Caribbean family history

An introduction to tracing your Caribbean ancestors

British Caribbean territories

  • Anguilla (1650)
  • Antigua (1632)
  • Bahamas (from 1629)
  • Barbados (1625)
  • Belize (British Honduras) (1638)
  • Bermuda (1609)
  • British Virgin Islands (from 1666) several from the Dutch
  • Cayman Islands (1670) from the Spanish
  • Dominica (1763) from the French
  • Grenada (1763) from the French
  • Guyana (British Guiana) (1814) from the Dutch
  • Jamaica (1655) from the Spanish
  • Montserrat (1632)
  • Nevis (1628)
  • St Kitts (1623) shared with the French
  • St Lucia (1814) from the French
  • St Vincent (1763) from the French
  • Tobago (1814) from the French
  • Trinidad (1802) from the Spanish
  • Turks and Caicos Islands (1678)

The dates are when the countries became British settlements or when they were ceded to Britain, and the former European power. Some countries had been under earlier British occupation, and several had been temporarily captured by other European countries. Most are now independent members of the Commonwealth. Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands are British Overseas Territories.

Introduction

Caribbean genealogy is new – there are few books or websites which describe sources or techniques to help you to do your family history. Also, few Caribbean records have been published, microfilmed, digitised, indexed or transcribed. Therefore, most records you need to use are in Caribbean archives, even so you can do some research closer to home.

First steps

To start your family history begin with yourself and methodically work backwards, generation by generation. Bear in mind that spellings of surnames may change, dates and ages may be mis-remembered, and that people may be known by different names. You aim to discover facts, or make educated guesses in the absence of facts or where the ‘facts’ are wrong.

Write down what you know about yourself – date and place of birth, names of spouses or partners and children, dates of marriages, names of brothers and sisters, names of parents, nicknames, your religion, schools attended, qualifications, jobs, etc.

Do the same for your parents and grandparents. Also, record any deaths and burials with dates and places. If you don’t know dates try to estimate. You should now be able to sketch an outline family tree going back at least to one or more grandparents.

It is important to talk to your family, especially elderly relatives, who may be able to give you more information on your family. Remember that memories fade or may not be reliable. Be respectful and treat anything given in confidence as confidential.

Look for any photographs, heirlooms, and other memorabilia which may provide clues – ask your relatives if they have any which you can copy:

  • Birth, marriage and death certificates will give you names, dates and locations
  • Notices, cards and newspapers announcing births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, funerals etc, of family members.
  • Passports will give information on nationality, date and place of birth, visa and immigration stamps, and photographs
  • Wills may give names, relationships and locations of family members
  • Medals and other awards may give clues on military service, or educational and sporting attainments
  • Photographs can give clues on dates and locations, someone may have written names and other information on the reverse. Photographs are useful conversation pieces and relatives may be able to describe the events and people in the picture

The facts you are trying to find are:

  • Official names as used by the church, school and state.
  • Nicknames as used by friends and family – this is how people may be described in letters, photographs, and in conversation.
  • Places – you need to know at least the name of the country, and it will be useful if you also know the parish. If you don’t know try some of the techniques in the next section.
  • Dates – or at least estimated dates based on ages.
  • Ethnicity or nationality – the Caribbean is populated by many different nationalities and ethnic groups. Some Indigenous Amerindians survive but most are migrants coming from Africa, Europe and India. Some came voluntarily in search of riches or a less oppressed life, but most came involuntarily as slaves or as transported convicts and political exiles. Understanding your ethnicity will help decide what sort of records to look for and when. For example, before 1834 most African-Caribbeans were enslaved and therefore you will need to search for records of owners; and Chinese and Indians starting arriving from the 1840s.
  • Religion and denomination – this will help identify where. what and the type information recorded for celebrating and commemorating of life events. This is particularly important before introduction of civil registration for recording births, marriages and deaths etc as anticipated genealogical information may not be recorded or the records may still be held by the local religious authority.

Surnames

Until the 20th century, with universal education, spellings of surnames could vary during a person’s life, or among family members, so also look for variants. Say you name out loud to imagine how someone else may hear it. Standard genealogical research in the UK relies on three assumptions: that people have surnames; this surname is passed on from the father to his children; and that most parents get married usually before, or around the time of the first child.

