Church Records of Jamaica

Anglican Church Records of Jamaica

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 K After you have talked to all the older relatives and done your searches for family papers, documents, bibles, certificates, photographs etc and made a preliminary pedigree and group sheets of all the known data, you will probable want to begin with searching the vital records, i.e. births, marriages and deaths for data that you do not have. Remember to work backwards from the known to the unknown. So if you know your great-grandfather was alive in 1910, but you do not know the date of his death, the first task is to find this death record or an obituary, because it may have other leads or clues to the records further back, i.e. of his marriage and birth.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KSeveral groups of records are available to help, but two will probably yield the most information, namely Jamaican Civil Registration Records 1880-1950's Click the link to go to that page, and Jamaican Church Records, 1664-1880 i.e. this page. Although the originals reside in Spanish Town, Jamaica, do not despair, the Genealogy Society of Utah, better known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or the Mormons has filmed these records, and they are available all over the world in their Family History/Family Search Centers for a small fee for underwriting the copying of the microfilms. (Now many of the films are being digitized and are available on line for free. Many but not all of the data are on-line as of 2014). Master copies of the films are kept in an underground vault in a mountain outside Salt Lake City, Utah and are copied by the Family History Library when requested by users. Some film records may be on permanent loan to a particular local Family History Center eg London, as they are called. The parent Family History Library is located in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. USA.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KJamaican Church Records After you have exhausted Civil Registrations, you will want to look at Parish Church Records. The established Church was Anglican, Church of England or known in North America as Episcopalian. These records are cataloged by Parish. There are 14 current parishes, but an additional 7 parishes existed in the past.(see Maps) Some parish Church records begin as early as 1664, others start as late as 1804 depending on the parish.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KThe LDS has digitized many of the Jamaican film records particularly the Civil Registration and FamilySearch has indexed some of the Jamaican Church records, but some do not have images attached to them. In 2014 is now carrying some of the Jamaican and Caribbean church records in an arrangement with Family Search. These however as of 2014 do not have Images attached to them and the Ancestry site is a subscription site. The records are listed on the Family Search web site under the Browse menu as Jamaican Births and Baptisms 1752-1920 (no images) and Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts 1664-1880.(Images of the underlying documents),(as well as Civil Registration 1880-1999) In addition, the Caribbean has three data base sets with many of them being Jamaican (for example, a search on the surname "Smith" for burials and deaths in the Caribbean data base pulls up 128 Smiths out of 6000 + records and they are all from Jamaica). The sets are Caribbean Births and Baptisms 1590-1928, Caribbean Deaths and Burials 1790-1906 and Caribbean Marriages 1591-1905. For most people searching for Jamaica however the Jamaican Church of England Parish Register Transcripts with Images will yield the appropriate results on a search.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 K To do a search of the Jamaican Church of England records
1. Go to Collection of Jamaican Church of England Parish Register Transcripts 1664-1880

2. [Alternatively Google and click on Search. At that resulting search Page, Go down below the "Search Button" to Browse by Location. Choose and click on the Caribbean, Central and South America. On the left side look for Jamaica (3){or Caribbean (3)}. Click on Jamaican church of England Parish Register Transcripts]

3. When you have that heading on a search page, Fill in the First and Last Names you are searching for. To limit the "type" of record to baptism or to marriage or to burial, look under Restrict records by Type. (There are no other types like census or military etc for Jamaica). Click on Type and check the vital record(s) you want. After you click search a list of results will appear. Click on the name that you want and this will lead you to detail of the record. It will tell you the Parish but not the town where the person was baptised or married or was buried.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 K If you want to see the image or original record,(recommended). if there is one, you have to sign in as directed either at the top right hand side or on the lower right side where it says Sign in to view this record free. You have to set up a username and password but you do not have to pay to see images. In fact the site is completely free. Once you have set these up, you can access original records easily. You can enlarge them to read them properly, and you can print them. Look for the + and - sliders to enlarge and shrink and for the icon printer(right side of image).

