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Barbados Department of Archives

Black Rock, St. James, Barbados, West Indies
Tel: 246.425.1380 Fax: 246.425.5911
Email: [email protected]

(Reprinted with permission of the Barbados Department of Archives) [Current as of October 2002]


THE RECORDS. In 1960 and 1961, a survey was carried out for the University of the West Indies (then the University.College) to discover what historical records survived in Barbados. The survey covered most Government Departments, the local (parish) governments, secondary schools, Anglican, Methodist, Moravian and Roman Catholic churches, a few business firms, the Public Library, and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. The results of the survey were published in "A Guide to Records in Barbados," by M.J. CHANDLER (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, for the University of the West Indies, 1964).

In 1964, a Department of Archives was established by the Barbados Government. The Department is the official repository of archives and, since its establishment, has been accumulating records which were formerly kept by the departments responsible for their creation. Many of the records listed in the Guide have already been transferred to the Archives, and transfers are continuing. The Guide therefore serves as a Guide to the Archives as well as to records not yet in the Department's custody. Many of the latter are, however, kept under the eye of the Department. The Department of Archives is always ready to advise on the whereabouts of any records listed in the Guide.

The following notes are, in fact, a summary of information that can be obtained from the Guide, and it is thought that they may be of use as an indictaion of the sources, and their deficiencies, for enquiries into family histories. The sources noted here are not neccessarily to be found in the Department of Archives, yet.

CHURCH REGISTERS. Barbados in the 17th. and 18th. Centuries was divided into eleven (11) parishes. In the 19th century, a large number of additional churches was built, each having responsibility for its own district. The 11 parishes remained as the units of local government, and although the vestries were abolished in 1959, the parish boundaries still remain for some administrative purposes, and all "Parochial Registers" are still arranged under the original parish although the district churches are now autonomous.

The church registers are usually unindexed, but in the 19th.Century, when a central Registry was established, the existing church registers were copied and the copies deposited in the Registry, now the Registration Office. These copies were indexed, and there is a fine series of indexes (1637-1848, 16 Vols.; 1849-1884, 16 Vols.; etc.) covering all existing church registers (known as "Parochial Registers" in the Registration Office) to the present day.

Moravian (from 1769), Methodist, Roman Catholic, Garrison and Jewish (from 1660) registers were also copied in a separate series with its own indexes (3 Vols.) to 1886.

Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials were presumably kept, dating from the foundation of each parish church, but the surviving records are by no means complete, nor were they complete when the Central Registry was created.

Following is a table showing the starting dates of the "Parochial Registers"

X Christ Church 1637 1643 1643
P St. Philip (all imperfect before 1757) 1648 1672/3 1673
M St. Michael 1648/9 1648/9 1648/9
S St. James 1693 1693 1693
O St. Joseph 1718 1717/18 1717/18
T St. Thomas 1728 1723 1723
L St. Lucy 1714 1749 1748
E St. Peter (lacking baptisms 1825-34) 1779 1779 1779
G St. George 1801 1801 1801
J St. John (baptisms imperfect before 1825) 1805 1657 1657
A St. Andrew 1825 1825 1825

( * These letters are commonly used to identify the individual parishes.)

Thus, of the thirty-three series involved, only fourteen begin in the 17th.Century, twelve in the 18th.Century and seven in the 19th.Century. Records of baptisms, marriages and burials in Barbados are therefore incomplete before 1825. Fortunately, two of the most populous parishes, Christ Church and St.Michael (the parish of the principal town, Bridgetown), are represented among the earliest registers. At present, all registers and indexes up to 1884 are housed at the Department of Archives. The latter ones are retained in the Registration Office. Enquiries for these should be addressed to The Registrar in Bridgetown.

DISTRICT REGISTERS. Compulsory registration of births came into force in Barbados on 1st. January, 1890. The Registration Office is the central registry and registers and indexes are kept there.

WILLS. There exists in Barbados three series of Wills - original wills, wills record books and wills re-copied record books. The original wills are very imperfect before 1723, and only reasonably complete from about 1800. Fortunately the series of record books, though incomplete, dates from 1650 and, with the re-copied books forms an almost complete record of wills from that date, although some of the copies are not very accurately transcribed. There is an index referring to both series, with occasional references to original wills.

INVENTORIES. Surviving 18th. and 19th.Century inventories of testators' property provide additional information, and are indexed by name of testator.

LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION.The earliest record books of letters of administration date from 1714, but only 13 years between 1714 and 1735 are represented before 1764. From that date, the series is complete. There is no comprehensive index, but most volumes have an individual index.

DEEDS. The earliest deeds record book dates from 1647, but only about half of the series to 1718 is still extant: and from 1718 - 1781 the series is still incomplete. Moreover, many of the volumes cannot be used because of their bad state of preservation. Comprehensive indexes to grantors date from 1801: to grantees, only from 1879. Some of the earlier record books have individual indexes to grantors, but many have none.

A number of deeds between 1636 and 1840 were entered into re-copied record books (a series of 47 volumes compared with a possible 194 volumes of the original series in the same period). There is a comprehensive index (4 vols.) to grantors and grantees for the recopied volumes. Because of the limitations and difficulties of using the original series, searches before 1800 are usually only possible in the re-copied series.

