Notes on content of church baptism, marriage and burial records

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This page contains some notes on the process used to create Jerripedia’s index of baptisms, marriages and burials recorded by the 12 parish churches between 1540 and 1940 (dates vary from parish to parish and by type of record).

The church registers, which are now held at the Jersey Archive, were transcribed up to 1842 by members of the Channel Island Family History Society during the 1990s. In 2016 Ancestry were given access to all the registers, which have been scanned for presentation on the subscription site, which also has an index.

Accuracy

Users should be aware that there are inevitably some errors in the transcriptions of the original records, and it is a major step forward for researchers to have online access to the original registers. Those thinking of subscribing to Ancestry to access those registers should be aware that the standard of accurancy of their transcriptions which form the basis of the index to the records is very poor. There are also errors which can be identified in the original registers. At Jerripedia we have attempted to provide as accurate an index as possible, as well as translating the early records, which were written in French, and transcribing abbreviations. See further notes below on the spelling of names.

The elimination of errors is an ongoing process. Working through nearly half a million records one-by-one would take an inordinate amount of time and detract from other Jerripedia work. It is also not always the best way of spotting errors. Most error trapping can be done better and faster by processing the records through our database, and as mistakes are identified and corrected, they are logged for correcting in the A-Z indexes, although there may be a short delay before this happens.

The original records were usually handwritten by Rectors at the time of the ceremony, and were added to the parish records in batches, either by the Rector himself, or by a lay assistant, some time after. Sometimes batches of records never found their way into the registers. During the temporary, or sometimes long-term absence of some Rectors from the island, stand-in priests refused to participate in the record-keeping processes.

The earliest of the registers which are now in the safe keeping of Jersey Archive, are not the originals, but copies which were made,in the 19th century. Errors crept into this process and some records were lost, either because pages were missed, or the original writing was indecipherable.

It is now believed that the reason that records start at different times for different parishes is that the early records for some parishes have simply been lost.


Content of records

Baptisms

Our baptism index contains the date of the child's baptism and the names of the father and mother, when known. Early records did not include the mother's name. If no father's name is given it is probably because the child was illegitimate. Some, but not all records give godparents' names, but because their inclusion dramatically increases the time taken to process records for Jerripedia, the decision was been taken to exclude most of them. (see note below on database and page images).

Marriages

Mariage records give the date and the names of the bride and groom. Some records give the parish they were living in at the time of the marriage - see abbreviations below. Where marriage entries identify the parents of groom and/or bride, these have been included. Later records include most detail, and the opportunity will be taken to add this to the Jerripedia database in the future. The main priority so far has been to add as many records as possible as quickly as possible.

Burials

Burial records can be as brief as the forename of the deceased, but some give the name of a spouse or parents. The original records sometimes give the age at death, which has usually been retained, but any other information has usually been excluded. Later records include extra information such as approximate year of birth, which is shown in our indexes, and cause of death, which is not.

Dates

Until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the New Year started on March 26 each year, so all dates in January and February, and up to 25 March, had the same year number as the previous year. In the transcriptions of church registers, dates during this period are shown in the style '1645/6', but to conform with the style adopted throughout Jerripedia all dates are shown as if the New Year started on 1 January.

Baptism records sometimes show two dates, the first for a baptism of a child at home, and the second for the church ceremony. In such cases only the earliest date has been shown in our index, being closest to the date of birth. Where a baptism follows some time after a birth (possibly away from the island) and the birth date is included in the record, it is also shown in the index.

Unfortunately a handful of dates has been transcribed inaccurately. This is inevitable given the poor quality of some of the original page scans, and whereas it is usually possible to identify a fuzzy figure for a century, figures for decades and years can sometimes present an impossible challenge, particularly if a wrongly typed figure has been corrected by typing over it again.

Sometimes a note is added to a record to indicate that the date has been estimated. This may mean that the transcript of the register shows no date at all, in which case we have estimated approximately when it was probably made; or, perhaps one or more figures in the given date is illegible, and we have had to guess the likely full date.

Database and page images

All the records which are contained in the Jerripedia alphabetical indexes can also now be accessed through our searchable database. This is very helpful if you are not certain in which parish your ancestor may have been baptised, married or buried, or you have doubts over spelling of a name. You can search for baptisms, marriages and burials across the whole island or in individual parishes. You can also search for just a part of a name if you are uncertain which spelling variation(s) it is likely to be listed under.

