September 17, 2018

Curaçao Church Records from 1714 to 1831

One of the best resources in finding ancestry information on a family member has always been church records. Within a few lines, you can easily discover more about an ancestor than many times in public records. Church records are a great source to find out when an individual was born, the name of parents, the town or country their parents are from, and even at time locating grandparents information.

While I don’t read Dutch, it doesn’t mean that it should deter me or anyone else from finding records on an ancestor. The good thing is that there are plenty of tools out there that will help you along the way. The church records are in Dutch but remember that we have our trusty Google Translate and if that fails, then join Genealogy Translations on Facebook that will assist you with translating records, no matter the language. The following records are for a Roman Catholic Church in Curaçao named Saint Anna or Sint Anna. The records run from 1714 to 1831. The series is broken down as follows and are available online.

Baptisms (Dopen) 1727 - 1820

Marriages (Trouwen) 1714 - 1822

Deaths (Begraven 1769 - 1831)

There are Apostolic / Lutheran Church records available to review. They are as follows.

Baptisms (Dopen) 1795 - 1819

In addition, there are Jewish birth and death records available.

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September 14, 2018

Slave Records in Curacao 1831 to 1863

Just like many other regions throughout the Caribbean and South America, slavery existed on the ABC Islands that consists of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.  This post concentrates on Curacao and this is far from the only records. I will be posting them separately based on accessibility.  While the below the records are in Dutch, you can open another browser if on a PC and have Google Translate ready to enter information. All links within my posts always open to another window. I purposely set it up that way to keep the blog post available in case you need further instructions or want easy access to links on the page.

While Sephardic Jewish people were the first to settle on the island of Curaçao in 1651, they were not the only ones there. Unfortunately, Curaçao was also where the slave trade thrived in the Caribbean. As many of us know, slavery of Africans occurred throughout the globe but more so in the Americas. Many that were brought over from Africa were sold at the docks in Curaçao.  There was a slave revolt that occurred in 1795, which was led by Tula.  You can read about the revolt via the link I provided. I recommend that you also visit your local library or even search the web for more content on the history.

If you believe that you have found a record on your ancestor, whether enslaved or free, and find that Google Translate does not work, then I highly recommend that you visit Facebook, join the group Genealogy Translations and post the image, the direct link to the document, and the language you want to translate from and to.  There are instructions in the group on how to format your request. It is a very helpful group when it comes to translations.

To start with, in the series of the following records, you will find Roman Catholic Church records of enslaved African children that are being baptized. The records can only be accessed via a Family History Center which I have previously posted about. Visit the hyperlink to learn how to find these records locally to you.  There are other records available on the films such as death and citizenship records. The layout of what I provide below will be a little different than my usual posts as it is going to appear film based versus the type of record. 

Note that there are more records beyond the below that are available online that I do plan to post them on the website. So do not think that this is the end of what is available, it is just the beginning of many records but I need to start somewhere.

Film # 1949737 contains both Baptisms (Dopen) and Deaths (Overlijden) of the enslaved:
  • Slave Death Records: 1844 - 1852, 1848 - 1857, 1854 - 1861, and 1859 - 1863
  • Enslaved Children Baptisms: 1831 - 1837

Film # 1949738 contains Baptisms (Dopen) of Enslaved Children, Death (Overlijden) and Citizenship Index (Burgerschaps-Index) / Citizenship Register (Burgerschapsregister):
  • Enslaved Children Baptisms: 1837 - 1842 - Items 1 and 2 on the film
  • Slave Death Records: 1837 - 1842 and 1816 - 1820
  • Citizen Index / Register: 1831 - February 27, 1845

Film # 1949735 contains Births (Geboorten):
  • 1838 - 1842, 1840 - 1849, 1848 - 1852, and 1851

Film# 1949736 contains Births (Geboorten) and Deaths (Overlijden):
  • Enslaved Children Births: 1852-1857, 1854-1861, 1859-1862
  • Slave Death Records: 1838 - 1839, 1838 - 1842, 1840 - 1846, and 1844

Film# 1949737 contains Deaths (Overlijden):
  • 1844 - 1852, 1848 - 1857, 1854 - 1861, and 1859 - 1863

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September 2, 2018

Cap-Haitien Civil Birth Records 1827 to 1917

While in the 5th grade, I came home one day not happy in seeing a boy in the class being picked on due to his accent. His name was Adrienne, a triplet, but the only one of the three in my class. The reason he was being picked on was that he was Haitian. It was relentless for months because he let it be known that it bothered him and it bothered me.

While our neighborhood was poor to middle-class Black neighborhood, it was the beginning of an era where more people from the Caribbean started moving into the area. There were many of us in the area but the volume started increasing by the late 1970's.

I recall looking in my grandmother's set of encyclopedias and discovering that it was the neighboring country to the Dominican Republic as I wanted to know more about where the boy came from. It was just part of my curiosity and is still a part of me today. My grandmother noticing me digging through the books and proceeded to ask me what was I doing.

After explaining, my grandmother sat me down and explained that he was no different than me or anyone else.  She then proceeded to tell me how she would visit Cap-Haitien with her mother and my mother to shop in the 1940s. What really amazed me was years later, at age 19. I took my then boyfriend, now husband, who is Haitian to meet my grandmother. This woman all of a sudden breaks out and starts speaking in Haitian Creole. That was one detail she never shared with me, that she spoke 3 languages. Talk about being surprised!

