Here is the true story of Harriet Hopkins my greatgrandmother, in a nutshell, as far as we have been able to piece together. Harriet was born on Alderney to Jane Quesnel Renier the daughter of Elizabeth Quesnel Renier and John Hopkins a sea captain from London, in 1871. A few years after Elizabeth’s first husband, Nicholas Quesnel, died (in 1860) Elizabeth was listed in the census running a guest house called The Reading Rooms in Braye Road. Both Elizabeth and Jane appear in the census with Elizabeth’s maiden name Renier and her married name Quesnel. We have been unable to locate the position of The Reading Rooms today. (any ideas?) A few years later Elizabeth remarried a John Taylor. He was a former serviceman who had served around the world, was born in Scotland and recently lived on Jersey but then lodged at Elizabeth’s guest house on Alderney.
Even after Harriet was born, Jane frequently joined her husband John Hopkins at sea on various ships including The Spirit of the Day and The Livonian. The majority of the voyages were transporting goods between The Channel Islands, the Scilly Isles and the mainland but occasionally John Hopkins travelled on his own to South Africa, North and South America. On those occasions it appears that Jane Hopkins remained on Alderney, eagerly awaiting news I expect, enjoying time with her parents and young daughter. In 1879, when Harriet was only 8 years old, Jane joined her husband John on a voyage on The Jane Goodyear to North America. Unfortunately the ship was lost and there were no survivors, leaving Harriet to be cared for by her elderly grandmother Elizabeth and step grandfather John Taylor.
By all accounts they had their hands full with running the guest house and so, when she became a little difficult to handle at 15 years old, they shipped poor Harriet off to live with her aunt on Guernsey.
My parents are still in touch with relatives on Guernsey and we have recently made contact with members of the Renier family still living on Alderney today and hope to meet up in the summer.