Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Merserve, Meservie, Messervy
Category: 2 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way, but currently in some countries only.
Contact: Ms Peggy Chapman
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 finally joined the Guild website project and have a TNG site linked to the Guild as of October 2017. The study and the website are a work in progress and I encourage anyone with Messervy connections anywhere in the world to contact me via this profile or through the comments option of the Messervey website, address below.
The URL is: http://messervey.one-name.net
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 they fall into the deviant category. 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 and become accepted variants- 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 the exploration of Normandy or Brittany although a cursory look at 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 frequently provided clues for confirmation. With lack of resources prior to the 1300s, it has not been possible to trace back to the origin. There appear to be three different lines, and although there is speculation that they all spring from the same ancestor, there is no evidence. As of May 2020, little progress has been made, in part due to the lack of direct line Messervy males for y-DNA testing. Autosomal testing can of course show "cousin" connections but cannot credibly track lines that reach back to the 1600s and 1700s.
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.
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%. Anyone looking at the Messervey website will find a predominance of these lines, due to my own connections and the access to genealogical resources, including the Nova Scotia Archives in person and online, and a research visit to Newfoundland. The Facebook group for Messervey is also predominantly from the same origins due to the passing from one member to a new member.
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 the online collections of the Jersey Archives. A recent arrangement between Jersey Heritage and Ancestry com. means that digital copies of many parish registers, wills, and other documents only makes more information available. As time permits, these are reviewed and verified against my own database. The ongoing challenge of this Jersey surname is the repetition of names and especially in the earlier times, intermarriage with close cousins. Thus, locating a marriage entry in a parish register in the 1700s is not necessarily solving the question: Jean Messervy married Marie Dumaresq can refer to many. The "old surnames" of Jersey obviously married each other thus limiting the number of forenames and surnames. As I work through the study, I have found very few errors in Messervy's Généalogie de la famille Messervy with respect to the Jersey components - this is due to the fact the Messervy was an official genealogist of Jersey Heritage and used original sources from the Archives. Having said that, it is transcribed and therefore not an original source, no matter how credible the transcriber. 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). American lines were also included. The work not done by JA Messervy is not nearly so credible - with the Newfoundland line I have been able to correct much of the information, but not having delved far into the American lines as yet, the information is used as a framework and guide to be validated. I have had considerable progress with New Zealand ( due to New Zealand Messervys) and some in England.
With great anticipation I set up a Y-DNA project through the Guild of One-Name Studies and FamilyTreeDNA. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of Messervy males wanting to participate. Indeed, as of 2020, there is only one direct line male Messervy who tested and added to the project site. I have twice been misled by individuals to whom I mailed a test at my expense who never used it. Thus, I no longer do this. Anyone who is a male Messervy (includes variant spellings) with direct line pedigree, please visit the FNA website and arrange for testing. The Messervy DNA page is located at: www.familytreedna.com/public/Messervy.
The primary goal is to challenge the currently held understanding that there are three different branches of Messervy originating in the Channel Islands (via Normandy?). AS a common ancestor cannot be proven through paper trails, Y-DNA may be the only option to prove or disprove. 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
Ancestry: Ancestry has arranged a partnership with Jersey Heritage and now provides a large collection of digital images of baptisms, marriages and burials from Church of England records primarily. This is a great resource although requires of course membership or access through a library or similar institution.
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/
The TNG website : messervey.one-name.net
You may find our other Guild websites of interest: