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.

 

 

Making Plans & Finding Clues

On Sunday evening, my mom called to share some interesting news.

During a phone conversation with my uncle from Florida, he suggested that someone should organize a birthday party for my great-aunt Milda, who turns 100 next year.

Of course, knowing my uncle, so it’s a not just a “suggestion”. He’s already brought it up with my uncle Egton in Jamaica, is willing to put a little money towards the shindig, and thinks Mrs. Shearer (one of my distant cousins) should help organize it.

This last point has me arching an eyebrow.

From what I’ve heard, my great-aunt was something of a — shall we say — strong personality in her younger days. So a number of family members who really know her, aren’t exactly Team Milda – Mrs. Shearer included.

But, my mom said, my uncle explained that Mrs. Shearer organized the last family reunion roughly 15 years ago (I didn’t go at the time), so she could make things happen. Plus, he added, no matter how anyone felt about Milda, she was the matriarch, the only one left from that branch of the family, and since she was reaching such a huge milestone, the least we could do for her was to celebrate the occasion.

From what I understand, one of Milda’s daughters goes down to Jamaica occasionally (either once a year, or once in a while, I don’t remember), and so Egton will have to broach the subject with her, to see what she thinks. We’ll see.

After the call with my mom, I went online to see if I could find anything new on any of my ancestors.

Given my recent windfall of records for Collin and Clemise, I didn’t expect to find anything.

I started out searching for documents linked to my aunt Milda’s spouse. But at some point, I typed in “Helen” – just for laughs – and in a matter of moments, I was staring in mild bemusement at three indexed border crossing records for my great-aunt, from the mid-1930s.

The timing was … odd. (Maybe this was Ellen’s way of approving of the idea of a party for her baby sister.)

Based on the information listed on each of the cards, here’s what I think I know.

First, it’s definitely her – the bottom of the cards list her original date of arrival in Montreal. Plus, it lists “Hanover, Jamaica” as her place of birth.

Other details:

Ellen’s “home” address was one I hadn’t seen before. I cross-referenced it with a Montreal city directory from that time, and based on what I found, I can only assume she was renting a room from the person listed at that address.

She had a friend in New York. The cards all state that she visited a fellow domestic named Sylvia Hill – in Corona, (which I think is now Queens) New York, in August, 1934. On the third card (from 1936), it listed a Mrs. Lillian Robinson, with an address in Harlem, but no additional information explaining who she was.

One of these things is not like the others … Two of the cards listed a Mrs. John Gilpin, with an address that differed from Ellen’s home address. There was a word preceding Mrs. Gilpin’s name … it looked like “Guardian”, but I wasn’t entirely sure, because the scanned image’s resolution was blurry, and the word had been typed over. The third card listed a Mrs. Ingham, whose residential address matched Ellen’s.

SO, I thought. Ellen DID have other employers. Interesting.

What was even more interesting was that the top of two of the cards were stamped with the words “DEBARRED” and “REOPENED AND ADMITTED”. I didn’t really pay attention to the stamps at first, but they would be explained to me later.

Tuesday afternoon, to be exact.

I’d been studying those cards for two days, when it suddenly occurred to me to check the scanned images to see if the cards were only one-sided.

Nope.

Typed on the back of two of the cards was the following:

Mrs. Gilpin, former guardian, and applicant “had fuss”; no other friends or relatives in Montreal. Employed by Mrs. H. J. Ingham.

The back of the card was time-stamped December 20, 1935 and December 23, 1935 (twice).

So Mrs. Gilpin was Ellen’s guardian in Canada. But why did a 26-year-old woman need a “guardian”? (I suspect I’d understand why, but there’s nothing to back it up — yet.)

The note confirmed that Ellen had no relatives here in Canada. I was, however, puzzled by the notion Ellen didn’t have any friends here — that she was completely alone.

I shared my newest findings with the administrator from one of the Facebook genealogy groups. She had looked at the cards, and pointed out that Ellen was refused entry back into Canada.

Of course, this only sparked more questions:

Why was Ellen refused entry back into Canada? What sparked the “fuss” between Ellen and her guardian, Mrs. Gilpin? Did that cause problems for Ellen at the border? Was Mrs. Gilpin solely Ellen’s guardian, or was she also her employer?

And what about Sylvia? If Ellen had no friends in Canada, then how’d they meet? Was Sylvia a friend from back home? Or did they befriend each other in Montreal, only for Sylvia to move to New York (for whatever reason)?

Beyond these questions, this search reminded me of a valuable lesson:

When finding an ancestor’s records online, ALWAYS check to see if there is a second page. Because you never know what you might find.

