Pinels of St Lawrence

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Pinels of St Lawrence

This section of an article on St Lawrence families by Henry Coutanche, well illustrates some of the difficulties encountered by family historians researching their ancestry in Jersey

A family having one of the earliest connections with the Parish of St Lawrence is that of Pinel. In the 1309 Assize Rolls Philip, Colin and Laurence all are mentioned and William, a juryman, is recorded in the Extente of 1331.

Thomas Pinels

The St Lawrence Registers do not begin until 1654. Of the first 18 Pinel baptismal entries, until 1705, all the fathers (with the exception of one named Jacques) are Thomas Pinel. Fortunately one Thomas is described as ' of La Vallee , a second is son of Jean and another, son of Thomas, whereas the one whose line is being researched is the only Pinel at this period whose mother's name is mentioned.

This does suggest a family, or lady, of some standing. In 1646 in the Manifeste of St Lawrence two Thomas Pinels append their signatures as heads of family.

Although the records are sparse, it is feasible to distinguish three different families in the parish at this period: one in La Vallee, one in Coin Tourgis, whose Christian name of Thomas occurs frequently in records of the Fief des Arbres in the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries, often as attorneys for those who cannot attend the meetings of the fief Court, and the third in the Vingtaine du Coin Hatain.

The Thomas Pinel who married Elizabeth Laurens does not seem to have owned much property in his own right; he frequently occurs in contracts and in seigneurial court records as the husband of Elizabeth Laurens, obviously a lady of some substance.

At the beginning of the 18th century both are noted in the Meleches fief records following an Appariement compiled between 1696 and 1703, and holding jointly le Buron, la grange et l'apentis, le Clos Raide, la Vallette en cotil par l'ouest du Buron, all in St Lawrence, fief Hastains, a sub-fief of Meleches, but with no mention of a house.

Jean Pinels

The eldest son of Thomas and Elizabeth was named Jean, the first in a line of Jeans in succeeding generations. His wife was Jeanne Bertaut, whose younger brother had an only child who married John Le Couteur of St John and who was the grandmother of Sir John Le Couteur (1794-1875).

When Jean's children came to share his inheritance in the partage of 1773, few references to the places named in the Appariement can be found. However, other contracts researched have confirmed the descent, but do not clarify whether the family properties mentioned in them are the same.

It is interesting to note that the avenue of the Pinel property, which can be identified from that partage as Le Coin, Bu de la Rue, divides the fief of Quatorze Quartiers on the north from that of Meleches on the south. This presumably explains why, in 1805, Jean Pinel is described as one of the tenants of the former fief, and in his aveux makes no declaration of a house on the latter, for the present house is to the north of the avenue.

Second marriage?

It is in the succeeding generation that the genealogist's nightmares occurred. Jean Pinel, the eldest son of Jean Pinel and Jeanne Bertaut lost his wife, Susanne du Heaume, in 1762, being left with a family of three young children. It would be natural for him to marry again, but the records and registers begin to be confusing.

The parish records show a Jean Pinel and Elizabeth Marie, both of St Lawrence, being married in 1769, and following this marriage a family of six children were born. Several people have conducted researches into this family's pedigree, but all have hesitated at this point in the tree.

It would have been logical to accept a second marriage, but the second family included another Jean and another Marie, which would seem to be improbable at this period. Furthermore, no other references can be found to Elizabeth Marie, not even her burial.

The Denombrement, or list of parishioners of St Lawrence in 1788, includes all the children of both families in one group with a new name, Elizabeth de Ste Croix, aged 67 years. In my own family records I had a note that in 1798 she was the godmother of Elizabeth, the eldest child of Henry Coutanche and Elizabeth Pinel, where she was referred to as maternal grandmother. All the usual eventualities of second marriage and step-grandmother were investigated, but to no avail.

By a stroke of luck it was discovered that the Pinel family registered their partage in the Land Registry when not necessarily required to do so by law. It is also noteworthy that they seemed to delay each partage, at least for two generations, until the younger children were of age.

On 9 June 1804 the two daughters of Susanne du Heaume described as Jean Pinel's first wife, and the five daughters of Elizabeth de Ste Croix, his second wife, who was still alive, sold all their shares in the inheritances of their late father to their only brother, Jean Pinel.

Further confusion

This begins to give some assistance, but also creates further problems. The order in which the daughters appear, their given ages in later censuses and their ages at death, all confirm them as the children of Elizabeth Marie.

In 1820 Elizabeth de Ste Croix, widow of Jean Pinel, was buried. It would therefore seem that Elizabeth Marie and Elizabeth de Ste Croix are one and the same person. But why was she named apparently until 1783 or so in one form, and after that date in another? Moreover, if she were the Elizabeth de Ste Croix aged 67 in 1788 she would have been somewhat old to begin having children in 1770 and to still be having one in 1783 when she would have been 61 or 62.

The problems are not yet over. The children of both marriages are selling to their only brother Jean; which Jean? The Census records soon show that it was the younger, but what happened to his elder half-brother? The latter is certainly alive in 1788, when the denombrement states that he is aged 32, but out of the island at the time.