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KWhat to do if you do not find any record by doing a search on the Names
A.The above instructions are for the Church records only 1664-1880 so check if you have a date after 1880 in which case you should be looking for Civil Registration. or look for that Section on the familysearch site.

B. To Browse the Church of England Transcripts 1664-1880, Use the instruction in 1 or 2 above but instead of filling out the form as in 3. go to Browse the 37,000+ images of this collection direction below the Search Button.

C. This will bring up a page with the names of the parishes. Note the names "All Parishes" and "Dissenters" because you may need to use them. Click on the parish eg St Mary (there is a Scroll bar on the right side). This gives a page with the record type and years. Look at the index volume. There may be more than one index volume, up to four, so check the dates. St Ann Vol I is missing. The surname (last Name)indexes are listed by letter of the alphabet but are not alphabetical within the letter. i.e. All the "A's" are listed togther but "Ar" could come before "Am", because the lists are chronological. Most indexes have sections of beginning of the record eg 1664 to 1825 and then 1826-1829, 1830-1832 etc. The reason for the 1825 cut off date was that the Diocese of Jamaica was started in 1824 with a Bishop presiding, before that the Bishop was in London. If you find a name of the person you are looking for note the date, the volume (liber) and the page (folio). Some of these are hard to read because the binding was tight - look at the top of the page for volumes,if you see ditto " " marks next to your person and just a page number.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KSince the indexes are so tightly bound and the volume and page numbers of the entry of interest may be blurred, look carefully at the page before and page after the entry of interest. In particular be sure to note if the volume is listed as New Series because this leads to a different set of images (All Parishes) with perhaps the same volume numbers. [Up to 1824/5, each parish had a separate book with baptisms, marriages and burials included. In 1824, the Diocese of Jamaica was established with its own Bishop of Jamaica and the system of recording changed with many parishes in the same volume and hence on the same film, but separate volumes for the vital events]. Thus it is wise to look up the index volumes (there may be up to four) under each of births, death, and marriages lists for your surname. Strictly speaking the surnames are under the correct letter of the alphabet in the indexes, but they are not alphabetical. So you may have to search through all the "A"s to find your ancestor Anderson. However in later indexes, they will be divided by year or a couple years, reducing the search. (I have also seen in preface to an index a note added in 1904 where some indexers had used the first letter of the child's first or Christian name for indexing a baptism, eg if the child was Wm Alexander Scarlett(illegitmate) he was indexed under "W" not "S". So the lesson learned is to seek under the last name and then the first name if you do not find your subject in an particuar index. Note: He could also have been indexed by his mother's name).

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KHaving found the reference on the index of the parish, return to the the page found in A or B and C. above. This will show the actual records in the parish books. Look for the right dates/years and volumes and click on the link. Remember if it says New Series use the "All Parishes" category. (If you think they were non-conformists use the "Dissenter" Category which has it's own indexes listed. Or use the Jamaican Family Searchweb site started by Patricia Jackson now on the University College of London website).

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 K When you get to the right volume read the first 1-2 pages of images since this will tell you either on which pages baptisms, marriages and burials start (beginning year to 1825) or which parishes were included in the volumes listed as "All Parishes" baptisms for example. NOTE In the box which lists the image number you can enter the appoximate page image and press GO to find your record. You do not have to start at "1" and click forward one page at a time. Below is a strategy for shortening your search

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KFor example (fictitious example) you have found on the index that the baptismal record you seek is in St Mary is in Volume 16, page 308 . On the images page (top right)you find a line which says: <-----Image 1 (in a box) of total images----> on the the film folder. For example in the above fictitious example in All parishes, St Mary, Volume 16 there are <---image "1" of 201 images---->GO. Put in "190" instead of "1" in the box and click GO.(the Go only appears when you put in a new number into the box) (This is an educated guess as to the image you need) read the page number at the top of the resulting image.For example it says 324. Adjust the number you put into the box by + or - "10" or "5", eg put in "185" into the box and click GO. Maybe the page number on the image now reads 310. Closer to the goal of 308. As you get closer to the page you want, you can use the forward or backward arrows next to the box. The above strategy can reduce the use of the forward and backward arrow moves you need to make. Remember that the images have been filmed in a spread over 2 pages per image, so read the top right and top left hand handwritten page numbers on the image, especially if page number ink is blurred.

