February 10, 2018

Culebra Church Records 1896 - 1976

Culebra, known as the last Virgin Island, sits off the coast of Puerto Rico to the east.  The island wasn't always inhabited by those from the island but finally in 1880 people began migration to the island. In the past the island had prior inhabitants, including pirates.  Note that Culebra consists of the main island and 23 smaller islands. So it is important to look elsewhere.

When searching for records prior to the records available, look to Vieques and Fajardo as locations to look.  In addition, since it is a remote location, take into account that baptisms can happen years later due to accessibility to the church.  I also refer to Fajardo due to the the port that exists there to transport you to the islands. 

Baptisms


Marriages


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February 8, 2018

Digitzed San Lorenzo Church Records

While there are many records in Caguas going back to the 1700's, that isn't the case for San Lorenzo.  San Lorenzo was founded in 1737 and was initially known as San Miguel de Hato Grande and later people simply called it Hato Grande.  I had previously posted about the 1884 Census that is in excellent condition that can be found on PARES.  Visit the Puerto Rico Genealogy page to find the link and review how to access the census.

So when it comes to San Lorenzo, you'll have to look at Caguas for church records prior to the 1818 records for Nuestra Señora de la Mercedes Church.  The good thing about this collection is that duplication of records exists so that if one set of images are not good, try another. For the most part the collections in close to complete minus Book 2 of Slave records missing and the confirmation records which are limited.

Baptisms (Slave, Pardos (Brown), and Free Blacks) 

*Note Pardos can mean Native American


Baptisms (Whites and Pardos)


Baptisms (All)


Confirmations

Marriages


Deaths



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February 3, 2018

Cidra Church Record in Puerto Rico

Cidra, known as "Town of the Eternal Spring", is located in the eastern central region of Puerto Rico. It's location is just north of Cayey; south of Comerío and Aguas Buenas; east of Aibonito; and west of Caguas. The town was founded in 1809.  Knowing this information is important since you'll need this information as you seek for records older than the existence of the town or church records.

For Cidra, the church was not established until 1818. I highly recommend that pulling up a map to see if other churches existed closer than Caguas if they were establish prior to 1818.  The digitized books contain baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and death records going to 1937. The breakdown of the books are as follows...

Baptisms


Confirmations

 Marriages

Deaths 


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February 2, 2018

Aibonito Church Books in Puerto Rico

Researching Puerto Rico ancestry is not as difficult today as it was in many years past.  Today, there are hundreds of records available online.  This post is about Aibonito and the available online church records.

Aibonito is a small municipality that sits in mountainous area of Puerto Rico. It is surrounded by Coamo, Barranquitas, Cidra, Salinas, and Cayey. While small, it does have its own church and was founded in 1824.  For records prior to this time, it is recommended that you read up on the history of the region to know where to look prior to the church and town existing. Note that the death books were not filmed. Please also note that family search notated in the catalog as if years were missing in the baptism books, however that isn't the case. The church records and links are as follows.

Baptisms


Confirmations


Same set as above but a second filming...

Marriages


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February 1, 2018

Jamaica Roman Catholic Records 1795 - 1823

One of the great things about Roman Catholic Church records in Jamaica is the amount of information contained in the records.  The collection on records is not complete but it was salvaged from further destruction. The collection contains baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and death records from 1795 to 1836.

These records also contains free blacks, mixed race, and those that were enslaved. The breakdown of these records includes all ages. Unfortunately, there are a lot of missing records but hopefully these images will help someone researching their ancestry on the island. As I locate more records, I will continue to post on the website to assist anyone researching their lines.

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January 31, 2018

Manumission Records of Slaves in Jamaica

One of the terms that many of us that descend from enslaved ancestors know is the word manumission.  Manumission is the term used when referencing the freedom of those that were enslaved. The term is used when individuals managed to attain their freedom, whether through the slave holder freeing them or through the enslaved person purchasing their freedom or a family member do thing for them.

While many of us would like to find these records, it isn't an easy task. It becomes harder for those of us who have ancestors that come from the Caribbean. Many records have been destroyed or lost due to fire, hurricanes, the humidity, and the insects that enjoy eating through the records.

