History has been one of my favourite subjects since Primary school so it’s not surprising that my family history is important to me. Black History Month is a good opportunity to think about our ancestry.
Like many Jamaican’s my ancestry is a mix-up and blend up! My great-grandfather on my dad’s side was white Irish. This knowledge answered a few questions about my family and had me asking even more. Like why were the Irish in Jamaica back then? I soon learned that thousands of Irish people were taken to Jamaica as indentured servants. Indentured servitude was harsh but can not compare to slavery and shouldn’t be used to railroad any discussions about slavery. I’ve seen it happen too often and it should stop. I’m just saying.
Anyway, it’s been a hard slog tracing my roots and up until recently finding any record of my great-grandad on the genealogy websites was like pulling teeth, especially as I soon discovered that registrars regularly misspelt people’s names.
As more and more records are scanned and published online I’ve discovered that my great-grandparents had 12 children and that great-grandad’s name was misspelt on several of their birth certificates making things so much harder. But not as hard as tracing my mother’s line. The struggle is real.
Out of many
Germans, Chinese and Indians were also taken to the Caribbean as indentured servants. Now you know why our national motto is “Out of many, one people.” It speaks to the diversity of the people of Jamaica.
If you are interested in tracing your roots here are some tips:
Ask the family
Ask other relatives what they remember about their families. Make a note of any nicknames name changes. Ask them to tell you any family stories, what their ancestors did for a living, or what they looked like. Ask if they have any photos, letters or documents relating to your ancestor.
Work backwards in time
It’s easier to work methodically from a fact such as the date of birth or a marriage of a relative than to try and trace down from a person you don’t know much about.
Use the internet
Many records are now online but start here first: https://familysearch.org
There are many genealogy websites out there but Family Search is one of the best for old records because it’s FREE and it’s where a lot of the other sites get their data from.
If you don’t yield any results from Family Search then you can check out the other sites such as OneGreatFamily which offers a free trial and has easy tools to help you explore your family history.
Here are a few links to other sites:
What’s been done before?
It’s worth checking if anyone else is doing research into your family before you start. Use social network sites like RoootsWeb, Familyrelatives or GenesReunited where people can register their research interests. You may find that a distant relative has done most of the work for you. The Society of Genealogists library collects published and unpublished family histories and research notes, so worth a look too.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve already traced your roots and how far you got.