Well, today these memories came back as I continue to look for online records and saw Cap-Haitien is online. Cap-Haitien, which was once called Cap-Français, was founded in 1670. There is plenty of history about the region that involves war and slavery.  I recommend you visit Slavery and Remembrance website to read up more on Cap-Français.

I never let my inability to read the language deter me from reaching my objective; sharing information. That being said, I am happy to say that there are more digitized records online for Haiti.  This post will concentrate on the digitized birth records currently available for viewing for Cap-Haitien in Haiti.  I hope that those who have family in this region will locate records of their ancestors.


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September 1, 2018

Dominica Land Records 1765 - 1927 Leads to Enslaved Ancestors

Many never look to land records to find ancestors.  The assumption is that their ancestors may not have owned land.  However, land records go beyond actual land and can include records of servitude such as indentured servants or enslaved people such as many of our African brothers and sisters; our ancestors. These records are invaluable in helping to piece together what our ancestors went through and hopefully leads to where on the African continent they came from.  It is unfortunate that our past is so hidden but hopefully it will lead to discovery.

As with all records for Dominica, these records are not available online.  However, you can access them at a local Family History Center (FHC).  Review my post on Finding a Family History Center for Free Research. The post will help you in locating a local place to view these records.

The following records go back as far as 1765.  Note that I have provided the film number with a link. You can easily open this post at a local FHC and click on them to access the films while there. All links will open in a new window on this website, popup blocker will need to be disabled for this website. Hopefully your ancestors are found in these records.

Film # 1699413 - Deeds and Indentures:
Register R1 1771 - 1772
Register P2 1775 - 1776
Register X2 1779 - 1783

Film # 1699427 - Deeds and Indentures:
Register D3 1787
Register F3 1789 - 1790
Register H3 1790 - 1791
Register M3 1794 - 1796
Register R 1800 - 1802
Register S3 1800 - 1801
Register Y3 1802

Film #1699539 - Deeds and indentures:
Register W3 1801 - 1802
Register Z3 1802 - 1803
Register N4 1811 - 1812
Register P4 1812 - 1814
Register A5 1819 - 1820
Register G5 1826 - 1827
Register I5 1830 - 1832 (Included are the triennial registries of slaves for 1817 - 1820 - 1823 - 1826)
Register N5 1835 - 1836

Film# 1699540 - Deeds and indentures:
Register P5 1837 - 1838
Register R5 1837 - 1838
Register T5 1839 - 1840
Register W5 1840 - 1841
Register X5 1841 - 1843
Register Z5 1845 - 1846

Film# 1699485 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers A6 - E6 1846 - 1853

Film# 1699486 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers F6 - K6 1853 - 1862

Film# 1699541 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers L6 - P6 1862 - 1873

Film# 1699620 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers Q6 - V6 1873 - 1884

Film# 1699621 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers W6 - Z6 1884 - 1902
Registers A7 - B7 1902 - 1907

Film# 1699690 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers C7 - H7 1907 - 1918

Film# 1699691 - Deeds and indentures:
Registers I7 - L7 1919 - 1927

Film# 1855349 - Deeds and indentures:
Book P1 1770 - 1771
Book P1 1796 - 1798
Book P3 1798 - 1799
Book P4 1813 - 1814
Book R3 1799
Book R4 1814 - 1827
Book D1 1772 - 1775
Book D2 1772 - 1773
Book D5 1823 - 1824
Book X1 1772, 1766 - 1769
Book A1 1788 - 1790

Film# 1855350 - Deeds and indentures:
Book B1 1765 - 1767
Book C1 1769 & 1773
Book E1 1775 - 1778; 1806 - 1808
Book H1 1784, 1803 - 1804
Book I1 1784 - 1786
Book K1 1769 - 1770
Book L1 1770
Book M1 1770

Film# 1855413 - Deeds and indentures:
Book M1 1790 - 1792
Book N1 1770 - 1771
Book O1 1770 - 1771
Book Q1 1771 - 1772
Book S1 1771, 1802 - 1804
Book T1 1771 - 1773, 1804 - 1806
Book V1 1771 - 1772, 1817 - 1818
Book N1 1792 - 1794

Film# 1855414 - Deeds and indentures:
Book Q1 1777 - 1781, 1798 - 1800
Book W1 1771 - 1772, 1809 - 1811
Book Y1 1772 - 1774, 1814 - 1815
Book Z1 1772, 1766 - 1768
Book A2 1772, 1816 - 1817
Book B1 1766 - 1769, 1772 - 1773

Film# 1855476 - Deeds and indentures:
Book C2 1772 - 1773
Book D2 1772 - 1774, 1821 - 1826
Book E2 1773 - 1774
Book G2 1840 - 1848
Book H2 1848 - 1853
Book I2 1773 - 1774
Book K2 1864 - 1875
Book N2 1774 - 1775
Book M2 1774 - 1775
Book Q2 1775 - 1776

Film# 1855477 - Deeds and indentures:
Book T2 1777 - 1781
Book Y2 1781 - 1784
Book Z2 1784
Book B3 1767 - 1768
Book C3 1786 - 1787
Book G3 1790
Book I3 1791 - 1792
Book K3 1792 - 1793
Book L3 1793 - 1794
Book N3 1795 - 1798