Many times when books were found to be in poor condition, they would wind up being burned as trash. Preservation is not a priority when many face struggles in feeding their families and maintaining homes.

While records are disappearing, many have taken on the mission of preserving these records, which helps many in the genealogy world discover records that were not previously available to them. Many of these preservation projects are taken on via grants through universities around the globe.

One such project is based out of the United Kingdom but easily accessible in the USA. While the project has identified that there are 70 registers but the first 4 volumes are missing. The volumes that are available are Volumes 5 through 12, contain people who were manumitted in the following parishes across Jamaica covering the time period of 1747 through 1838:
  • Clarendon
  • Hanover
  • Kingston
  • Manchester
  • Port Royal
  • Portland
  • St. Andrew
  • St. Ann
  • St. Catherine
  • St. David
  • St. Dorothy
  • St. Elizabeth
  • St. George
  • St. James
  • St. Mary
  • St. Thomas in the East
  •  St. Thomas in the Vale
  • Trelawny
  • Vere
  • Westmoreland 
 The volumes are as follows and if browsing from a computer, they will open in a new tab:




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Emancipation Park, Kingston, Jamaica



January 25, 2018

Santiago Margarida - 8 Years Old Facing Slavery

While digging through records for Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico in search of my own African ancestors, I came across a record at the end of the book that caught my attention. Another baptism, but a baptism of an African child.

I had previously posted about discovering a record of a 10 years old girl from Mandingo. However, this time it was of a child of 8 years of age. The difference is that this 8 years old child was listed as an adult, yes, an adult.

The child is a boy who is from Guinea and is given the name Santiago Margarida on the day he was baptized on June 10, 1821. While I never seen this last name in future Trujillo Alto books, I decided to see if this line still existed, which it does.  There are many Margarida in the San Juan region.  Could this child have survived and continue living in Puerto Rico? I'd love to know but with no access to the church death books for Trujillo Alto, I have no way of confirming if the line continued in this region or if it is the same one that moved away into another municipality.

Santiago Margarida from Guinea baptism entry in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico


As a genealogist, I wanted to do a little more digging to understand how so many children wound up being taken from the homeland. Yes, I knew there was kidnappings but I wanted scenarios of how this happened and I wanted a scholarly source for this post.

In one case study, it was found that approximately 3 million of 12 million Africans that were enslaved were children. As I read the case study, factors that led to children enslaved included men were killed during battles, their women and children were likely to wind up in slavery due to the caravans that followed military expeditions. This was something I didn't factor in as I always went with the path of kidnapping. Sure enough children were found to be placed into slavery by kidnappings while:
  • Working in the fields
  • Walking on the outskirts of towns
  • Grabbed while playing outside and outside of parent's view

In other situations, which I really didn't expect were:
  • Payment of family debt
  • Payment due to crimes committed by their family members
  • Children in poor health
  • Special needs children
  • Children believed to be evil spirits
  • Sold due to famine to make ends meet


Reading some of these situations makes me understand how devalued or of value children were view, depending how you want to view it. How truly sad for many of these children and then to continue their mistreatment with being enslaved if they made it across during Middle Passage.

What is shocking is that only those under 4 feet 4 inches were considered children, the rest were considered adults and locked up with the adults. So could it be that these children identified as adults were tall for their age? We won't know as the children I have found in the records only speaks of their ages and whether they are consider adults like Santiago. Below is a table of children that were taken from Africa.  There is no mention of prior to 1601 as we know that slavery started in the Americas in the early 1500's based on records maintained in Spain's archives.


Point of Embarkation 1601-1700 1701-1800 1801-1867
Africa unspecified   6,701   65,440  125,699
Bight of Benin 39,221   93,216   41,324
Bight of Biafra 16,478   82,021   40,932
Gold Coast 14,602   79,663     2,618
West-central Africa 11,169 145,523   20,092
Senegambia   5,462   26,424     1,668
Sierra Leone     974   24,398   11,512
Windward Coast         0   13,174     1,766
South-east Africa         0     4,202     3,327
Total 94,607 534,061 248,398

Table Data from: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-Rom


Children were at time given preferential treatment on ships but it did not mean that they didn't attain the diseases that seem to take hold on the ships. The fact that these children survived is a miracle onto itself. Most children were considered a bad investment because they were more likely to die from diseases.  They were less like purchased because they could not do the hard labor on plantations like the adults. However, in the 1700's, things changed as children were viewed lasting longer and the trade increased for them, especially with the abolitionist movement taking hold in the Americas.