For most Caribbean researchers this is not necessarily the case: most children were born outside of marriage and registered under the mother’s name; to complicate matters they may later take on the father’s name. So you may find examples of a birth but not find a marriage or death, or a death but no birth. This situation also arose when the religion was not recognised by the state. Often couples had children before marrying and you may find, even in the same family with the same parents, some children bearing their mother’s maiden name (because they were born before their parents married) and some children with their father’s name.

Until freedom slaves did not have legal surnames. However, it is apparent, from runaway notices and manumission (freedom) registers that many slaves used surnames before freedom. It is commonly believed that freed slaves adopted or were given the surname of their owner, but research shows that although this did happen there were other options available to freemen and women. Therefore, don’t automatically assume that your surname is the surname of an owner, although in the absence of any other evidence you could try this route. The options available seem to be:

  • Surname of an owner – this could be the last owner or a former owner.
  • Surname of father – a white master or employee, a freedman, a slave from another plantation, or the name of the father’s former owner.
  • Surname of mother.
  • Last forename – many slaves had multiple names which was often used to differentiate between slaves who had similar first names. Many were surnames of local families and may have been kept as a surname on freedom.
  • Chosen the surname – freed men and women could choose their surname, may be to confirm family ties, to disassociate themselves from former owners, or after influential people.
  • Given by the church or state for official purposes.

Be prepared

Family history can be very absorbing, almost addictive, and very rewarding, helping you find out more about yourself, your family and where you come from. However, you may need to be prepared for disappointment and may be even anger or distress at what you may find, especially if you decide to undergo DNA tests. You may also discover family skeletons which your family may wish to remain buried.

People of African Caribbean descent need to understand that it is likely that many, if not all of your direct African ancestors, may have been enslaved. People of European Caribbean descent may have been slave owners.

Other things to think about:

  • DNA may show you to be more ethnically diverse than you realise.
  • DNA will only show your direct paternal and maternal ancestry.
  • You may find ancestral links to slaves, slave owners, and slave traders.
  • Records may be incomplete and you may not be able to go back many generations.
  • People with slave ancestors will need to research their ancestors’ owners to find out more. Without the name of an owner you will find it difficult to progress back before the 1840s.
  • It may be worth asking your family if you need to know anything before you start (watch their reactions).

Is anyone else researching your family?

Is anyone else researching your family name, or may be even your family?

  • You can share your experience and may be find distant relatives.
  • Internet search engines – start with your surname and a country
  • Telephone directories – most countries have online white pages but you will need to search each country separately
  • Genealogy discussion groups and message boards – these are public lists so be careful with your privacy settings and what you say
  • Surname lists
  • Private records
    • Many people have donated their personal research with the Society of Genealogists (www.sog.org.uk)
  • Online family histories – many genealogical sites enable you to create online family histories and share your information with others
  • DNA sites – if you have had DNA tests many sites enable you to upload family histories and connect with others who share similar DNA

Are records available online?

Very few records relating specifically to the Caribbean have been digitised, indexed and posted online. Some useful ones are available at:

  • www.familysearch.org which has indexed many Caribbean baptism, birth and marriage records and some link to digital images of the records
  • www.ancestry.co.uk has digitised and indexed most of the slave registers held by The National Archives (UK)
  • www.ancestry.com has many records relating to the US/Danish Virgin Islands and Panama Canal Zone
  • Caribbean archive, library and museum websites frequently have interesting and useful local information
  • Most other online records are ideal for researching people who have left the Caribbean to settle in other countries. So if your family settled in the UK you may find useful sources on websites dedicated to UK family history.

Taking your research further

At some point to find out more you will have to visit archives and libraries in the UK and in the Caribbean.

When the British settled in the Caribbean they brought with them British laws, and government and ecclesiastical administration and practices. Therefore, if you have undertaken family history research in Britain you will find that sources and techniques are very similar. For example, during the 19th century registration offices were established, and before this you will need to look at church records, people left wills, joined the British army and navy, and may have received parish relief. Local administrative records are held in local archives – those relating to Berkshire are in Berkshire, those for Scotland are in Scotland and those for Jamaica are in Jamaica. You therefore need to know which country your family is from.

