The quest for research began in the summer of 1999. I spent some time in the Alderney Museum which was helpful and informative. At that time I was a primary teacher and so I also visited Aylesbury Library archives during my holidays and was let into the depths of the County Hall tower, where there were row upon row of moving walls of books from floor to ceiling. The kind assistant looked in her records and low and behold, almost as far away from the sea as you can get in England, I was led to the section on the Channel Islands. I spent a rewarding and interesting summer poring over these books, many older than myself, and I was hooked. I was fascinated, especially by the folklore and strict traditional values of the elders. It seemed amazing to think of the population of Alderney, reaching its peak of about 5,000 when the fortresses and defences were being built and Militia stationed there and all the infrastructure of shops and services required, when you compare it to life today with a population of around 2,400. An Alderney web site listing the names of business holders back in the 1850’s brought the period even more to life.
Meanwhile my parents began investigating our family tree in earnest, which led to another trip over to the islands, just the three of us. Not sleeping well, I caused a bit of a mystery when I arose early and greeted the sunny spring mornings by a lonely stroll before breakfast. We were aware that all sorts of rumours flew around the island at the time! I absorbed myself in the scenery and felt connected to the earth and sea. We carried out research at the museum, searching through acetate after acetate of records and I was fortunate enough to meet Mrs Peggy Wilson from The Alderney Society, who was well in her 80’s at the time, who was able to link my family to the Renier, Quesnel and Allen families. I felt that I had started to take root!
After that we travelled on to Guernsey together to continue our research. I returned to Guernsey a year later on my own on the slow ferry from Portsmouth. This was very special because it was the first time I had travelled on my own and I tried to relive the experience in the eyes of my great grandmother Harriet. I remember the excitement of nearing St Peter Port and trying to imagine what it might have looked like back in the late nineteenth century. During my visit I spent some time walking the narrow cobbled streets, absorbed in books in the Priaulx Library and strolling along the promenade.
I omitted to make acknowledgements in my novel and so I would like to make amends here with a personal thanks to Peter Arnold at The Alderney Museum and Paul Davies at The Alderney Bookshop. Here is a list of my sources:
BOOKS: Alderney by Victor Coysh 1974, The Channel Islands by Ansted & Latham 1862, The History of Alderney by EA Martin 1810, Folklore and Customs of Alderney by FM Picot 1929, The Charm of the Channel Islands by Lockley 1950, The Channel Islands by Robin Mead 1979, Copies of The Guernsey Evening Press around 1899
PLACES VISITED: The Alderney Museum, The Guernsey Museum, The Priaux Library, The Aylesbury Archives, Southampton Archives Service, The Seaman’s Mission Records Office Southampton
Disclaimer: I in no way see myself as an expert on the history of Alderney at that time, and I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies made due to my lack of knowledge or genuine error, for which I ask forgiveness. I welcome any comments and feedback and heartily thank those people who have contacted me already. My e mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org