“Meeting” Clemice

As I mentioned in my last post, a while back I’d come across an index of marriage registrations in Wolverhampton, England, which had a listing for my great-uncle Collin and his wife — a woman named Clemise Wilson.

Before my recent discovery, when I’d been searching for documents for Collin, I tried looking for documents for Clemise as well – a birth or death certificate, anything. But I hadn’t had any luck.

One evening last week, while sprawled out on my couch and checking social media, I came across a tweet which had a link to a post giving tips on what it claimed was an effective approach to finding relatives through searches on the genealogy site I frequent. It’s called the “wildcard”.

The article explained that it wasn’t unusual for people who indexed records for previously deceased ancestors to either input names incorrectly, or for officials who filled out the original records to be inconsistent with spelling names. Either they wrote the names the way they heard them, or were simply poor spellers.

The “wildcard” search involved using asterisks or question marks in place of letters, in order to trigger different results.

So, on a whim, I decided to test out the method. I typed in part of Clemise’s name, using an asterisk.

BINGO.

In a matter of seconds, I was looking at her birth certificate.

And her name wasn’t Clemise. It was Clemice. No wonder I couldn’t find her before.

Armed with brand-new information, I went to the family tree I’d constructed on Ancestry and plugged in her birth date.

Almost immediately after saving her profile, three hints materialized.

In a matter of moments, I learned when she arrived in England …

And when she died.

Considering the weeks –  even months – when countless searches turned up nothing, when inquiries on different forums didn’t yield a single answer, and the frustration and impatience I’ve often felt with (what seemed to be) the lack of progress, finding so much information in such a short amount of time has been remarkable.

I realize this lucky streak has come to an end.

But I really don’t want it to.

On a Roll (of Records)

In late August, one of the Facebook genealogy groups I’m a part of posted a notice to let members know that the genealogy Web site Ancestry was allowing access to its UK records for a few days.

This piqued my interest, because I knew my grandfather and one of his brothers (one of my great-uncles on the Campbell side) had gone to England in the 1950s. My grandfather eventually returned to Jamaica, but my great-uncle Collin stayed and lived there for about 30 years (he died in Wolverhampton in 1985).

Up to this point, I had some previous luck in finding an index for marriage registrations in Wolverhampton. It didn’t have an image of the actual index itself, but there was a listing for Collin and his wife (who I’ll discuss in the next post). I also located a very minimal listing for his death 30 years ago.

One evening when I had some time on my hands, I clicked on the link and signed into Ancestry.

For starters, I returned to the link for the marriage registration listing that I knew about. And this time, while there was no image for the actual marriage certificate, I could see two scanned images of the marriage registration index – one listing my great-uncle Collin’s name, one listing his wife’s – so I made copies for my records.

Then, I decided to do a cold search for Collin’s name, keeping in mind that I’d also have to use a variation of his name in case using the proper spelling didn’t work.

Well, well.

I found a couple of records of Collin’s arrival to the United States – one in 1944, and one in 1945. Both of them terminated in the US. But they were still interesting nonetheless.

The record from 1944 showed Collin arriving in New York in early June – which happened to be a couple of weeks or so after my great-great-uncle (Jonathan), who lived in New York, had died. Which I why I assumed he went to New York at that time.

Or, did he?

The 1945 record shows him arriving in Port Everglades, Florida. And in one of the columns, it says that the year before, he’d been in the state of Virginia — for six months.

This was surprising, but not a complete surprise. You see, my mom told me that when she was younger, my grandfather used to go to Florida to work as a migrant worker, picking citrus fruit. He’d work for a period of time, and when he got tired of it, he’d tell the employer he was sick, and then go home …

But not before taking his earnings and spending it on stylish new suits. He never sent any money for my grandmother, mom and aunt.

So when I saw the second record, I thought for a second, and considered the possibility that perhaps both my grandfather and great-uncle went up to the States to do migrant farm work. In fact, when I looked at the page with my particulars about my great-uncle, most of the people on that list were from Hanover parish.

But that still didn’t explain the information about Virginia … or the record from 1944.

Did Collin go to New York, and on his way back decide to stop in Virginia for six months? Or did he even make it up to New York?

I tried looking for a similar record for my grandfather, but couldn’t find anything that I could link to him with any certainty.

After more searching, I found not only a record for a flight from Kingston, Jamaica to New York, in 1954 — the year Collin went to England — I found the passenger record for the ship he took from New York to Southampton, England. Final destination: Wolverhampton.

I’m still a bit astounded I found as much as I did, really.

It’s just weird to know that someone I’ve never met – an uncle that I’ve only heard about in stories – is now the most documented of all my ancestors to date.

Go figure.