Why Family History Research
For some people, it is a legal exercise to try and settle land claims, for others, it is the excitement of search and discovery, yet for some, it may be a way to fill in gaps in their knowledge of family to strengthen a sense of identity. For me it was simple, I wanted to know where I came from so that I could transfer that knowledge to my children. It was a need to carry on a tradition I got from my grandmother who always talked about her family. I never took the time to write down all the oral tradition she shared until I had my own children and realized the importance of knowing myself and where I came from.
I was amazed when a distant cousin sent me a newspaper clipping from the Barbados Advocate. A firm in Utah that was looking for the descendants of Samuel and Mary Olton. Apparently, one of their sons, Julian, immigrated to the United States and died intestate, leaving no will and no children. They were looking for an heir, someone who would be eligible to inherit Julian house in Mobile, Alabama. The earliest surname my grandmother recalled was Olton and it is where I started my family research. If ever there was a reason to continue on the research journey, this was it. There are some unbelievable things that happen on the ancestral trails.
Family history research can take over your life, but it can also leave you with highly developed research skills. Genealogists are some of the best historical researchers alive. Why? because we are passionate in our hunt for primary resources and we leave no stones unturned. It is important though for us to remember to cite the sources we use to find our information so that those coming after us can know where to look. This can also help us to identify sources when we need to go back to them.
Six Easy Steps
There are six steps in the Research Process:
Step 1: Spend time with ancestors – great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbors too.
Step 2: Record oral traditions, collect old documents, photographs, letters, etc.
Step 4: Decide which family line you want to research
Step 5: Search the Records
Step 6: Have Fun! Organize a family reunion.
There are many great family history software programs where you can store all the stories and data. Starting with yourself and working backward, simply input what you already know.
The Documentary Record
You should be encouraged by the ready availability and large volume of documentary evidence that exists in places like the Barbados National Archives, museums, churches, and at online repositories. This includes parochial and legal documents, plantation registers, ledgers and inventories, shipping logs, original letters, rare books, prints, photographs and paintings, employment, travel and military records and oral testimonies and literature relating to the lives of Afro-Barbadians in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Immersion in these documents makes it possible to recover genealogies within the context of the Barbados plantation economy and culture. On August 1, 1838, all enslaved persons in Barbados were fully emancipated. Many of these freed persons were baptized and legally married in the next few years. Those marriage records often indicate the parents of the baptized person, something that would not have been the case one year earlier, as the slave master’s name would have appeared instead.