There are of course some differences:

  • Many records have been destroyed through the ravages of tropical insects, the environment, especially hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and intermittent warfare (until 1815) against the French, Spanish and Dutch;
  • Some countries had previously been administered by other European countries, eg St Lucia, Grenada and Guyana, so records may be in France, Spain or the Netherlands;
  • Therefore, early records for those countries will not be in English and even after capture by Britain documents may not always be in English.

That on or about the eleventh day of August in the year 1831 a great storm or hurricane took place in the Island of Barbados by which several of the churches and other buildings in different parts of the said Island and their contents were either wholly destroyed or greatly damaged and rendered useless and that (amongst other things) the register book or books of baptisms, marriages and burials kept in and for the Parish of Saint George in the Island said previously to the year 1801 and the register book or books of baptisms kept in and for the Parish of Saint John in the said Island previously to the year 1804 were either destroyed or rendered illegible by the said hurricane….(Cox and Lancley vs Procurator-General, The National Archives, PROB 37/897 (3))

Common Sources

Births, marriages and deaths

Civil registration is where births, marriages and deaths are recorded by the state rather than by religious authorities. These are the birth, marriage and death certificates we are familiar with today. Civil registration started in 1837 in England and Wales but began later in other parts of the United Kingdom and British territories. For example, births were registered from 1890 in Barbados, and 1880 in Jamaica.

Certificates contain the date of the event and registration district and parish.

  • Birth certificates will give the name of the child, father (if the parents are married), mother (and maiden name if married), address, and occupation.
  • Marriage certificates will give names of the parties getting married, status (spinster, bachelor, widow), age, addresses and occupations. These also give the names of their fathers and their occupations, they will also state if they were deceased. Marriage certificates also contain the names of witnesses who could be relatives.
  • Death certificates will give the name of the deceased, place of death, residence, age, marital status, and may be cause of death, and name and address of the informant (person registering the death). Bear in mind that the informant may not know the deceased well.

Before civil registration you will need to rely on church records. To use these you need to know which religion and denomination your family belonged to.

Church registers record baptisms, marriages and burials. The registers will give the name of the church, denomination and the parish.

  • Baptism – date of baptism, name of child, name of father and mother (with maiden name). If the parents were not married the child was usually baptised with the mother’s surname, the father was not be recorded. Later baptism records give the date of  birth, address and occupation.
  • Marriage entries give the name of the parties. Later entries give age, addresses and occupations, and names and occupations of fathers, and name of witnesses.
  • Burial entries give the date of internment, later registers will give age, address, occupation, and date of death.

In most British colonies slaves were barred from attending church. However, from the 1790s there was a growth of non-conformist churches (eg Moravian, Baptist and Methodist) who established themselves in village locations and encouraged free black and slave congregations. Until 1834 the registers will indicate if the person was a slave (with the name of their owner), or a freeman – in the format: [name] coloured slave of [owner], or [name] free Black man, etc.

Civil registration records will be in general register offices. Older church records may be in archives or may be register offices; or possibly the may still be with the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) has microfilm copies of some registers, for example copies of registers and indexes for Jamaica, 1667-1930 and Barbados, 1637-1931 are available at their London FamilySearch Centre. Some indexes to baptism, births and marriages and some digitised images are available on www.familysearch.org, and indexes to Barbados and Antigua church and cemetery tombstones are at www.caribbeanfamilyhistory.org/mi/.

Probate records (wills)

Wills are useful documents as they often give information about property and family. Wills of slave owners may give names and relationships of slaves and indicate if they were to be manumitted (granted freedom) or bequeathed. Most wills will be found in the local Caribbean archive. However, those also with property in the UK may have had their will proved in the UK, try the National Archives (TNA) www.nationalarchives.gov.uk for copies of wills (until 1858) of people who had property or family in the Caribbean and England and Wales, and www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk for Scottish wills. There is a fee to download these wills. If the owner lived and died in the UK, the will and other documents, may be found in the local record office to where they lived.

