W. Davey on the SS Stella

On this day, 30th March in 1899, the passenger ferry SS Stella sank within minutes of crashing into rocks on the casquet reef, west of Alderney. One of the crew members that went down with the ship that foggy Thusday afternoon was a W. Davey, son of Captain Davey of the Brig Union. Sadly W. Davey left a wife and five children behind. In my research I have been unable to find a link to my Davey family, it may be that there isn’t one.

The ship wreck would have affected many families within the Channel Islands as well as England, and this disaster would have felt even more painful due to the lack of communication at the time. The first inkling that something was wrong to the people of Jersey was by way of a telegram put up in the window of the General Post Office. The day after was also ‘Good Friday’ and therefore no newspaper had been written or published. This resulted in the Evening Post staff going in to the office to print off a special edition with the words ‘The Stella gone down…’

Missing lists continued to be published days after the ship went down. Identifying who went down with the ship was a difficult process, it was mainly down to family and friends asking around if their loved one had been seen. People not turning up for their booked hotel rooms was another way of identifying those who drowned. Click on this link to see the list of  Passengers and Crew Lists, Saved and Drowned.

As usual in times of disaster there were many stories of bravery, but the sadness must have had a huge affect on such a small community. Captain Davey loses his son W. Davey. But that doesn’t appear to be the only tragedy that has occurred to this family. If you look at the photo below you will see another member of the family has been lost at sea. Something I feel was a sign of the times and a hazard of the job.

Headstone of the Davey family in St. Saviours Churchyard, Jersey.

The 19th century was Jersey’s busiest time for it’s shipbuilding industry, and if the men of the island weren’t building the ships than many were sailing, fishing  or working on them. So Captain Davey loses his son in 1899 at the young age of 35 years old, he himself dies in 1912 at the age of 69. Then there is another Captain in the family, William Davey who is ‘lost on a voyage from Spain’ in 1915, aged 73 years. The women of the family had a lot to deal with in those years.


Who is Francois Demoy?

I have mentioned only once before a Francois Demoy. He is living as a ‘boarder’ with my great great grandparents Yves Marie Rabet and Jeanne Marie Rabet in the 1901 Census. The address is Ponterrion/Pontession Mill, Trinity, Jersey, Channel Islands. (Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm or decipher the census writing for the correct spelling of the mill).

Here are the details from the 1901 census:

Island: Jersey

Civil Parish: Trinity

No. of schedule: 23

Name of house: Ponterrion Mill

Name of person: Francois Demoy

Relation to head of Household: Boarder

Condition as to marriage: Single

Age: 23

Proffession: ? on farm (than scribbled on top are the possible words ‘ag horse’)

Where born: France

What has sparked a further interest in me about Francois is that I found him in the same cemetery as some Rabet’s. During my trip back to Jersey at Christmas I did quite an extensive search around the graveyards with my mother to find the graves I have not yet been able to find or weren’t aware of. At first I looked in Trinity graveyard in the hope of finding them there, when (rather slowly) it occurred to me that being of French origin my ancestors were highly likely to have been catholics. So we made a quick diversion to the next parish and nearest Catholic church and cemetery and ‘BINGO!’

I am a little familiar with this church through various family occasions. It isn’t very large and therefore didn’t take too long to look around. The next photo is of Francois Demoy’s grave and headstone;

Grave of Francois Demoy.

The Francois in the 1901 census was 23, this makes his birth date 1878. The headstone has the birth date of 1874. He died at the age of 72.

Looking at some archive records at the Jersey Heritage Trust website for Francois Guillaume Demoy, the details show that he was born on the 10th September 1874, in Plaintel, Côtes du Nord, France. Plaintel is about a fifteen minute drive from Ploeuc where my Rabet family came from in France. Maybe they came over on the boat together when they heard there was workers needed in Jersey at the turn of the century 1900.

Is Francois Demoy a family friend or relation to my ancestors or just a stranger who needed work and somewhere to stay? Another mystery on my list of ‘Things to find out’.

If you know more about this person, I would love to hear from you!


Well would you believe it, the moment I press ‘PUBLISH’ for this post I find another Francois Demoy on Ancestry.com. Here are the details from the 1901 census:

Island: Jersey

Civil Parish: St. John’s

No. of Schedule: 76

Name: Francois demoy

Relation to head of household: Servant

Condition as to marriage: Single

Age: 28 (which would make his birth year 1873 and more accurate with the Francois in the cemetery!)

Profession: Ordinary Agricultural labourer

Where born: France

Headstones & Graveyards

Headstones are a great source of information - here lies my great grandmother Florence in St. Saviours Churchyard, Jersey, Channel Islands.

Headstones in graveyards are a great source of information as long as you don’t find these places too spooky. My mother loves grave yards and she has passed this fascination onto me. Wherever I find myself in the world I always take a wander through the local graveyard or cemetery. My son has just started a school which has a huge cemetery right next to it. It’s a lovely old one and the local council have leaflets which support guided walks through the gravestones pointing out the deceased with interesting histories be they happy or sad! I think this is a great idea, and have already booked myself to go to the next one.

Amazingly enough I came a cross a headstone with a familiar Jersey surname on it: Poingdestre. On reading the details on the headstone I find that the person inside did indeed emigrate from Jersey to Australia. How about that! So if you think it might be your ancestor contact me.

The Poingdestre Headstone I found in a Sydney cemetery.

If you are going to visit a graveyard take your camera to make a record of the information on the headstone and a reminder of the type of headstone used. The type of headstone in itself could give you some idea as to the wealth of the person or religion.  Also check the graves close by as you may find some more with the same surnames on!

This is the headstone of my great grandmothers sister, Violet Lozuet 1888-1892