Saturday, July 24, 2010


Okay - well, if you didn't of my obsessions is family history.  I have been doing a great online course in Caribbean Family History through Pharos Tutors.  Guy Grannum teaches it.  He works at The National Archives (TNA) specialising in Colonial history and genealogy and runs a website called Caribbean Roots.  The course officially finished yesterday.  Guy has written a very helpful book - now in its second edition called Tracing Your West Indian Ancestors.  The next edition will be an e-book - very exciting.

Our last class was about slavery.  To quote Guy, "People of African descent make up the largest population in most Caribbean countries.  Their ancestors are among the estimated 1.6 million people transported from Africa to work in the British Caribbean colonies as slaves on the plantations and households."

Guy encouraged us to look at the slave registers - a census of all slaves held in the Caribbean from about 1817 to 1834.  Original registers might have survived and be kept in the relevant country archive or register office.  Duplicates were sent to London and are kept in The National Archives.  Ancestry has digitised and indexed most of them. husband on his mother's side has ancestors from of the surnames we are researching in that area is Proverbs.  We've got a few Johns, an Isaac, an Ambrose and some Marys.  For the time period 1817-1834 we've sort of lost our Proverbs....they've morphed into Donovans and Johnsons.  But for argument's sake, we will look at the John Proverbs listed in the slave registers as....slave owners.  Our Proverbs were from the St Philip part of Barbados.

This is what I found ....on 3 May 1823 John Proverbs of St Philip had 1 slave - in right of marriage with Mary:

Two are listed:
Phillis aged 17 Black Barbadian
Margaret aged 14 Black Barbadian -only Margaret was sold to Josiah Bladey.

George Donovan (our Donovans are Samuel or Mary - nee Proverbs) had 27 slaves ranging in age from 5 to 72.  Some were inherited from John B Ashby when he died.  Some were purchased from Andrew Donovan.  Some were sold to Andrew Donovan.  Some were born into slavery.  Some were given up to the creditors of John Payne deceased to whom they reverted at the death of Mabel Payne.

Here's a link to a slave register so you can see what they look like....

Sobering reading n'est-ce pas?

By the way, slavery officially ended 1 August 1834 but did not completely end until 1 August 1838.

PS Just realised that last sentence is a bit glib.  Slavery, for the purposes of this historical exercise, ended in 1838 but of course still exists today in one manifestation or another - sexual, economic etc.  If you want to find out more Stop the Traffik is probably as good a place as any to start. The Jammed was a great Australian movie made about this topic.


Little Snoring said...

I love searching old records, it is so fascinating that a few marks on the records is all that lasts. Makes you think about what trace we will leave for our future generations...

(hope you a feeling a bit better)

Grand Purl Baa said...

Hmmmm. I've always loved the story telling behind your family history obsession.