16th Century Onwards - Cod Trade
The Jersey fishing industry dates back to the 12th century. Initially, the catch was congers and mackerel in local waters, both of which were exported to England and France. 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 board a fleet of over 100 vessels.
Merchants sometimes settled in Canada but the majority went on a seasonal basis and returned to Jersey in the Autumn. Charles Robin – Robin, Pipon and Company established the pattern of trade for Jersey firms with the firm based in Canada but the head offices based in Jersey.
The Atlantic cod trade generated a demand for shipbuilding and for the many support services that fishing requires. It also generated a shipping industry that was related to Jersey’s tax-free stats. The cod trade was a key industry in the Island in the early part of the 19th century.
19th Century - Goldrush
Gold Rush fever! Jersey people were already emigrating to Australia, a British colony actively recruiting immigrants, when the Gold Rush started in 1851. It has been estimated that as many as 6,000 people may have left the Channel Islands for Australia between 1852 and 1855.
Jersey people also took advantage of the California Gold Rush which started in 1848. Emigration to America was already taking place with opportunities for construction work and ownership of land, the gold rush added the possibility of a quick path to riches as an additional incentive.
About the Gold Rush
Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.
Gold rushes helped spur a huge immigration that often led to permanent settlement of new regions and define a significant part of the culture of the Australian and North American frontiers. As well, at a time when the world's money supply was based on gold, the newly mined gold provided economic stimulus far beyond the gold fields.
19th Century - Economic Downturn
The early–mid 19th century saw a large number of small privately owned banks in the Island, these included parishes, churches and individuals who all issued their own bank notes. Unfortunately the small banks were liable to collapse as the failure of an owner or firm could quickly use up all the capital involved in a small venture.
In February 1873 the Mercantile Union Bank, the leading bank in the Island, was forced to close its doors. The bank had liabilities of £300,000 and assets of only £30,000. The Chairman of the bank, Josué Le Bailly was found culpable and sentenced to 5 years penal servitude. Four months later the Joint Stock Bank suspended payment and this second failure led to a run on other banks in the Island.
Problems in banking continued in the 1880s when, in 1886, the Jersey Banking Company had to suspend payment. Investigations showed that the bank had been insolvent for years and that Gosset, the States Treasurer, had been gambling with the funds. The collapse in the Jersey Banking Company soon effected other firms such as Charles Robin and Company who had borrowed from them and Abraham de Gruchy and Company who were driven into bankruptcy.
Emigration to British Colonies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand had already been taking place during the 19th century with Colonies advertising in Jersey for immigrants and offering incentives. Islanders were given free passage given to New Zealand and lectures were given on the benefits of emigration to Canada in the Queen's Assembly rooms in St Helier.
The economic downturn of the 1870s and 1880s led to over 6,000 individuals leaving the Island. These individuals were looking for the opportunities to carry our their skilled trade in the Colonies or to purchase land for agriculture, which was always in short supply on the Island and would have been passed intact to the eldest son in a family.
20th Century - The Great War
The Jersey Roll of Honour, produced just after the end of the war, lists 862 Jerseymen who died during the conflict. More recent research estimates the number at around 1,500 including those in the French Army. 300 Jerseymenwere attached to the Irish rifles and served at the Front. Over 6,000 served in total including approximately 2,300 Frenchmen who lived in Jersey and enlisted in the French forces.
Read our WW1 blog and find out what really happened to Islanders during the Great War. Read our blog about daily life on the home front and out what was going on in the Island 100 years a century ago here.
The Channel Islands Great War Study Group's website lists those who served and died during the conflict.
You can also search the online catalogue and enter the names of your ancestor's using the simple search to find letters, wills and photographs of some of those who served.
20th Century - WW2 Evacuation and Troops
The Occupation of Jersey by German Forces during the Second World War commenced on the 1 July 1940. The Occupation was to last for nearly five years and eventually ended on the 9 May 1945 – Liberation Day.
In the weeks prior to the German Occupation, around 6,600 people were evacuated from Jersey. During the months of May and June as Occupation became increasingly likely Islanders were forced to make the almost impossible decision to either stay and face life under the German Authorities or to leave their homes, friends and family and evacuate to the UK.
From 1943 onwards evacuees had the opportunity to apply for permission to come back to the Island. Individuals wishing to return to the Island were required to apply to the Home Office giving details of their name, date of birth, occupation and address in Jersey, occupation and address in the UK, any relatives also applying and in some cases, their reasons for wishing to return.
These records do not include details of all those who evacuated, only those who wished to return straight after the war. In some cases they also give us details of servicemen from Jersey who wanted to return to the Island as soon as possible.
In 1945, after Liberation, there were plenty of ships available to take people back to Jersey. However, the authorities decided to wait until accommodation and jobs were available in the Island for them. Priority was given to those who had jobs waiting, especially in the building trade. Certain categories of people were given a special dispensation, such as trade union officials and heads of religious denominations. Former prisoners of war and people with critically-ill relatives were also given sympathetic consideration.
The first passenger ship full of former evacuees left England for Jersey on the 25th June 1945, and from then on a steady stream of people returned to the island.
Find out more about WW2 and take a look Jersey Archive's extensive records on the Occupation here.
To find out more about your ancestors who evacuated from to Jersey and applied to return search our online catalogue and enter their name in the simple search box.