Sources Of Genealogical Information
Tracing and finding one’s family history can satisfy a person’s desire to know his/her roots as well as provide a source of pride and self identity. It is through this search that one can determine and verify relationships and connect with unknown family members, and the Archives Unit has information which can assist persons carrying out this type of research.
Sources in the Jamaica Archives
There are two (2) main sources of information in the collection providing information on baptisms, marriages and burials of persons and are therefore relevant to family history and these are as follows:
Parish Registers (1666 – 1880)
These are the original registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, chiefly of the Church of England in Jamaica. Copies of these records (Civil Status Records) are at the Registrar General’s Department/Island Record Office, which is the main source of genealogical information in the island. In their custody are the records of births, deaths, marriages, wills, deeds, adoptions, deed polls, conveyances, bills of sales and powers of attorney.
Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in the collections deposited by the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Moravian Churches as well as the records of the Jewish Congregations.
Other collections which list names of persons and can be useful in tracing ancestry are:
Inventories (1674 –1881) – these are listings of the enrolments of inventories of the estates of deceased property owners.
Current Accounts (1809 – 1957) – are accounts pertaining to the operation of estates of deceased persons, estates with mortgages and those of absentee proprietors.
Patents (1661 – 1940) – provide information on land grants to settlers, official appointments and grants of naturalisation to aliens by royal letters patents. They also include enrolments of credentials of clergy living in the island.
Plats (1661 – 1775) – contain information on land granted by the Governor to settlers in different parishes, identifying the person receiving, the surveyor, location and size of land.
Registers of Returns of Slaves (1817 –1832) – detailed information by parish on the number, class and condition of slaves held by each slave owner as required by an Act passed in 1816 “for a more particular return of slaves…”
Manumission of Slaves (1747 – 1838) – records of the slaves freed, giving their names, persons who freed them and the cost.
An important source of information on birth and death is an inscription on a tombstone or memorial tablet in a church or synagogue. There are a number of printed works which list these.
- Monumental Inscriptions of Jamaica by Philip Wright (1966) contains records on inscriptions on graves and monuments for the period up to 1878.
- Monumental Inscriptions of the British West Indies by James Lawrence Archer (1875) is also a useful source of information.
A Record of Jews in Jamaica by Jacob Andrade (1941) lists 23 burial places of Jews in Jamaica
The Jews of Jamaica: Tombstone Inscriptions 1663 – 1880 by R.D Barrett’s and Philip Wright (1997) contains 1,456 inscriptions
Names of Officials and Other Persons
Jamaica Almanack – Gives an overview/description of the physical, political, economical and social structure of the island for a given year. Years in the collection are 1796, 1798, 1798-1799, 1801, 1806, 1813, 1818, 1821-24, 1832, 1846, 1872 and 1878 and for each parish, lists are given of estate owners and their estates. These books list the names of regiments and officers serving in Jamaica as well as the names and offices of public officials.
Blue Books – Gives the listings of names of civil servants
There are a number of websites overseas with useful information on Jamaican Family History which also contain information on material in the Jamaica Archives. These include
Family History of Jamaica http://users.pullman.com/mitchelm/jamaica.htm
(This site contains information on Madeline Mitchell’s book Jamaican Ancestry: How to find out more)
Genealogy of Jamaica http://www.rootsweb.com/~jamwgw/
A talk on the Genealogy of Jamaica by Stephen Porter
Tips for Doing Family History Studies
Consult published “how to” sources which provide knowledge of research methods as they can provide direction on techniques and where to search.
Newspapers are good sources for Obituaries, marriage and death notices.
Voter’s lists can provide information on the names of eligible voters, their occupations and addresses.
There are also ready-to-use computer programmes which can assist you in recording your research and building your family tree. These include “Brothers Keeper”, “Family Tree Maker”, “The Master Genealogist” and “Ultimate Family”.
For further information on our collection, please contact us at:
The Jamaica Archives & Records Department
Corner of King & Manchester Streets
Telephone: (876) 984-2581
The following organisations can also assist with your genealogical research:
The Registrar General’s Department
Island Record Office
Telephone: (876) 984-3041-5
The Family History Research Centre
48 Gore Terrace
Telephone: (876) 925-8492
The National Library of Jamaica
12 East Street
Telephone: (876) 967-2516, 2494