British Slave Trade Register Published Online – 100,000 Barbados Slaves Named

barbados-happy-marcus.jpg

DEAR LORD,

I would love to see the faces of our long-past ancestors if they showed up for one of our parties at Archer’s Bay. Like any Bajan party, so many different shades of skin. A child with tight kinky midnight black hair plays with his cousin who has light brown straight hair. No natural blondes, but give it another generation or two. (Of course, knowing Cliverton, the blonde kids could happen at any time, if not already. 😉 )

We already know that one branch of our family used to own the other branch. No doubt there are ancestors on both sides – even fairly recent ancestors – who would be horrified to see our family today.

That is fine with me. We are who we are today. I am who I am. My son will be better than I am at all things, and if the Lord wills it, his son or daughter will carry on.

barbados-slaves-list.jpg

So what do I care about Africa on a Friday evening? NOTHING…

… And then CNN publishes a story that the British slave trade register for 1834 is being placed online. The names of one hundred thousand Barbados slaves made available to anyone.

Suddenly, my lack of concern for my origins is shown to be a thin defense against the fact that there are few resources to research the family tree of a slave. I call my son and show him the CNN article.

This should be interesting…

CNN: UK Slave Register Published Online

39 Comments

Filed under Africa, Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, Slavery

39 responses to “British Slave Trade Register Published Online – 100,000 Barbados Slaves Named

  1. Red Lake Lassie

    Who is the man with the hat?

  2. Researcher.

    And the long list of slave names shall read like this:

    Jack.
    Jack
    Jack
    John
    Bubba
    Bussa
    Jack
    Jack
    Lil Man.
    George
    Jack
    George
    on and on it goes.
    – not a surname in sight.

    Don’t argue with me, boy!
    I have worked the records at Barbados Dept. of Archives, helping today’s black people trace their family line back as far as possible,
    and have done so with some success, as far as circa the early 1830’s.

    At that point surnames disappear, for slaves were known by a first-name only: they simply had no surname.
    Makes it difficult to get any further back, beyond that point becozzzz… which “Jack” is the one we’re tracking??

    This becomes very obvious in the Baptism records leading up to Emancipation, where it is clear that the slaves are jumping on board The System they see coming soon, getting themselves registered, so to speak.
    (The Church/religion was the white man’s registration system du jour)

    The sheer volume of Baptisms pre-1834 simply SOARS! and there are, as indicated above, lots and lots of Jacks and Johns and Mammy’s and just ordinary one-names like that (no surnames).

    So if anyone thinks they’re going to find a Jack Commissiong to ‘harp’ on…good luck!
    Likewise there will be no John Beckles, neither!
    Nor a George Belle. Frustrating.
    Maybe Bobby Clarke will get lucky with his great great great great grandmother: who knows?
    UWI Cave Hill (History Dept.) will have a good time with it, doan worry!

  3. No - Name

    Researcher,
    I have had the same experience in the archives because after a while the surnames disappear. It is very depressing when researching your ancestry and you discover you can’t trace your roots from Barbados to Africa. I can’t imagine how we will make the links. I really hope the information is much more useful than we imagine.

  4. Researcher.

    Yes, I know the feeling. Some yrs. ago I had a gentleman living in NYC, a black guy, a Mr. Brathwaite, who did quite well researching his family tree, and together we got him back to some ancestors circa that period, and then it fell apart for lack of surnames!
    This is why most of our people today have these ‘white’ surnames, coz they simply took The Master’s name, or adapted a nice-sounding one, for their own.
    Sad but true.
    but like they say…if you can get back eight generations, you’re doing very well. so doan feel bad

  5. Lady Anon

    I started reading this with a smile on my face because now…then I read Researcher and the smile just fell off.

    I know that the slaves were given the surnames of the owners of the plantations where they were, but I thought it was just a clear transition (forgive me for being optimistic). At no time did it occur to me that the surnames would have “fallen off”.

    I had planned to visit the archives during my holiday to try and research my ancestry at least up to a point, but now I wonder whether it is worth it.

