Part 1.


       The JERMYs were a family of landed gentry settled from about 1200 to 1800 primarily in East Anglia. Their name was spelt in a variety of ways although invariably ended up as Jermy in later times. While it's possible there were (in pre-17th century England) unrelated families of this same basic name - as Jermy, Jarmy, Germy, Jermi, Jermey, etc - i.e. originating from a different gene pool - there appears to be no firm evidence to support this. (A few records show one or two unaccounted 'Germys' having issue in Devon in the 16th and 17th centuries but it was later noted that the surnames in the Wills of this Devon family - for a Hugh (1647), Philip (1654) and John (1675), with references to relatives Alexander, Francis and Stephen, were in every case shown consistently as Jermyn. No later memebers of this line appear as Jermy (or otherwise).) Nor is it clear that any one living today having the name Jermy (or similar) derives from that original, single landed family - of Jermy (not Jermyn). Any possible exceptions are discussed later. Otherwise, it appears to have died out in the male line before 1800.

      There were, on the other hand, many families - unrelated to the Jermys and often to each other - of that basic name 'Jermyn'. Unlike the Jermys, they existed in many other parts of the country from earliest to later times, (as in Devon as touched on above) as well as in Wales and Ireland. This surname too had many variations in spelling - as Jermin, Jarmyn, Germyne, Germany, Jarmany, etc, but also including at times Jermy and its variations - just as the Jermy family, if less often, had their name mis-spelt at times as Jermyn, or one of its near variations. Despite this confusion, we shall accept the view here that there was but one family of true Jermys in Britain, now seemingly extinct, but many (still extant) with the name Jermyn and its many variations (as Jarmyn, Jermin, German, Germany, Jarmeny, etc) some of whom however also continue today as Jermy, Jarmy, Jermey, etc - unaware of their very probable Jermyn origins. Thus, we cannot agree with Anthony Wagner, former Richmond Herald (as quoted by Stewart Valdar in his excellent account of the family), that all bearers of the name Jermy, whether in the past or today, are of one family. Subsequent DNA analyses have confirmed that living possessors of the names Jermy, Jarmy, Jermyn, Jermany, Germany, etc are not all of one family. There are however no certain descendents of the original Jermy family known to be alive today.

      The foregoing view is held despite the present author having pointed out some time ago that in the early 1300s, there were two landed families in mid-Norfolk named Jermy and Sturmy in the neighbouring parishes of Tharston and Forncett, whose names then were sometimes given as Jermyn and Sturmyn, respectively, when an unrelated family of yeoman farmers rightly named Jermyn/Germyn happen to reside in the nearby parish of Hempnall. While the latter family did on odd occasions have their name spelt as Jermy, this was much later - from the late 16th century. As this family of yeomen farmers (later tailors, weavers, husbandmen and labourers) gradually spread out in all directions from the Hempnall area, so several of their lines retained, or later acquired, the names Jermy or Jarmy. The true Jermys of Tharston, etc, on the other hand, did not retain the name Germyn/Jermyn, with which they were sometimes wrongly labelled, but invariably reverted to their correct name of Jermy - spelt thus. Nor did any of the latter appear to have been yeomen, etc - certainly not then or for some centuries. The same may have applied to the Sturmys (sometimes spelt ‘Esturmy', which, like Jermy, also has, I believe, a Norman rather than Anglo-saxon connotation).

      Thus, I no longer believe that the addition of the final letter ‘n' to both Jermy and Sturmy, occurring on odd occasions in the 14th century, necessarily implies or supports the contention (once made myself) that the nearby Germyns/Jermyns of Hempnall may have derived from the same basic root as the Jermys, or vice versa. I do realise however that the contrary view might be argued. In similar vein, I believe that the enobled Jermyns of Rushbrooke, Suffolk (whose derivation is just as ancient as the Jermys) apparently arose out of early Jermyns settled between Ipswich and Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk. Awkwardly, at the Ipswich end, there is again a near overlap with an equally early settlement of the Jermy family of present interest - at Capel St Mary - where the latter's name was also sometimes spelt as Jermyn and, even more awkwardly, where their manor and later a farm there were accorded both the names ‘Jermy's' and ‘Jermyn's or Germyn's' (see map of this area below).

