son, Philippe, in 1748, and Jane, wife of Francis de la Cour, both godparents to Philippe Benest's son, Francois, in 1744. Sarah Vautier may also have had a brother, the father of Jeanne Vautier who became the first wife of Philippe Benest, son of Philippe Benest by the said Sarah Vautier.

This Sarah Benest, née Vautier, died before 18 December 1784, when her property was divided. By her, Philippe Benest had issue:

  • Philip, buried at St Lawrence on 27 August 1741
  • John, born 1737
  • Joshua, baptised at St Lawrence on 19 October 1740 (Godparents Jean Benest and Marie, his daughter); buried at St Lawrence on 29 August 1741.
  • Sarah, baptised at St Lawrence on 17 October 1742 (Godparents Abraham Benest and Sara Gibaut).
  • Francis, baptised at St Lawrence on 28 October 1744 (Godparents Francis de la Cour and Jane Vautier, his wife).
  • Anne, baptised at St Lawrence on 30 November 1746 (Godparents Philip Romeril and Anne Voisin, his wife). She married on 8 January 1785 at St Lawrence, John Luce.

In 1786, they were godparents at St Lawrence to her nephew Jean, son of Philippe Benest. On 17 October 1792 they were godparents at St Lawrence to Jean, son of Philippe de Ste Croix and Marie.

  • Philippe, baptised at St Lawrence on 18 December 1748 (Godparents Philip Poingdestre and Elizabeth Vautier).
  • Elizabeth, baptised at St Lawrence on 28 July 1751 (Godparents William Sorsoleil and Elizabeth Hue). She married 3 April 1779 at St Saviour, John Cailleteau, of St Helier. In 1773 she was godmother to her nephew, George, son of Jea Benest. In 1784 she is mentioned as the wife of John Cailleteau in the partage of her father's property. In 1788 she and her husband were godparents at St Lawrence to her niece, Jeanne, daughter of Philippe Benest. In July 1792 they were godparents at St Lawrence to her niece, Elizabeth, daughter of Francois Benest. In September 1792 they were godparents at St Lawrence to her niece, Elizabeth, daughter of Philippe Benest.
  • Jeanne, baptised at St Lawrence on 25 August 1754 (Godparents Abraham Bisson and Jeanne Remon) In 1784 she is described as the wife of Francois Luce.

Philippe Benest married second Jeanne Aubin, and by her had a daughter:

  • Marie, a minor in 1784.

On 18 December 1784 Philip Benest divided his property among his children. The second surviving son, Francois, received a house near Carrefour Selouss in St Lawrence, his father reserving unto himself the right of living in it until his death. From the Genealogie it would appear that this house was the same which Philippe's great-grandfather, Pierre Benest, received in 1657, and that in 1808 it was still in the hands of the descendants of this Francois Benest.

Benests of St Helier

As shown above, three of the sons of Philippe Benest, son of Jean, son of Pierre, son of Pierre, the third son of Philippe, son of Noel, son of Noel, son of Jean, founded fresh branches of the family, of which the senior branch is that of St Helier springing from Philippe's eldest surviving son:

Jean Benest

Jean, whose birth in 1737 is the first entry in the family Bible, reads:

"Jean Benest fils Philippe and Sara Vautier sa feme ne le 25 jour de May 1737 au Vieux Stile qui est a present le 5 juin, et presents au Bateme le 16 par Jean Langlois et Rachel Le Cras, qui apres fut la feme du dit Sr Langlois."

The entry of his marriage, in 1767, with Marie Le Breton, occurs in the registers of St Helier:

"Jean Benest de la Paroisse de St Laurent et Marie Le Breton de la Paroisse de St Helier furent mmaries ensemble le Cinquieme jour de Mars Mille sept cent Soixante Sept."

She was the daughter of Charles Le Breton and Marie Norman, and was baptised at St Helier on 23 October 1743 (Godparents Francois Le Clerc and Esther, his sister). On 28 November 1784 John Benest and Marie Le Breton, his wife, were godparents at St Lawrence to his nephew, Philippe Benest, son of Philippe. On 18 December 1784 he received in his father's partage the family house which his father had inherited in 1783 from his nephew, but Jean Benest had to pay his father 40 livres old currency per annum for it. In 1794, 1796 and 1800 respectively he was godfather to his grandchildren Elizabeth Bisson, Jean Coutanche and Jean Bisson. In 1799 he was godfather to his two grandchildren Jean Benest and Marie Elizabeth Wright. On 1 March 1808 he wrote the Genealogie being then nearly 71 years old. In 1818 and May 1821 respectively, he was godfather to his great-grandchildren Edward Mauger and Jane Matilda Benest.