  6. Researcher.

    Apologies for destroying that beautiful smile of yours, but please do go ahead and visit the BDArchives.
    You’ll find the staff there to be very pleasant and helpful, quite un-Governmental! – and they have oceans of material(not necessarily what you want/need, but their holdings are voluminous!)

    I had an enquiry from a guy who was determined to “find his ancestry back to Africa”…seemed quite convinced he could make the link. I was wondering how!
    Let’s start at the beginning.
    It’s 1704, and an African named Mbwele is boarded on a boat bound for Barbados, arrives here as just another no-namer, and is either given or adopts a Westernized name.
    Likewise his womenfolk and any kids that come along.
    From that time, right up to mid-1800s, slaves are on a first-name basis with each other and the Pltn.Mangr. because Africans never had a European style first-name/surname structure, I think they operated more on a “Mbwele from Ghana” kinda nomenclature, much like the Arabs,today…as in Jack al-Tikriti, which is basically, Jack,the Tikriti (Jack,from Tikrit).
    Then(around 1820s?) along comes rumours and whisperings of Emancipation, and the smarter slaves see the new light, and realize that the possibility of a moving-up the social ladder exists, or soon will, and we might as well jump in, get baptised, BE somebody, find some kinda surname, and do dis English ting as best we can emulate Massa an dem.
    I don’t think slaves were routinely baptised before this era, although those that took the white man’s faith seriously probably were,here and there (and a few white ladies taught them covertly to read the Bible and stuff like that: it wasn’t ALL bad…you need to read some Wills!)..
    but by about 1830, the amount of Baptisms simply skyrockets, and the names are all Jack and John and Mammy Bessy and other household affectionate names…stuff like that, pages and PAGES of them, all now welcomed to the fold of Christianity and the concordant benefits assoc. with that ‘belonging’.
    These are big men and women being baptised in mid-life – not infants!
    In another generation or so(1850-ish?) surnames appear, and even some marriages!

    Despite the frustrations, it is nonetheless interesting in the sociological sense, and well worth a visit or two to BDA. – Go!

    Carry a legal pad and a pen or two, and make copious notes.
    You’ll go thru INDEXes first, (Births, Marriages, Deaths) which will point you to specific VOLUMES with the actual entries.
    As a beginner, you’ll probably get to do only microfilm, but the more serous researchers are sometimes provided actual Volumes, ancient,HEAVY, sometimes smelly old Books, bigger than anything you’ve ever seen or lifted! Turning the pages CAREFULLY, it’s a journey thru time, and if you really want to crawl your skin (and if they’ll permit you) you want to see the Deeds book of around 1646?? – it’s the oldest document they hold: I’ve seen and handled it, and it is in AMAZING condition, give its age,
    i.e.there are “younger” Volumes in worse condition – it’s all down to storage conditions, pre-BDA days, when things were ‘lost away’ in church cellars…oh the stories I could tell you…about Mr. Archer coming down with lung infections from working two weeks in the storage cellars of the High Court, assembling all this material now held at BDA…this back in the 1960s and 70s when BDA was gathering up Records of all sorts, from scattered sources.

    Enough.

  7. Bajanboy

    The govenment should proceed to digitise the records of the Archives because one day there is going to be a fire and all will be lost. I went their once and I was amazed and the records that are kept. Looking at written records hundreds of years old is nothing short of amazing.

  8. Yardbroom

    It is interesting to go through those old volumes I did so a few years ago, it might also be a good idea to take a pair of white cotton gloves to protect the documents.

    One thing I learned was that slaves did not always take the names of their masters, when they had the choice. It is not true that people today have the sirnames of previous slave masters, some very purposely chose other names for a variety of reasons.

  9. Lady Anon

    Thanks…the smile is back.

