Origin of Surname
The Rev George Balleine believes that Poingdestre means right fist, suggesting a pugnacious person. G.F.B. de Gruchy wrote, in 1922, in manuscript notes, of Poingdestre, "it probably means right fist", which does indeed seem to be the general consensus.
A rather fanciful explanation, claimed by some authorities and popular in Victorian times, is that the surname is derived from the Latin word "punge", meaning to "Spur" and the French word "destrier", meaning "a steed or Courser". Its literal meaning under this reasoning would be "Spur the Steed" and it would probably have been originally used as a nickname.
Some also consider, however, that the name originated in the heraldic term 'point dexter' one of the nine chief local points of escutcheon or shield. The name is also frequently given the significance of "the right hand" from this last mentioned source, dexter being the heraldic term for 'right'. Why a man should derive his surname from a point of escutcheon or shield is hard to determine.
There is not a little dispute over how the name should be pronounced. During medieval times it is believed that it was probably pronounced "Pon'dest", becoming "Pon`daitr". The French pronunciation is closer to "Pwang’dest’’ or "Pwang`daitr", and this is how the name was pronounced among French-speaking Jerseymen in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By way of contrast, in Jersey`s Norman-French language it was, and is still, pronounced "Po`daitr". Today among Jersey`s English-speaking population, the pronuciation of Poingdestre, as with many old island names, has drifted fo a form with an anglicised influence, in this case, towards "Poin’chester". There are even slight variations among Jèrriais speakers, often reflecting which part of the Island they come from, on how exactly to pronounce this and other old Jersey names, but there are now so few of them that it is a somewhat academic question. Members of the Poingdestre family themselves invariably say ‘poinchester’ with the stress on the first syllable.
The name appears in the Assize Roll of 1309, with a mention of Pierre Poingdestre of St Saviour. Jean Poingdestre was Receiver-General in 1363. In 1419, another Jean Poingdestre bought the Fief Mottier in St John, to which was eventually given the name of its bearers. The family continued to reside, however, in their ancestral heartland of St Saviour. The Jersey Chantry Certificate of 1550 includes Clement Poingdestre.
The American family historian, John Poindexter Landers, says: "evidence indicates that the name is actually endemic to Jersey, no traces of its early use existing elsewhere on the mainland of France or England". The earliest record he cites is 1250 in the archives at St Lô in Normandy, that mentions that Geoffrey and Raoul Poingdestre are land owners in Jersey. However, there is no real evidence for the name, which is fairly common throughout the Manche and Calvados departments of France, having been 'exported' there from Jersey.
Dr Judith Everard indicated in 2004 to Jamie Poindexter, of the Poindexter Descendants Association, that a Ricardus Poingdestre lived in the Bayeux district of the Bessin in Normandy in 1180 and in 1195. Her source was the Pipe Roll Society publications of the Norman Pipe rolls of those years. G.F.B. de Gruchy had made this discovery in the 1920s, but his source was the Norman Exchequer Roll of 1180.
There are no records of the surname between 1195 in Normandy and 1250 in Jersey. It is possible that as a family in the Duchy of Normandy they owned land both near Bayeux and in the Channel Islands. Upon King John's loss of his duchy to Phillip of France in 1204, the land may have been divided between two sons. As stated in the book Jersey 1204 (Holt, Evarard, 2014) it was impossible to be loyal to two kings. To retain land in both Normandy and Jersey, the land would be divided between two sons. A few generations later, the connections between the two branches became forgotten.
Today there are Poingdestres around the world, in Australia, New Zealand, England and in America. But there are few Poindexters outside the US where immigrant George Poingdestre's (1650s) Latinised version is used. According to Landers (Poingdestre Poindexter - A Norman Family), educated persons of the Renaissance would Latinise their surname. However, this appraisal of the use of the Latin form of surnames is almost certainly inaccurate. The fact of the matter is that in Medieval times official documents were written in Latin and a Latinised version of surnames and forenames was invented for inclusion in such documents. Because the landed gentry would be more likely to be recorded in official documents than the peasantry, it is assumed that they chose to adopt this form of their name, but it is more likely that it was imposed by officialdom.
In much the same way, immigrants from the Channel Islands to the United States are often said to have chosen an anglicised form of their surname on reaching America, whereas is many cases it can be shown that a revised spelling was arbitrarily chosen by officialdom there, in many cases against the wishes of the individuals concerned. Part of the problem was that emigrants knew how their name was spoken, but being largely illiterate, they did not know how to spell it.
The New World
It has been more than 30 years since Landers' book was published. DNA testing and member research of the Poindexter Descendants Association has provided details of additional immigrants.
George went to Virginia in the 1650s as a businessman, partnered in ownership of ships, received land grants, built a colonial plantation and was the progenitor of the majority of Poindexter's living in the US today. He was third born to the Seigneur of the fief es Poingdestres. John Poingdestre, who was a secretary to Charles I and with Charles II at Elizabeth Castle and later became Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey, was George's great half-uncle.
