Trace Your Caribbean Ancestors Like Liz Bonnin
Inspired by Liz Bonnin’s episode? Who Do You Think You Are? television series genealogist Laura Berry highlights the wide range of resources available for researching ancestors from the Caribbean
Irish presenter Liz Bonnin was born to a French Martinican father and Trinidadian mother with Indian and Portuguese ancestry. Such an exotic cultural mix is a reflection of the diverse populations that settled in the Caribbean, whether by choice or by force.
The history of the Caribbean islands was dominated by sugar and slavery from the 16th century, when the first European colonies were established there. African slaves were transported to the islands in huge numbers by the 18th century, and slavery was not abolished in the British Caribbean until 1838, in the French Caribbean until 1848 and in the Dutch Caribbean until 1863.
Unfortunately, researching slave ancestry using documentary sources is often complicated and might not be possible at all before these dates. Even after slavery was abolished, family history research can be difficult because children were frequently born out of wedlock and subsequently registered with their mother’s surname and they sometimes adopted their father’s surname when they grew up.