Jamaican ancestors

This guide was last updated in 2009

Although the country's records are often incomplete, Jenny Thomas explains how researching your Jamaican ancestors can still be an exciting and rewarding process.

'Out of many, one people' – so runs a traditional Jamaican saying, and it is particularly relevant to the study of Jamaican genealogy, which is likely to become a study of movement to and from the island.

But whatever your connection, it will always be an exciting area to research: what were your ancestors doing in Jamaica? From where, when and why did they come, and to where, when and why did they go?

Your research may be full of the unexpected. But before you begin, take heed of a basic health warning: Jamaican genealogical records are not as thorough or as easy to use as those we take for granted in Britain. There are no surviving censuses for the island, and sometimes you will find that key information is missing from the vital records – for example, parents’ names on a birth certificate.

But this is no reason to despair. Colin Jackson demonstrated just how much the records can tell us: if you persist, there is plenty to be uncovered. And the good news is that you will not have to travel to Jamaica in order to do your research. Many of the records are available in the UK, and for the remainder, you might choose to hire a Jamaican researcher or communicate directly with the Registrar’s General Department. Here are some suggestions as to how you might set about your research.

Photo © Getty Images

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