Around 1698, a Henry Pendexter was a mariner who settled in Maine (United States). His descendants are generally in the New England area of Maine and New Hampshire.
Henri Puddester, a fisherman, settled in Nova Scotia around 1730. The language difference of the Scottish settlers may have led to the spelling. Today Wayne Puddester has extensive research on this family.
In the mid 1700s John C Poindexter emigrated to Virginia from France, according to his descendants. It is also possible that he came from Jersey. DNA testing of descendants indicate a close relationship to test subjects currently living in Jersey and in England.
So early as 1250 Geoffroy and Raoul Poingdestre are mentioned as landowners in Jersey, in certain documents preserved in the archives at St Lo, in Normandy.
In 1424 Jean Poingdestre was Bailly of the island; in 1452 his son, another John, filled the same office; and in 1467 the grandson of the first-named, a third John, occupied this honourable post. In 1485 Jean Poingdestre was Lieut-Bailiff, as was his descendant, still named Jean, in 1669.
This family has, for several generations, possessed the fief of Grainville, in the Parish of St Saviour; and it has always held a high social position in its native island.
One of its eminent members was John Poingdestre, son of Edward, who was born in 1609. [Editor's note: They were Jean and Edouard. Payne followed, or perhaps even originated, the fashion in 19th century Jersey to anglicise the names of ancestors.] He became fellow of Exeter College, Oxford, and was one of the first who partook of the benefit, after their foundation, of the Jersey scholarships. He appears to have possessed every quality calculated to adorn public and private life, and these he exercised in the sphere of his eventful career. He was esteemed one of the soundest Grecians of his day, in the penmanship of which language he was an elegant adept. He prepared, for private use, emendations of the text of several Greek poets, which still exist in manuscript. He held an official appointment, the nature of which has been forgotten, under Lord Digby, Secretary of State to Charles I. He was ejected from his fellowship by the Parliamentarian visitors, when he retired to Jersey, and was with Sir Philippe De Carteret in Elizabeth Castle, during its siege by the Republicans. He had the honour of being deputed by Sir George Carteret to proceed to France, there to confer with Charles II, on the state of affairs in Jersey. After the ultimate expulsion of the Royalists from the island, he went into voluntary exile, as an earnest of his loyalty, until the Restoration, when he was rewarded by the office of Lieut-Bailiff, under Sir Edouard De Carteret, in 1669. After some years, he retired from this appointment, owing to an alleged informality; but he retained his seat as Jurat until his death.
Among many other works, Mr Poingdestre left the framework of Falle's History of Jersey, a copy of which, in the author's writing, was presented to James II, and is now in the Harleian Collection. He also wrote a series of articles, not so well known, on the Grand Coustumier de Normandie, showing the variation of the Jersey laws from those of the parent Duchy. This was a subject of which the author was perfectly master, and which rendered his judicial decisions models of justice and impartiality. He is buried in the Church of St Saviour, where a Latin epitaph, penned by Falle, exists to his memory. His portrait is still preserved at Grainville.
The Poindexter Descendants Association is a not-for-profit organization whose members are descendants of the Poingdestre (Poindexter, Pendexter, Puddester/Puddister) family. Most members are in the United States, there are some in England, Jersey and Canada. The PDA hosts a Y-DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA.com where male descendants with the surname passed down from grandfather to father to son and so on, may participate by purchasing a Y-DNA test kit.
As of 2017, the PDA identified two groups of families using the surname that descend from Jersey. Group 1 are males living in the US whose Y-DNA match each other and using traditional paper genealogy, are the descendants of George Poindexter (bap. 1627 at St. Saviours, Jersey) who emigrated to the colony of Virginia in the mid-1650s. Group 3 are males living in New England, England, Newfoundland and Jersey who match closely with each other. This DNA group includes those using the surname Poingdestre (England and Jersey), Pendexter (New England) and Puddister (Newfoundland). However, Group 1 and Group 2 only have a 2% chance of being related within 24 generations ago, so they are not likely related through the Y chromosome.
The two families might be related somewhere in time through a female line or because of adoption, use of a dit name, or some other reason, or they may truly be two different families. Group 3 participants in the project have helped us to confirm relationships depicted on three of the 1998 CIFHS Poingdestre family trees back to 1565 A.D. The "paper" family history record in Jersey for George Poindexter has been well documented by Landers (1979), the CIFHS Trees (1998) and by Robert de Berardini (2016) as George is descended from a long line of Seigneurs, Jurats and even a Bailiff here and there, to the 14th century. Research by de Berardini has indicated a "paper trail" lineage for George back to 1300 A.D.
The Landers book, CIFHS Trees and de Berardini's report are available to members on the PDA web site at poindexterfamily.org . The CIFHS Trees are also available at the Lord Coutanche Library at the Societe Jeriaise in St. Helier.
