ARGH. Names.

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


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.


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 🙂 !