While I find it quite sad how these children wound up being enslaved, I decided to look up slavery overall on the continent of Africa. I was able to locate a chronological history on University of Colorado Boulder website. Reading threw records and seeing humans being enslaved tends to get
to me as anger begins to boil and my stomach churns. It is why I it is necessary for me to take a break before continuing my research. Please ensure that you check out the resources provided as they provide further information that may be beneficial in your research.

Reference:

Colleen A. Vasconcellos, "Children in the Slave Trade," in Children and Youth in History, Item #141, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/141 (accessed January 25, 2018).

Steven Mintz, "Childhood and Transatlantic Slavery," in Children and Youth in History, Item #57, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/57 (accessed January 25, 2018).

"Slavery in Africa," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 http://encarta.msn.com accessed from http://autocww.colorado.edu/~toldy2/E64ContentFiles/AfricanHistory/SlaveryInAfrica.html

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-Rom. Edited by David Eltis, Stephen Behrendt, Herbert S. Klein, and David Richardson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Annotated by Colleen A. Vasconcellos.


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January 22, 2018

Mandingo: Another Child Taken Into Slavery

As I continue to go through the records, telling their story, even if it is tiny in nature, is better to be told than to remain silent. This is the case with Teresa Maysonet. I suspect that she did manage to survive slavery as this line has African descendants I've seen in years later on the island. Hopefully she is connected to someone. While I do not descend from many that were forced into slavery, I do translate them to help those who may connect with them.

How scary it must have been that a 10 year old, who may have been playing outdoors, or potentially getting water, hanging laundry, etc was captured and taken away from her parents, her family, her people, and taken to a foreign place never to see anyone she loved and known. To face the horrible voyage across the seas known as Middle Passage. The claim that only those who committed crimes were enslaved as I've seen the ignorant narrative doesn't fit into the story of a 10 years old girl.

Yet below is the image from the church in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.  A girl of no more than 10 years of age, from Guinea and from the nation of Mandingo, being baptized on June 13, 1820.  She is listed as being the slave of Joseph Maysonet and also a neighbor of  Toa Alta.  Extremely disheartening and hopefully someone connects to this little girl. 

Teresa Maysonet Baptism record in 1820

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Slavery - Purchase of Freedom in the Caribbean

While going through slave records and researching information on slavery, one of the things that caught my attention was the ability of slaves purchasing their freedom. This of course only exists in certain islands controlled by specific European countries.

At one time individuals who escaped slavery from British colonized islands could attain their freedom in Puerto Rico. The requirements to gain their freedom were:
  • The individual must remain on the island for one year.
  • They must convert to Catholicism and be baptized and follow practices.
  • Have someone sponsor them on the island during that time.
Once these criteria were met, at the end of the one year, you were free to live on the island. This was the hardest path to freedom if you were enslaved by the British since they didn't view Africans or African descents as humans with intelligence. Escaping meant putting your life in danger as you had to face the sea in a small boat. Not knowing how to swim or knowing what the weather was like at sea was also a danger.

 However, the Spaniards did view those that were enslaved as humans. They were baptized in churches, were permitted to marry, and children were not sold off.  However, I suspect that if you were an unwed female slave, gave birth to a child, you could lose the child as seen in my prior post where the infant was gifted to the slaverowner's daughter to live in her home.

To learn more about how the dislike between the British and Spaniards and how it impacted slavery, I recommend the following documentary; Secrets of Spanish Florida.  I've provided the video link below.

It is approximately 2 hours long but something I truly think everyone should watch; whether you have African enslaved ancestors or not.  Part of history is learning to not repeat the ignorance of the past. You'll also learn how warped our education is the USA truly is. I highly recommend it for all and ensure you sit the younger generation to watch. This is definitely a family discussion we should all have with our children.