An inspection of the St Lawrence Battalion guard in 1795, of which framed copies exist in the archives of St Lawrence Parish and the Societe Jersiaise, report that Jean Pinel is out of the island.

He had been living in the island in 1780 when he had bought land from his grandmother, Jeanne Bertaut. This purchase had not been agreeable to his father, heir presumptive of Jeanne, who claimed right by retrait lignager, which was the right, now abolished, for any of the heirs of the original owner to reclaim the realty being sold provided they could recompense the purchaser with an equal sum.

As the elder Jean had claims by closer degree of relationship, he would have been able to recover the relevant land. However, on the specified date he did not appear before the Deputy Viscount and so he forfeited his claimed rights.

Mysterious Jean

The important fact is that the elder of the two Jeans, sons of Jean senior, is certainly alive in 1788, and probably in 1795, as well as being a land owner. What happened to him and was he the mysterious Jean whose datestone appears on the present Le Coin property - IPN 1784?

This would explain the fact that the person who built this section of the house did not apparently have a wife. But where were his father and step-mother living"?

No mention was made of him in the 1804 bail de partage, for he must have died in the interim and his only brother inherited his property, the house and lands being insufficient to be divided between him and his five sisters.

One final set of facts seems to support parts if not all of the above hypotheses. The burial registers of St Lawrence have Jean Pinel frere being buried in 1797, and Jean Pinel in 1803. A reference in the Fief Book of the last Plaids de la Cour du Manoir de Saint-Ouen, quoted in Rene Le Masurier's Le Droit de l'ile de Jersey informs us that Jean Pinel had recently died without direct heirs. Nevertheless parts of the enigma remain unresolved.

Property purchases

Succeeding generations of the family continued their ancestors' slow but steady accumulation of land and other property, as shown by the quarters being paid successively in rate lists dated 1747, 1761, 1774 and 1811.

Thomas Pinel who married Sara Le Feuvre began buying property in the area of First Tower, on the Fief du Prieur, at the beginning of the 19th century. He and his successors owned lands bordering that of the wealthy de Ste Croix family of Pied du Cotil (now the Hotel Santa Monica) and that of Marie Le Sueur, wife of Jean Henry Brohier, to the west of Bellozanne Valley and several mielles or dunes in the area. When buried in St Helier he was described as Thomas Pinel du Mont Cochon.

Jean Pinel, who married Marie Le Brun in 1804, erected a granite gate pillar at the head of his avenue to celebrate this event, as did his brother-in-law Jean Hamon, when enlarging his property at Les Chasses in 1840. This Jean Pinel's eldest daughter was married twice and had one son from each marriage. Not only did she die at a relatively early age, but both her sons, Francis Le Sueur and John Coutanche ( -1870), also died relatively young, both being under 35.

In 1842 Jean sold to his younger brother Philippe the farm he had bought in 1839 from George Laurens, son of Philippe. This is the farm which recent tradition had suggested incorrectly was the original Pinel homestead. It has variously been known as La Ferme Pinel and Bu de la Rue, and lies on the brow of the hill to the west of Le Coin and Grande Route de Saint Jean.

Parish officials

Over the years the family has played a minor part in parochial affairs, occasionally taking minor positions such as Officier du Connetable, but little more, until 1869 when Jean Pinel served as Centenier, but only until 1870 when he was succeeded by his second cousin Philippe Hamon of Les Chasses.

It was this Jean, or John, however who served so loyally in the Militia, obtaining the rank of Captain, that he was awarded a testimonial by his fellow officers in the St Lawrence Battalion. In 1874 he was given another testimonial, including two silver watches, for his services to local agriculture, and was described as an 'amateur vet', presumably because he knew the job but had no paper qualifications.

Through his wife he was related to the Ahier family, being uncle to Francis John Ahier, a leading member and benefactor of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society, of La Chasserie, St Lawrence.

However it was the two sons of this John Pinel who came to prominent positions in this island. The elder, Herbert Ernest, qualified as a veterinary surgeon, became States Vet for some time and was a Jurat of the Royal Court.


The younger son, John Edwin (often called 'Johnny' with affection), was called to the Bar and became an Advocate of the Royal Court in 1889, Deputy for St Helier in 1907, and Constable from 1910 to 1925. On the death of John Vaudin he was elected by the States to become Judge of the Police Court. His obituary notice describes him as 'brusque of manner, but warm hearted'. He was also a keen sportsman and for some time owned a modern racing stable, entering his horses regularly in the races then held at Les Quennevais.

Advocate Pinel chose a fine site for a new house at First Tower, where he had a splendid view of St Aubin's Bay. Belle Plage is still an imposing structure and was one of the last private houses to have an official laying of its foundation stone with suitable press coverage.

When Victoria Avenue was being extended from First Tower to Millbrook in 1900 Advocate Pinel was so incensed by the work that he accused the States of taking land from his property by enclosing it with plants in front of his house. On 7 November 1900 he called a Clameur de Haro, which stopped the work for the time being, but the subsequent court proceedings declared that it had been incorrectly administered, and the work continued for the 'benefit' of future generations of automobiles.

Although the senior branch is now extinct in the male line, there are a number of Pinel descendants alive in Jersey and Canada, as well as hundreds descended through the female lines.

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