POWERS AND MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS. The record books of Powers of Attorney and miscellaneous documents date from 1666, but are not complete prior to 1770. These records may be ofparticular interest to researchers, as persons leaving the island might execute and record a power of attorney to a representative in the island. There is a comprehensive index of powers from 1698.

METHOD OF INDEXING. Each index in the foregoing series of registers and record books was compiled in a combination alphabetical-chronological order. The alphabetical arrangement is by initial letter of surnames only, the remaining arrangement being chronological, and sometimes by parish also. It is therefore no easy matter to search for a given name unless some date limitations (5-10 years, or even less in the 19th.Century) are given.

INHABITANTS' LIST. No continuous record of inhabitants exists, but the following may be noted:-

1638. List of inhabitants possessing over 10 acres. (Transcript)

1679/80. Names of landowners (Transcript, indexed).(Some but not all, reproduced in Hotten's "Original Lists..." -see below).For a description of the 1679/80 Census, see Journal of the B. M. H. S. Vol.33, page 57.

1715. Census (Transcript, indexed).(Parishes: M, G, T, X, published in Journal of the B. M. H. S. Vols. 4 to 9.)

c.1740 - c.1835 Parochial lists of inhabitants, 13 items only)

Assessment of rate books: (Many in poor condition and incomplete, even in recent times):

St.Michael - 1683/5-1716: 1722-1729: 1749-1765:1768-1810: 1823-1829: 1841 to date.

St.Philip - 1874 to date.

St.Lucy - 1881-1885: 1921 to date.

St.George - 1891 to date.

Other parishes, various dates from 1905 to date.

Voters registers, 1807-1938: 1952 to date.

No census enumerations between 1715 and 1900 exist. The 1960 and later census enumerations are not available for research.

IMMIGRATION. No early original records of immigration exist. Some records, not originating in Barbados, have been published: -for example:

Hotten, John Camden: Original lists of persons ...emigrating to America, 1600-1700. (Omits parishes E, J, L, O, T, P -almost half the population represented in the 1679/80 population returns).

The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Volumes 14-19.

"Servants to foreign plantations from Bristol, England to Barbados, 1654-1686."

Kaminjow, Jack: A list of emigrants from England to America, 1718-1759, by Jack and Marion Kaminkow. Baltimore, Magna Charta Book Co., 1964.

Ghirelli, Michael. A list of emigrants from England to America, 1682-1692. Baltimore, Magna Charta Book Co., 1968.

Nicholson, Crego D.F., (ed.): Some early emigrants to America, (in Genealogists' Magazine, Vols. 12 and 13 passim.

. No continuous record of emigrants exists, but the following may be noted:

Tickets granted to persons leaving Barbados, 1679. (In Hotten's "Original lists...") and in the Jl.B.M.H.S. and Hist.Soc., Volume 1, pages 155 to 180).

Bonds for tickets to depart the island, March-April,1766 -11 items only.

SHIPPING. No continuous record of arrivals and departures exists, but slight evidence of shipping movements may be obtained from various sources, mostly relating to cargoes and duties, for the following years

1708-1723 1786 circa 1824-1835
1730-1734 1807-1809 1839
1736 1817-1819 1842-1843
1766 1824 1851-1852

and from newspapers. Only the newspapers (see below) report names of some passengers arriving or departing. There are also ships protests for 1818-1819, 1835 and 1841 to date, but these also deal mainly with goods.

INDEX TO PLANTATIONS. The department has compiled a card index from directories showing owners of plantations under the plantation name, mainly during the 19th and 20th Centuries, which is also helpful for some family searches.

NEWSPAPERS. There are newspapers in Barbados for 1783-1784, 1787-1789, and for most years from 1805 onwards. Although the earliest Barbados newspaper is believed to have been published in 1731, only a few single issues in the years 1733, 1742, 1745-1747, 1753, 1761, 1766, 1775, 1781, 1783 and 1803 are known prior to the collections existing in Barbados.

Extracts from the newspapers between 1783 and 1870, mostly relating to Barbadian affairs and families, have been published in Volumes 1 to 33 of The Journal of The Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

BARBADOS MUSEUM AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY JOURNALS. The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, established in 1933, has published a Journal since that date. Volumes 1 to 25 have been indexed for names by Mr. E. M. McConney, now of Portland,Oregon, in typescript. The index is available for use at The Museum, and at the Department of Archives.

The Museum has a considerable genealogical collection, including the notebooks of the late Mr. E. M. Shilstone. Enquiries should be addressed to The Director of the Society, at The Garrison, St.Michael, Barbados.

RESEARCH. The Department does not undertake extended genealogical research for enquirers, but will on request give the names and contacts for any research agent currently active. Researchers at the Department have access to the notebooks of the late Mr. H. G. Hutchinson who specialised in searching genealogies.

SITUATION AND OPENING HOURS. The Department is situated 3.5 miles north of Bridgetown, on Highway 1 (West Coast Road). It is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. The Department is permitted to close between 12 noon and 2:00 p.m. in the event a shortage of staff at lunchtime will leave the Search Room unsupervised.

Department of Archives


November 1998

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