Remember that for church records, as compared to civil registration, you are looking at christenings and burials rather than births and deaths. In Jamaica however, you can assume that burials took place either on the same day or the day after death, because there was no way of preserving the body for any length of time in the tropical heat. Christenings could be separated by a long time from date of birth. Sometimes the family waited until they had a son, before all the older girls were baptized with the son.

Law 6 Registers Church Records take you up to 1870-72, but overlap with what are called Law 6 registers. These are government registers and started in 1866 up to Civil registration in 1878-80. They are separated into births, marriages and deaths and have also been filmed. Law 6 Registers are found under All Parishes in the on-line Browse records, see above, as of this date 2014. In order to detect them you have to rely on dates, and they are listed under baptisms, marraiges and burials. There are separate indexes for Law 6 registers, so you will have to use these first before you get to the original record. If you have to use the catalog, you look under Jamaica/Church Records for the listing of these films in the Family History Catalog.

A Note on Bishops Transcripts (BT's) I am often asked if Bishop Transcripts for Jamaica exist, because some of the early parish records have been destroyed by hurricane etc. I wrote to Jeremy Gibson who has done extensive research on English BT's and asked if he knew of any place where there might be Jamaican BT's to fill in the gaps. The church in Jamaica was responsible to the Bishop of London, prior to the establishment of the Diocese with its own Bishop in 1824. Mr Gibson replied with a quote from a reference source, that said that there were holdings from some overseas places put no BT's were held in the Bishop of London's records for Jamaica and in fact he knew of no other likely source. Recently on the internet, I have seen suggested that Lambeth Palace may be a potential source for BT's from the West Indies, not specifically Jamaica, but I have not yet explored this resource. Essentially all records preserved in Spanish Town after 1824 are Bishop's Transcripts, because they were transcribed by the Rector of the parish, and sometimes previously the curate, who sent them in to the Diocesan Office where the clerks transcribed them into books. This is something to keep in mind, because if three different people transcribed them, that always opens up room for errors to creep in.

Orchid9.gif - 1.39 KWhat if you don't have the computer knowledge to do the above browse search or if you use a tablet like an iPad. I have found the small screen of an iPad much less a smart phone very difficult for browsing the Jamaican Church records. Sometimes when I enlarge them enough to see, the writing is blurred. You can still do some research the old fashioned way, by getting the microfilm to the Family History center near you. Briefly:

First. Find the Family History Center near you

Second. Find the film in the Family Search/Family History Library Catalog on-line

Third. Order the film Through the on-line ordering system

Fourth. After a few weeks, if the microfilm has come in, go and read the film at the center. Print copies. Document your sources.

So First. Find the Family History Center near you

Your first task will be to determine the closest Family History Center near you. You can look it up on the Family History site. Click for Family History or FamilySearch Center Description to read about Family History or Familysearch Centers. Alternatively to do this, look in the local telephone yellow pages under Churches and find the listing for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Phone and ask for the location of the nearest Family History Center, and the hours of opening. These centers are staffed by volunteers of the Church and so they are not always open. In large cities, you may want to also ask if there are times for signing up for use of computers, or film or fiche readers. Your first visit may not yield great quantities of information, but you should feel some accomplishment at learning to use the catalog and the equipment for reading the films, or using the computer.

Second. Find the film in the Family Search/Family History Library Catalog on-line

The films of the Mormons are cataloged. This source is called the FamilySearch Library Catalog or Family History Library (FHL) catalog. If you feel uneasy with unfamiliar computers or microfilm readers and printers, you should try asking for help, the volunteers in the centers are ready to help you to master the equipment. You just have to ask. Another word of reassurance, volunteers do not try to convert you to their religious beliefs, and welcome people of all faiths. The tenets of their belief, require them to undertake genealogical research on their own families, which is why they have made the most extensive collection of records in the world, which they are willing to share with everyone.

