The legend is true: Untold ancestral riches are buried deep beneath these islands' magnificent beaches and dense forests. Let our guide be the key to unlocking your family's Caribbean past.
Setting sail in search of your Caribbean ancestors can present challenges daunting even to Johnny Depp's cinematic Capt. Jack Sparrow. Nathan Zipfel, coordinator of the Caribbean Gen Web Project <rootsweb.com/~caribgw
>, an essential starting point for your quest, warns the Caribbean is the most difficult of any genealogical area: “Your search may take you to Scotland, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United States or from island to island, following the migration of an ancestor,” he says. “Records of the indigenous Caribs and Arawaks are nearly nonexistent, which makes a complete lineage impossible for many descendants. Records have been destroyed by hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, slave rebellions, fire and frequently changing governments.”
But before you abandon your quest and opt to lie on the beach instead, here's some good news: The Family History Library (FHL) <www.familysearch.org> has microfilmed a wealth of Caribbean records, bringing your island ancestors as close as your local branch Family History Center (FHC). Records from the Bahamas, for example, include land conveyances, appraisals and indexes to wills covering 1700 to 1852. In the British Virgin Islands, most St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla vital records from 1859 to the 1930s are on film. The FHL has 71 reels of census records from what's now the US Virgin Islands, covering most areas from 1841 to 1911. There's even a census of Barbados dating all the way back to 1715. This is just a tiny sampling, of course; check the FHL's online catalog <www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlc/frameset_fhlcasp>, as well as the guide at <www.candoo.com/genresources/microfilms.htm>. You can borrow these records through an FHC — find one in the directory at <www.familytreernagazine.com/fhcs>.
You'll encounter a variety of resources as you research, the major ones being