Migration and naturalisation

Many people have migrated from their Caribbean home looking for work or better lives. Some of this migration was seasonal, others for education and others more permanently. Until the Second World War most Caribbean migration was to nearby islands, and to the Americas especially to Panama, Costa Rico, Cuba, USA and Canada. Most records relating to migrants will be in the country people have migrated to.

  • Consular records – as British subjects British Caribbeans living in foreign countries (eg Panama, Haiti, and Curacao) could come to the attention of the British consul or ambassador. Consular registers of births, marriages and deaths between 1816 and 1924 were sent to the Bishop of London (known as the International Memoranda) and are in the London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB, tel: 0207 332 3820, www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/default.aspx. These are not online.
    • From 1848 official returns were sent to the General Register Office www.gov.uk/browse/births-deaths-marriages/register-offices, indexes are online on most genealogical websites listed on this page.
    • Registers of births, marriages and deaths of migrants in British territories will be in the local archive, register office or church.
  • Until the Second World War the USA was the primary destination for Caribbean migrants to find work or for settlement – www.ancestry.com contains information on Caribbean migrants in the USA and US territories including Panama Canal Zone and the US Virgin Islands (from 1917), including passenger lists, censuses (1790-1930), and naturalisation records. This is a subscription service although many of the indexes are free to search.
  • www.ellisislandrecords.org contains indexes and digitised images for passenger ships arriving at Ellis Island, New York, between 1892 and 1924. You need to register but the images are free to download.
  • Until 1962 British Caribbeans were British subjects, however changes to the naturalisation laws meant that Caribbean people needed to register as Citizens of the UK and Colonies to remain British citizens. Registrations between 1948 and 1986 are held by TNA in certificate number order. If you don’t have the certificate number you need to contact TNA. Later certificates are held by the UK Border Agency, Reliance House, 20 Water Street, Liverpool, L2 8XU, www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration
  • www.ancestry.co.uk, www.findmypast.co.uk, www.thegenealogist.co.uk and other sites have information on people settling and living in England and Wales such as indexes to birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses (1840-1911). Ancestry has indexed and digitised ships’ passenger lists (1890-1960) arriving in UK ports and findmypast has indexed and digitised outbound ships’ passenger lists, 1890-1960 which may show people returning to the Caribbean to live or visit. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk has censuses and other information on people settling in Scotland.

Slave registers

The central slave registries are a census of all slaves held for roughly the
period 1817 to 1834 when slavery was abolished. They were first established
under British laws in Trinidad in 1813 and St Lucia in 1815. The other
countries passed their own laws to establish local slave registries. Most
started in 1817 but some started later: Bermuda in 1821, Bahamas in 1822,
Anguilla in 1827, and the Cayman Islands and British Honduras (Belize) in
1834. Duplicate registers were sent to London and these survive at TNA in the
series T 71.

Because the slave registries were set up under a mixture of central and local
laws the information recorded varies from country to country. The registers are
arranged by owner and most contain indexes to owners or estates, so you
need to know the owner to use these.

The first return is a general list of all slaves. Most later returns show only the
changes to the slave populations such as deaths, births and manumissions
and the moment of slaves between owners: imports, exports, sales,
purchases, inheritances and gifts. Most returns group the slaves according to
gender and age – so you find lists of men, boys, women and lastly girls, with
few clues, if any, to family relationships.

The registers provide much personal information on the slaves:

  • Name – usually this is only the plantation name, but the returns for St Lucia,
    Trinidad and Belize give surnames and Jamaica baptismal name
  • Age – this may be an estimate, especially for people born in Africa
  • Colour – normally Black/Negro for people of pure African descent, or Mulatto/Coloured for people of mixed European and African origins and
    usually means that there will be European paternal ancestry
  • Where born – this may just say African or Creole (born in the Americas);
    others may give country of birth and occasionally African ethnic group.
  • Other information may include mother’s name, physical description including
    disabilities, country marks for African born people, date of birth, death or
    manumission, and the names of people receiving or purchasing slaves.

