Friday, 16 November 2018

On the trail of the Bretons of Jersey

Thomas Perrono wrote an interesting piece about the Bretons of Jersey in French which can be found at:

For my history blog this week, I’m providing an English translation of this fascinating story.

On the trail of the Bretons of Jersey

The second half of the nineteenth century saw tens of thousands of Bretons leave for other horizons: Paris , Le Havre and the United States in particular. In addition to these long-term and even definitive migration routes, there are the trajectories of seasonal workers, where field work is hiring: Beauce , but also Jersey.

The Anglo-Norman island has a real tradition of immigration . In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a large number of French Huguenots came to find refuge to escape religious repression. In 1850, migration changed in nature and became economic. Jersey is looking for arms to work in the early crop. The Bretons respond massively to the call. In 1891, more than 5,500 of them left for Jersey. This agricultural immigration concerns first the department of Côtes-du-Nord, and more particularly the littoral zones of Trégor and Goëlo. In the 1920s, nearly 90% of the passports established by the Côtes-du-Nord prefecture had Jersey as their destination. Most of them embark at Saint-Brieuc on the steamers of the line Le Légué - Saint Helier.

This migration is very largely seasonal. The majority of Britons land at the beginning of May on the Anglo-Norman island. They are then hired by team with the various Jersey farmers. Once the potato grubbing campaign is completed, many Britons return home in August to harvest. Some remain on site until September to harvest the tomatoes. The salary, accumulated at the price of a job often exhausting, is high enough for seasonal workers to repeat year after year.

But, from 1920, the Jersey authorities want to regulate immigration on the island. Two months after the United Kingdom, an Aliens Restriction Act came into effect in Jersey on February 17, 1920. All foreigners over the age of 16 must now register with the authorities in order to reside. 'island. Thousands of Alien registration cards are then established until the 1960s.

It is this exceptional source that the website of Jersey Heritage , the agency responsible for managing the public and private archives of the island, puts at our disposal. Classified by year of birth of the migrants, only the cards of those born before 1900 and until 1915 are available for the moment, because of the delays of incommunicability of the archives. These cards include a detail on foreign residents.

Classically, the name, date and place of birth, the address "outside the United Kingdom", the profession, the date of issue of the certificate, the year of first arrival in the United Kingdom, a photograph as well as the various documents supporting the identity.

All this is a small gold mine for the historian who wants to study migration in Jersey, especially for a prosopographic purpose. But the genealogist will also find his account, since it is possible to query the database in full text by indicating the name of the individual sought.

Alien registration card. Jersey Heritage .

Last but not least , there is a catch! If everyone has access to the inventory of registration cards for foreigners, you must pay a subscription to consult them ... Worse, it will cost you £ 5 to obtain the reproduction of a card! Although it is understandable that Jersey Heritage is a private organization, subsidized by the authorities of Jersey, - unlike the French departmental archives which are public bodies - it is always a shame to see pecuniary restrictions curb the dissemination of archives and thus, by the same, research in history. Gentlemen the English, pay first!


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