Durell and Le Vavasseur

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Durell family page


This family is often found as Le Vavasseur dit Durell


Winifred Le Vavasseur dit Durell with her husband
Clarence George Le Cocq

Record Search

Direct links to lists of baptisms, marriages and burials for the Durell family can be found under Family Records opposite. If you want to search for records for a spelling variant of Durell, or for any other family name, just click below on the first letter of the
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New records

From August 2020 we have started adding records from non-Anglican churches, and this process will continue as more records, held by Jersey Archive, are digitised and indexed. Our database now includes buttons enabling a search within registers of Roman Catholic, Methodist and other non-conformist churches. These records will automatically appear within the results of any search made from this page.


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Pre-1500 Le Vavasseur dit Durell arms researched by Julian Wilson

Origin of Surname

Durell is an old Norman (specifically Manche) surname derived from dur for hard or strong, probably signifying a man of strong character.

Vavasseur was a vassal or the vassal of a vassal, a man who held land, not directly from the King, but from a Seigneur or from one of his vassals. However Payne's Armorial (see below) suggests that the name was applied to someone altogether grander.

Early records

The name of Peter Vavasour, Chaplain of the King`s Castle, is found in the Assize Roll of 1309 and the Jersey Chantry Certificate of 1550 contains one Le Vavasseur.

The names of William Durell (of Guernsey), Richard (Provost of Sark) and Nicolas Durel, the latter being a priest, appear in the 1309 Assize Roll

Two families

There are at least two distinct families of the name Durell in Jersey. The first had become, in the 16th century Le Vavasseur dit Durell and the second family originated with a 16th century French immigrant named Durel, and subsequently changed the spelling to Durell. To further complicate research, there were three other Le Vavasseur families. These were Le Vavasseur, to which was added dit Noel, dit Dubois and dit Martinier.

Payne's Armorial of Jersey

Among others, the name of this family presents relics of a custom peculiar to the Channel Islands — that of having an additional surname affixed to the original patronymic. From notes appended to a pedigree of the family compiled in 1765, it appears that the ancient name was Le Vavasseur only, which is an old word of feudal jurisprudence, of which the derivation is far from certain. Camden states that in England it was a dignity ranking immediately after Barons ; and it is classed by Bracton, before Knights. Some derive the word 'a ralvis—quasi obligatus sit adstare ad ralvas domini, rel dignus sit eas intrare'. Menage, quoting Cujas, says that the word comes from the Latin vasstts—formed from 'gesse,' an ancient Gallic word signifying a companion-at-arms. Du Cange remarks that there are two kinds of Vavassours; the greater, called Valvassores, created by the King, as Earls and Barons; and the lesser, called Valvassini, created by these last."

"The family of Vavassour of England came into that country with the Conqueror and those settled in Jersey have been located there nearly as long a time, for the name appears in the Extente of 1331. It appears that about the commencement of the sixteenth century, the name of Durell was added to that of Le Vavasseur, possibly for distinction, as the family had at that time several branches, and undoubtedly on account of some alliance with that of Durell, and which is of French origin."

The family of Le Vavasseur-dit-Durell, as from that time it was called, and which in some branches still bears both names, ordinarily used but the last, until Thomas Durell, of the eldest branch of the family, having omitted by error to style himself Le Vavasseur in his first patent of Vicomte (High-Sheriff) of Jersey in 1742, his family has since entirely discontinued the use of the former.

Among the many eminent members of this family, Dr John Durell, or Durel, as he spelt his name, stands very prominent.

Of this family, also, was Dr David Durell, who was born in 1728.

Several of the family distinguished themselves in the profession of arms. Among them may be noticed Captain Thomas Durell, RN, who died in 1741; Captain John Durell, RN, who died in 1748; Captain George Durell; and Rear-Admiral Philip Durell, who assisted in Wolfe's glorious capture of Quebec in the Princess Amelia, 80, and who died at Halifax in 1766.

Solomon Durell was Gentleman of the Horse and Equerry to the Princess of Wales in 1743. He appears also as one of the esquires, and has his arms recorded as such, of the Earl of Leicester, created KB in 1725.

Prominent among the talented Jerseymen of the present century, stands the Rev Edward Durell, MA, sometime Rector of St Saviour.