Film# 1855493 - Deeds and indentures:
Book O3 1797 - 1798
Book Q3 1799 - 1800
Book R3 1799
Book W3 1801 - 1802
Book X3 1811 - 1813
Book E4 1805 - 1806
Book F4 1806
Book G4 1806 - 1807
Book H4 1807 - 1808
Book I4 1808 - 1809
Book L4 1809 - 1811

Film# 1855494 - Deeds and indentures:
Books L4 - Q4 1809 - 1814
Book Q4 1818 - 1819
Book R4 1814 (l doc. 1827 at front)
Books S4 - Z4 1814 - 1819
Books C5 - D5 1821 - 1824

Film# 1855534 - Deeds and indentures:
Book F5 1824 - 1825
Book H5 1827 - 1829
Book K5 1832
Book L5 1832 - 1834
Book M5 1834 - 1835
Book S5 1838 - 1839
Book V5 1843 - 1845

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August 31, 2018

Grenada Civil Records 1866 - 1940

Another great island in the Caribbean, Grenada, which consists of a main island and six smaller islands is where many have never visited there but I am sure we have plenty that descends from this island.  Cousins that we were not aware of until DNA testing came along. I can honestly say that I have cousin matches from Grenada. Looking at their profiles, they are of African descent and showing Benin, Togo, Mali, Ghana, and African North DNA. While I have not posted records from this island, they do exist and there is plenty to go through without having to leave the region of your world on this planet.  The reason I have not posted this island is that I cannot go through the images and break them down for all as I do for records available for other islands.

Grenada like many of the other islands, was once inhabited by indigenous people; Arawaks and eventually the Kalinago. Many know the Kalinago as The Caribs but I believe Kalinago is the appropriate name that we should use. The island sits in the Lower Antilles, northwest of Trinidad and Tobago. Many who are researching assume that they have to visit Grenada to view records. While at some point that may be the case, that doesn't mean that that is the immediate answer in your research and your starting point.

Currently, there are many digitized records for Grenada available but it will require traveling a short distance to a local location; a Family History Center.  One great source to use for research is Civil Records and currently Familysearch has 16 films that have been digitized but are not available online on civil records covering from 1866 to 1940.

When it comes to birth, marriage, and death records, it appears that records are recorded by district and only contain parents names.  However, if you have parents names and know they got married, take a look at the marriage record and then go hunting for birth records of the couple. In addition, if you have parent's name, then look for their marriage record and then look to review the birth records for their children. You can do this repeated step and easily go backward in locating information on ancestors.

Click on the below image and it should take you to the collection. Simply scroll down when you arrive at the website to view the collection available. Wish you the best in your research.

August 12, 2018

When You Do Not See Who You Have Impacted

Many of you were quite unhappy with me about bringing down the website but understood where I was coming from with my decision. Some of you were involved with the situation. It wasn't done with malintent but I had reached the point of being tired of the selfish behavior from quite a few and my cousin was the tip of the iceberg.

Many have also come back and said that I should not permit another to control who I am. This is a hard pill to swallow when you're dealing with selfish individuals. It is true that there will always be someone who is toxic waiting to impose their behavior on you. In my anger, I felt that my father had no idea what he was talking about as he felt that sharing and speaking to the family would help change things.

In truth, as I think back on all the feedback from people I have impacted in a positive manner, it truly outweighs the negative behavior. When you have reached that point, it doesn't matter and my anger was in full force that individuals can have their hands out but never offer their hand.

Via genealogy research, I was able to connect to many of my Bayala cousins that I didn't get the pleasure of growing up with. Many in the Bayala family didn't know we were one big family, our origins, or our connection to slavery in Puerto Rico. Some lived thinking they had no family, while others were separated from the rest of the family through situations from the past. Although we didn't cause that past, it impacts us in ways that are impossible to change. I personally am still impacted directly by these events but I keep it moving along.
Today I think about my grandaunt Maria Ines Bayala, who I met via a phone call many years ago. Through that call, tia Maria was able to connect with my dad. My dad was so happy to speak to her that he felt that this was my calling; uniting the family.  It sadden me when tia Maria passed a year after my father in August of 2012.  She was instrumental in me searching for family, understanding what went wrong with the family, and her wanting to know more about her own mother, and the Bayala family. Unfortunately, I found the information she sought but years after her passing.

This past week, I was shocked to discover that her sister, my aunt, Luz Virginia Bayala, has passed. With all the distractions of life, I thought I had time to see her and now she is gone too. Tia Luz's passing occurred on August 9th. My heart breaks for the family left behind.

Couple all of this with that I'm humbled that I have met some genuinely great Bayala cousins that bring smiles to my face because they accepted me with open arms and with zero doubt that I was family. I also have Bayala cousins that never got to meet their dads and were concerned of being rejected by family. Speaking to them I assured them that that would not be the case. They too have reached out to me and advise me not to stop as I made it possible for them to connect with family.

I then have my Betancourt and Aleman cousins sending me private messages and thanking me because I made them feel like we were all family. I keep this in mind when I think of all the negative aspects that have transpired. I get it that not all family will be perfect and those on my Facebook account know about the bad seeds that we have encountered along the way. In truth, there are bad seeds in all families and they are not just unique to me or you. Unfortunately, I just keep finding them because they take advantage of someone offering them free help.

Taking advantage was quite apparent after me dealing with a selfish cousin a month ago. He, of course, has since deleted his Facebook account and his DNA kit. I believe that many family members pounced on him over his behavior. He isn't the only one of course, but he was the last straw that broke the camel's back of me helping.

