[Blackstudies-l] Trace your Caribbean ancestors

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Jun 27 06:26:07 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this
fascinating article to our attention. A report from Who Do You Think You
Are Magazine. Inspired by Liz Bonnin's episode? Who Do You Think You Are?
television series genealogist Laura Berry highlights the w"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Trace your
Caribbean ancestors
<http://repeatingislands.com/2017/05/13/trace-your-caribbean-ancestors/> by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: trinidad_getty_images_623x400.jpg]

Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this fascinating article to our

A report from *Who Do You Think You Are Magazine*.

Inspired by Liz Bonnin's episode
<http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/episode/liz-bonnin>? *Who Do
You Think You Are?* television series genealogist *Laura Berry* highlights
the wide range of resources available for researching ancestors from the

*Irish presenter Liz Bonnin
<http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/episode/liz-bonnin> was born to
a French Martinican father and Trinidadian mother with Indian and
Portuguese ancestry. Such an exotic cultural mix is a reflection of the
diverse populations that settled in the Caribbean, whether by choice or by

The history of the Caribbean islands was dominated by sugar and slavery
from the 16th century, when the first European colonies were established
there. African slaves were transported to the islands in huge numbers by
the 18th century, and slavery was not abolished in the British Caribbean
until 1838, in the French Caribbean until 1848 and in the Dutch Caribbean
until 1863.

Unfortunately, researching slave ancestry using documentary sources is
often complicated and might not be possible at all before these dates. Even
after slavery was abolished, family history research can be difficult
because children were frequently born out of wedlock and subsequently
registered with their mother’s surname and they sometimes adopted their
father’s surname when they grew up.

It wasn’t uncommon for people to have large extended families made up of
half brothers and sisters and a couple might marry later in life long after
having had children.

*First steps*

Oral history is invaluable for researching Caribbean roots. It’s vital to
talk to as many relations as possible to try to find out when your
relatives left the Caribbean if they emigrated, and exactly where they came

If any relations settled in the UK then it may be possible to order a
marriage certificate from the General Register Office
<http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/> here to find out what their fathers’
names and occupations were.

Ships’ passenger lists for people arriving in the UK up to 1960 can be
searched on Ancestry
<http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?%20dbid=1518> and in the
mid-20th century these sometimes provide dates of birth and additional
information about citizenship.

A fair amount of research can be done online now, aided by free genealogy
websites like caribbeanfamilyhistory.org, but it’s always best to try to
visit the places where your family were last known to reside and speak to
neighbours – island communities are close-knit and memories go back a long

*Births, marriages and deaths*

A large number of births, marriages and deaths registered in Jamaica and
Barbados have been scanned and made available at FamilySearch
<http://familysearch.org/>. Just register for a free account to see the
digital images. You’ll find records for other areas of the Caribbean too by
using the ‘Research by Location’ map on the ‘Search’ page.

Church registers of baptisms and marriages in Martinique, Guadeloupe and
other French Caribbean islands can be searched online for free here
<http://anom.archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/caomec2>, and the available
records can be very detailed.

Anglican churches in the British Caribbean did not start to admit slaves
until the 1820s. As a result, African-Caribbean people were more likely to
worship at a nonconformist chapel instead, so you may need to search the
records of the local Baptist, Methodist and Moravian churches.

Locating civil records is not always straightforward either. Only an
official government search clerk can access records at the Registrar
General’s Department for Trinidad and Tobago, and searches are restricted
to three-year blocks. Navigate to the ‘Family and Relationships’ page at
ttconnect.gov.tt to find contact details.

Obituaries and announcements of deaths in newspapers can prove useful too.
The British Library News Room <http://bl.uk/collection-guides/newspapers>
holds microfilmed newspapers published in the colonies, such as *The
Trinidad Guardian* and *The Barbados Standard*.

Some Carribean newspapers, such as *The Daily Gleaner* published in
Jamaica, can be searched on the subscription sites newspaperarchive.com and
M <http://myheritage.com/>yHeritage <http://myheritage.com/>.

*Indentured labourers*

Following the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean, indentured
labourers willing to work cheaply were shipped from India and China to
replenish the workforce. Passenger lists from the 19th century told Liz
Bonnin <http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/episode/liz-bonnin>
where her Trinidadian ancestors came from in India. Their passage was paid,
but they were contracted to work on the same plantation for years.

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago <http://natt.gov.tt/> hold
registers of Indian immigrants who arrived between 1845 and 1917 –
information about them and lots of other useful guides for researching
ancestors from these islands can be found at trinidadandtobagofamilyhistory

As with slave ancestors, if you can establish which family or estate they
worked for then it’s worth searching for estate records. Those that have
been brought back to the UK may be found via The National Archives' Discovery
catalogue <http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/>.


Manumission records created when slaves were freed can be found in local
archives, and registers listing slaves and their owners in the British
Caribbean between 1813 and 1834 are available on Ancestry

Further records of the Slave Compensation Committee may be found in series T
71 <http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C13808> at The
National Archives in Kew, where there are also reports of protectors of
slaves from Trinidad, St Lucia, Guyana and so on within Colonial Office

Slaves rarely had surnames so there is a higher chance of finding
information for slave owners than their slaves. The Centre for the Study of
the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership has a database of owners and their
associates at ucl.ac.uk/lbs.

There are records and registers of slaves held in Martinique online here
<http://www.patrimoines-martinique.org/> but, again, you need to know the
name of the owner to begin a search, and the records are in French.


Additional information for plantation owners can be found in the form of
probate, land and church records in local archives. Newspapers and colonial
gazettes are also worth searching. *Le Journal Officiel de la Martinique*
is freely online along with other published sources via the Bibliothéque
Nationale de France website <http://gallica.bnf.fr/>.

In theory, everything in the regional Departmental Archives in the French
Caribbean has been duplicated and copies deposited at the Archives
Nationales d’Outre Mer <http://archivesnationales.culture.gouv.fr/>.

This includes colonial compensation records of payments made to owners by
the government when slaves were freed, and ‘actes notaries’, being legal
records and wills. Some records have been digitised here

In the British Caribbean, colonial ‘Blue Books’ recorded the names of local
civil servants, and these may be accessed at some university libraries such
as the Senate House Library in London.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* | May
13, 2017 at 11:43 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-vkH

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