Alternative view

From G R Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey

"The Durells are not, as the Armorial states, part of the old Jersey family of Le Vavasseur dit Durell. In 1531 a French slater, named Juin Durel, was working on repairs to Mont Orgueil. He settled in St Saviour. His eldest son Juin carried on his father's trade as a slater, but his second son Nicolas rapidly came to the front. Difficulties were raised when he was elected Centenier of St Helier, because he was son of an alien: but testimony was produced to his character and loyalty, and he was allowed to take the oath. In 1597 he became Constable of St Helier and in 1602 Treasurer of the States
His son Jean bought the Fief Collette des Augres (the land around the present Upper Halkett Place) in 1617, and the Fief es Payn (which included the present Halkett Place, King Street and Hilgrove Street) in 1622. He became an Advocate in 1616, Greffier in 1625 and a Jurat in 1631.
Jean's son Thomas was Greffier under Lydcot and was imprisoned by Sir George Carteret, and only regained freedom by paying a fine of 8,000 livres tournois. He had three sons, Thomas, who became Constable of St Helier (1667-69), Jean, who became Jurat in 1682, and Lieut-Bailiff (1694-1708), and Nicolas, who was Secretary to Lord Lansdowne, British Ambassador in Spain, and became Solicitor-General in 1684. This latter office remained in the family for four generations."


Payne's assertion that Captain Thomas Durell, Captain George Charles Durell and Vice-Admiral Philip Durell were members of the Le Vavasseur dit Durell family is incorrect. They were descendants of Juin Durel, as identified by George Balleine. Captain John Durell, the fourth naval officer mentioned by Payne as being related to these three, was probably the Captain Durell who was commander of HMS Centurion in 1736, but there is no further information to connect him to either of Jersey's Durell families.

There are suggestions from some family research that Juin Durel was not the first member of the family to arrive in Jersey. Art historian Charles Harrison-Wallace, who has written extensively about the Durell family, suggests that references in the early Extentes to Durels in the 13th century are of the same family.

He refers to Raoul Durel, unjustly imprisoned; Mathieu Durel, killed in a raid; and Nicholas (probably Nicolas) Durel, a priest, all in 1272, and to Richard Durel, made Provost of Sark; and William (probably Guillaume) Durel, acquitted of theft, both in 1298.

It should be remembered, however, that Jersey was for centuries an integral, though off-shore, part of Normandy. Its people, its language, its law, customs and surnames were Norman. Many of its surnames that appear in Island records of the 12th and 13th centuries later became extinct, only to be re-introduced in later centuries. Unless proof can be provided to the contrary, it is hard to credit claims of continuous settlement, in the face of 250 years` absence from records.


  • Le Vavasseur, 1331
  • Le Vavasseur dit Durell, 1577
  • dit du Boys
  • dit Noel, 1668
  • dit Martinier 1668
  • Vavassor 1349
  • Le Vavasour
  • Vassal 1309
  • Vavasser
  • Vavasseur
  • Durel
  • Durell

Family records


Family trees


Church records

Tips for using these links

A sampler produced by Mary Ann Durell in 1800. Perhaps Marie Anne (1783- ), the daughter of Elie and Marie Anne, nee Brunet

Family histories


Great War service

Notes on our list, abbreviations used etc


Occupation records


Family wills


Burial records


Family homes

After his death Philippe Durell's home was advertised for sale in the Gazette de l'Ile de Jersey

Family businesses

Janvrin, Durell and Co issued banknotes as Jersey Commercial Bank

Family album

A letter to historian Edward Durell from William IV's secretary

Family gravestones

Click on any image to see a larger version. See the Jerripedia gravestone image collection page for more information about our gravestone photographs


The church record links above will open in a new tab in your browser and generate the most up-to-date list of each set of records from our database. These lists replace earlier Family page baptism lists, which were not regularly updated. They have the added advantage that they produce a chronological listing for the family name in all parishes, so you do not have to search through A-Z indexes, parish by parish.

We have included some important spelling variants on some family pages, but it may be worth searching for records for a different spelling variant. Think of searching for variants with or without a prefix, such as Le or De. To search for further variants, or for any other family name, just click on the appropriate link below for the first letter of the family name, and a new tab will open, giving you the option to choose baptism, marriage or burial records. You will then see a list of available names for that type of record and you can select any name from that list. That will display all records of the chosen type for that family name, and you can narrow the search by adding a given name, selecting a parish or setting start and end dates in the form you will see above. You can also change the family name, or search for a partial name if you are not certain of the spelling

The records are displayed 30 to a page, but by selecting the yellow Wiki Table option at the top left of the page you can open a full, scrollable list. This list will either be displayed in a new tab or a pop-up window. You may have to edit the settings of your browser to allow pop-up windows for www.jerripediabmd.net. For the small number of family names for which a search generates more than 1,500 records you will have to refine your search (perhaps using start or end dates) to reduce the number of records found.

New records

Since August 2020 we have added several thousand new records from the registers of Roman Catholic, Methodist and other non-conformist churches. These will appear in date order within a general search of the records and are also individually searchable within the database search form


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