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About the study
The Messervey one-name study came about through genealogical research into my own family. I remembered hearing as a child that my maternal grandmother's family (Messervey) were said to have come from an island off the coast of England. I also recalled being told there was a French connection which seemed in contradiction. In Canada, I was not really cognizant of the state and history of the Channel Islands. As an adult researching my family, I eventually tracked the Messerveys in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to the island of Newfoundland, specifically Sandy Point on the west coast. It was there, finally, that the eureka moment occurred. Philippe Messervey, who was acknowledged as the first Messervey in Sandy Point, arrived from Jersey, the Channel Islands as part of the Jersey fishermen who came in the spring and stayed until the fall to take advantage of the bountiful Newfoundland cod fishery. As I began to explore the history of the Messerveys/Messervys in the Channel Islands I became fascinated with the historical context of the family and its migration across the world, while at the same time, remaining a quite small surname.
I recently set up a surname study website, while a work in progress, does provide a good foundation.
The URL is: messervyheritage.com
In Nova Scotia, where my Messerveys lived, and in Newfoundland, from whence they came, there is almost 100% agreement in spelling the name Messervey, that is, with double s and and "ey" at the end. Indeed the first occurrences of the written name in Newfoundland were predominantly Messervey although there were variants. I discovered that in the Channel Islands, arguably the location of the name's origin, the predominant spelling is Messervy, that is, with just the "y" and this carried over to England as a result of migration directly from the islands. In the United States, the spelling is either Meserve, Meservy or Messervey. A number of probable misspellings, especially in Census taking, are not included as variants. As my research progresses, it becomes clear that the original form of the name is the "Messervy" spelling, which predominates not only in the Channel Islands, but also in England, Australia, and New Zealand. It is North America where the deviants have taken root - emigration from the Channel Islands to North America occurred early, between the 1600s and mid-1700s when many people were not literate and spelling certainly was not standardised.
One of the aims of the Messervey one-name study is to explore the origins of the surname. While there is evidence that the name originated in the Channel Islands, to my knowledge this is not conclusive. The history of the Channel Islands may point to exploration of Normandy or Brittany although a cursory exploration of this seems to suggest the name is not well-known in these areas.
While a confirmation of the origin of the surname as being a Norman French word has not occurred, evidence seems to support this. A new aim has developed as I became more familiar with the lines in Jersey, going back to the 1300s. I would like to express gratitude for the assistance from the Messervy specialist at the Channel Islands Family History Society and to the increasing online resources made available through the Jersey Heritage/Jersey Archives website. As well, the voluntary effort, Jerripedia,with its transcriptions of parish records for baptisms, births, marriages and deaths has been invaluable. This site also has resources on the old Jersey surnames, of which Messervy is one. With lack of resources prior to the 1300s, it has not been possible to trace back to the origin. There appears to be three different lines, and although there is speculation that they all spring from the same ancestor, there is no proof. An individual in the United States who has traced the Clement Messervy and Gregoire Messervy lines also identified the lack of connection with Philippe Messervy, who began the Newfoundland line. This led to a DNA project as the means to resolve this mystery.
The frequency of the Messervey surname and its variants is extremely low in most parts of the western world. Results from surname distribution websites, such as, Public Profiler and Forebears, confirms the low frequency. Both of these also note the name is more significant in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. In the United Kingdom, which includes the Channel Islands, it is of considerable insignificance. There is some evidence of the surname in Brittany in France.
In the 1881 England census, there were only 57 incidences of the surname under Messervey or Messervy. In the Channel Islands, there were 115 incidences of the name in the 1881 Census. In Canada, in the 1881 Census, only 7 incidences were recorded and ten years later, only 25 incidences were noted. The bulk of Messerveys in Canada continued to be in Newfoundland, which did not become a part of Canada until 1949 and therefore, were not part of the Census. In the United States, the 1880 Census, variants of the surname included 1,287 incidences.
Distribution of the name
As suggested in the discussion on surname frequency trends, contemporary distribution of the surname seems typical for many migration patterns of the 18th and 19th centuries in the English-speaking world. Without completion of the analysis that will be a part of the one-name study, it is difficult to draw conclusions. Based on the information garnered from surname distribution websites, the surname is more numerous in the United States than in other countries. Both New Zealand and Australia have seen immigration of people with the surname. The numbers in the Channel Islands and in England have not experienced growth. In Newfoundland and Canada, where my own research began, the name is very low frequency.
Data acquired to date:
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and other provinces in Canada: Census, BMD - approximately 85%
Jersey, Channel Islands: As documented evidence of Messervys reaches to the early 1300s, data on individuals can be sporadic. However, for the period from mid-1700s to 20th century, approximately 80% collected. For the early periods, I rely heavily on Alfred Messervy's extensive archival work that resulted in his publication in 1890s of Genealogie de la famille Messervy. While a reprint in very small font, in sometimes outdated French, it is an invaluable resource - I was made aware of this document by my source at the Family History Society in Jersey. Some of this information can be verified through Jerripedia and the online collections of the Jersey Archives. The Jersey Archives, for a small annual fee, permits access to digital copies of the parish registers transcribed by the Channel Islands Family History Society. The Newfoundland line was provided to Alfred Messervy by a descendant living in Halifax, Nova Scotia at that time (full circle - this is where I live). With access to digital copies of original documents, I have been able to make some corrections to the Newfoundland information and the Channel Islands information. Additions and more specific details are also added as obtained. The data collection is ongoing.
I have now set up a Y-DNA project through the Guild of One-Name Studies and FamilyTreeDNA. This has just been launched and therefore I am inviting anyone who is a male Messervy (includes variant spellings) with direct line pedigree to visit the FNA website and arrange for testing. The Messervy DNA page is located at: www.familytreedna.com/public/Messervy
At this time, there are no Y-DNA test results in the FTDNA database for the surname or variants of Messervy. I am reaching out to distant cousins and people whom I have met through my research in locations of interest. The understanding held is that there are at least three branches of Messervy from originating in the Channel islands, and with no common ancestor. Until the advent of Y-DNA testing, proving or disproving this through traditional genealogical means has not been feasible. Records going back before the 1400s is not realistic and indeed, surnames themselves were not in great evidence. However, an origin in Normandy, where surnames advanced before some other parts of western Europe could mean the name in some format existed in that era.
If you are a male direct line Messervy or you know a male direct line Messervy, please direct them to me or to the DNA page where testing can be arranged at reduced costs.
Channel Islands Resources:
Channel Islands Census: Digital copies through FindmyPast.com
The Channel Islands Family History Society: http://www.jerseyfamilyhistory.org/
Jersey Heritage: https://www.jerseyheritage.org/knowledge
BMD records Government of Newfoundland: familysearch.org
Newfoundland Grand Banks Genealogical and Historical Data: http://ngb.chebucto.org/
My Facebook group for Messervey Heritage: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MesserveyFamilyHeritage/
I launched a website with Wordpress and using the Genealone facility for the individual collections. Please note this website is approximately one month old (June 2016) and is a developing feature! The website address is: www.messervyheritage.com
I started a blog to share stories about Messervys that I have collected and you can subscribe to this on the website.