As already shown, it is to him that we are indebted for practically all the entries in the family Bible. He evidently kept all his faculties until his end as the last entry in his handwriting refers to a baptism which occurred only four months before his death. He survived both his sons and died in 1821, aged 84, and was buried in the churchyard of St Helier:

" Mons Jean Benest, Snr, fut enterre le troisieme d'Octobre mil huit cent vingt-un."

We are told that his grandson, John Benest, caused the Clameur de Haro to be called over his grave when the authorities proposed to desecrate it by either constructing a new street or widening an old one at the expense of that portion of the churchyard in which he had been buried. A large oil-painted portrait of this venerable old gentleman is now in the possession of the Rev John William Benest, his great grandson. It is unfortunately too indistinct to permit of reproduction in these notes.

By his wife, Marie Le Breton, he had issue:

  • Mary, born 9 May, baptided 15 May 1767 at St Helier (Godparents Francois Benest and Elizabeth Mahaut); died 28 June, buried 1 July 1771, at St Helier
  • Elizabeth, born 8 March, baptided 16 March 1769 at St Helier (Godparents Edward Patriarche and Elizabeth Patriarche, wife of Nicholas Messervy). In 1799, she was godmother to her niece, Mary Elizabeth Wright. She married Philip Bisson and had 10 children.
  • Jean
  • George, born 13 February, baptised 26 February 1773 at St Helier (Godparents his father and his aunt, Elizabeth Benest, representing their distant cousins, George Benest and Elizabeth Hamon, his wife, "qui le Mauvai tems empecha de Venir a tems pour le Batem." On 9 August 1815 in the registers of St Helier is the entry of the burial of a George Benest son of Jean.
  • Marie, born 27 January, baptised 8 February 1775 at St Helier (Godparents Peter Mauger and Mary Marett, his wife). She died 14 April 1775.
  • Anne, born 7 May, baptised 15 May 1776 at St Helier (Godparents Francis Langlois and Anne Payn, who shortly afterwards married Richard Le Feuvre). She was godmother to her niece, Elizabeth Bisson, in 1794. On 2 January 1796 she married at St Helier, John Coutanche, and had four children.
  • Marie, born 16 July, baptised 29 July 1778 at St Helier (Godparents Jean Richardson and his second wife, Mary Chevallier). In 1796 and 1797 respectively, she was godmother to her nephews, John Coutanche and George Bisson. On 15 December 1797 she married at St Helier Samuel Wright (who, we understand, died at St John's Rectory). In May 1820 she was godmother to her granddaughter, Mary Mauger.

Jean Benest

Jean, eldest son of Jean, son of Philip, was born 25 February and baptised at St Helier on 6 March 1771. The entry of his baptism in the church registers reads:

"Jean fils de Me Jean Benest et de Mme Marie Le Breton sa femme fut baptize le sixieme jour de Mars Mille Sept Cents septante un, Mr Jean Langlois et Mse Rachel Le Cras, sa, femme, Parrain et Marraine."

His godparents were those who had stood for his father 34 years previously, which curious fact is noted in the family Bible.

In 1797 he married Jeanne, second daughter and eventual co-heiress of Philippe Le Geyt-dit-Rauvet, of St Saviour, and Jeanne Mourant. She was baptised on 11 January 1776 and died in 1803. In 1800 Jean and Jeanne were godparents to their nephew, John Bisson. On 25 November 1818 he was godfather to his granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth Benest, who is still living.

He died in 1819, during the lifetime of his father, and was buried at St Helier on 26 May 1819. The partaqe of his property is recorded in the Registre Public and is dated 17 July 1819. From it we see that besides his house in La Motte Street, he had another, No 12 on the Quay.

On 19 August 1819 administration of the goods of John Benest, Jnr, late of Jersey, widower, merchant, deceased, was granted to John Benest (the younger) his son and next of kin.

Jean Benest and Jeanne Le Geyt had one son and one daughter:

  • Jane, born 16 November, baptised on 10 December 1800 (Godparents Peter Simonette, also Anne and Mary Le Geyt, aunts of the child. Peter married Anne in 1805).

She married on 25 May 1818 James-Ryan Smyth, a native of Ireland. He joined the 15th Foot on 3 September 1812 and retired on half pay in 1817. His age was 67 at his death on 1 November 1855. His wife died childless on 15 April 1856, and lies buried with her husband in the churchyard of St Saviour.

  • John, only son of Jean, eldest son of Jean, was born 5 February and baptised at St Helier on 13 February 1799, the entry in the church register reading:
"Jean fils de Mons Jean Benest et de Dlle Jeanne Le Geyt sa femme fut baptise le treisieme Jour de Fevrier mil Sept cent quatrevingt dix neuf Mons Jean Benest grandpere parain et Dlle Jeanne Mourant femme de Mons Philippe Le Geyt, grandmere, et Marie Le Geyt, tante, marraines."