The registers also provide some information on the owners, for example indicating if the person had died, or recently married because slaves were often included as dowry gifts; those for Barbados, Antigua and St Vincent indicate if the owner was a freed man or woman.

www.ancestry.co.uk has indexed images of most of the slave registers. Their collection is missing parts of Hanover & St James’ parishes in Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Nevis, St Lucia, and Berbice (region of Guyana), and all of Anguilla, Demerara & Essequibo (regions of Guyana), Montserrat, and Bermuda. See http://tinyurl.com/6jzy5f for more information on this collection.

Slave Compensation Commission papers

Under the 1833 Emancipation Act slave owners were granted compensation. These papers, held by TNA in T 71, relate to compensation claims and although they apply mainly to owners they can provide useful information on slaves especially:

  • Claim certificates can include names of slaves omitted from the registers or
    were born between the last registration and 1 August 1834, and will usually
    name the mother.
  • Counter claims may provide information on additional owners, the property,
    and slave family groups; these may pre-date the registers.
  • Sales of slaves (known as exhibits) give the names of the seller, purchaser, and the names of slaves and may indicate family groups when compared against the register for the appropriate date.

Counter claims occurred where there were disputes over the ownership of the estate or slaves, for example the land was mortgaged or a will was invalid or being disputed. The evidence presented may contain useful information about the property, family and slaves.
The Legacies of British Slave-ownership (www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs)  is a database to compensation claims and contains some biographical information on slave holders and companies, www.caribbeanfamilyhistory.org/compensations/ contains indexes to the Barbados and Antigua compensation claims.

Newspapers

Newspapers can be very useful and you may find notices of births, marriages and deaths, obituaries, and runaways, which give names, occupations, and physical description. Other notices include slave auctions, arrival of ships, court cases, land sales, and appointments. The British Library has a good collection of Caribbean newspapers, www.bl.uk/collections/newspapers.html; TNA has short runs for the 1830s to the 1850s, and the Jamaica Gleaner is online from 1834 at www.newspaperarchive.com, www.findmypast.co.uk and www.ancestry.com – these are subscription services.

Occupational records

Most employment records will be in the private archives of businesses and employers. However, if your ancestor was employed (or registered/regulated) by the British government information may be held by TNA. Here you may find career details for soldiers of the West India Regiments, labourers in the dockyards, sailors in the Royal Navy and merchant navy, and colonial civil servants. Many collections are online through TNA (mostly medal rolls, and service records for the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force), www.ancestry.co.uk (First World War soldiers) and www.findmypast.co.uk
(Merchant seamen, Royal Air Force and British army soldiers)

African-Caribbean genealogy

Most people in the Anglo-Caribbean have African ancestors, most of whom were among the estimated 1.6 million people transported, between 1640 and 1807, from Africa to toil as slaves on the plantations and in the households in the Caribbean. The slave trade from Africa was abolished in 1807 but emancipation (freedom) did not occur in the Caribbean colonies until 1 August 1834. Only children under the age of 6, and slaves in Antigua and Bahamas (who had passed local laws abolishing apprenticeship) were freed immediately. Most former slaves were apprenticed to their former masters for four years, and this is why 1 August 1838 is often considered as the date slavery was abolished in the Caribbean.

Until then most African-Caribbeans were considered the property of their owner. This meant that they were subject to the whims of their owner and local slave laws – for example, families could be split up, they could be sold, gifted and inherited as property, they migrated with their owners to other countries, and were not allowed to attend church. Therefore, enslaved African-Caribbeans do not appear in the usual records used by family historians.

To research free African-Caribbean people before and after emancipation you will use the usual sources such as church registers, employment records, poor law records and wills etc. Using these sources you should be able to trace your family back to the 1840s. Going back earlier, into the period of slavery, can be challenging because slaves were property and you will need to know the name of at least one owner. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find out who the owner was.