Let's not forget the many friends that I've known since childhood, genealogists that have known me over the years, and friends from recent years have come "knocking" to let me know that I should not let individuals change who I am. In truth, am I angry at people for their selfish self-centered ways? ABSOLUTELY!

I had deleted all content from this website as I am over the behavior and changed DNS settings on the URL to stop the traffic. However, when I have countless people calling and leaving me voicemails when I wouldn't pick up the phone, it starts to let me know how many recognize that the behavior of others can come off extremely negative and tiring.

So between my mentor and many others at my job and are aware of my involvement with genealogy, gave me back feedback. The one to really let me have it was my mentor as she knew what I was giving up. If you want to ever thank anyone for pushing me to bring this website back, it would be my mentor. My mentor truly felt that I should not permit individuals to have power over me; whether personally or professionally. That permitting others to do so allows them to change who I have become over the years and most importantly, people do appreciate being helped.

So while I have restored both websites, it comes with a change. The change is that all communication is shut off. I should have done this from the get-go. There will be no comments permitted on either website. I have also turned off the "Contact me" option. The content provided will be one way.

I hate to do this but I'm opening the websites on my terms. Please do not attempt to reach out to me via Google+, email, or Ancestry as it will get ignored. Thank you for understanding.

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July 4, 2018

Genealogy Records for Salinas Church 1854 - 1942

I have been pretty busy but have had quite a few municipalities remaining for Puerto Rico.  I recently came back from Dominican Republic as I'm researching my Dominican side of the family. While I am close to being done for Puerto Rico, I know that that isn't the case for many researching their lines.

This post will be on the church records of Salinas. I hope it will help many of you seeking information. As with all municipalities on the island, you will find records for Whites, Pardos (Mixed/Natives), Freed Blacks (African Descendants), and those that are Enslaved.  Remember, you need to be logged in to FamilySearch in order to view the documents.

Salinas which is located on the central southern part of Puerto Rico, has plenty of records for your genealogical research. However, that being said, it doesn't mean your research should end with these records.  Currently, the catalog has digitized records going back to 1854 with the municipality being founded in 1841.  The catalog has also mislabeled what they have. While the catalog states that baptism records go up until 1910, there are an additional 13 years not listed but available and 1927 marriage records are not available like the website claims.

Anything prior to 1854, look at records in Comao, Cayey, Cayey, Santa Isabel, Aibonito, and Guayama.  Definitely look at these other municipalities if you do not find your ancestor in this collection.  As a reminder, links will open in a new window if viewing from a computer.



This is a great resource as each entry has parents and godparents listed with the child.



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May 5, 2018

8th Annual State of Young Black New York at Fordham University

Below is the presentation I used for the 8th Annual State of Young Black New York held on May 5th at Fordham University. There is a 15 second delay between each slide. The functionality is there where you can move backwards or forwards on the slides.

If you ever have a family member question the safety of DNA testing or don't want someone to get access to their DNA, just gently remind them that they already gave up their DNA many times to the lab over the years when they gave blood and urine.  It is too late to wonder and this DNA test is simply to help in researching family history and connections.

The presentation is being provided so that you can access the links. Feel free to download it.


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March 20, 2018

Spanish Last Names

For this next post I want to change things up a bit. For those of us that were raised in Hispanic household, things may or may not come naturally when understanding the surnames and how it works. I’m going to use visual examples for this post. In the Hispanic community, and it is true no matter where in the Americas, people carry two last names. It is customary that the first last name is your paternal and the second last name is maternal.

Note that prior to 1700's, there were no set rules on surnames aka last names. This means that your child could carry a last name that wasn't the parent's last name. Yes, this happened plenty of times. So for example, you can have someone like Francisca Castro Caraballo.

As you can see, Francisca is the daughter of Manuel Caraballo Candoso and Juana de Castro Madudero.

Keep in mind that any child h her parents had should carry "Caraballo de Castro" by the rule I gave, however her last name was reserved.  Keep in mind that the rule of "Paternal Last Name and Maternal Last Name" doesn't apply all the time and it is for numerous reasons.

Francisca also had a brother name Pedro Candoso de Casto, same parents and that was how he was known. Again, he's taking on his father's maternal last name. So confusion sets in as to why people did this. Of course all of these individuals existed in the mid to late 1600's in Puerto Rico.

One reason is that potentially a marriage contract was written prior to the marriage where there were stipulations on giving children a specific last name they should carry. This can be why Pedro carried Candoso as there may have been no males to continue that last name.

Another reason could be that a last names may be considered more prominent or affluent.

To add to this, you also have to keep in mind that there were many uneducated people or those that descend from enslavement that may just pick a last name. I actually spoke about this in the series of posts on my de la Cruz line. Feel free to read up on Angel Delgado Silverio whose last name is actually Angel Delgado de la Cruz. Of course over time, the "de la" was dropped and that line descends from Africa.

To add some more confusion, for a period in time, last names included a "Y".  The "Y" in Spanish translation is "and". So basically it's paternal y maternal

So looking at the 1910 US Census for Puerto Rico, you'll notice many different patterns in last names and many do get lost in figuring it out. Once you learn these rules, you will eventually get the hang of it and realize that everything is not perfect and you are not losing your mind.

