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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.