  • Many official records, such as baptism records will usually give the name of the owner, using the phrase “…, Black slave of …”, or they may give the name of the estate.
  • Speak to relatives who may have oral traditions of where the family was from; look for clues in surviving family papers and photographs. Baptism, marriage and burial registers may say where your family lived, for example from 1825 church registers ask for place of residence.
  • In the absence of any other evidence you could try looking for slave owners with the same surname.
  • If you know where your family lived you can look for slave owners in that area by checking tax lists, directories, church records, maps, deeds registers, slave registers, and slave compensation claims.
  • Private records, which may contain information on slaves, include wills, inventories, valuations, receipts or accounts for purchases and sales, loans and mortgages, and personal letters. Surviving papers may remain with the family or may be deposited in a local archive or library where the family lived or settled. If the owner settled in the UK you could try searching by family name or the name of the estate on http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Otherwise you could try contacting archives and libraries in the Caribbean where they lived.

Indo-Caribbean Genealogy

Following the abolition of slavery many countries and planters experienced severe labour shortages and looked for new groups. Various emigration schemes were set up to recruit labourers from Europe, Madeira, Africa, China and the USA. Many thousands came from China and Madeira but the largest group came from India, and between 1838 and 1917 over 500 thousand arrived in Guyana and the Caribbean.

Most records relating to contracts, passenger lists, and immigration returns should be in Caribbean archives and immigration offices. However, ad hoc returns which may contain biographical information can be found among the records of the East India Company and India Office available at the British Library (www.bl.uk) and among Colonial Office records at TNA.

Because Indians arrived after the abolition of slavery genealogical information should be found in the usual sources. One thing to consider is that Muslim and Hindu marriages were not recognised until the mid-20th century and for children to be considered legitimate the parents would need to be married in a Christian church or a registry office. Additional information may be found in private records of the plantation owner or manager.

Ancestral home

Most Caribbean people are immigrants to the region and part of your genealogical research will be to find your ancestral home in Europe, Africa, America and Asia. There are very few records of passengers or immigrants until the mid-19th century.

This is particularly difficult for African-Caribbean people because most had their names, culture and heritage taken from them on their capture and subsequent enslavement. Few records give African ethnic group:

  • Auction notices rarely give the names of slaves or purchasers, shipping records do not give any names or origins of slaves. Accounts may say where people were bought, which may help identify the ship, and then it may be possible to track back the ship’s movements to Africa.
  • Private papers and slave registers may indicate possible ethnic group, and may sometimes describe physical characteristics of slaves such as tattoos and country marks, which may provide evidence of ethnicity.
  • Newspaper notices often give ethnicity for African-born runaways .
  • Your family may have stories of their African ancestors. However, the slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean ended in 1807, and slavery ended in 1834, and so the tales may be diluted or exaggerated.
  • Linguistic evidence and naming practices may give clues. Many African naming traditions survived in slavery and children were given African names, although many were anglicised.

Africans are not the only people who may not be able to trace their family home to Britain, Spain, or India etc – historical records are incomplete, you may not know anything about your family history, nationality or ethnicity etc.

In the absence of documentary evidence it has been suggested that DNA analysis may help. DNA analysis comprises two tests: the Y-Chromosome (for men only), which shows paternal ancestry, and Mitochrondrial DNA (men and women), which shows maternal ancestry. These tests only show direct paternal and maternal ancestry and misses the DNA of other ancestors. For example, there are about 7 generations or 64 ancestors (32 men and 32 women) since the slave trade was abolished. However, the analysis will only reveal information on 2 of them; and only the maternal line for women. A third DNA test (autosomal) analyses your overall genetic makeup and may help identify the ethnicity of your ancestors and reveal close relatives among others who have taken the same tests.

DNA can therefore reveal:

  • if two people share common paternal or maternal ancestry if people with the same surname have a common ancestry;
  • percentage of European, African, Asian, and Amerindian etc genetic markers
  • deep ancestry of maternal and paternal lines – and possibly links to particular ethnic groups around the world

Before taking a DNA test you should bear in mind that your overall genetic make-up or the paternal and maternal lines may reveal more about yourself than you imagine. For example, you may be African-Caribbean but if you have European ancestry on your maternal or paternal lines you will have European Y-DNA or MtDNA.

There are many DNA testing companies and they may have the facility for you to upload family histories and connect with other people who share close DNA matches.