So when looking at my dad, Luis Bayala Delgado, you'll notice that his last name is Bayala Delgado. Note that his name follows the rule.  Honestly I can tell when looking at a family tree if the person is well versed in Last Name rules. People automatically assume that Luis Bayala y Delgado and Luis Bayala Delgado or even phonetically spelled, Luis Ballala Delgado are three different people. You can even see his last name spelled as Vallala and that is a far cry from Bayala but they are one in the same individual.

Next, lets just say for this example that my dad was born out of wedlock. Documents will read that he was "hijo natural" which means he's born out of wedlock or considered an illegitimate child. Keep that in mind when you are reading records. If you look at the Census under marital status columns, you'll notice "CC".  "CC" stands for contractual consent.  In other words they were not legally married. When searching for children in the records, you should be looking for the child under the mother's maiden name. So in my example, it would be Luis Delgado and not Luis Bayala Delgado. One of the main reasons this happened a lot was the travel involved in getting to a church, civil registry, and the cost involved.

In some countries like in Dominican Republic, you may notice the record states "hijo reconocido". This can be in the birth, baptism, and even marriage record.  So on my maternal line which is Dominican, my great grandfather was known as Felipe Estrella. I found this out by finding his marriage record in 1912 in La Vega and right in the record it stated that his mother was Daniela Estrella but that his father recognized him so he is now known as Felipe Cartagena Estrella; Cartagena being his father's last name. This told me to look for a Felipe Estrella in the birth records because that is how he would be listed; sure enough that was the case.

Most importantly, I have my paternal great grandfather, Juan Bayala Montañez, in Puerto Rico. In the 1910 he was listed as Juan Montañez and "alojado" to the head of household who happened to be his own father Pedro. Obviously, there was some issues going on in the household as Juan's sister was using the Bayala last name and "alojado" means distantly related. I noticed that he didn't start using Bayala until after his father, Pedro, died.  It took sleuthing and working with my father to unravel the craziness but we were able to figure it out.

Basically what I am saying that although there are rules, it does not mean that it applies across the board. Keep an open mind in searching and hopefully the rules on Spanish names post will help clarify the confusion.

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March 18, 2018

Searching for that Enslaved Ancestor

Many, and for some unknown reason, believe that slavery in Puerto Rico existed only on the eastern part of the island. The reality is that slavery existed throughout the entire island. There was no imaginary line separating the two sides. Thinking this way will lead people down the wrong path in finding their ancestors.

There are many who were enslaved in Cabo Rojo, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, San German, and Toa Alta, just like in Rio Piedras, Trujillo Alto, Gurabo, and Caguas.These are not the only municipalities but just a few that I am pointing out here. We also have maroons or cimarrones in Utuado that joined the Tainos in the mountainous region.

One thing that I have found in researching my African roots, there is a consistent pattern of our enslaved and freed ancestors. Once freed, most remained in the region of where they were enslaved; you'll understand as you continue to read.

Since some were able to purchase their own freedom, they also stuck around if their family remained enslaved. I have seen countless records of where a man or woman will marry someone who is enslaved but they are free. It lets us see another aspect of what our African ancestors and their descendants faced but are not captured in records for that reason. A simple baptism can tell a whole story. In addition, when many are searching, you're looking everywhere but the obvious place.

Potentially, where your family lived is likely is where they were enslaved. To understand this, place yourself in their shoes.  You have nothing of your own, you were fed and clothed by your slaveowner and your family is still enslaved. With the island being but so big, where were they going to go without funds? Why would they leave and risk being enslaved on another island? Usually if a woman who is emancipated married an emancipated man, she is likely to be from another town or region as she married into the man's family but not the other way around.

So thanks to my dad, he already had advised me that our enslaved ancestors were from the Quebrada Negrito region. This piece of information he gave me led to me being able to locate ancestors. Looking at a map always helps to determine where to look for records. My 2nd great grandmother, Francisca de la Cruz, moved in with her husband upon marrying him.  Francisca was actually from Carolina. You can read about her on my website.

People in Loiza, PR

You also have to keep in mind Spain's Moret Law, passed into law on March 22, 1873.  This law supposedly abolished slavery on the island of Puerto Rico. It simply granted people over the age of 60 years, those that belonged to the state, and children born to slaves after September 17, 1868, their freedom. However, individuals had to purchase their freedom. This is not just another ugly twist but also a way of ensuring people remain enslaved. This is why I keep telling everyone, slavery DID NOT end on March 22nd, 1873 in Puerto Rico; please stop repeating this false information. Slavery actually continued for years. In actuality, the Moret Law was changed in 1886. In 1886, the law was amended and gave full freedom to all without exceptions.  Keep in mind that this law also applied to the island of Cuba.

PARES entry on Moret Law

In addition, the Moret Law required that former slaves work for another three years for the slaveowners, people that were interested in their services, or for the "state" in order to pay back some compensation. The Spanish government created the Protector's Office to oversee the transitional process. The Protector's Office had to pay the difference owed to the former slaveowner once the contract ended. Many of the freed slaves continued to work as free people, receiving wages for their labor. If the former slave decided not to work, the Protectors Office would pay the former slaveowner 23% of the former slave's estimated value, as a form of compensation. The likelihood of individuals not wanting to work was low due to very limited resources and poverty on the island.

So while going through baptismal church records searching for enslaved ancestors, there has always been a consistency; godparents assigned to a baptism were of European descent or someone who is well established in the community. However, I found this not to be the case while doing research on my de la Cruz family from Carolina, then Trujillo Bajo, in Rio Piedras.

