A New Branch

Last week, I took another look at my mother’s grandmother’s death certificate.

According to the document, her “sister” had was present at her death and had signed the certificate.

But the thing that threw me off was that her “sister” had the same last name.

Allow me to explain:

My last name’s Campbell (on both sides, and as far as I know, unrelated, as each side of the family are from different parishes in Jamaica – Hanover and Saint James – but that’s for another post).

My mother’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Clarke. The last name of the “sister” that signed the death certificate was Campbell. Which, I suppose, if I had the means to research and link everyone together, might be plausible.

But if the sister’s last name was Campbell, she’d have to be a sister-in-law.

So into the records I dove. I needed to find a marriage certificate for my mother’s paternal grandparents. The certificate would have their fathers’ names, and that would be a starting point.

And find one, I most certainly did. It showed me a couple of interesting facts.

One, I learned both the names of their dads – my first set of great-great-grandfathers. One named Campbell, the other named Clarke.

Two, they were married April 1906. Which is pretty uninteresting in itself. Except that their first child was born in August 1906.

Nowadays, that’s not really anything that would raise any eyebrows.

But if the stories I’d heard were true – that my mom’s grandparents were from well-to-do farming families … and this took place in early 20th-century, pre-independence Jamaica … then perhaps this was proof of a shotgun wedding.

Well, then.


An attempt at searching for great-great-granddaddy Campbell yielded nothing.

But great-great-grandfather Clarke decided to cut me a break.

He was a cultivator who died in 1931, aged 87, from “debility due to old age”. So he was the patriarch of a relatively well-to-do family, and — given his age when he died — that lifestyle treated him well. His daughter – my mother’s paternal grandmother, Jane Ann Campbell – was the one who signed the certificate.

But then, something tugged at my brain. I’d laid eyes on another person named Clarke just days ago … but who was it?

I eventually found my way back to the eight-month-old whose death certificate I’d recently found.

The person who signed the death certificate was the child’s grandmother … named Clarke.

Well, well.

Another several minutes of searching led me to great-great-grandmother Clarke’s death certificate, recorded in 1936. She was 82. Guess who signed the certificate?

The mystery “sister” named Campbell, listed as the daughter of the deceased.

This was amazing. I’d just discovered one of my great-grandmother’s siblings, and their parents.

I did a bit more digging, before my lucky streak came to an end.

But my current working theory is that my great-grandmother Campbell (née Clarke) had perhaps as many as four other siblings (in this marriage, anyhow – can’t assume there weren’t some illegitimate kids).

I also have reason to believe her mother (my great-great grandmother Clarke)’s maiden name was Foster.

So, another name – and another branch – has been discovered, and it’s a good feeling. It’s going to be very hard when all this discovery I’ve made comes to a halt.