Catherine de Mai

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Catherine Le Cras (née Mai) at the door of her Seaton Place home
John Monet Le Cras sitting outside the Opera House where he was the caretaker for many years

All family tree researchers have brick walls - people in their trees whose parents and more distant ancestors just cannot be identified. The lower down the tree these brick walls are encountered, the more frustrating they can be, but sometimes they are so fascinating in themselves that the inability to progress back further generations is forgiven.

I have one such person in my tree - my father's maternal grandmother, known in the family as Catherine May.

So she is shown on the certificate of her December 1873 marriage to Jean Monet Le Cras, caretaker at the Opera House for many years, with her father’s name given as Charles May. But search the censuses in 1851 and 1861 and you will find, as I did, that no such Catherine and Charles May were resident either in Jersey or anywhere else in the British Isles.

Société Jersiaise researcher

The answer to this conundrum was provided for me by Jack Worrall, a volunteer family history researcher for La Société Jersiaise, who was helping me research my family. It just happened that not long before he had been chronicling records of births registered by the General Hospital and came across Catherine’s birth record, which was registered by the hospital chaplain with the note ‘trouvée `a la porte d’une maison située dans la rue dite Vauxhall – le 8/5/1854.’.

Great-grandmother Catherine was found abandoned as a baby on a doorstep in Vauxhall Street and taken to the hospital, where she was given the names Catherine de Mai, the latter relating to the month of her discovery. I have been unable to unearth any information about how Catherine was brought up but she later anglicised her surname to May and invented a father for her marriage certificate. Whether my grandmother ever knew the truth about her mother’s birth I know not, but I am pretty certain that my father never did.

Neither did other descendants of Catherine with whom I have come into contact through this Jerripedia article.

Mike Bisson

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