While many people have skipped over the Rio Piedras books, they did so because they didn't see the book listed as containing slave entries. However, don't dismiss the books labeled as "de todas clases" as it includes exactly what it says, of all classes. This means that you will find enslaved people in these records.

A surprise of finding something else in the entry of a baptism was surprising as I looked at the images for baptisms covering from 1831 to 1837 in Rio Piedras.  Double surprised when I saw two entries on the same page. Take a look at the image below and you can click on it to expand it.

Rio Piedras Church record 1831 - 1837

The pattern of European descent assigned as godparents went out the door with these entries as previously stated. I found two records where one godparent was a slave and the other a free black person. In addition the child being baptized was born into slavery as the mother was a slave too.

The record at the top left reads:
that the child, Maria, is the daughter of Maria del Carmen, enslaved and owned by Dona Dominga de la Cruz. Her godparents are Carlos, slave belonging to Lupratha Cruz (sic) and Petrona Gonzales, free black woman.
 The record at the bottom left reads:
that the child, Juan Bartolo, son of Maria Valentina, enslaved and owned of Catalina Fispatrick(sic). His godparents are Antonio Dominguez, free black man and Maria Diomina, slave of Catalina Fispatrick.

Another surprise and it seems as if it were done in a hurry was that of an African man, of about 30 years of age, being baptized and found on the right side of the above image. The surprise is that the godparent was the slaveowner himself and no godmother. It comes off as if he were in a hurry to get the process over and done with. One thing is for sure, never skip books because what many may assume as not listing out slaves, it doesn't mean that the book doesn't contain them.

If the image is hard to read, you can easily access it by clicking here and it should open in a new window.

So the ask from many is "How did I get so far in my research of enslaved ancestors?". My answer is that it isn't easy and it requires a lot of reading to understand how things were throughout the Caribbean. Remember, Puerto Rico is not on it's own planet and unique to what occurred throughout the Caribbean.

Your takeaway is that you should not be searching all over the island but to stay close to where your last ancestor lived and unless a record states that they were from another region, you shouldn't be automatically looking elsewhere. I haven't found that to be the case in my research. It is every important that history is understood for the time period you are seeking your ancestor, when towns were established, and what were they prior to establishment. If you do not do the background research, you'll never find your ancestors. 

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March 3, 2018

Slavery in the Caribbean

It took me a long time to write this as it was hard to read some of the stuff. While I provide many references at the bottom, please take breaks from reading them, which is what I did.  Please feel free to comment below as I would love to hear feedback from all.

Researching slavery in the Caribbean can face some challenges for many, especially for the smaller islands or even places like Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname. Although these countries are considered to be part of the Caribbean,they do not border the Caribbean Sea and lack of resources is prevalent to genealogists. I am far from an expert in knowing the history in the Caribbean so this post is based on what I have read.

We also face limitations of online resources due to the behavior many of us are seeing in many of the Facebook groups that discuss ancestry and DNA.  The mere mention of African DNA can get you banned from some groups. Discussing African DNA can also lead to a discussion shutdown. I have personally posted many times in the ISOGG's Facebook group without issue when it came to European or anything not referencing African posts.

Things changed when I decided to post about an African enslaved infant in church records being baptized and given away. I was not only booted from the group without a reason given to me, but also blocked and no responses from the admins. It is bad enough that we face the challenge of researching African ancestors and now it includes everyone being shutdown from discussing our African ancestors and slavery as if we asked for our ancestors to be enslaved. It is their shame and not ours. It has led to groups being developed to allow continued discussion. I recommend the following Facebook groups:

To add to research complexities, places like Suriname, the smallest country in South America, is hard to locate records online and requires a visit to their archives. Most importantly, Suriname records are all in Dutch while French Guiana are written in French, making it a bigger challenge for English speakers. It becomes even more difficult as we trace our lines back to someone who partook in marronage and the acts of violence our African ancestors faced.

Enslaved African Man, Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean

While the history is ugly, it is important that we all understand what they faced in order to be able to trace back where to find them and giving them a voice. Part of the reason for writing this is because it is important to understand real history to help us understand what ancestors faced and potentially where to find records about them or where they lived.  Not knowing details is like finding a needle in a haystack when searching for them.

The barbarous cruelty inflicted on a Negro at Suriname, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection

One term that many do not recognize is the word marronage. Marronage was the act of people escaping slavery. Many of our enslaved ancestors ran away into mountains or forests, then hid from their captures, while others had to flee the island to another.  Most escaped permanently, while some took breaks from enslavement. The act of temporary escape was known as "petite marronage" which means they returned as there was potentially no other way of getting off the island or means of maintaining freedom due to lack of resources.

The word marronage potentially derives from the word cimarron, which is what enslaved Tainos and Africans were called on the island of Hispaniola; today Haiti and Dominican Republic. Those on English speaking islands that escaped slavery were called maroons.

On some islands, like Jamaica, maroons built successful communities like Cockpit Country.  Many escaped into the jungles of Guyana (British), Brazil, and Suriname which many of these settlements still exist today.  In addition, places like the mountain regions of Dominica and today's Haiti and Dominican Republic were places where Cimmarons or Maroons would live.

