Tracing your Caribbean family

A guide on how to get started and family history resources

Caribbean family history image montage

Introduction

There are a host of resources available to help you trace your Caribbean family, some of which are listed in this basic guide. The resources mentioned are by no means exhaustive. As the field of genealogy continues to grow, so do the number of organizations and companies offering family history services of one kind or another. For a more detailed history on the Caribbean presence in the UK, the slave trade or step by step advice on tracing your Caribbean ancestry please see our sections on Family History Resources and Publications.

Please note that some of the organisations and resources mentioned here will charge for their services: we’ve marked these with the symbol (£).

Southwark Archives has access to many of the family history resources mentioned in this guide which are free to use by the general public. Whether you need to access books, photographs, old newspapers, census records, parish records, electoral registers or help with online family history resources like Ancestry, our staff can help.

You may find that it is possible to trace Caribbean ancestors as far back as the mid- 1800s without going outside of the UK to research. Indeed, during the 1700s there were people from the African continent and the Caribbean working as domestic slaves in the homes of the rich across the United Kingdom until the practice was made illegal in 1774. The Slave Trade began in the mid 17th Century and included the forced enslavement and transportation of Africans to the Caribbean where they would be sold to landowners, becoming their property and made to work on plantations and carry out domestic work. They could be sold to other landowners and were frequently split from their families and moved to other countries.

The Slave Trade ended in 1807 and the emancipation of slaves and eventually slavery ended in the British Empire with the passing of the Slavery Act in 1833. However, many slaves were still apprenticed to their masters for 4 years so would not have been freed until 1838.

It is likely, therefore, that you will touch on the period of slavery during your Caribbean family history search.

Page last updated: 15 August 2022

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