He married on 17 January 1818 Mary Elizabeth Millais, elder daughter of John Millais by his wife, Sarah Mary Matthews, who was the daughter of William Matthews and Mary Luce. Mary Elizabeth Millais (who was aunt to the late Sir John Everett Millais, President of the Royal Academy, etc) was born 27 January and baptised at St Helier on 28 February 1798. She died in London on 26 January 1876, on the eve of her 78th birthday, and is buried at Highgate. She was third cousin to her husband through his mother (nee Le Geyt) and her great grandmother (also nee Le Geyt). She and John Benest had 12 children. He died on 14 October 1855 (not 1865 as stated, through a printer's error, in the Pedigree of the Benest Family of Jersey.)

Their children were:

  • Mary Ann, born at St Helier on 6 November and baptised 25 November 1818 (Godparents John Benest, her grandfather, and Sarah Mary Millais, née Matthews, her grandmother). She is now living, unmarried, in Surrey.
  • Jane Matilda, born at St Helier on 30 June, baptized in private on 12 July 1820, and in the church on 4 May 1821 (Godparents John Benest, her great-grandfather, and Jane Smyth, nee Benest, her aunt). She married at St Helier, on 8 April 1844, William Janvrin (1814-1871), buried with his wife at Highgate; he was a brother of Louisa Mary Janvrin.
  • Anna Maria, born at St Helier on 12 December 1821; died at Portswood on 1 July 1879 ; buried at Highfield, Southampton. She married at St Helier 17 January 1842, George Everett.
  • John William Benest, born 1823
  • Edward Everett Benest, Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers born at St Helier, 21 August 1824, died at Brixton, London, 24 November 1901; buried at Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting. He married first, at Gillingham, Norfolk, 13 October 1852, Esther-Shaw Parker (eldest surviving daughter of Thomas Parker, of Gillingham, by Esther Shaw, his wife). She was born in London on 30 July 1828, and died at Norwich on 11 May 1855. Her only child:
    • Edward Benest Shaw Benest, Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Society of Arts and Member of the Instituto Polytechnica, Rio Janeiro. He was born at Catton, Norwich, 30 July 1853, and married first on 3 August 1882 at Rio, Flora MacKinnell, daughter of Alfred and Eliza Ann Heatherly, (1864-1895) having had issue:
      • Esther Lilian, born at Rio, 4 June 1883; living, unmarried
      • Alfred Edward Diniz, born at Clapham, 7 June 1884; died at Rio in January 1885
      • Frank Millais, born at Clapham, 8 September 1885; living, unmarried
      • Isabel Violet, born at Rio, 23 January 1887; living, unmarried
      • Edward Ernest, born at Westminster, 9 October 1891; living.
    • Edward Benest Shaw married second on 1 July 1897 at St Andrew's, Deal, Kent, Annie-Sophia Rippin (eldest daughter of Daniel Rippin, of Wartnaby, Leicestershire and Mary-Jane Poole, of Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire
  • Edward Everett, married second on 29 April 1869 at Rio, Mary Lucas, daughter of Robert Lucas and Mary Williams, born in Liverpool 19 December 1847; now living at Brixton. By her he had issue
    • Francis Edward, born at Liverpool 12 July 1871; now living at Brixton. He married on 21 April 1904 at Ealing, Charlotte Elizabeth Maud Ingram, daughter of the Rev David-Caldicott Ingram, and Elizabeth Ann White.
    • Philip-Millais Benest, born at Bromley, co. Kent, 25 March 1873; now living at Pendleton, near Manchester.

He, married on 24 September 1901 at St. Philip's, Buckingham Palace Road, London, Alice-Mary Hurst (daughter of George Hurst, late of Warwick Street, Pimlico, by Abigail Burdett, his wife).