The atrocities and even the consistency of not treating Africans and their descendants as humans and more like cattle or property was apparent throughout the Caribbean.  Documentation of this act exists in many archives as the below image depicts a woman being branded in Rio Pongo. The deafening screams of these ancestors as the hot iron burned their flesh still echo throughout time. The idea that someone can look on or perform this act, just shows the evil and savagery that existed in these Europeans.

Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo
 Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection

Another form of control was placement of a mask over the head as a way of controlling those that were enslaved which kept the person from swallowing their saliva. The atrocities that our African ancestors faced were so dehumanizing that in is hard to phantom or understanding. It is easy today when some make statements that they would have fought back, having the idea that our ancestors didn't, when that is exactly what our ancestors did.They found hard and at times killing their oppressors.

An African's head with mouth-piece and necklace, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection
My research on slavery in the Caribbean led me to find information for many different islands. Some books I purchased while others I located at the local library. Summary for each of the islands I researched tells the story of how common cruelty was no matter the European country involved.

It seems that it is instilled in their DNA to treat not just Africans in this manner but even their own. European history seems to be loaded with atrocities towards other humans. With over 440 years of African slavery that the Portuguese started in 1441, the ugliness is documented in many archives throughout the globe.

 Le Golfe de Mexique et les isles voisine, University of Florida
Those of us with African roots have resorted to taking DNA testing, hoping to identify who our ancestors were, and pinpointing origin. However, due to the complexity of how slavery was carried out, the reality is that we all descend from a multitude of African ethnic groups.  Many are shocked to discover how mixed their African roots are just by the DNA results. As technology continues to advance, hiding the truth in American history books is becoming more difficult.

What is noteworthy is that resistance to slavery was equally done by men and women.  Hard labor was equally distributed to both sexes by their oppressors. There was no distinction of treating women as being fragile. Keep this in mind when searching in the records.


Tainos were known to escape into the mountain areas of the island to escape. Once Africans were brought over as slaves to replace them for labor, many Africans and their descendants were known to escape into the mountains and join the Tainos. One such area was the Viñales Valley, which sits to the west of the island. An extensive study has been done on the cimarrones or maroons in Cuba.  A book published in 1988 called Los Palenques del Oriente de Cuba, is a book that provides detailed research on the maroons throughout eastern Cuba. Another good article is Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba: Resistance and Repression by Gabino de la Rosa Corzo.

An Indian cacique of the island of Cuba addressing Columbus concerning a future state, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection


Many Africans and their descendants escaped and became maroons as they hid in the mountains of Dominica. The mountains were an ideal place to hide as it was difficult to follow many that escaped into jungle regions.

Maroons on the island of Dominica were organized and were trying to follow the footsteps of the successful Jamaican maroons who managed to gain their freedom.  In addition, the Kalinagos, which are the indigenous people of the island, had also fought for their freedom from Europeans.

The maroons were well organized on the island which included social order, agricultural abilities, and military organization and skills. The maroons were able to maintain an economical stability for their communities.  Slave holders saw this success as unsettling and that could lead to unrest on plantations. Plantation owners would sell their plantation as they would lose all of their enslaved Africans as they became maroons.

The First Maroon War lasted from 1785 to 1790 and during this war, the maroons were outnumbered by the British. The British were so vicious with their treatment towards maroons that they gibbeted maroon chiefs.  One such chief was known as Balla. Many were cut to pieces while alive and eventually beheaded.  This is keeping in mind the revolution occurring in France and the uprising and eventual independence of Haiti.

Maroons would eventually be pushed into the mountains and eventually lead to starvation as two  hurricanes hit the island and eliminated the maroons' food supply.  The British killed 577 maroons and killed 3 of their leaders.  Trials against the maroons occurred throughout 1813 and 1814 which are documented in archives.  A good reference is the book, "Your Time is Done Now" by Polly Pattullo. 

French Antilles

It is important that when researching in finding women or men that were enslaved, you may not think of it, but many were incarcerated due to minor infractions. Just a suspicion or accusation would potentially lead to imprisonment. Many women were  subjected to being raped and wound up pregnant in prison.  Such as the case of Justine from Guadeloupe (see Moitt) while imprisoned.

Supposed laws were put in place to keep slave owners from raping women, however, based on DNA and how much of European ancestry exists, the golden rule of "laws were made to be broken" seems to ring extremely true.  As previously pointed out, those enslave did not quietly sit back.

In 1712, the governor of Martinique was worried that slaves would revolt and poisonings was a constant issue.  Poisoning was a form of medicine used for healing or killing.  By 1724, ordinances were put into place in the French colonies that made it a crime punishable by death if caught making, distributing, or administering poisons. Stricter laws were put in place by 1743 that stated that Europeans were not to teach slaves how to perform any medical procedures or mixing of medicine. Breaking this law carried a death penalty sentence. These laws help push many into revolts and marronage.

Francois Mackandal, who was a maroon leader in Saint-Domingue, was one that created poisons and distributed poisons to many on to poison their oppressors on plantations.

Based on records, the act of marronage had more males participating versus females. However, it doesn't mean that women were more willing to withstand the abuses. Women were less likely to participate as women were chained to their children in the field and were less likely to leave their children behind or have less mobility.

Many enslaved women who didn't have children, whether chained or not, were known to escape as there were many ads on these escaped women. Researching in the island's Gazette will likely lead to finding records on ancestors. There are countless records documenting women that had chains around even their necks and would still escape.


