The parish of Jælse was established as a municipality January 1, 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). In 1859 the municipality was divided, the district of Sand becoming a municipality of its own. The split left Jelsa with a population of 2,606.
On 1 January 1965 the majority of Jelsa, with 928 inhabitants, were merged with Erfjord, Sand and Suldal to form the enlarged Suldal municipality. At the same time the Buergårdene district with 8 inhabitants were moved to Hjelmeland, and the Ombo district with 89 inhabitants were moved to Finnøy.
The village Jelsa is presently located in Suldal.