GENUKI, a substantial genealogical resource for the whole of the British Isles, comments that the work is “not as accurate as it could have been, the publisher relied on submissions from the families represented, who paid to appear”.
However, Jerripedia founder Mike Bisson, offers the following comments in support of Payne:
- "Having used the Armorial extensively in my research over many years I must add a rider to GENUKI's criticism. Certainly there are errors in the work, but these are mostly errors of detail and none of the extensive family trees included have been discredited in their entirety. Many of the errors which have been found in Payne's work have come to light because of discoveries of source material which was not available when the Armorial was written.
- The families contained did, indeed, pay for their inclusion, but Payne avoided the trap which many professional genealogists of his era fell into of creating lineages to please his clients. This is found frequently in the history of American families in the Victorian era, and is why so much of the material on the Internet remains unreliable. Jersey families of the era were probably more honest, and paid Payne simply to be included in his work, possibly sometimes to the exclusion of other branches of the same family. This can sometimes mean that the tree featured by Payne is not necessarily the most important of that family name for modern genealogists. While the work is, on the whole, accurate and reliable, it is not as extensive as it might have been, and just because a branch of a family is not included by Payne does not mean that it is wrong.
- A major failing is that Payne adopts a strange policy of anglicising virtually all personal names, using John for Jean, Mary for Marie, Philip for Philippe, etc in eras when Jersey was a French-speaking island and virtually every child was baptised with a French name. Once this failing is recognised it is usually quite simple to link into a tree and compare Payne's pedigrees with those found elsewhere.
- Another critic of the Armorial was the Rev J A Messervy, recognised as the foremost authority on Jersey genealogy at the end of the 19th and the early 20th century. He produced many histories and family trees of Jersey families not included in the Armorial, which were published in the Annual Bulletins of La Société Jersiaise and frequently comments that Payne ignored some important family branches. However, with the exception of a handful of relationship errors in the 16th and 17th century sections of some trees, he rarely finds major faults in Payne's data.
- There is a well annotated copy in the library of La Société Jersiaise which includes many corrections of a minor nature. I have used my copy of the library version to update pages from the internet version (below) as the basis for many of my contributions to family histories in Jerripedia.
- It should, perhaps, be noted further that some of the information in the family histories included in the Armorial has been challenged by 20th century historians. Historians are renowned for being hyper-critical, and sometimes quite bitchy, about others with whose conclusions they disagree. Pointing out clear errors of fact is useful; rubbishing one historian's theory in order to replace it with another, when neither is actually supported by primary sources, can be extremely unhelpful to the student of history.
- It is unfortunately quite common for historians (whether genealogists or students of more general history) to seek to establish a status for their own writings by denigrating the work of hitherto well established authorities on their subject. The unwritten but clearly implied comment is 'if I can prove that he was wrong, I must be an even more important writer than he was'. Payne is an obvious whipping boy when it comes to attempting to establish reputations.
- There are, unfortunately, two types of family historian. There are those who set out to establish the truth and are happy to give credit to those sources which support it; there are others who seem to delight in finding fault in existing research without taking too much trouble to set out, or justify, their own conclusions.
- Payne's Armorial remains one of the most important works on the history of Jersey and its families. It has probably been quoted more frequently than any other work, and many writers who criticise its accuracy, when it suits their argument, are quite happy to quote extensively from the work, without any caveat, on other occasions. Even some of the most eminent Jersey historians of the 20th century have perpetuated some of Payne's errors which have been identified following the emergence of new documents, while being happy to criticise other aspects of his work."
The title of the work makes it clear that Payne was principally interested in the coats of arms of Jersey families, and their ancestry was often drawn on to support the use of those coats of arms which, particularly in Jersey, were of such importance to prominent families in the Victorian era.
The work contains over 100 of these coats of arms, which we have collated into a separate article:
A digitised version is available online at Internet Archive Internet Archive Payne's Armorial