While women who were enslaved were subjected to sexual abuses, they were never viewed as the victims but those who were the cause of sinful activities. Such is the case of Lory de la Bernardiere's mother, who documented her son, "He is given to amusement and a life of debauchery. He has fostered a harem of black women who control him and run the plantation" (Moitt).

We also have slave drivers who sexually exploited women. In 1792, Jean Baptiste, a slave driver of 59 years of age, working on the Foache sugar plantation, sexually assaulted enslaved women, even if these women were in relationships with enslaved men; including those that were married. It was noted that Jean Baptiste had fathered more than 60 children on this plantation. Note that Jean Baptiste was also enslaved but eventually earned his freedom.

In addition, killing of slaves, at most, got the slaveowner fined. In 1699, a slave was shot and the slaveowner was fined 100 livres while another was fined 600 livres for spurring an 11 year old girl to death. If slaves were caught after marronage, torture would be dished out even though torture was supposedly outlawed.  Female slaveowners were just as cruel at dishing out punishment like in the case of an 11 year old girl in 1736 enslaved by Audache of Leogane. The girl had been tortured for 5 days, including being burned with fire until another slave reported it to authorities. There is no documentation of the penalty against the slaveowner.

Cimarrons, as known on the island, were known to escape into the mountain range that today it the border for Haiti and Dominican Republic.  Many of those enslaved that were from Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo, were known to hide in the mountain range or the thick forests that existed throughout the island.  The slaveowners were also known to advertise when their slaves escaped in the weekly paper, Les Affiches Américaines. The ads contained descriptions which included whip lashes, scars, burn marks, and broken limbs . (Duke Press University)

Le Marron Inconnu, which is a statue in honor of cimarrones, sits in the capital of Haiti, Port-Au-Prince.  I've posted the image before on the website when posting on Haiti. Statues like this, honoring those that were before, exists throughout the Caribbean. The cimarrones were the key players into the liberation of the people of Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo.

Le Marron Inconnu, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Turks & Caicos Islands

There were no records of maroons on the islands. However, an illegal port existed on Grand Turk where slaves could be sold.  This leads to the potential of impacting those researching their ancestors that are from these islands with no records maintaining where those enslaved came from.

In a legal transaction, description of slaves that were sold between a husband and his wife stated that Africans were defined as being originally from African or first-generation. Creole was those that were born into slavery and Mulatto were those who had parents where one was black and the other was white.

In addition, free blacks or mulattos were not permitted to live on the islands unless they could prove they were born free. From 1822 to 1834, Britain required that slaveowners register every single slave by name and age that they owned. This registration also included those that ran away, sold, transferred, dead, or manumitted.

Slaveowners on the island were only permitted to own a small amount of slaves to keep down revolts from happening. From 1822 to 1825, there were 128 slaves that had escaped from Turks and Caicos. Many may have escaped to the Haiti, the first Black Republic and where freedom could be found. Looking in Jean-Rabel, Poix-de-Paix, and Cap-Haitien, Haiti along with Monte Cristi in Dominican Republic, are good places to start.


Hopefully these snippets from some of these islands/countries will hopefully lead to connecting the dots to our genetic African American cousins that descend from those that were enslaved in the southern States. When it comes to Jamaica, there are a lot of books that provides details into the slavery and marronage on the island.

Most importantly, there are many more islands and countries that were not covered in this post, many books, and many records beyond those listed in the reference section. Attempting to cover the maroons in Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, and countless other places would have truly turn this post into something that never ends as there are countless stories not told yet. I hope this post is helpful to many in their research.


Atkins, B., Gale, M., Gall, A., Paige, R., & Sause, K. (n.d.). Maroon Uprisings in Surinam. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from Maroon Uprisings in Surinam:

Bellin, J. N. (1758) Carte de l'isle de Saint Domingue, pour servir à l'Histoire générale des voyages. [Paris] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Duke Wordpress University. (n.d.). Slavery and Marronnage in Saint Domingue. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from Haitian Marronnage: Voyages and Resistance:

Knibb, W. (2016). Facts and Documents Connected with the Late Insurrection in Jamaica. Charleston: Createspace Independent Pub.

Martinez-Fernandez, L. (1998). Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean: The Life and Times of a British Family in Nineteenth Century Havana. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe.

Mills, C. PhD (2008). A History of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Oxford: Macmillian Publishers Limited.

Moitt, B. (2001). Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635 - 1848. Bloomington and Indianapolis : Indiana University Press.

Monteith, K. E., & Richards, G. (2002). Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom. Kingston: The University of the West Indies Press.

Mortier, P. (1700) “Le Golfe de Mexique et les isles voisine ; Archipelague du Mexique, ou sont les isles de Cuba, Espagnola, Jamaica, & dressée sur les relations les plus nouvelles” Retrieved from University of Florida

Pattullo, P. (2015). Your Time is Done Now. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Pestana, C. G. (2017). The English Conquest of Jamaica. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Sherlock, P., & Bennett, H. (1998). The Story of the Jamaican People. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.

Wikipedia (n.d.) Francois Mackandal. Retrieved from Wikipedia

Williams, J. (2014). A Narrative of Events: Since the First of August, 1834. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc.

“An African's head with mouth-piece and necklace,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed February 1, 2018,

“An Indian cacique of the island of Cuba addressing Columbus concerning a future state,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 9, 2018,

“Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 16, 2018,

“The barbarous cruelty inflicted on a Negro at Suriname,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed February 18, 2018,

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