Links are provided to page images of the original transcription folders from which the baptism records are drawn. These show the original entries in French, and many include extra information such as godparents at baptisms. At this stage we are not including marriage and burial record page images, because they contain very little additional information, but this decision will be reviewed in due course.

Surname complications

Some Jersey surnames exist with and without a prefix, or with the prefix combined into the name with no space. The most common example is de Gruchy and Gruchy. These are two distinct families, but it should not be assumed that they are always correctly shown in the original records. You may find an ancestor whose name has been recorded incorrectly.

You will also find such variations as Heaume, du Heaume and Duheaume. Sometimes it is not clear whether these are actually distinct families.

Please note that for family groups which have a variety of spellings, we have in most cases now indexed the majority under the most common version, or versions, of this family name. It is important that you are aware of variations in the spelling of names you are researching. Most of the common names and their variations are included in our Family pages

If you are having trouble locating ancestors, look at our Comprehensive list of Jersey surnames, which contains most of the spelling variations which can be found in records over the centuries.

The variation in spellings of Jersey forenames and surnames always causes difficulties. The presentation of most common Jersey family names has varied over the years, and even from parish to parish, and after extensive use of the indexes and our database by exerienced researchers, and a further proof-reading exercise in which the database was used to group together all variations of names, an attempt has been made to standardise spellings where possible.

It is important to realise that children of parents who could not read or write, and probably had little idea of how to spell their surname, were sometimes baptised by Rectors unfamiliar with Jersey names, and then entered in church registers by churchwardens and others who could not read the Rector's handwriting. Although some family names undoubtedly evolved over the years, others are found in variations in official documents which are, at best, errors, and at worst, fanciful aberrations. For example: Bisson is never likely to have been correctly spelled Bysson; variations of Poingdestre (Poindexter, etc) found in the USA and elsewhere would never have been accurate in Jersey.

An understanding of variations in surname spelling, accurate or otherwise, is particularly important in bringing together all records relating to individual family groups, which can significantly help researchers looking for family relationships. The rule the transcribers appear to have adopted is to reproduce each entry in the baptism registers as faithfully as possible. We have adopted the rule of trying to make it as easy as possible for researchers to trace their ancestors.This may mean that some surnames are spelt incorrectly, but even in the original registers variations can be found in records which clearly relate to siblings and parents and children. We believe that it is important to facilitate the process of tracking a family from one generation to the next, at the same time as making it easy to locate an entry, whether the spelling of a surname at a particular period in history was, for example, 'Le Feuvre', 'Le Febvre', or 'Le Fevre'.

There are also Jersey's unique forms of double-barrelled surnames to add to the confusion. Le Gros Bissons are a distinct branch of the Bisson family but they will be found listed in both forms, even within the same parish registers, and indexed under Bisson and Le Gros. Le Vavasseur dit Durells will sometimes be found under 'L', 'V' or 'D'; Valpy dit Janvrin may be found under Valpy or Janvrin; etc. Anyone researching one of these families is advised to take time to study how the presentation of the name varied.

The same is also true for names such as Le Sbirel, which changed over time into Lesbirel, via a number of other spellings; Le Febure, which can be found in various forms and eventually developed to Le Fevre and then Le Feuvre, which is the only form commonly found today.

Where names are commonly prefixed Le, La, L', Les, Du, De, De La etc the prefix has usually been added even if the name is shown without it in a record.

The spelling of some non-Jersey surnames, soldiers from the garrison, for example, is often highly questionable, but the original registers have usually been followed. The groom, or father of a child, may well not have known how to write and spell his name, and it being unfamiliar to a French-speaking Rector, he may have guessed before making an entry in his register. On the next occasion he, or his successor, may have guessed differently for the same family name. Where variations exist within what is clearly the same family group an attempt has been made to standardise on the most likely spelling so that members of the same family group appear together.

It is very important when you are researching your ancestors to be aware of different spellings which may be found for your family name(s). Reading the following Jerripedia articles on Jersey surnames will help you understand what you should be looking for when researching in the church records. Check to see if there is a family page with information on spelling variations, and also check with our comprehensive index of virtually all known Jersey surnames up to the 1970s. You will also find more helpful information in the following articles:

Help us correct errors

If you spot errors, of whatever nature, we hope that you will draw them to our attention. If you discover a typographical error: a figure substituted for a letter, or vice-versa, an impossible date such as 30 February, letters transposed in a word, a stray symbol, or anything else which is obviously wrong, leave a note for Jerripedia editors by clicking on the discussion tab at the top of the page and a member of the records editing team will make any necessary changes. If you are not a registered Jerripedia contributor you can email us (editorial@jerripedia.org - please use Jerripedia as the subject of your email) to alert site editors to any records you think might contain errors.