To continue what I want to share, I want to discuss what Africans and their descendants faced. So 165 years ago, close to today, on January 29th, 1853 in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, we have an infant boy being baptized. He is named by his mother, Dominga, who is single. She gives him the name of Juan Jose Silvestre. She is single per the record as it states the child is born "natural", in other words, mother is unwed. The infant is almost a month old, being born on December 31st, 1852. Their last name is Prieto, which is assigned after their slave owner, Rafaela Prieto. Up until now, there is no big difference in seeing a child being baptized. Well, this is where things change.

Juan Jose Silvestre Prieto


Right in the church record, it states that Rafaela Prieto gave the child and his mother their freedom upon the purchase price of $25 (25 pesos). The purchase was done by Pablo Morales, a free black man, who obviously must be the father to the child. This is a lot of money as the inflation rate for 1853 to today is 2913.6%.  So basically Pablo paid approximately $728.40 in today's money, for his son's and the woman he obviously loved, their freedom.

Like many others, I also descend from an African Prieto line.  However, I have no relation to this woman or child.  I share this because I know many are asking for their African Prieto line and someone just may descend from Juan Jose Silvestre Prieto. Note that the other last name is Morales, so do not be surprised that the parents eventually marry.

Most important, you were permitted to marry someone who is enslaved but you are free. So if you have an ancestor from the 1800's, who is black with the name of Juan Jose Silvestre Morales Prieto, and he comes from the Toa Alta region, you just hit the jackpot in finding another generation and a clue where to look next. You can potentially descend from another child of this couple, do not give up on the search.

As I previously mentioned in many Facebook groups, I am also researching my African ancestors and I'm starting with my paternal line since I have enough to go with.  If you want to follow that research, check out my other website at http://caribbeangenealogy.wordpress.com. Best of luck in your research!


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Joaquin Hernandez: A Slave Documents Where He Came From!

Many of us wish we could jump into a time machine and change what our ancestors faced. This is the reality of those of us that descend from slavery. Unfortunately, many of us who descend from slavery end with the person who was enslaved when researching our roots.  Sometimes it is impossible to go beyond that because the country, village, and ethnic group our ancestor came from is unknown and their enslaved name replaces their true name and never to be heard again.

Well in 1821 in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, one particular enslaved man wanted to go on record. I am actually shocked that the priest, Padre Joseph Maria Martinez, recording the baptism, was not lazy or indifferent to this African man. It is quite apparent that the right questions were asked. Was this a priest that was against slavery and all that it entailed? We'll never know! What we do know is that he documented key information about Joaquin Hernandez. Hopefully, descendants of Joaquin exist today and he is quietly waiting for his descendant to discover him and where he came from.

The below record is of Joaquin being baptized on March 1st, 1821.  I have never seen anything like this in all my years of research. Yes, they may document a country and approximate age, but never the details I have read in this record.

According to the record, Joaquin is estimated to be 23 years of age. The record clearly states that he was born in Guinea, Congo nation, in the village called Bonda, which is actually Banda. He is the son of Mayo and Boconia!

Having this information is like hitting the lottery! Once in a lifetime to find African parents listed in the baptismal record of someone who is enslaved. The record continues with identifying his owner as Micaela Hernandez, a woman, in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.  His godparents were Jose Rosa Nieves and Juana Petrona Diaz. This is mind blowing in genealogy when it comes to African roots.

Joquin Hernandez from Bonda, Guinea, Congo

I hope that his descendants survive today and are looking for him, he wanted to let people know where he was from. This was his way of saying, I am human and I have origins. I will tell my story!

I have provided two maps. One is a zoomed out view of where exactly in Guinea is Banda and the second one is zoomed in. Writing about this and wanting to publish it immediately versus putting it on timer for tomorrow (1/22/18), was hard.

According to World Bank, the West African nation of Guinea covers an area of 245,860 square kilometers and shares borders with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Mali in the north, and with Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire in the south. Guinea has a population of 12.6 million, according to estimates in 2016.

Banda, Guinea - Zoomed Out View

Banda, Guinea - Close Up View

There is more to read on Guinea.  I recommend the first stop is Wikipedia. You can check out the link by clicking on the url below:



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