  • James Smyth, Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was born at St Helier on 26 March 1826, and died at Norwich 29 February 1896, being buried on 5 March at Eaton Church, Norwich. He married at Eaton Church, Norwich, 30 July 1857, Emily Susannah Wilson, daughter of Robert Wilson, of Norwich, and Mary Ann Shaw. She was born 1823 , and, surviving, her husband, to whom she bore no children, died at Norwich on 28 April 1898, being buried at Eaton Church there.
  • George Henry, born at St Helier 20 August 1827; drowned off the coast of Africa 24 September 1851; he was unmarried.
  • Ellen Octavia, born at St Helier 26 February 1829 died about 1838 buried at Green Street, St. Helier.
  • Elizabeth Mary, born at St Helier 17 December 1830; died 27 July 1831.
  • Philip Le Geyt, born at St Helier 16 July 1832; died 21 June 1865; buried at Shanghai. His will was proved at Somerset House in 1865. At the time of his death he was Master of the ship Highflyer. Shortly before his death he had married Charlotte, nee Begbie, widow of a Mr Todd.
  • Isabel Mary, born at St Helier 31 December 1833; living since April 1901 (when she left St Helier) at Redhill, Surrey. She married on 28 April 1863 her first cousin (once removed) Thomas Millais, who was born 6 July 1813 and died 1 June 1882. Mrs Millais was the last of this branch of the Benest family to leave Jersey.
  • Mary Elizabeth, born at St Helier 20 July 1836 ; died at Lee, Kent, 13 October 1891, buried at Lee Cemetery. She married at All Saints' Church, Belvedere, Kent, 12 February 1868, Henry Augustus Bernau. Their children included the author of this article, Charles Bernau.

John William Benest

John William, eldest son of Jean, only son of Jean), born at St Helier 31 March 1823. Trinity College, Dublin, BA 1848; Deacon 1849; Priest 1850. Rector of Little Cressingham, near Watton, Norfolk, since 1871. Formerly curate of Alderney 1850-54; of Huddersfield 1854-57; of Burnham Deepdale 1857 and 58 ; of All Saints, Belvedere, 1865-66; of Bidborough, Kent, 1866-71. He married first at St Saviour, Jersey, on May 1851, Louisa Mary Janvrin who died at Southborough, Kent. He married second at St Margaret's Church, Lowestoft, on 27 June 1876, Henrietta Charlotte Reynolds, daughter of the Rev Charles Reynolds, Rector of Great Fransham and Little Brandon, Norfolk), by whom he has issue:

  • William Noel Le Geyt, born at Little Cressingham, 6 December 1881; now living, unmarried, at Little Cressingham.
  • John Langston Millais, born at Little Cressingham 31 January 1879 ; now living, unmarried, in London, a solicitor.

Descendants of Francis Benest

Francis, son of Philippe, son of Jean), was baptised at St Lawrence on 28 October 1744. In 1767 he was godfather to his niece, Marie Benest, daughter of Jean, at St Helier. In 1784, as we have already seen, he was entitled, on the division of his father's property, to a house near the Carrefour Selous in St Lawrence, his father reserving unto himself the right of living in it until his death. From the Genealogie we learn that, in 1808, this house was still in the bands of his descendants. In 1789 Francis Benest and his wife, Betty Cabot, are mentioned. In 1791 they were godparents at St Lawrence to his nephew Francois Benest, son of Philip and Jane Vautier.

Their children were:

  • Peter, baptised at St Lawrence on 14 February 1790 (Godparents Peter Cabot, Elizabeth Bisson and Anne Cabot).
  • Elizabeth, baptised at St Lawrence on 1 July 1792 (Godparents John Calleteau and Elizabeth Benest, his wife).
  • Jane, baptised at St Lawrence on 4 October 1795 (Godparents Benjamin Bertaut and Jane Cabot, his wife).
  • John, son of Francois, son of Philip, was in 1808 the godfather of Charles Bisson, the son of his first cousin, Elizabeth Bisson, née Honest.


Descendants of Philippe Benest

Philippe, son of Philippe, son of Jean, as already stated, was baptised at St Lawrence on 18 December 1748. He is mentioned in 1784 in his father's partage. He married first Jane Vautier, and by her had issue:

  • Philip Benest, baptised at St Lawrence on 28 November 1781 (Godparents Jean Benest and Mary Le Breton, his wife). He died before 1830 and his eldest daughter Mary was a minor in 1830.
  • John, baptised at St Lawrence on 15 December 1786 (Godparents John Luce and Anne Benest, his wife). He was living in 1830.
  • Jane, baptised at St Lawrence on 14 December 1788 (Godparents John Calleteau and Elizabeth Benest, his wife). She evidently died before 1796.
  • Francois, baptised privately 23 August 1791, baptised at St Lawrence on 4 September 1791 (Godparents Francois Benest and Betty Cabot, his wife). He was buried at St Lawrence on 6 September 1791.
  • Elizabeth, baptised at St Lawrence on 16 September 1792 (Godparents Jean Calleteau and Elizabeth Benest). She was living in 1830, being then the wife of John Edward Querrre, son of John.
  • Jane, baptized at St Lawrence on 25 September 1796 (Godparents: John Le Gallais and Jane Remon, his wife)

Philippe Benest, who died before 1819, married second Elizabeth Gallichan, who was living in 1830

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