- Poingdestre (The only correct form in Jersey. Poindexter is found as a transcription of some records, but further investigation inevitably shows the original to be Poingdestre. Poindestre is also found in some records, but as an error. There are no other spellings in our database of church records)
- Poindestre (Sometimes found in Normandy as early as the 12th Century near Bayeux)
- Poindexter (Many in America)
- Puddester (Nova Scotia through Maine)
- Pendexter (Maine USA)
- Podester (is not a derivative of Poingdestre, but is often confused for it. An Italian family settling in Jersey for a time brought this name to the island)
Several of these trees overlap to a lesser or greater extent but all have been included because they cover the ancestry and descendants of an important emigrant to the USA and come from different sources
- Descendants of Burnulf Poingdestre (1140)
- Tree linking Burnulf Poingdestre to Le Breton family
- Descendants of Thomas Poingdestre
- Descendants of Pierre Poingdestre
- Descendants of Josue Poingdestre
- Descendants of Edward Poingdestre/Pendexter
- Descendants of Jean Poingdestre and Marie Hamptonne
- Descendants of Jean Poingdestre and Marie Hamptonne 2
- Descendants of Edouard Poingdestre and Pauline Ahier
- Descendants of Raoul Poingdestre (1220- )
- Descendants of Jean Poingdestre and Rachel l'Isle
- Descendants of Michel Poingdestre Added 2021
- Descendants of Thomas Poingdestre - 2 Added 2021
- Descendants of Thomas Poingdestre - 3 Added 2021
- Poingdestre baptisms in Jersey
- Poingdestre marriages in Jersey (groom)
- Poingdestre marriages in Jersey (bride)
- Poingdestre burials in Jersey
- Charles Poingdestre, artist
- Jean Poingdestre, Bailiff
- Jean Poingdestre, historian clergyman, Royalist and Lieut-Bailiff
- Jean Poingdestre biography
Société Jersiaise Library records
- Bertram records in La Société Jersiaise Library, including references to members of the Poingdestre family Added 2018
Great War service
Criss-Cross, Virginia, USA
The house was first known as Christ's Cross, due to its shape, a cross, looking down onto the roof of the house from above, but later called and known as Criss-Cross, which is its name today.
George was the first Poingdestre from Jersey to settle in America. He emigrated in the 1650s, before 15 March 1657 to Middle Plantation, Virginia, in what is now the Williamsburg and New Kent County, areas. Some sources indicate that George may have begun to build Criss-Cross as early as 1685, but many other sources agree that the completion of Criss-Cross was in the year 1690. George only lived there for about two years, and died on 15 January 1692. His widow Susanna lived there for another year, until her death in July 1693. Their son George continued to live in the house.
Described as an elegant mansion at this early period, the house had a great hall, several bed chambers, a wine cellar, and a decorated Tudor tower. It stands on a gentle knoll surrounded by cultivated fields and woodland and is reached by a paved state road, Criss Cross Road, then on to a sand clay driveway. The location has changed little since the house was built.
Although altered, restored and renovated, by the Harrison family, during the 1950s, the house still retains its original overall appearance and important late 17th century detail. Until St Peter's Parish Church, New Kent County, Virginia, was completed in 1701, Criss Cross served as the church meeting place for its first vestrymen and members. George Poingdestre was one of the first vestrymen and founders of Saint Peter's, which is one of the most visited attractions in Colonial Williamsburg. There is a plaque on the wall at one of its pews, with an inscription honouring George Poingdestre, as one of the first vestrymen of the original church.
The sign on the left of this LL postcard from the 1900s advertises The Scientific Dress Cutting Association at 75 Halkett Place. This was a branch of a London organisation. It is possible that this business developed from the sewing machine business in the 1862 advertisement (left) but it would not have been at the same premises, because 75 Halkett Place was still numbered as part of Grove Place in 1862.
This advertisement from an 1886 almanac indicates that the Scientific Dress Cutting Association was first established in that year at 28 Halkett Place. Whether it was run by a member of the Poingdestre family is uncertain, but the fact that a Miss Poingdestre worked as a dressmaker for the Scientific Dress Cutting Association in the 1900s suggests a family connection.
Although the Poingdestre brothers mentioned in this 1949 article from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, undoubtedly had a Jersey ancestry, it has been impossible to place them into any Jerripedia trees with any degree of certainty. Online trees suggest that they were the grandsons of Charles Edward Grant Poingdestre, born in Jersey in 1855, but we have not been able to identify anyone in our database who would fit this suggestion
Ernest Poingdestre, a 37-year-old native of St Helier, was sentenced by the Royal Court to 14 years penal servitude in 1916 for 'having carnal knowledge with his daughter' who was under the age of 13.
Click on any image to see a larger version. See the Jerripedia gravestone image collection page for more information about our gravestone photographs
- Poindexter Descendants Association, the website of the American branch of the Poindexter family.
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