The Hemery Family - Early History
The Hemery Family of Jersey
History being my favourite subject at school, it was perhaps inevitable that I would one day start researching my own family’s history. Our surname was unusual and did not sound very English. Apart from our close relatives, the only other Hemery we heard of as children was David Hemery who we saw on TV every week on ‘Superstars’ My father told us we were related to him, so we always wanted him to win!
We were shown a family tree and I realised that our family had an interesting past, and that our roots were from Jersey in the Channel Islands.
I studied Ancient History and Archaeology at University, and looked into the family tree from time to time, at first using the mass of documents my father had, which had come from his father and his cousin.
When he died it all came to me as the eldest son, a small family archive consisting of documents, letters, books, photos, paintings and a few artefacts, including no less than 3 family trees.
Recently however my research really took off in two ways, firstly when I finally got computer literate (and I still have a long way to go) and got online, and secondly during my two trips to Jersey.
The fact that Jersey is a small island has helped immensely – all the information is in one place. Apart from Parish Registers there is a scarcity of records from before 1800 in Jersey, for example the first newspaper only appeared in 1784, and all early records are in French. The rarity of the surname helps – searches produce fewer results. The habit of using the same name for father and son, in the case of Clement for four generations, was at first confusing. The family were wealthy merchants, local politicians and ship and landowners, so have left an above average trace in the records of the Island.
Through marriage the Hemery family is related to practically every Jersey family to some degree, so as is often the case on islands everyone is eventually related to everyone else!
I have assembled the following information from many different sources.
My father left me 3 family trees, 2 of which are copies from unknown sources, and one handwritten by his mother or possibly his cousin.
The earliest is Victorian in date and was compiled in Jersey.
The handwritten one seems to date from the early 20th Century.
The last is a modern printed one with an emphasis on the family who emigrated to Australia.
These differ from each other in minor details.
There are many other family items in my possession, dating from 1800 on, and mainly from my immediate ancestors, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, and their wives’ families.
While in Jersey I spent time at the Jersey Archive, where they hold the births, marriages and death records, wills and property transactions for Jersey, and the Societe Jersiaise Library, who have other documents including the diary of Clement Hemery born 1811 – died 1877. These are all primary documents.
I only had time to glean the basic and most obvious facts about our family, and if one had several more weeks more information could be ferreted out of their extensive archives.
The Societe Jersiaise Photo Archive has many Victorian photos of Hemery family members, and it was quite a moving experience to look into their faces for the first time.
The UK census returns for 1841 – 1901 have provided an interesting snapshot every 10 years, and much information, although the transcriptions vary immensely in accuracy (especially with a name misspelled as often as ours) so I have normally worked from the original images online. Also the registry of births, marriages and deaths has confirmed many details.
Books about Jersey and her history have provided much help, the research done by authors being impressive, especially Patrick Howard, author of ‘To Hell or to Hobart’ which includes much about John Hemery. I have also assembled a small library of books and newspapers which mention the Hemerys or the places where they lived.
The internet has provided many useful details which help to flesh out the family history, although there is also much erroneous information online, especially in the area of dates of birth etc, so information from the Net must be checked and the reliability of its source gauged. It is also rather hit and miss, with some archives being fully or partially online, and others not.
Through the internet I have also made contact with other members of the Hemery family, and other descendents of Hemerys. This has been very special and resulted in more information. My parents were not very good at keeping in touch with family and I wish to remedy that.
I hope that this information will foster an interest in our shared heritage and encourage closer links between us in the future.
As in all such works there will be mistakes, and much more information awaits discovery. I hope that any interested party will not hesitate to correct or add to this work.
The Hemery Name
The name originates in France, and today the vast majority of people with this surname live there. Alternate spellings of the surname include Emery, d’Emery, d’Hemery, and in more ancient times Aimeri and Aymeric. The core meaning appears to be from the French word ‘ami’ meaning ‘friend’. Historically the name is more common in the North West of France. There are an estimated 4600 people bearing the name Hemery in France today. Outside of France it is a rare name with only an estimated 100 – 200 Hemerys worldwide. A high proportion of those can trace their roots back to France.
My branch of the Hemery family
Our branch of the Hemery family comes from Normandy, being Norman French in origin. The feudal overlords there descended from the Vikings who settled in Normandy in the 9th Century AD. The Norman Kingdom extended over Normandy, the Channel Islands, and after 1066 over England. In fact the earliest recorded trace of the surname spelled as Hemery comes from England, in Suffolk in the 1320s, they probably being the descendants of Normans who emigrated there.