Search in the catalog by clicking on Search the Catalog. Input Jamaica in the Places Box and then look for Church Records. Click on Parish register transcripts, 1664-1880. Read the preface to the records to understand them more completely. Read down List of films. Note the Index films are listed first by parish. When you find an index film click on the film number which is in Blue. It will take you to a page for ordering online. You will see the prices for shipping the film to the Family History Center near you. (If you have not set up the family center near you there is an opportunity to do so). Follow the directions for online ordering.

Then do Third and fourth above.

Once you have found the reference in the index, repeat Second. Looking for the actual baptism, marriage or burial films in the Family History Catalog under Jamaica, Parish register Transcripts, 1664-1880 and complete your ordering for the film as before


The IGI. You may have heard about the IGI of the LDS Church. The IGI never was a great source for Jamaican genealogy. Under the Caribbean, or West Indies, most of the records which have been extracted were for Barbados. The only records for Jamaica which were entered, even in the 1994 update, were records submitted by Mormons for their own families, and these were very few. The LDS is no longer updating or using the IGI since records are being digitized in their Family Search Program. You may find some older references to the IGI so use the on-line search.

SSDI and Family Trees. Other sources available on-line are 1)the U.S.Social Security Death Index (SSDI). This I have found to be helpful for Jamaican Ancestry under in certain circumstances.
The SSDI is of interest to those whose forebears immigrated to the U.S. after the 1930's and started to contribute to Social Security. The Death index, starts in 1946, but really is sparse until about 1962. If your immigrant ancestor came in the early 1900's, they may not have made any contributions and therefore received no benefits when they retired. Their deaths therefore would not be recorded here. So this index is useful mainly for those who came from Jamaica in the middle part of the 20th century. The death index can yield the location of the source record and social security number and hence the place and date of death. Application to the appropriate office can yield where the person was born, if the informant knew this well it might even reveal the parish in Jamaica where the person was born.
Search the Social Security Death Index This is free on Family Search whereas you need to subscription to where it is also located.

And 2) Family Trees that members have submitted to the LDS. Not many people with long Jamaican ancestry have contributed to this file. A caution is advised on using these files, since they are submitted by individuals and may contain errors. All data should be rechecked for accuracy. You can find out the person who submitted the data, and thus you may find a new relative! There are also microfilms of older data on Charts 1-7322. Use the catalog keywords search for Ancestral files to find the films for these charts.

A Visit to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library is a possibility. Visitors come from all over the world and North America, and summer is particularly busy. Some commercial firms and some genealogy organizations do arrange for 3 - 7 day trips for this purpose, arranging accommodation and air travel. You should be aware that because of crowding on the Latin American floor, at the present time, Jamaican films are no longer housed in the open cabinets on the floor. Instead you need to request the films giving the numbers to the staff, who will get 5 films at a time from the high density storage which is not open to the public. Some of the most recently released films in the catalog may not even be in Salt Lake City but still at the vault. It can take up to three days for them to be delivered to the library, so if you have a short time in Salt Lake, it is wise to a) do some index work online at before you go to determine the numbers of the films you might like to see; b) write to the library, so it will get there at least one week ahead of your visit, and let them know the films you would like to see when you arrive. Otherwise your short trip may turn out to be a disappointment. If you have a week to spend in Salt Lake, then read the catalog in the Library (for latest updates) early in the trip, in case the films needed must be retrieved from the vault. I think that it is worth the trip when you can't find an ancestor and need to search many indexes and films. If you do run into a disappointing situation remember that you can explore the Jamaican and West Indian books from which some of the films are made, housed on the Latin American floor on open shelves, though not the records whose originals are in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Also if you have ancestors who are from Germany, England, Scotland, U.S., Haiti, Mexico, Canada etc, you can look not only for your Jamaican families but also those of other countries.

Go to Civil Registration