Family History and Research
About the Name and Coat of Arms
Other versions of the crest are found in various references. At St. John's Parish Church in Jersey, there is a wood carving of it and several other prominent Jersey fief surnames. One branch of the family (associated with La Maison du Mont au Prêtre in St. Helier Parish may have abandoned or never used the spur. We have been told by local historian that the worn stone crest found near the gate is the same as the crest in a postage stamp published by Jersey's postal service, which displays the roses as the Poingdestre crest wthout the fist and spur.
The Poingdestre Family Coat of Arms can trace its roots back to ancient times where it was probably carried onto the battlefield with honor and chivalry to defend family, allies, King and country. The coat of arms of the Poingdestre Family of the Isle of Jersey, from which many of the Poindexter families of America are descended, is described as follows from Burke's General Armory 1884 (2):
The Earliest "Poingdestre"
Landers (1) 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, Landers did publish over 25 years ago. Recent research in 2003-2004 by Dr. Judith Everard (3) indicates a Pipe Roll (a skin or parchment on which information was written and stored rolled up to look like a modern day pipe) reports Ricardus Poingdestre, in the Bayeux District of the Bessin in Normandy (Lower Normandy) in 1180 and in 1195. Ricardus appears on Page 5, in the book "Pipe Rolls of the Exchequer of Normandy for the Reign of Henry ll, 1180 and 1184". The pipe roll was researched by The Royal Pipe Role Society and published in 2004.
Dr. Everard is co-author of the book "Jersey 1204-The Forging of an Island Community" (3) . Eight hundred years ago, Duke John of Normandy (aka King John of England) lost the Duchy of Normandy to King Phillip of France. This event was crucial to Jersey's development to what it is today. In the years following 1204, families with lands in Normandy and Jersey were forced to abandon lands in Jersey if loyal to Phillip Augustus or in Normandy if loyal to John. Some families were able to split the lands between two sons, thus creating a split in family genealogies. This may have happened as there are Poingdestre/Poindexter's in France today (some of these however may have descended from a family that left Jersey and moved to the Cotinin Pennisula of Normandy in the 1500's. The Jersey 1204 book talks about such land divisions, but does not follow or mention the Poingdestre family.
The Name "Poingdestre"
The name Poingdestre is claimed by some authorities to have been 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. It is considered more probable, 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'.
From the web site "www.last-names.net", POINDEXTER is described thus:
(origin: Fr.) The same as Hotspur, or spur the steed; point being derived from pungo, to pierce, to prick; and dexter, right, as opposed to left; a word expressive of readiness of limbs, adroitness, expertness, and skill.
Today, you will find Poingdestre's around the world, in Australia, New Zealand, England and even in America. But you find few Poindexter's outside the U.S. where our immigrant's Latinize version is used.
Poingdestre or Poindexter?
According to Landers (1), educated persons of the Renaissance would Latinize their surname to, as we would add Dr. to the begriming or our name or "PhD" at the end. Poindexter is the Latinized form of the old Jersey surname Poingdestre. Since our immigrant, George, was educated at Oxford, he probably used the Latin form in his business dealings, and somehow that is the form that stuck with us, his American descendants.
During medieval times, the name was pronounced Pon'-dest, with a Norman French accent, of course. Today, in the Isle of Jersey, it is pronounced Pon-des-ter (though today's influx of British and other cultures, some have started pronouncing it pon-chester). While touring Jersey in 1998, the webmaster found residents of Jersey instantly recognizing and pronouncing my American spelled name as if it was spelled as it is in Jersey. One ticket taker at Gorey Castle informed me that I spelled it wrong!
The Jersey Datestones Project has an example of a marriage stone between Jean Poingdestre and Elizabeth Touzel as seen here and on the Project's web page with a more detailed description.
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Updated July 3, 2017