  10. Researcher.

    Yes, white cotton gloves should be the order of the day for those permitted to view actual Volumes: I’ve said so for some time.
    I have been known to send back particularly decrepit Volumes that were brought to me, judging them to simply be too crumbly to be handled, even with the greatest care. – used microfilm,instead
    The stuff is paper, y’know? and it decomposes over time, if not carefully stored, and many of these Volumes were found in Parish Church storage “facilities” that were…umm.. ‘less than desirable’ !
    I recall a story about (I think it was St.John’s Parish Church) where the old Volumes were found in something like a old shed,out back, with a broken glass window pane or two, so the rain sprinkled in, now and then, creating ideal conditions for decomposition of simple cellulose matter.
    I wasn’t kidding when I said,earlier, that some Volumes(very few) actually smell!, so you work quickly and send them back!

    Before he retired, Mr.Archer told me of conditions under the High Court(I think it was there) that they were working in an accumulation of dust on the floor about an inch thick (the stuff of his lung infection!)
    In those days (up til 1960s) no-one gave a damn about ‘crappy old records’, and it was Michael Chandler who got behind Gov’t. and insisted that ALL old Volumes on this island, both Church and Government Departmental, be gathered under one central depository, and so the Barbados Dept. of Archives was born.
    The search was on, and an amazing amount of stuff was found. Every Parish Church had its own records dating back to God Knows Whenever, and Gov’t. gave in quite a few.
    The Registry was glad to be relieved of storage duties for all the old ‘dead’ Volumes that no-one requested any data from.
    BDA has odd things like Agricultural Dept. records from the 20th.Century, and by far THE biggest Volume I ever had the pleasure of working with was a ‘gi-normous’ red thing that detailed all the vehicle registrations during the 1950s era!
    Looking back thru the records, I was suddenly looking at registrations for X 602 and X 5, two vehicles I used to travel in, as a boy, to and from primary school!
    What an odd thrill: brought back memories.
    BDA also has B.W.A. maps and charts showing pipeline circuitry of yore…oh man, you have NO idea what they have there – even I have no idea what they hold: just ask the staff!!
    Old postcards, even a few modern phone cards, books and publications, Wills, Deeds, newspapers(delicate),
    Burke’s Peerage and Debretts, the list goes on and on!

  11. John

    Slaves were not baptised until they conveted to christianity. There are examples however, very few, where slaves, free negroes and free mulattoes were baptised in the 1600’s.

    It is handy to remember what you were taught at Confirmation (if you were C of E) when you lok at the records for slaves. Baptism accepts the child into the church as a member of the family of God. The child is given only a christian name, so in the case of slaves, only a christian name is recorded. They can thus easily be identifed as slaves in the register.

    Sometimes slaves had two christian names, or one unusual christian name so it is possible to link one record in time with another.

    I believe the first slaves to be baptised as a result of the SPG efforts on the Codrington estates were baptised in the 1730’s I believe 1732 but I would have to check it.

    It was not until slaves became part of the church that their names started to appear in the registers.

    Their names do however appear in wills, deeds and powers as part of the inventory of an individual, or when they were manumitted.

    I met a lady at the archives once who had actually been able to trace her slave ancestry back to Africa. This is the exception, not the rule.

    It is about starting and sticking to the task, and hoping for luck to smile on you.

    Even families of free persons have gaps in them as not all children were baptised and in the case of St. Lucy, St. Peter and I believe St. James, the church registers up to the early 1700’s have disappeared.

    However, family trees can still be constructed using wills, deeds and powers. It is fun, but it takes a great deal of time.

    Here is the good part. People all over the world are interested in genealogical research and there is much on the Web if you go looking. You may find that there is someone in the world who knows and has researched part of what you are looking for.

    Ellis Island web site records the entry into the USA of people from all over the world and the Mormons have a fantastic at familysearch.org where most of the baptismal and marriage records from the Barbados Archives have been placed.

    It is possible to build a family tree on your computer and never go near the archives, but you need a starting point for your family.

  12. John

    …. and a surname

  13. John

    I believe I can get back to the 1680’s on my maternal grand fathers side because an ancestor of his was freed around that time and appears in the records. I am not certain as yet but it looks promising.

