Jersey, Channel Islands: A brief history of immigration

Posted by Kristen Hyde on January 20, 2017 in Australia, Canada, Collections, United Kingdom

This blogpost about Jersey’s Worldwide Links and the Island’s Parish Church Records was written by Linda Romeril. Linda is Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage and is responsible for the care and promotion of access to the Island’s archive and museum collections. Archive collections include records from the Government of Jersey, Public Institutions, the Royal Court, H.E. Lieutenant-Governor, Parishes, Churches, Businesses, Societies and Individuals relating to the Island. Linda has worked at Jersey Archive since 1997.

Jersey Catholic Parish Records

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, which are located in the English Channel just 30 kilometres from the French coast. Jersey is a small Island, just 118 square kilometres; however descendants of the sea faring islanders can be found all around the world.

Jersey men and women, travelled from the Island over the centuries in search of new lives, land to farm and opportunities to bring back trade and goods to their families.

From the 16th Century onwards we know that thousands of Jersey men and women, such as the Mauger, Noel, Amy, Renouf, Le Cornu, Nicolle, Cabot, Hamon, de la Haye, Romeril, de Gruchy and Le Quesne families, left the Island to start new lives in countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and America. The Jersey Church of England Parish Records from 1540 – 1940 are now available to search online through Ancestry for the first time. Jersey family names are distinctive and unique and therefore allow descendants to link back to their Jersey roots and discover more about their Island ancestors.

Did your Jersey ancestors set sail for new shores? Find out more about when and why the people of Jersey began immigrating around the world.

As early as the 16th century the Jersey fleet was involved in the Newfoundland cod trade, and there were permanent bases in the area in the 1670s, particularly in Conception Bay, Trinity Bay, and Jersey Bay.

The business developed strongly and in the late 18th century there was a significant Jersey presence especially in the Gaspe peninsular. At its peak in the 1830s and 40s it is estimated that as many as 2,500 Jerseymen were working on a fleet of over 100 vessels.

Jersey people also took advantage of trade opportunities in America with Jersey communities in Boston and Salem as early as the 17th century. Trade links continued into the 18th century with a number of merchants and apprentices settling on the east coast of America. During the 19th century, Jersey people emigrated to work in the growing construction industry and to purchase land, with the California Gold Rush of the 1850s also attracting people from the island.

A small number of convicts were transported from Jersey, however the vast majority of those who emigrated to Australia were looking for opportunities to settle and own their own land as a result of an economic downturn in the island in the 1870s and 1880s.

Jersey residents also took advantage of the Australian gold rush of the 1850s and it is estimated that as many as 6,000 people may have left the Channel Islands for Australia between 1852 and 1855. In the 1850s, a number of advertisements for ships leaving for Australia appeared in the local newspapers. These include an advert from Esnouf and Mauger ship owners who wish to let readers know that the brig Charles from Jersey was leaving the island on 2nd April and sailing for Melbourne and the gold regions of Australia. Those who left the island during this period include George Romeril and his wife Ann Pallot, both of whom were in their early 20s and looking to make a new life together.

New Zealand
The economic downturn also led islanders to take up opportunities for land ownership and a new life in New Zealand. In the 1870s and 1880s islanders were given free passage to New Zealand and it is estimated that around 400 people left Jersey to make the long trip across the world.

The Jersey Heritage Archives and Collections online allows you to search more record collections to find out about your ancestors.

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