Connections with Australia and Jersey, Channel Islands
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 in search of new lives, land to farm and opportunities to bring back trade and goods to their families.
During the 19th century we know that thousands of Jersey men and women, such as the Mauger, Noel, Amy, Renouf, Le Cornu, Nicolle, Cabot, Le Gros, de la Haye, Romeril, de Gruchy and Le Quesne families, left the Island to start a new life in Australia. A small number were convicts transported from Jersey, however the vast majority 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.
The emigrant passenger lists to Australia in the 19th century record an entry for a 26 year old named Thomas Le Gros, who arrived in Maryborough, Queensland on the 15th November 1875 on board the ship named ‘The Great Queenslander’. Le Gros is very recognisable as a name of Jersey origin and although this record does not state that Thomas came from Jersey further research using the records at the Jersey Archive and Autralian online records and indexes has determined that he was born in Jersey in 1849.
Thomas was accompanied on this voyage to Australia by his wife Mary Ann Hancock, 20 and his mother Mrs George Le Gros, 54, a widow. The family then settled in Fortitiude Valley Brisbane, where the births of three sons are registered to Thomas Le Gros and Mary Ann Hancock his wife. Thomas’ death is recorded in Brisbane on 29th November 1923, aged 71, and on this record his parents are given as George Le Gros and Anne Le Brun.
Searching Jersey Heritage online catalogue allows us to find out more about Thomas Le Gros and his ancestors. The baptism record for St Mary’s Parish Church confirms that Thomas was born on the 15th June 1849, the son of George Le Gros and Ann Elizabeth Le Brun. The 1851 and 1861 census records for
Jersey Archive show Thomas living with his family at a property called Barcelone in St Mary. Thomas was one of seven children, six boys and a daughter, and their father George is recorded in the 1851 census as a farmer of 18 acres. By the time of the 1861 census their mother Ann is recorded as a widow, aged 42.
The Channel Islands family History Society transcriptions enable the research of both the Le Gros and Le Brun families back further. They record that Thomas’ father George Le Gros was baptised at St Mary’s on the 23rd August 1807, the son of Jean Le Gros and Elizabeth Aubert. Thomas’ mother Ann Eliza Le Brun was baptised at the same church on the 28th December1816, the daughter of Jean Le brun and Anne Jeanne Dumaresq.
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 appear 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 is leaving the island on 2nd April and sailing for Melbourne and the gold regions of Australia.
The cost of passage is 25 guineas for second class and 30 guineas for first. The advert also notes that they are selling equipment suitable for gold prospectors.
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. In the Jersey census of 1851 George is listed as a 21 year old printer, living with his mother Magdalen and his siblings in Jersey’s main town of St Helier. Magdalen is a widow of 55 and is supporting two unmarried daughters both in their 20s.
Living only a short distance away, Ann is also 21 at the time of the 1851 census and is working as a live in servant. George and Ann married in 1852 and decided to leave the Island.
George and Ann’s first child, Anna Magdalen is recorded as being born in Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria in 1855 with siblings arriving a regular intervals until the couple’s last and tenth child, Dolbel Romeril was born in 1872, also in Prahran. Interestingly Ann’s mother’s maiden name was Dolbel.
Australian Electoral Rolls show that the family lived at 14, Lang Street, South Yarra in 1906 with Dolbel, the youngest child being listed as a coachbuilder.
With 10 children George and Ann, in common with many of those who left Jersey for Australia in the 19th Century, must have descendants still alive in Australia who are keen to discover more about their Jersey roots.
Searching the online catalogue allows us to find out more about George and Ann’s ancestors. George’s mother Magdalen Romeril is included in our funeral director’s records collection and by searching on the online catalogue we can download her entry from the register.
This tells us that Magdalen’s maiden name is Babot and that she died in 1868 at the age of 74. The entry tells us Magdalen’s place of burial and that she is buried with her husband Charles who was a master ironmonger.
Through the online catalogue we can also find a record of the marriage of Magdalen and Charles in 1818. All marriages, baptisms and burials in the Island from the 1540s to 1842 are now available to search through the Channel Islands Family History Society transcriptions.