Adventures in Family History, part 2

One Sunday evening, several months ago, I was playing around on FamilySearch, clicking back through my father, his father, his mother (or something like that), etc. After twists and turns—twists and turns I recorded so that I could get back there again—I discovered that I have ancestors from Jersey.[fn1]

No, not that Jersey, the one famous for Bruce and the MTV show. Its namesake, the one in the English Channel.

Through my clicking, I learned that my great-great-great-grandmother was born in Jersey in 1838 and died in West Bountiful in 1912.

For most, this probably wouldn’t be remarkably meaningful. I didn’t do the work to get back these generations, and I have absolutely no knowledge of these ancestors’ lives.[fn2] But . . .

. . . but Jersey is a tax haven.[fn3] And I’m a professor of tax law, a researcher of tax law, and, frankly, pretty darn interested in most things tax. And so, learning that I’m descended from residents of what has now become a tax haven is just cool. Way cooler than pretend being descended from royalty.

And now I’m curious. I’m curious about when and how the Church moved into Jersey. I’m curious what life was like in Jersey (which, I assume, wasn’t a tax haven in the 19th century). And I’m curious what the Church was like in Jersey. My relationship to Jersey is more attenuated than the relationship that Ardis suggests careful family history research can develop, but, for one of the first times, I’ve found something fascinating about my family history.

And that’s a cool feeling.

[fn1] I suspect this is accurate, notwithstanding my run-in with royalty documented in my earlier post.

[fn2] Ardis pointed out on my earlier post that, through carefully learning about earlier generations, starting with our parents and moving back, we learn details about their lives that, in turn, help bind us closer to them (a paraphrase that hopefully does little damage to Ardis’s point). I found that paradigm-shifting in my view of the purpose behind genealogy and our current participation in proxy ordinances. That said, as I’ll explain shortly, this Jersey connection also piques my personal and historical curiosity.

[fn3] Albeit a tax haven about which I know very little. In the U.S., we generally use Bermuda or the Cayman Islands or maybe Ireland or Switzerland (though the latter two would dispute the label). Jersey is mostly a tax haven for London, from what I understand.

13 comments for “Adventures in Family History, part 2

  1. That’s cool, Sam! A lot of people take pride in having Irish (or Mayflower or Russian or whatever) heritage long before they learn the details that make the individual ancestors distinct personalities — why not celebrate a tie that fascinates you? It’s a different kind of “turning hearts to the fathers” but why not?

    I don’t know much about the early Church in Jersey, but do know that the Channel Islands were the jumping-off point for much of the early missionary work in France. I’ll see if I can find some stories — probably minus any tax connection, though! — to post for you.

  2. loved this. I think we can all find connections which mean a lot to us personally, and that’s part of the joy of genealogy.

  3. What a great connection! One of my favorite things about genealogy is how it gives me personal, meaningful links to both geography and history.

    My husband is of Italian descent through his great-great grandparents. A few years ago, we found out that because of his ancestry he is eligible for Italian citizenship. So we moved to Italy, and spent several months using old birth and marriage certificates to prove to the Italian government that he was really Italian.

    I remember one day when we walked from Tony’s ancestors’ little home village to the market town a few kilometers away, and pictured them making that same trek on market day (probably the same day of the week back then) nearly two hundred years before. We felt such a connection to them, and the land they called home.

    During a particularly harrowing time when we were wading through what seemed like the endless red tape of the Italian bureaucracy, we had to brush up on our Italian history to figure out whether his ancestors were Italian when they were born, or born under French rule, since Napoleon had conquered the part of Northern Italy where they lived.

    It ended up that Tony’s great-great-grandfather was born eleven years after the 1815 Congress of Vienna, which redrew the map of Europe following the breakup of the Napoleonic Empire. Due to that historical fact (and our convincing exposition of it to the Italian immigration officer), Tony was able to claim Italian citizenship. And the Napoleonic Wars became vividly real to me in a way they never had been before.

  4. Thanks, Ardis! Just the fact that the Channel Islands were a jumping-off point for missionaries to France is a nice bit of knowledge. (I won’t, of course, refuse any other tidbits!)

    Thank you, anita. I certainly agree.

    LL, that is pretty cool religious history.

    Sarah, awesome. I love Italy, but, sadly, will never be able to claim secondary citizenship there. That’s cool that your husband was able to, and I love the realness it gave both family and European history for you. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I served on Jersey in 1992. It is part of the England London South Mission (or at least it was then). The island is only 6 miles by 9 miles, so it’s pretty small. As I heard from the members there, missionaries had GREAT success on the island and there were more than a couple of wards established and by 1910, they had all emigrated to Utah. Sometime in the early 1960’s (1963 I believe), someone from Jersey was in Australia, found the Church and was baptized. When they returned to Jersey, they found that the Church was not established there. They petitioned Salt Lake and missionaries were sent to the island. When I was there in 1992, there were a couple of people that had become members in the 60’s as part of that effort.

    It’s a beautiful island and a great ward.

  6. Cool; thanks, Pete, for the (more-or-less) contemporary picture of what the Church is like in Jersey.

  7. I live in Jersey, CI and it is still small but beautiful. There is still a ward on the island and some missionaries living here (even with the housing qualification system which limits where people can live if they are not lived in Jersey a while or essentially employed)

    It is Liberation Day tomorrow (the island was occupied between 1940-1945) which is celebrated as a bank holiday. We have just been looking through the census to see who lived in our house.

    Don’t know so much about the tax other than I have to pay it … (and that since I got married, my husband has to be the one to fill out the tax form rather than me.)

  8. “In the U.S., we generally use Bermuda or the Cayman Islands or maybe Ireland or Switzerland”

    No love for Delaware?

  9. Here’s a Mormony bit of historical connection to Jersey: During the Utah War the Mormons were effective enough at slowing the army down, or the federal troops were ineffective enough at traveling quickly enough (take your pick), that the troops went into winter quarters at Fort Bridger. They so badly needed supplies and new draft animals that Capt. R.B. Marcy with a detachment of soldiers, mountaineers, and herders, was sent on a fantastic winter hike down the spine of the Rocky Mountains to obtain animals and supplies in New Mexico. They almost starved to death on the way down, but two mountaineers with the detachment’s only serviceable mules were sent on ahead. The mountaineers reached Fort Massachusetts and returned with supplies enough to sustain the detachment until they could get out of the mountains. Marcy wisely limited his men’s food intake and stationed guards over the supplies during the night, but still, five soldiers managed to sneak too much food that first night and gorged themselves. One, William H. Morton, died.

    Morton was from Jersey, having joined the U.S. Army in 1855.

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