Further reading and additional resources

I have included a couple of guides to African-American genealogy which will be useful for understanding sources and techniques for people of African-Caribbean descent.

  • Tony Burroughs, Black roots: A beginner’s guide to tracing the African-
    American family tree (Fireside, 2001)
  • Paul Crooks, A Tree Without Roots: The Guide to Tracing African, Anglo and Asian Ancestry in the Caribbean (BlackAmber Books, 2008)
  • Guy Grannum, Tracing Your Caribbean ancestors (Bloomsbury, 2012)
  • Geraldine Lane, Tracing ancestors in Barbados: a practical guide (Genealogical Publishing Co Inc, 2005)
  • Madeleine E Mitchell, Jamaican ancestry: How to find out more, revised edition (Heritage Books, 2009)
  • Debbie Kennett, DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century (The History Press, 2011)
  • Chris Pomery, DNA and family history (The National Archives, 2004) – www.dnaandfamilyhistory.com companion website
  • Stephen D Porter, Jamaican records. A Research manual: a two-part guide to genealogical & historical research using repositories in Jamaica & England (Stephen D Porter, 1997)
  • Megan Smolenyak & Ann Turner, Trace Your Roots with DNA: Use Your DNA to Complete Your Family Tree (Rodale Books, 2004)
  • John Titford, My Ancestor settled in the British West Indies (with Bermuda, British Guiana and British Honduras). A guide to sources for family historians (Society of Genealogists, 2011)
  • James E White and Jean-Gontran Quenum, The How To Guide For Tracing African-American And West Indian Roots Back To Africa And Going there for Free or on a Shoestring Budget!! (Booklocker.com, 2004) – http://booklocker.com/books/1485.html
  • Dee Parmer Woodtor, Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity (Random House, 1999)

Useful addresses

The National Archives (TNA), Kew, Surrey, TW9 4DU,
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, 020 8876 3444. Holds archives for central government departments such as Home Office and Colonial Office. Records include ships’ passenger lists, naturalisation records, army, navy and merchant navy service records, slave registers, and slave compensation commission.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), www.familysearch.org
their website has online indexes of many Caribbean births, baptisms and marriages, increasing number of digitised records including Jamaica and Barbados, locations of their family history centers, and the catalogue of their microfilms of archive and library material. Their London FamilySearch Centre holds many Caribbean records, www.londonfhc.org.

Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7BA, www.sog.org.uk, 020 7251 8799. Largest genealogical library in the UK, large collection of books and resources on Caribbean histories and genealogies, published lists of emigrants to the Americas, and private research papers arranged by family name. There is a fee to use the library.

Caribbean archives and register offices

Anguilla

  • Anguilla Library Service, The Valley, Anguilla, BWI, tel: (264) 497-2441
  • Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Judicial Department, The Valley,
    Anguilla, BWI, tel: (264) 497-2377

Antigua

  • The National Archives, Rappaport Centre, Victoria Park, St John’s Antigua,
    West Indies, tel: (268) 462-3946, email: archives@candw.ag
  • The Registrar General’s Office, High Court, High Street, St John’s Antigua,
    West Indies, tel: (268) 462-3929

Bahamas

  • Department of Archives, PO Box SS-6341, Nassau, Bahamas
    www.bahamasnationalarchives.bs, tel: (242) 393-2175, email:
    archives@batelnet.bs
  • Registrar General’s Office, PO Box N532, Nassau, Bahamas, tel: (242) 322-
    3316

Barbados

  • Department of Archives, Lazaretto Building, Black Rock, St Michael,
    Barbados, tel: (246) 425-1380, email: bda@caribsurf.com
  • Registration Department, Supreme Court of Barbados, Law Courts, Colleridge St, Bridgetown, Barbados, www.barbadoslawcourts.gov.bb/the-records-branch/, tel:
    (246) 426-3461

Belize

Bermuda

  • Bermuda National Archives, Government Administration Building, 30
    Parliament St, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda, tel: (441) 295-5151
  • Registry General, Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs, Government
    Administration Building, 30 Parliament St, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda,
    www.registrygeneral.gov.bm, tel: (441) 297-7739

