Head’s Up: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey there,

I hadn’t planned to post again so soon BUT, if you’ve been researching Jamaican ancestors/family members — and you’ve used the free ancestry Web site FamilySearch (which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [the LDS Church]) — I just wanted to give you the head’s up, in case you’re not aware:

Since Thursday (April 28), new restrictions have been implemented which prevent users from viewing Jamaican vital records – birth, marriage, and death records, and so on.

In fact, if you try to click on a record, you might get the following message:

“This image is available:

– When using the site at a FamilySearch Center

To signed-in members of supporting organizations.”

In other words, if you want to see the image of a Jamaican record which might hold key information for your research, you either have to go to a LDS Family History Centre, OR you have to be a member of a “supporting organization” — in this case, the LDS Church.

If you’re Mormon or live in a city or town that has a Family History Centre, then no sweat.

Except for one small thing … Not every city or country has a Family History Centre. And if there is one, their hours of operation may not necessarily be convenient for folks with busy work and family schedules.

So novice genealogists who have relied on FamilySearch (because they might not have the money to pour into paid sites or travelling to their ancestral homelands to do their research) are effectively cut off from this information.

I only learned about this because I stumbled across conversations about this issue in a number of volunteer Jamaican genealogy groups on Facebook. There was no online announcement on the FamilySearch Web site, nor were there any notifications sent to users who have accounts on the site.

From what I can gather, one of my fellow group members sent a note to FamilySearch and was told that the decision to restrict records seems to have come from the Jamaican government – specifically, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), which oversees registration for vital events.

Genealogical research – and the keeping of archived records – also falls under the jurisdiction of the RGD.

Right now, none of us really know why this decision was made. There’s been informal speculation as to what it could be.

Could the government be doing this because they have an concern that  Mormons are “baptizing” the deceased? Perhaps the RGD has seen the increase in demand from Jamaicans for genealogical research, and is trying to capitalize on the interest?

In any case, the result has been frustrating.

Some members of the genealogy groups (myself included) have emailed FamilySearch for answers, and are also emailing the Registrar General, in hopes someone can explain why this has happened, and perhaps open up a dialogue to find a solution to the issue.

If you’re researching Jamaican ancestors and would like to help, you can email the Registrar General’s Department to voice your disappointment with the decision and ask for an explanation.

The email address is Ceorgd@gmail.com (also CC information@rgd.gov.jm when you do) – address your email to the attention of Deidre English Gosse (who is the Registrar General).

If you can do so by Monday, May 2, it would be extremely helpful to the volunteers who are trying to get some answers from the RGD on the matter, and perhaps find a compromise that all parties would be happy with.

If you know of anyone else who’s been doing Jamaican family research, feel free to let them know about this post and encourage them to send an email as well.

Hopefully something good will emerge from this. It would be a shame to know that for thousands of people in the Jamaican disapora, this decision would put family research financially out of reach.

 

Family Tree Briefs …

Yes, yes, yes. I know I’m supposed to be writing about my trip to Cuba …

I’ve been sidetracked, and I was sick. Those entries are coming.

In the meantime, here’s some briefs for the old family tree blotter:

Mid-March …

It’s late at night. I’m sleepily TV-watching and internet-surfing on my couch, when I get an email message from 23andMe, one of the ancestry testing sites I’ve used.

Someone – who, genetically, might be a super-distant relative – has sent me a message.

He and his mother have found my name on the list of distant relatives and wonders if we were somehow related.

(The last time I got a message, it was from someone who wasn’t even in the same maternal haplogroup, calling me “cousin”. By the way, that was months ago, and I haven’t heard from them since.)

Long story short, we start exchanging messages, and share what we know. It isn’t much, but we’ve been sporadically keeping in touch in hopes that one or both of us will stumble onto something.

*********************************************

IMG-20160318-WA0002Also in March …

Turns out, my great-aunt Milda’s 100th birthday did not go unnoticed.

My uncle and a couple of people went to the nursing home to visit.

And, apparently, some other relatives stopped by after that and took her some birthday cake.

I’ve been told, “She is happy and her mind is as sharp as ever.”

I’m sure she was happy for the company — and the cake.
*********************************************

Last week …

I get an email from a gentleman who found me through Family Tree DNA, one of the other companies I’ve done ancestral/autosomal DNA tests with.

He asks if it was all right for him to contact me through Facebook.

(He’s the third or fourth person who’s contacted me in the last year or so. The others were fairly certain that we have family connections, but couldn’t provide any evidence or common ancestral links to back up their hunches.)

I say sure … taking it with a grain of salt, but waiting to see what he has to say.

A couple of days later, we start corresponding on Facebook. Turns out he might be on to something.

Despite a completely different last name (not surprising), he mentions that he has Campbells in his family tree. From the same part of Jamaica as my maternal grandfather’s family. Which means we may actually be distant relations.

The question is: how?

We toss some names of ancestors back and forth, to see if they were familiar. Nothing. Yet.

He’ll be leaving soon for Jamaica, where he’s spending about four or five weeks. He’s a retiree living in Florida, so he has the luxury of time.

But, it would be interesting to see what he turns up, and if he does find a link between our families, along with any new information.

 

 

Coming Soon …

imag0681.jpgHey, kids!

Sorry for the lack of posts. But this time, I have a reeeally good reason.

See the photo?

YEP. Thaaat’s riiiight. I went to Cuba!

When I originally wrote this post in January, I had said I’d like to visit. To be honest, though? The idea was already firmly wedged in my mind. It wasn’t until the morning of my birthday that I decided to stop thinking and start doing.

And I had to move fast.

So many other people had the same idea — to get there before things changed drastically — that nearly all the dates for tours I was interested in, were already booked.

I snagged the very last spot on a G Adventures tour that started over Easter long weekend (a fact I didn’t realize until I booked the trip). It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I thought it’d be worth it.

And, in the end, it was. *smiles*

I only returned to Toronto a few days ago, so I’m re-adjusting to the god-awful weather I thought would’ve been gone by now (what the backside, April), and sort out the reflections and observations I didn’t have the chance to write down along the way.

But when I do, I’ll be blogging like a fiend. Hopefully I can entertain, inform and perhaps encourage you to consider adding Cuba to your travel plans, if you haven’t already.

So keep watching this space — I hope to have the first installment up here within the next week.

Ciao for now!