General Don's Militia Survey of 1815

visitors since August 30 1998

An Early Census

Jersey must have always had an organised force of men to protect her shores from invaders. The earliest known reference to a Militia dates from1337, at the start of the Hundred Years War with France. Service was compulsory (and unpaid) for the able-bodied from the ages of 17 to 65. Few records of the Militia survive before the 19th Century.
General Don's Milita Census of 1815 was a survey of the manpower available in the event of a French Invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. It predates the earliest official British Census of 1841 by the best part of a generation and was undertaken in French - still the common language of use in Jersey at this time.

It was indexed by Ngaire Ockwell of New Zealand a few years ago and there are copies at the Channel Islands FHS Archives and the Société Jersiaise Library.

It is useful in locating the Vingtaine (parish district) which your ancestors may have lived in and will add a little colour to your family history - given that every man's contribution to the defense of the island is given.

The headings are as follows: Name (Surname, followed by Christian Name), Age, Militia Rank, Parish, Vingtaine, Fe(mme) - women, Ga(rçons) - boys, Fi(lles) - girls. These last three columns expose this finding aids' one weakness - the names of wives (or other adult females) and children are not given, just the number in each man's family.

An entry looks like this: ASPLET Philippe 23 Soldat Artillerie St Peter Du Douet 1 Fe. 1 Ga. So, Philippe Asplet is shown as an artillery soldier, living in the Vingtaine du Douet, St Peter. In 1815 he was 23 and (presumably) married with just his wife and one son in the household.
<- The Don Monument in the Parade.

Just to demonstrate how many ways a man could make his contribution to defense (or not, as the case may be) here is a sample of the entries to be found under Militia Rank - excluding the obvious officer and non-commissioned ranks.

Absent de l'Ile - Absent from the Island
Artillerie - Artillery
Avertisseur - Look Out/Sentry
Cavalier - Horseman
Chirurgien - Surgeon
Batteries - (Artillery) Batteries
B. St.H. - St Helier Battalion.
Fifre - Piper
Fournit un cheval - Provides a Horse. These men were usually elderly and no longer active, often their sons are to found listed as 'Cavalier'.
Guardien - Prison Guard
Homme des Bras - Man at Arms
Infirme - Sick
Invalide - Invalid/Disabled
Porte Cartouche - Ammunition Carrier
Regt. de L'Est - East Regiment
Regt. du Nord - North Regiment
Regt. du Sud - South Regiment
Reg. S.O. - Sergeant St Ouen's Regiment
Soldat - Soldier
Tambour - Drummer

There are likely to be a number of omissions - widows or single women as head of households, foreigners and British Army Garrison Troops.

An earlier Survey was undertaken in 1806 but is differently arranged. The index is handwritten and organised per Parish (as opposed to All-Island). Heads of households are given (and do include some females) - some Militia Ranks are noted. However, ages are missing and women and children who were not heads of household are counted but not named.
Link: Norman Wood's Histories of the Four Channel Islands Militias.
This page was previously at Supernet until August 30 1998 - Alex Glendinning.

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