Parishes

Various abbreviations for the 12 parishes will be found as follows, and some uses of the French name will be encountered

  • Grouville – G, Gr
  • St Brelade – B, St B
  • St Clement – C, St C
  • St Helier – H, St H
  • St John – J, St J (St Jean)
  • St Lawrence – L, St L (St Laurens)
  • St Martin – Mt, St Mt
  • St Mary – My, St My (Ste Marie)
  • St Ouen – O, St O
  • St Peter – P, St P (St Pierre)
  • St Saviour – S, St S, (St Sauveur)
  • Trinity – T, Tr (Trinité)

Others

  • Guernsey – Gsy, Guey
  • France – Fr
  • England – Eng
  • English – (Anglois)
  • Irish – (Irois)

More French terms

Some of the first records added to Jerripedia in 2010-11, mainly from Trinity, were not fully translated and retain some French terms and abbreviations, which have been carried over to the database. You might encounter:

  • fs = fils (son)
  • fe = fille (daughter)
  • sa fem = sa femme (his wife)
  • fme is another abbreviation for femme
  • g/p = Grandpere (grandfather)
  • g/m = grandmere (grandmother)
  • vve = veuve (widow)
  • feu = the late, as in vve feu (widow of the late)
  • td = tous deux (both) found in marriage records, indicating that both bride and groom are from the same parish. It is normal in marriage records for parishes to be recorded. With baptisms it is sometimes, but not always, indicated that the father/mother/godparent(s) were not from the parish where the ceremony took place.

you will also find

  • frere = brother
  • soeur = sister
  • et = and
  • oncle = uncle
  • tante = aunt
  • snr and jnr = senior and junior (these have often been omitted in transcriptions because although the distinction between two people of the same name in successive generations meant something when the registry entries were made, that distinction has today been lost. If Philippe was the son of Philippe who was himself the son of Philippe, who was senior or junior at any point in time?

A regular source of confusion is that the French belle-fille can be translated as both 'stepdaughter' or 'daughter-in-law' (and similarly with the words for stepmother, stepbrother, etc. Often there is no way of identifying from a single record which relationship is intended. There are also problems in identifying whether relationships indicated in the record of godparents relate to the child or the child's father.

Social status

People's social standing was also conveyed by a number of titles

  • Esqr, Escr, Ecr = Esquire or Ecuyer. Although there were no formal rules, and exactly who was entitled to this description varied over the years, it was generally accorded to a seigneur, his son, a Jurat and someone of officer rank in the Militia.
  • Dlle, Mse = Mademoiselle (Miss) and was accorded to the daughters and wives of Esquires. Wives were normally accorded the social status of their father, rather than their husband, at the time of their marriage, but as the years went by and the husband's social status grew, their wives and their sons and daughters would be accorded the same status.

For a fuller list of French words and phrases and their translations, look at What do the French words and phrases in old documents mean?

Baptismal names

Although we have eliminated the vast majority, the following abbreviations for baptismal names were used in the registers and the odd one may have slipped through our editing process.

  • Abraham - Abr
  • Benjamin - Ben (also found as Beniamin)
  • Charles – Ch, Chs
  • Clement – Clem
  • Daniel – Dan
  • Edouard - Edo
  • Elizabeth - Eliz
  • Esther - Est
  • Francois - Frcs, Frs
  • Francoise - Frcse, Frse
  • George - Geo
  • Jacques - Jacz
  • Jean - Jn
  • Jeanne - Jne
  • Mabel - Mabe
  • Marguerite (Margueritte) – Margte, Mgte, Marg, Margtte, Mgtte
  • Matthew, Mathieu - Mat, Matth, Math
  • Nicolas – Nic
  • Philippe – Ph, Phle
  • Pierre – Pe, Pre
  • Susanne - Sus
  • Thomas – Th, Tho, Thoas
  • William - Wm

French terms

All French terms commonly used in church records have now been translated or deleted if they do not provide information of genealogical value. An explanation of these terms can be found in the page What do the French words and phrases in old documents mean?

Further information

Further information can be found in our page of baptism notes and those who have not previously encountered Jersey church records are recommended to read the guide to using church records for family research.

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