We are all more familiar with researching our family histories due to the television series Who Do You Think You Are? At Jersey Heritage we have a number of archives that may help you search for your relations. Donna Le Marrec, who works for the National Trust Jersey, uncovered surprising and tragic stories in her family tree
Donna is a member of the Frigot family, which originated in France. Her great,-great grandfather was Auguste Charles Frigot, born in Ourville, Manche around 1841. Auguste moved to Jersey to work in the agricultural industry and married a local girl from St John, Marie Moitier, in February 1864.
Disaster struck the family in January 1895 when Marie was murdered in what became known as the ‘Brighton Road Tragedy’. Court records stored at the Jersey Archive can tell us more about the case. Marie helped clean for Francois Renault, a retired farmer and former neighbour of the Frigot family. On Friday 11th January 1895 Marie went to Francois’ residence, Tranquil House in Brighton Road, St Helier, to clean as usual. He ordered her to rake the house’s gravel path but the path was frozen, so she was unable to do so. Annoyed at her refusal, Francois shot her in the head. Then, in shock at what he had done, he proceeded to shoot himself in the face.
Both Marie and Francois survived. Marie woke up the next day on Francois’ sofa, to find him still there, with a bandaged face. But rather than contacting the authorities he offered Marie £50 to say nothing and hired her a cab back to her house. Two days later the doctor was called to Marie’s house – and it was only then that the authorities were notified about the incident. They went to Francois’ house and he was taken to hospital. It was reported that he had a large lacerated wound on his windpipe, the middle portion of his jaw was completely shattered and portions of bone had been driven into the floor of his mouth and tongue. Unsurprisingly he died on January 15th.
Marie also never recovered from her wounds and passed away in great pain on 22nd January at home, never having been hospitalised. When asked why he did it, Francois had responded: “I know I have done wrong; I much regret it, but she contradicted me, and I shot her.” Further mystery was added to the case when Francois’ will revealed that £300 (a substantial amount of money in 1895) had been bequeathed to Adelina Frigot, Marie’s daughter.
Sadly, things did not improve for Donna’s family. Emile Pierre, the son of Auguste and Marie and Donna’s great grandfather, was married twice. His first wife Victorine Louise Perrin died at a young age leaving Emile to care for three young children. He then went on to marry Mary Ann Bechelet. On April 20th 1928 Mary Ann went low water fishing, where she was seen collecting limpets from a rock known as Le Vermeur at La Pulente. It seems she was cut off by a fast moving tide, as she was later found floating in the sea, dead. At the inquest the verdict was that she died of accidental drowning. This tragedy was further compounded as she was the mother of 7 children.
Heartbreak was not limited to the Frigot family. Donna’s grandmother was a lady called Eleonore Marie Bannier who married Reginald Emile Frigot, Donna’s grandfather and son of Emile Pierre. The Bannier family also originated in France. Eleonore’s father was named Francis Toussaint Marie. He was born in St Helier after his father had moved to the Island, also to pursue a career in agriculture. In 1928 it was reported in the Evening Post that Francois Toussaint Marie had died in ‘mysterious circumstances’ at the Hospital. Francois lived at Sion View in St John with his wife Eleonore (née Therin) and their children. It was reported that Francois had been unwell for about 15 months but the doctor had been unable to diagnose the problem. Eleonore, prompted by a friend, sent a sample of the drinking water from the family well to be tested. It was reported that there were elevated volumes of lead in the water and that Francois was suffering from lead poisoning. Francois then contracted gastric influenza and was taken into hospital. He was unable to recover and died. Asked if her husband drank a lot of water, Eleonore replied that her husband had drunk a great deal during the hot weather as they’d had no cider left.
It is common to find some tragedy when researching your family history but Donna’s family were exceptionally unlucky. Whilst Donna was aware of both the ‘drowning’ and ‘poisoning’ incidences, she was completely unaware of the ‘Brighton Road’ tragedy and was both surprised and shocked to learn of the fate of her great great grandmother, Marie Frigot.
Donna’s family were intrigued by what was unearthed by the team at Jersey Archive and her sister has kept all of the research files to share with the extended family. Since the research two of Donna’s cousins have returned to live in Jersey with their families, so the files will be shared further so that their family history continues to be told.