Um. Wait. WHAT.

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve heard from the gentleman from Florida – whose name is Leslie – who’d contacted me about a possible family link.

On Thursday, curiosity gets the best of me, and I drop him a line.

Leslie responds Thursday evening. Turns out he’s actually been in Jamaica for several days, and has been helping his uncle (with whom he’s staying) with some things, so he hasn’t had any time to look into any family tree-related stuff as of yet.

I tell him I completely understand, and fill him in on what (little) is happening on my end.

And that’s where we leave things.

Or, so I think.

Fast-forward some two and a half hours later. I’m firmly wedged into my couch, watching The Night Manager and gazing away at Tom Hiddleston, minding my own business, when my phone buzzes.

I glance sleepily at my phone. It’s another message from my possible relative in Jamaica.

But based on what he’s written, he’s telling me we ARE related.

Leslie’s uncle knows all about the Campbells in Hanover – in fact, he grew up with them.

That’s not all.

Leslie’s uncle knew my great-uncle Collin, who lived in Wolverhampton. He went to his funeral. He’s friends with my uncle Egton.

He KNOWS knows my great-aunt Milda.

 photo tumblr_lh9khy0pBv1qcnr7w.gif

WHOAWHOAWHOAWHOAWAITWAITWAAAAAAAAIT.

HOLD. THE PHONE.

THE NIGHT MANAGER IS GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT. (Sorry, Tom.)

Leslie says he actually wasn’t ready for the vast number of names his uncle was just rattling off – he didn’t have a pen and paper handy – and it’s left his head swimming.
(No kidding.)

He says he’s going to visit my uncle Egton and great-aunt in a few days’ time.

I’ve asked him if he could ask some questions on my behalf. I don’t know how far he’ll get, or how much she’ll remember. But this could be a chance to take a second crack at uncovering what happened to Ellen.

Worst case scenario, she won’t tell Leslie any more than what she told me. Keep in mind, she’s 100 now. But I have to get him to try.

Perhaps along the way, I’ll learn about more names to add to the family tree.

Fingers crossed!

Update: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey again,

It’s been a busy week, but a short update:

So, just as inexplicably as Jamaican records were suddenly made unavailable to non-Mormon FamilySearch users, they were restored as of Monday (May 9)!

I can only hope that the emails and phone calls were a contributing factor to the action being reversed. But we still don’t know and may never know.

At this point, no one really knows how long they’ll be available for. But it’s all the more reason to take advantage of the opportunity, if you’re researching your Jamaican ancestors.

Yay, us!

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.

 

 

Where’s Aunt Milda?

On Sunday afternoon, my mom tries calling her sister in Jamaica. She doesn’t get through; she gets a strange automated message, saying that calls are somehow “banned” at that number.

A little weirded out, she calls her niece. Same thing.

Now she’s getting a tad concerned. She calls her other niece in the States (the one who recently visited Jamaica) and explains what happened. So her niece calls home and gets through, no problem.

In the phone conversation Mom and I have on Sunday evening, she recalls her American niece calling her back, assuring her that her sister is fine, and explaining that she (Mom’s sister) did try to go visit my great-aunt Milda at the nursing home.

Here’s where things get even weirder.

According to what my cousin says, my aunt arrives at the nursing home, only to be told by staff that Aunt Milda is no longer at the nursing home.

She’s been moved.

We don’t know where she’s been moved to, or when this happened.

So, doesn’t she have any kids? you’re asking. Why don’t you just ask them? And herein lies the beauty (translation: frustration) with extended family. Either you’re close-knit, or you’re not. In this case, it seems to be the latter.

At least one of Milda’s kids lives in Florida. Once upon a time, my uncle used to be fairly close with them, when they first moved to the States and were – legally, physically and figuratively – trying to get settled. But it seems they’ve drifted apart and lost contact with my uncle.

The other daughter we know of, my mom has never met.

But never fear: one of my uncles in Jamaica is on the case. Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

One current hunch is that perhaps she was taken back to the town she was living in previously, before her kids moved her to Montego Bay, and is in a different nursing home. But it’s all theory.

For now, we all have to sit and wait as this (accidental?) game of “keep-away with Aunt Milda” plays out.

Wherever she is, I hope she’s still alive and kicking (or quietly reading her Bible) because, for the amount of effort it’s taken to try and see her, never mind find her, I now reeeally want to meet her.

ARGH. Names.

Eight days ago, the Mormon genealogy Web site updated its database.

YES. FINALLY.

And for a few minutes, I got really excited. So I tried to search for some of my unknown relatives. No dice. I wasn’t completely surprised.

On a whim, I decided to check the digital numbers for some of the files. Turns out the records were for parishes OTHER than the ones my ancestors lived in.

While chatting with my mom recently, I was telling her about my non-progress with the family research, and we somehow started talking about last names. She told me to keep the following in mind when dealing with Jamaican birth records:

On the birth certificates of people whose biological parents didn’t marry (for a host of reasons), that person often assumed the mother’s surname, unless or UNTIL the mother decided otherwise.

Maybe you’re thinking, so what? This isn’t really anything new. (Or, you know exactly what I’m trying to get at.) But, humour me for a moment. I’m going to use my mom as an example.

For my entire life, I’ve thought that her maiden name was Campbell. That’s what she’s always told me. That’s what she conveyed in all sorts of anecdotes about her life. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s still true.

BUT.

Her mother’s maiden name was Jenkins. So, technically, you could say that her maiden name was actually Jenkins, right up until she was registered for school. From that point on, her last name was Campbell. (Same with her sister.)

When she went to the UK in the early 1960s to study nursing (and I hope I have this part of the story right), she and her father had to go through some paperwork to verify that she was who she SAID she was, and that her father WAS actually her father, since she was identified by her mother’s surname, not her father’s.

So, when you’re searching for your Jamaican ancestors (or ancestors from ANY country for that matter), it makes things a hell of a lot harder if you don’t know their mothers’ maiden names. Or, even worse, you don’t have any names whatsoever.

Sigh. I actually don’t know how stuff like this doesn’t make genealogists throw up their hands with frustration sometimes. Oh well. Onwards.

POST-SCRIPT: According to an avid researcher on one of the Jamaican genealogy groups on Facebook, Family Search – the Mormon-run genealogy Web site, is having what it calls a Worldwide Arbitration Event, from May 1 – 8, 2015. Their aim is to enlist the help of volunteers to help reduce a backlog of some 6.5 million records that need to be indexed.

I wish I could take part, but my schedule’s not that flexible. They’ve got specific records they want indexed, but I’m hoping that there are a bunch of Jamaican records from St. James or Hanover parishes among them. (I’m crossing all my fingers and toes.)

It would be nice if someone taking part would keep an eye out for any wayward Campbells, Danielses, Careys, Jenkinses or Fosters on my behalf 🙂 !