    On my maternal grand mother’s side, I meet a brick wall around 1800.

    My father’s ancestors are more difficult as he is not a Bajan. However, I can through the Ellis Island records see when he went to the USA as a boy.

    The Internet is fascinating for the various US censuses are available and I can also track both he and his family as they appear on the various cencuses as they were done at 10 year intervals.

    There is a piece of software calle Family Tree Maker which is worth purchasing. Got it at Costco off the shelf, have seen it on Amazon.com.

    Ancestry.com gives you access to many records as well.

  14. True Native

    ??: Told ya Australia would win!

  15. John

    Yardbroom
    April 28th, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    One thing I learned was that slaves did not always take the names of their masters, when they had the choice. It is not true that people today have the sirnames of previous slave masters, some very purposely chose other names for a variety of reasons.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I found this as well. It does not seem to me possible to generalise as to how and why ex-slaves took particular surnames.

    A surname has nothing to do with the church, it is more of a legal construct. Perhaps the ex-slave took a surname when he/she got married, or needed to be a part of the legal system by making a deed or buying land, or writing a will or whatever.

    A great deal of research would need to be done to determine the various reasons. I suspect however that there will be a few common ones which account for for a surname.

  16. John

    True Native

    I still dream the Jedi will Return!!

    It was not a great match of cricket I will remember. I found it rather boring. It was kind of like when Germany wins the football world cup.

  17. True Native

    Sweet dreams, John! Wish I had your faith. Germany? Like when they STOLE the world cup from England in 1968?? I shall never forget that. In fact, it was “given” to them by the French frog referee.

  18. John

    True Native

    The 1966 FIFA World Cup, the eighth staging of the World Cup, was held in England from July 11 to July 30. England was chosen as hosts by FIFA in August 1960 to celebrate the centenary of the codification of football in England. It was a year of triumph for the host nation, as England won the final beating West Germany 4-2, giving them their first (and so far only) World Cup triumph.

    What are you talking about?

  19. J. Payne

    I’m currently waiting on my official DNA results from a mapping project by National Geographic. The soo called National Geographic “Genographic” programme. Basically it is a DNA mapping project.

    They carried a little bit about it in the Barbados Nation saying they wanted to test Barbadians too.
    —-
    DNA project to trace Bajans’ roots
    Date March 13, 2007
    http://archive.nationnews.com/archive_detail.php?archiveFile=./pubfiles/bar/archive/2007/March/13/LocalNews/34684.xml&start=0&numPer=20&keyword=Genographic&sectionSearch=&begindate=1%2F1%2F2007&enddate=4%2F28%2F2007&authorSearch=&IncludeStories=1&pubsection=&page=&IncludePages=1&IncludeImages=1&mode=allwords&archive_pubname=Daily+Nation%09%09%09

    [SNIP]
    BARBADIANS will be checking their African roots through a DNA project, tracing the path of an early 19th century slave revolt and saluting their ancestors this year as the island marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
    [/SNIP]
    —-

    In the US you have to pay $100 for the kit (Not sure how much it is for Barbadians that they pick.) “Native tribes” are tested for free. The next step is they’ll test either your paternal (Y-Chromosome) or maternal DNA (from the Mitochondria) and using DNA markers they can trace your most probable route back to “Adam and Eve” if you will.

    The National Geographic website is at http://www.NationalGeographic.com/genographic

  20. J. Payne

    I just got my DNA results after 8 weeks… I guess I’ze an African. ,-) *grins*

    On the site people can select whatever group they want to be in. In hopes of finding matches more likely. But if you select the site will give you a hint where you have more matches..

    —–
    “For information purposes, the Recent Ancestral Origin search also displays results for those who are near matches. A near match is either one step or two steps from your result. An exact match is 12/12 or 25/25. A one step match is 11/12 or 24/25 and the magnitude of the mismatch is 1. A two step match is 10/12 or 23/25 and the magnitude of both mismatches is 1, or it is 11/12 or 24/25 and the magnitude of the mismatch is 2. Near matches show where those who are distantly related to you have migrated over time.”
    —-
    Persons in places that have nearly the same Y-Chromosomes as me.