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      The Jermys were thus gentry of an upper middle rank with many elder sons knighted in the 12th to 16th centuries. There were many such families in East Anglia (and elsewhere) of comparable rank who, like the Jermys, eventually died out in the male line. But before their demise, they seemed to have an amazing ability to withstand descent into any kind of labouring, yeoman or skilled tradesman status (with one or two later exceptions which prove relevant in the present context). If their sources of rental income petered out, as happened to many after the Civil war, they often didn't marry. Indeed, within their social set, they often became virtually unmarriable - without property or income. Except for the few who underwent an apprenticeship (ideally as an Attorney), they rarely possessed any marketable skills - short of seeking a career in commerce or the services - if they had managed to acquire some secondary education. Church livings and legal careers for younger sons also became less common when expenses at Oxford or Cambridge could no longer be met.


      Genealogy has become increasingly popular over the past 15 years or so. Most enthusiasts delve into their own family trees which, by definition, proceeds unbroken to the present day. So why present here an account of a family that existed for about 600 years (in recordable form) but has, it seems, no present members? The answer lies partly in the preceding discussion. There are many families today with the surname Jermy, and its near variants, which apparently derive ultimately from the Jermyn families described - even if not appreciated. But more basically, the on-going interest in the Jermy family derives mainly from the activities of five individuals. These are: William Jermy of Bayfield in Norfolk (1713-1752), Isaac Preston of Norfolk (1710-1768), John Larner of London (c1785-1870), James Blomfield Rush of Norfolk (1800-1849) and Stewart Valdar of London (1917-2007) . They are discussed in order.

     William Jermy was the last and only surviving male of his (Bayfield) branch of the landed Jermy family - as discussed more fully later in this account. He had neither children nor surviving siblings. His father did have one married sister who had two or three children, William's first cousins, to one of whom as his nearest heir his considerable estate might normally be expected to go on his death in 1752. However, it seems that he was not a well man for some time before his death and his family solicitor, one Isaac Preston, apparently influenced him to marry his (Isaac's) sister Frances Preston, just weeks before William's death, and, by a suspect Will, leave the estate to her for her lifetime, and then to certain others of their (Preston) family. There was, however, a most significant proviso. This was that in the event that none of these named Prestons outlived his sister, nor had male issue themselves, it was only then to go to 'the male person with the name Jermy nearest related in blood to William (or his heirs)'. This again denied his first cousins or their heirs.

      However, while William was the last Jermy of his branch of the family, there were still, when he wrote his Will, several male survivors in the other Norfolk branch - settled earlier at Gunton, near Aylsham, and later in Gt Yarmouth. And by the time his wife had died, these others may, conceivably, have had further male Jermy issue themselves who could thus have inherited - as then being 'nearest in blood' to deceased William. But if there ever was such issue, they appear not to have been sufficiently aware of their possible inheritance rights to William's estate - on the death of Frances (with none of her named Preston heirs outliving her) and so another member of that latter family soon stepped in and, on dubious legal grounds, acquired the estate - leaving it in turn to his own named Preston heir. Had that situation remained unquestioned, it is unlikely that there would be much interest in the genealogy of the ancient family of Jermy today.

      And matters did remain in this state for many years - until June 27, 1838 - when the status quo was rudely upset by the claims of one John Larner. (There had been two previous claims to the estate but these never reached the Courts or the public domain and so no particular awareness or interest in the family arose previously.) Larner claimed to be the legitimate owner of the estate - as a descendent of the Jermy nearest related to William when the latter's wife eventually died - in 1791. His subsequent activities (described below) in claiming the estate gained widespread publicity. Moreover, another of William's requirements was that anyone inheriting the estate must change their name to Jermy - which had never been done - by the Prestons. However, after Larner's intervention, the Preston family in possession soon effected this change so that the name Jermy now began to receive any attendant publicity. However, this was not very prolonged and the situation soon settled back into one which, again, may have left little future interest in the genealogy of the original Jermys.

      But, ten years later, all this was to change - in November 1848 - when both the local and national papers reported the double murders of the then occupants of William's former estate at Stanfield Hall (near Wymondham) - Isaac ‘Jermy' (really Preston) and his only son of this same basic name.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service
and reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey.

