(L'Histoire de l'ile de Jersiaise)

The Island of Jersey


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The Island of Jersey in the 1600s was entirely French speaking. All of the professional people including the clergy and the lawyers spoke only French. They were educated in France and were Calvinists by religion. Only very few of them who were educated could speak English.

They were very much unto themselves because travel in the English Channel in those times was exceedingly dangerous. There were pirates on the seas and there was a lot of crime. It was not safe to venture out into the open waters.

Of course, there were a few who did. And these were mainly the Jersey seamen who were interested in the bountiful cod fishery of the Island of Newfoundland referred to as Terre Nova. Also, some students who wanted to go to England to study at Oxford or Cambridge would dare to cross the foreboding seas.

In the Channel Islands in this period, there were four classes of people. The highest class were called the Seigneurs.

These Seigneurs were originally only about 100 in number, but as they married and had children, their numbers multipled. They were the landowners who had all of the estates on the island of Jersey. They were the educated. They could hold court to settle disputes among the tenants. There were disputes about ownership of all kinds of things from bees to herds of cattle. These Seigneurs were well to do in riches. However, at this time, there was little actual "currency" in Jersey. The people traded their goods for goods and services. The Seigneurs spoke of themselves as nobility and so were men who were always posing, standing tall and acting out the part they wished to portray.

Since they were wealthy in worldly goods, there were often disputes of who would inherit their belongings when they passed away. They were certainly the wealthy class, owning not only the land, but all the possessions that accompanied this station in life.
BR>The next class of individuals were the Farmers. The Farmer owned his own home and land, but had hardly any wealth. He was able to provide for his family with the production of his crops. He produced eggs and poultry, wax for his own candles. He caught fish and preserved the livers of his conger for lighting oil for his lamps. The Farmer owned oxen which he used to draw his carts. The roads were very hilly and not safe for the carts, so they hardly ever went to town except out of necessity. The objective of the Farmer was clearly not to become wealthy, but to provide for his family's needs.

The social life centered around the Church much as it does today in the Channel Islands and in Newfoundland where many Jerseymen went to "catch the cod".

The French Huguenot religion of Calvinism was transformed into the Anglican Religion sometime during the 17th century. The people were not ecstatic about this, but they accepted it and transformed to meet their requirements by changing prayer books to accomodate the new religion of the Church of England called Anglicanism.

The lowest class were the Paupers. They actually had to obtain licenses to beg. They were beggars in the true sense. They waited outside of the church services. However a beggar was only allowed to ask for alms outside of his own parish. Outside of every church was a sign asking for Alms for the Poor. Tresor des Pauvres. The government tried to police these beggars and to house and feed them, but there were so many that it was next to impossible.

Many families emigrated to Newfoundland in the beginning of the 1700s. This when my family surnames showed up in the early records for Harbour Main there. The DE LA COURS, The HAWCOS and the FUREYS arrived in that time frame. The DE LA COUR name was changed to LACOUR which it remains today. The HACQUOILs became HAWCO and FUREY was changed from LE HURY.
Click here for French Version of the History of Jersey


Click here for Judy Barker's Genealogy Site