    As a 12 Marker Y-DNA One Stop Mutations —
    My match locations — #of people in that online group with related DNA.

    Africa — 3
    Gambia — 1
    Ghana — 1
    Nigeria — 1
    Uganda — 1
    Zimbabwe — 1

    As a 12 Marker Y-DNA Two Step Mutations —
    My match locations — #of people in that online group with related DNA.

    Africa — 9
    Cameroon — 3
    Dutch Antilles — 1
    Finland — 1
    Gabon — 3
    Ghana — 2
    Ivory Coast — 2
    Kenya — 5
    Nigeria — 1
    Puerto Rico — 1
    Scotland — 1
    Sierra Leone — 1
    Spain — 1
    Tanzania — 1
    Trinidad — 1
    Uganda — 1
    United States — 1
    Zimbabwe — 1

    Lawd… My father’s side has done some traveling, yes???

  21. Yardbroom

    For those new to research do write down the volume number and page number from which you have got your information. There is nothing more frustrating than to arrive home with important details which should you wish to cross check later, you have no idea as to the volume it came from, a whole day of valuable research can be lost this way.

    It might also help other family members at a later date.

  22. John

    J. Payne

    You have convinced me. I will try and get myself tested!!

    I heard one person who did it say she was actually able to relate her ancestors to actual families, with surnames.

    One of the amazing things about genealogy is that if you were able to go back 10 generations, you would find 1024 people who were responsible for you being you.

    Also, if you start 10 generations back and make simple assumptions like family size = 5, and no intermarriage, then one couple is responsible for 60,000 plus people today.

    Makes you think and realise that even the most inveterate enemies may actualy be related to one another!!

  23. No-name

    BFP,
    They have done it again. They may be a couple days late but the Nation Newspaper has published the article on the British slave trade register for 1834.
    Is there anyway you can collect commissions for doing their work for them on occasions such as these?

  24. True Native

    Jinx:

    I just found it! Thanks.

  25. Researcher.

    WILLS are perhaps the best family-tree-builder of all the categories of Records, because they mention people and the relationship to one another.
    Also mentioned are friends, slaves(some well-liked, some granted freedom), and you get the sense of it it was a happy family, or one with problems and nuff arguments (it shows!).
    Also of great interest is the value system of the time. A bequeath of curtains!, or ten pounds of Muscovado (sugar) or 10 Pounds Sterling was a big deal,buddy!
    Two horses and ‘my best milk-cow’ was also a big deal.
    Furniture was another item typically left to a wife or daughter: the things you learn – from Wills!

  26. J. Payne

    To John the one— thing that I found out after the fact that made me un-happy about the National Geographic thing is I my case I’ll have to buy one for each line of side of my family. One for the male side one for the female side.

    Now. Since (son, father, uncle, grandfather, great grand father et al.) All have the same Y-Chromosome you only need to test one male in your line.

    IF you’re married on the female side that would include your (mom for exmple, or you can test a daughter of hers. E.g. your sister, your moms’ sister, an aunt, a grandmother, a great grandmother etc. etc. etc. But that’s US$200 for two kits.

    Again traveling in the same vain if you’re married with children. You can’t test your daughter for example because she will have your wife’s mitochondria. And your wife’s mom, and her grandmother etc. etc. That would be useful for telling your female children though(if you have any) all about the other half of their DNA line though.

  27. J. Payne

    To John the one— thing that I found out after the fact that made me un-happy about the National Geographic thing is in my case I’ll have to buy one for each line of side of my family. One for the male side one for the female side.

    Now. Since (son, father, uncle, grandfather, great grand father et al.) All have the same Y-Chromosome you only need to test one male in your line.

    IF you’re married on the female side that would include your (mom for exmple, or you can test a daughter of hers. E.g. your sister, your moms’ sister, an aunt, a grandmother, a great grandmother etc. etc. etc. But that’s US$200 for two kits.

