Tag Archives: Renier family

The Mystery of Family History (1844)

Jane ~ born 1844 (or Rachel) Renier / Hopkins ~ My Great Great Grandmother

As explained in the previous post, until my recent search on the internet, my parents delving into our family history had pinpointed Harriet’s mother as Jane (Renier) born 26.10.1844.

(If the 1871 census in the previous post has been transcribed correctly on to the internet, then Harriet’s mother was in fact Rachel and not Jane, both daughters of Elizabeth Renier. Since I can no longer ask my Dad, then to prove one or the other is quite difficult and of course, the internet never lies 😉 )

Here is the part of the family tree Dad gave to me:

The story passed down in the family goes that Harriet’s mother married a sea captain and they both lost their lives. Harriet was left to be brought up by her grandmother, Elizabeth Renier/ Quesnel (Taylor) and her step-grandfather John Taylor.

The difficulties of family history searches on Alderney

When Alderney was occupied in WW2 some records were taken by the evacuees to safety, but as you can imagine, this was not easy, since the residents were given only a few hours to get ready and were then scattered throughout the UK, some never to return.

The island has very few trees and so anything that could be burnt was used as fuel by the occupying German forces during the war, including precious books and church records.

Much has been done by the islanders and their descendants since then to collate any records that are in existence, also bringing together vast numbers of family trees and comparing and cross referencing them.

My parents and I spent many hours pouring over acetates at Alderney Museum back in the first couple of years of this 21st Century, well before much data has been carefully entered on to computer databases.

How did this influence my writing?

Looking out over Braye Beach

The island of Alderney (Braye Bay pictures in the banner on this blog) and my family connections with the island have always been my initial inspiration to write novels. As I walk around the island I feel as if I’m walking in Harriet’s footsteps. As far as the parents of Harriet in my novel RIDUNA, they are purely fictional. I knew nothing of John Hopkins when I wrote the novel, but his story is as fascinating as any novel.

The search for details of Jane’s marriage to John Hopkins has been without success (I’ll return to this post if I discover any more facts), but my parents were able to uncover a substantial amount of evidence of the sea captain called John Hopkins; more of which will be in my next post.

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Filed under Alderney, Channel Islands, Family History, Inspiration

Family History

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.


Filed under Alderney, Channel Islands, Family History, History of Alderney