      The activities of John Larner had been noted by one of Isaac's tenant farmers, James Blomfield Rush of neighbouring Potash Farm (now the Lotus Motor Works), who had become highly indebted to the elder Isaac. He attempted a clumsy plot wherein Larner and a cousin, one Thomas 'Jermy', with their known sense of injustice over losing the estate (as they saw it), would be suspected of the murders. This failed and Rush was tried and executed the following year. But again the attendant publicity spread the name Jermy even wider into the public domain. Many of those possessing this name, whatever their origins, would in particular be intrigued. Many no doubt wondered if their family (including that of the cousin Thomas 'Jermy' might have any claim on this clearly disputed estate? The incumbent of the church at Salhouse and Wroxham, for example, just to the north-east of Norwich, must have become aware of such interest. He had, it seems, so many enquiries in the late 1800s concerning many agricultural labouers with the names Jermany, Germany, Jarmy, Jermy, Jarmony, etc that lived in those two parishes over preceding generations (derived ultimately, as later concluded, from the Jeryns of Hempnall that he published a list of every baptism, marriage and burial involving those with these or similar names in his two parishes. There were other enquiries made over the ensuing years, some as late as the 1930s.

     My own interest derives from enquires made within my wife's family, who had a Sarah 'Jermy' in her background (albeit associated with one of the enquiries that pre-date the Stanfield Hall events). This has now been elaborated in its own section as: 'The Spurgeon and Jermy families of Norfolk: Any Connection?'). Summing up after a failed claim to the estate in 1878, Lord Justice Thesinger concluded: “There probably never was a property in the country the title to which has given rise to such obstinate disputes or has been the source of so much litigation and crime”.

      Finally, someone appeared in the middle of that next century whose motivation to enquire into the Jermy genealogy was also to some extent independent of the foregoing publicity - although it too may have spurred him to a deeper analysis than otherwise. This was Stewart Valdar, a journalist whose father Alfred, in this same occupation, was born with the surname Germany - descended from a family settled in the Norfolk fens, near King' Lynn from the early 1800s (but seeningly before that from the Hempnall family of Jermyn). Because of the ‘awkwardness' of such a name as the first world war loomed, he had it (Germany) changed to something he preferred - more literary or dramatic - that of a character in a novel he had enjoyed - namely, Valdar. Young Stewart, growing up with this latter, fictional surname, would eventually realise that he had no genealogy; no roots or ancestors! So, on learning his true family name, began to look into it. He apparently concluded that it may have derived ultimately from the name Jermy - many of his father's forebears having been accorded the name Jermey and Jermay in Fenland church records. Having a probing and very organised mind, he gradually collected together much more data on the Jermy family than anyone had done before. He eventually published an excellent booklet on them which collated most of the known facts (as eg the above quote from Thesinger), based on a wide range of sources. This in turn made him the focal point of enquiries by all those subsequently interested in the name - particularly (but not exclusively) those who had become aware of the Stanfield Hall incidents and murders. His help has been invaluable to all those pursuing this and related subjects - including yours truly from the 1980s. Today, with the ubiquitous Internet and ‘the Web', much additional information has been disovered beyond that first distributed by Stewart who continued his own interest well into old age but sadly has recently died (2007). The present web pages have sought to extend that earlier material, particularly into the origins of the family's many roots (as well as that of the Jermyn/Jermany family). Colin Jermy in South Africa, another interested searcher, also has a most comprehensive and still developing website on branches of both families. This may be called up by Clicking on: Colin Jermy's Website, where there is also a fulsome tribute to Stewart Valdar.

      The following ‘Detail and Comment' mainly about the Jermy family, is meant to be read in conjunction with the accompanying pedigrees, to complement them. It is always a mistake to try to include too much information in such pedigrees. Although I have probably made that mistake, the following account will convince the reader that there is still much more to somehow include - if in an admittedly verbose format. Some of this occurs more succinctly in Stewart Valdar's excellent ‘Brief History' of the family which, on page 20 (1976 version), he described as “..but an outline of what is hoped will be a major history of the Jermy Family” - based on the vast amount of additional material he had amassed (much of which has now passed to Colin Jermy). If that hope does not come to pass, possibly the present effort may go some way toward realizing a more comprehensive history and/or at least provide a chronological structure and focal point into which such material can gradually be integrated. It will thus be edited from time to time - as more documentary evidence becomes available. We shall thus begin at the beginning - with the first or earliest Jermys…

To Part 2 - The First of The Jermys

To The Jermy Homepage