    Again traveling in the same vain if you’re married with children. You can’t test your daughter for example because she will have your wife’s mitochondria. And your wife’s mom, and her grandmother etc. etc. That would be useful for telling your female children though(if you have any) all about the other half of their DNA line though.

  28. John

    J. Payne

    Thanks. I’ll read up on it and do it.

    Most males only follow their surname but as you say the female line provides the other half of the puzzle of who we are.

    Researcher

    Wills are great but since we only die once, there is only one and only if we have something to leave someone.

    Deeds often not only have in the relationships of which you speak, but also the inventories are a gold mine of information, particularly where slave ancestry is concerned. That is how I understand the lady I met was able to follow the trail back to Africa.

    Also, we are more likely to execute a deed or deeds in our lives than we are to execute a will.

  29. cat eyes

    This is a wonderful discussion. I am going to familysearch right now.

  30. Hungry

    This is becoming very infectious. I started to subtly dabble in my family`s history, and I have become extremly hungry for more information. Can anyone suggets where do I seriously start???
    Thanks

  31. True Native

    Hungry:
    Try http://www.familysearch.org but give them a day or two because their site is under maintenance at the moment.

  32. Jane

    The British National Archives in Kew, London, have great leather bound tomes containing all the sales of slaves and their origin, whether within the island or newly arrived from Africa. There are also the original annual reports from each plantation in the island which record slave numbers, ages, visits to hospital etc. in addition to livestock and land usage. Hard work but possible to track the origin of an individual.

  33. Linda Molloy

    Just found your sight, I am studying West Indian History, and it is true that The British National Archives in Kew London have a annormous amount of information and also Bristol Libruary.
    I must say their was a great number of white slaves bought to the Caribbean before slavery and at the time of slavery, just taken from the streets and put to work. But, it was one of the most horrific times of human beings to be put through that,but I always say that if it was not for slavery, the Caribbean would not be what it is today. And I congratulate you on the site. Thanks

  34. Dorothy Howell

    Very wonderful, honest and gut wrenching comments on the difficulties of searching for my ancestry. I’m just beginning my research and I feel like giving up already. I wasn’t expecting my research to be too difficult until I took into consideration my ancestry having one name. The more I read and research, the more challenging and overwhelming it seems to become. All the same, I’m going to continue on with this adventure and see where it takes me. Definitely to the sunny hot shores of Barbados and maybe even back to Africa.

  35. affrodite

    I have not attempted to research my roots all the way back to the days of slave trade. I agree with other commenters that the thought is overwhelming. As my relatives have passed on, I have learned bits and pieces about more recent generations of my family heritage. For example, I always thought my dad’s side was only from Guyana, but I learned his grandparents grew up in Barbados and moved to Guyana later. So I have love for you and your blog, even though a recent trip to Barbados revealed that Guyanese are not revered in your country.

    I do hope that access to all of this information does help people connect with their family stories. It can be incredibly inspiring to know the accomplishments and sacrifices our ancestors made in order for us to be on this beautiful planet today.

  36. eren taylor

    hey well i think that this is a sad an scray postion

  37. Dianne

    I need help researching the Greaves and the Forde families of St. Andrew Barbados. How can you help me, I have some bits of information that I would rather share in an e-mail.

  38. Euleta

    I think this is awesome we need to know where our ancestors came from

  39. bimjim

    If you are ever in the Archives and see the unusual name Minifred, also recorded as Menifred (it does not start with a W, and no last name has been found, although she is later referred to as Minifred Lynch), a free negro woman, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

    Ditto a free mulatto Hamlet Mayers Lynch, b.ca.1769. Again, he is not the same person as Hamlet Fairchild Lynch born about seven years later in 1776.

    The two were a couple, had seven children, and apart from the mother’s name in the baptism records neither has any life records whatsoever that I can find – no birth, marriage, death, burial. It’s as if they were dropped and picked up by an alien spacecraft.

    Thanks in advance…

    bimjim