January 17, 2017

Where to Find Church Records for the US Virgin Islands?

As you know, the US Virgin Islands consist of 3 islands which are Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix.  Trying to find family for these islands is not as difficult as it used to be and not as impossible as many seem to think.  There are films and digitized church records available online. This post will only be about the digitized images and I'll speak about the films on a future separate post. Most importantly, review all other blog posts here as it will help you, even if you think it doesn't pertain to you. 

Desktop:  To see other blog posts for your island or country, click on the menu that appears at the top right of this post. It will take you to the page containing posts for your island or country.

Mobile Devices (Smartphone & Tablets):  To see other blog posts for your island or country, at the top of the page, click on the "Most Recent Post", a popup menu will appear, select an option. It will take you to the page containing posts for your island or country.

I've pointed it out in prior posts about knowing the history of the region where you are seeking information about your ancestors. It doesn't require you to know deep history but enough to know where to go digging for the records.  Part of my success in finding records and information on my ancestors is not just following their path but also following the path of history. This will minimize the number of records you have to search through.

Like many other islands, these islands faced hurricanes and invasions from pirates or other nations. So if you are looking for an ancestors during a certain time period, the key is knowing what was happening during that time period to determine how you'll locate them.

Another key resources is knowing that many islanders, although not having today's technology, were know to island hop.  I know that I have found many people from all three islands in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. I have even posted on the blog about finding an enslaved person of African descent who was from St. Thomas and being baptism in Puerto Rico as a slave. Never assume that your ancestor never left the island, even if for a short trip, you'll be surprised how many have made trips.

Another important item is age. Just remember that when you are attempting to estimate the birth of an ancestor, take the last known ancestor's birth and minus 20 to 25 years of age for the mother.  Most of our ancestors were married very young and also had many children.  To give you an example, one of my great grandmothers was married off at the age of 11 but didn't have her first son, my grandfather, until she was nearly 16 years of age.  Yes it was shocking but a reality during that era. I tend to give men between 25 to 30 years of age to estimate their age. This is how I manage to reduce records I have to search through. When going through church records I take that ancestor and search through 20 years of records (plus or minus 10 years from estimated date of birth).

When going through records, I collect all of the children's names for a great grandparent. If you've read my blog, you'll discover that I have 3 sisters who turned out to be my 4th great grandmothers for different lines. This reduces time on research.

The link below has digitized images or you can use the search engine available. There are 10,633 images available for you to view and they cover Saint Thomas and Saint Croix.  I'm going to walk you through the long process on this. This is to help first timers or for those who struggle navigating the website. I tend to use both options; search engine and going through images. I do this as I recognize that the person reading the document may have misinterpreted the image while indexing. I have found records that I thought were not available using both options.  You must setup a free account with FamilySearch to view these records. Please do that before we start by visiting www.familysearch.org. After registering, click on the below link.

Below is an image of where the above link will take you. You can print this image if you want to view it larger. Simply click on it and it should open into a bigger window, then right click it and save it to the computer. The link is setup to open in a new tab so you will not navigate away from this page.

So if you used the above search window and found what you were seeking, then there is no need to go further. However if you know that your ancestor should be found in the books, then I recommend you continue further with me. In the above image it tells you where you can browse through the images.

You will be led to a new window, but no images. For this example click on St. Croix. I will also advise you how to be back if you want to view St. Thomas. Once you click on St. Croix, a list of towns will appear.

Click on Christiansted for this example.  Then as shown in the below screenshot click on St John's Episcopal Anglican Church

You will be taken to the screen below. Notice how the images are split up by years and types of records. For this example, click on Baptism 1841 -1854.

 By clicking on it, it will lead you to a screen as seen below. I took a small snapshot of the screen as I want to talk about navigating the images.

The white box with the one indicates that it is the first image. You can enter any number from 1 though 124 but never greater as it will return an error; only this example.  Once you enter an number, you can hit enter and the screen below (whitish area) will update with the image.

The plus and minus signs on the left hand side permit you to zoom in and out of an image. You are also permitted to download the image to your computer (didn't grab a snapshot).  You can find the download option to the right of the window.

The dots indicate multiple images.  Click on it to see what it does.  Yes it allow you to zoom out and see many images. When in that view, you can jump forward by click on any image in the screen and notice that the icon changes after you click it. It appears as it does below.

You can click on the new icon and it will zoom into the image you selected.  When in multiple image view, you can also hold down your mouse and scroll down and grab an image further down. The last icon with the four corners permits you to blow the image to full screen.  So plenty of features to make it easier to navigate.

Now how do you navigate back? Do not use the back button on your browser and you won't get the results you expect by it. Instead, lets look at the below image. Notice that above the menus on every screen you drilled down that they appear in blue.  These are hyperlinks that allow you to move backwards.  If you click on the church name, all the images under that church will appear. If you click on the town and there was more than one church, the other churches will appear there. However there was only one church for this town.  If you click on St Croix, the cities will appear. And if you click on link for the Virgina Islands, you will notice that St Croix and St Thomas will appear.

I purposely went through this lengthy explanation as I know that many have come to me and struggle to navigate this website. I hope that this explanation will assist you in finding your ancestors.