The Hemery family are descendants of the Seigneurs de Villers. (Sometimes spelt Villiers) Seigneur is roughly translated as Squire – a local land owner and minor nobleman. The Seigneurs claim descent from Robert Du Mont (1154 – 1186) of Mont Saint Michel. We have a seal matrix, supposedly medieval in date, found in 1841 under the surface of the road between Caen and La Maladrerie. It reads ROBE RT DV MONT with a crest, but is unlikely to have belonged to the 12th Century Robert Du Mont as it appears later in date.
Part of the crest consists of three birds, which is also seen on other Hemery coats of arms from France, such as the crest of Robert Hemery c.1395, and the bookplate of Moreau d’Hemery, 18th Century. Perhaps this does indicate a link between them.
During the religious wars of the 16th Century, the largely Protestant areas of Normandy, with their Huguenot population, rebelled against the Catholic King of France. Huguenots were French Calvinists, members of the French Reformed Church, whose beliefs included living their lives and regulating worship according to the Bible rather than religious rules and traditions, the study of the Bible in their native language rather than Latin, and a rejection of the power and authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, which in those days was perceived as corrupt and worldly.
A Jean d’Hemery, Seigneur de Villers, is mentioned at the siege of Rouen in 1562, in charge of the Regiment d’Hemery, fighting on the Catholic side. After two assaults, on the 26th October 1562 the Regiment d’Hemery entered the town, and planted the Royal standard on the Fort of Saint Catherine. Between then and 1685 his descendants or another branch of his family had become Huguenots, but to avoid persecution for their faith ‘converted’ to Catholicism. We know this because later Jacob Hemery was abjured (returned to the Protestant faith) in Jersey.
Jacob Hemery is the first definite ancestor who we know by name, the founder of the Jersey branch of the Hemery family.
He was born in 1669, or confirmed as a nobleman in that year, and lived in Vidouville, halfway between Caen and St. Lo. He was a prominent member of his community – his full title being given on the oldest family tree as Ecuyer (Esquire, then a much more important and honorific title than it later became) Seigneur de Villers, Gentilhomme (Gentleman) de Corps Electoral du Pont l’Eveque. Pont l’Eveque is also in Normandy, and the Corps Electoral would have electoral power over the town and its affairs, being able to elect its leaders.
He married Louise Tanquerel (also spelled Tancrel) This couple left France and settled in Jersey.
Other members of the Hemery family remained in Normandy.
The Hemery crest is a crescent between five mullets (mullets are stars, not the fish, or the dodgy haircut) or a stag’s head. The Hemery motto is the Latin ‘Flecti non Frangi’ – bend, not break.
Arrival in Jersey
The Edict of Nantes in 1598 gave the Huguenots some protection, but it was revoked in 1685 and the Huguenots left France in large numbers, heading mainly for the Protestant countries of Holland, England, and in the case of Jacob and Louise, nearby Jersey. As well as its proximity to Normandy Jersey offered a haven among people of similar language and religion.
Jacob and Louise settled in St Lawrence parish, which is located on the South of the island, half way between the main town of St Helier, and St Aubin, which in those days was the only safe harbour for merchant vessels.
Wherever the Huguenots went their Protestant work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit enriched the communities they settled in and Jersey was no exception.
The Family Settle in Jersey
Jacob was abjured on 24.3.1712/13. This was because he had become a Roman Catholic in France to escape persecution. He now swore to forsake the Catholic faith and become a Protestant. (The double year is a common feature of dates up to 1752, and is due to the disparity between the Julian Calendar and the newer Gregorian Calendar, which was only adopted in the British Empire in 1752. From that year the new year began on the first of January, whereas before it officially began on the 25th of March. For dates from the 1st January to the 25th March, 2 years were written, as 1713 was seen as beginning on the 25th March)
Louise Tanquerel died in 1715, and was buried on the 28th November. It is not known whether Jacob had any children by this marriage, although a marriage is recorded in St Lawrence on 29.6.1703 between Miss Anne Hemery, Refugee (i.e. from France) and Mr Henri Le Cras of St Lawrence.
Other Hemerys are also found in Jersey at this period, for example David Hemery. He made a will in French dated 14.7.1726 and lived in St. Saviour parish. He does not appear related to Jacob’s line, although he had also come from Normandy. Other members of Jacob’s family remained in France, and in 1841 one of the Jersey Hemery brothers is recorded as visiting a cousin in Caen.
Jacob remarried two years later, his second wife was called Judith Williams, a resident of St Helier. They married on 26.3.1717. He was then 48 years old. Her name is very English sounding, rather than French, like most Jersey names, so she may have been English, or of English descent, or at least her father was.
2 children were born of this marriage, Jacques Hemery born 1717 - 18 and Peter Hemery born 1718 - 19.
Jacob Hemery died 17.3.1719 aged 50, the parish entry describing him as ‘etranger’ a foreigner or exile.
Judith Williams lived for another 21 years, and was buried on the 21st December 1740.