A Barbadian genealogist is helping people of Caribbean descent trace their lineage.
Ancestry historian Sandra Taitt-Eaddy recently hosted a genealogy workshop at Brooklyn Public Library last weekend, to provide a roadmap for the inquiring minds interested in learning about their Caribbean ancestry. One of the first questions she raises for people seeking out her help, is having them analyze the reasoning behind their curiosity as an aide in her investigation.
“I always ask ‘Why are you doing it?’ Because most people just want to understand who they are and where they come from,” she said. “Once people ask themselves that, the first thing that comes up is always family history.”
The growing interest in genealogy is something that Caribbean people can highly benefit from because it not only aids many in discovering more about their roots, but familiarizes them with the names of people they are related to but not acquainted with, said Taitt-Eaddy. She said her particular interest was to ensure her future was not left with her same yearning.
“It’s important because what if someone has an inheritance left to you?” said Taitt-Eaddy. “You need to know who that person is before you can claim. For me, I wanted to understand who I was to properly transfer that to my children, and I think that’s what a lot of people are looking for. They’re looking to be grounded.”
Her research mostly covers discovering ancestry in Barbados and other Caribbean countries formerly colonized by the British. But a similar mode of tracing can be used to track ancestry in other countries with similar practices in formerly colonized or current French and Dutch territories, said Taitt-Eaddy.
But she emphasized extra interest for Barbadians because the island nation’s population stagnancy can become a detriment for future family history researchers.
“In Barbados, the average age is 50 years old and it’s not growing, and a lot of people are not going to be there and we need to get as much information as possible,” she said.
When slavery was abolished in the British colonies in 1838, all enslaved peoples were listed and documented in records. But prior to that there was no system in place to account for people, according Taitt-Eaddy. And she says this is where she underlines oral histories and traditions, and encourages people to discuss with elders in their family about their memories and knowledge passed down to them.
Several methods people can employ into their journey to trace their ancestry is through the use of online resources and books that Taitti-Eaddy directs them to. Another way one can initiate the investigation is through churches and town hall records. Post-abolition and before town halls kept records, religious institutions were the primary record keepers. And discovering baptisms and marriage records from Anglican or Catholic churches is a sure way to discovering that information.
She says when a roadblock is hit, she often encourages people to use DNA kits to get some form of closure, because contrary to popular belief — surnames were not always given by enslavers, and some were self-appointed.
Eaddy says her primary goal is not only to expand an interest in genealogy tourism as well, but to get people to form a relationship with Barbados or their respective islands of ancestry.
“I want people to know that there are multitudes of resources online they can access that people can access reconnect with their roots,” she said. “We want you to come back to Barbados, and continue to those come reconnect with your family there.”
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