British Virgin Islands

  • National Archives and Records Management Unit, Deputy Governor’s Office,
    Government of the Virgin Islands (UK), 33 Admin Drive, Road Town, Tortola,
    Virgin Islands, tel: (284) 494-3701 www.nationalarchives.gov.vg
  • Civil Registry and Passport Office, Government of the British Virgin Islands,
    Central Administration Complex, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands,
    tel: (284) 494-3701, www.bvi.gov.vg/tags/passports-nationality-and-visas

Cayman Islands

  • Cayman Islands National Archive, Government Administration Building, Grand
    Cayman, KY1-9000, Cayman Islands. tel: (345) 949 9809, www.cina.gov.ky
  • General Registry Cayman Islands, First Floor, Citrus Grove, George Town,
    Grand Cayman. tel: (345) 946-7922, www.vitals.ky

Dominica

  • National Documentation Centre and Public Library of Dominica, Roseau,
    Commonwealth of Dominica, tel: (767) 448-2401, email: library@curdom.dm
  • General Registrar, Bay Front, Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica, tel: (767)
    448-2401

Grenada

  • Public Library/National Archives, 2 Carenage, St George’s, Grenada, tel: (473)
    440-2506
  • Registrar General, Church St, St George’s, Grenada, tel: (473) 440-2806

Guyana

  • National Archives of Guyana, Homestretch Avenue, D’Urban Park,
    Georgetown, Guyana, tel: (592) 226-3852, http://guyananationalarchives.com/
  • General Register Office, GPO Building, Robb Street, Georgetown, Guyana,
    tel: (592) 225-7561

Jamaica

  • Jamaica Archives and Records Department, 59-63 Church St, Kingston,
    Jamaica, www.jard.gov.jm, tel: 876 922-8830
  • The Registrar General, Vital Records Information, Twickenham Park, Spanish
    Town, Jamaica, www.rgd.gov.jm, tel: (876) 984-3041

Montserrat

  • Montserrat Public Library, Government Headquarters, BBC Building, Brades,
    Montserrat, tel: (664) 491-4706, email: publiclibrary@candw.ag
  • Registrar General, Department of Administration, Government Headquarters,
    Brades, Montserrat, tel: (664) (664) 491-2129

St Kitts and Nevis

  • National Archives, Government Headquarters, Church St, Box 186,
    Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies, www.nationalarchives.gov.kn, tel: (869) 465-
    2521
  • Registrar General, PO Box 236, Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies, tel: (869)
    465-5251

St Lucia

  • St Lucia National Archives, PO Box 3060, Clarke St, Vigie, Castries, St Lucia,
    tel: (758) 452-1654, email: stlunatarch_mt@candw.lc
  • Registrar of Civil Status, Peynier Street, Castries, St Lucia, tel: (758) 468-
    3195, email: civilreg@candw.lc

St Vincent and the Grenadines

  • National Archives, Department of Libraries, Archives and Documentation
    Services, Lower Middle Street, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, tel
    (784)-456-1111 x529, archives@caribsurf
  • Registry Department, Court House Building, Kingstown, St. Vincent and the
    Grenadines, tel: (784) 451-2944, svgregistry@caribsurf.com

Trinidad and Tobago

  • National Archives, PO Box 763, 105 St Vincent St, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, tel:
    (868) 625-2689, nat.gov.tt
  • Registrar General’s Office, Registration House, 72-74 South Quay, Port-of-
    Spain, Trinidad, www.legalaffairs.gov.tt/civil.html, tel: (868) 624-1660
  • Tobago Registrar General’s Office, Jerningham Street, Scarborough, Tobago,
    tel: (868) 639-3210

Turks and Caicos Islands

  • Turks and Caicos National Museum, Guinep House, Front Street, PO Box 188,
    Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, British West Indies, www.tcmuseum.org/, tel:
    (649) 946-2160
  • The Registrar’s General Office, Front Street, Turks & Caicos Islands, British
    West Indies, tel: (649) 946-2800

Originally published as a booklet Caribbean Roots, 2007-2012.

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