Wednesday, January 22, 2014

There are Benefits to Cleaning Out Your Basement

closetUnder my living room I have a little storage space, about 3 feet high, running the full length and width of the room (13' x 24').  Nearly 1,000 cubic feet of dry inside storage space. Packed full. There are all sorts of things we have put in there - never to be seen again.   Along with an admirable collection of dust and debris, there are lamps, suitcases, old pillows and bedspreads, knickknacks, my old comic collection, one new car tire, an inflatable boat [anybody want an inflatable boat?],  and dozens of boxes of books and papers.  Somewhere in there, I knew, I had some old papers I had shipped up from my grandmother’s house in Christiansted, but where?  It seemed like less trouble going to all the way to St Croix to look through the collection at Whim than to tackle that beast of a storage area.

Well, Monday was a holiday for me but not for my wife, so I figured I’d surprise her and spend my day off cleaning out and organizing the years of junk, rather than “chillaxing” in front of the TV like most sensible people.  Since the ceiling is 3' high and I'm 6' 1", it was pretty cramped, and I'm still quite sore, but it was worth it. Not only did I complete a task we’ve been putting off for years, but I found that box of old papers. That night, I started going through them and made quite a find: the Royal Appointment of my great grandfather, Christian Andreas Conrad, to the office of Toldskontrølor (Comptroller of Customs) of St Croix in 1907.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Virgin Islands at War

Painting of the Bombardment of Copenhagen
As regular readers probably know, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately going through the latest St Croix collection (St Croix Death Records).  There a dozens of collections of records, comprising hundreds of documents.  One of these is a 32-image collection entitled “Free Male Inhabitants 1807”.  This sounds useful (who can’t use a list of Inhabitants from any particular year), but while it isn’t exactly what it seems, the document is actually much more interesting than that.

While Ancestry’s name of the collection certainly appears to be an accurate description (the people listed are free, male, live on St Croix, and it was for the year 1807), this isn’t a document of a census or a complete listing of free people.  The list is only adult males, children aren’t recorded.  Also it doesn’t appear to be comprehensive.  It appears that there are names missing from this document.  As a quick check, I looked at some burgherbriefs issued in 1806 and early 1807, figuring that those people would likely still be on island.  A Charles Ferdinand Wass, born in London, received his brief in December 1806 yet does not appear in the “List of Inhabitants” a year later.  Neither does an Alexander Instant, born in Scotland.  I also couldn't find Stephen Wheeler, born in North America, yet he received his brief in July 1807.

How useful is a “List of Inhabitants” that doesn’t show all the “Inhabitants”?   Well, not very, until you notice what the list really is.  To do that, I need to digress and discuss a bit of Virgin Island history that isn’t as well known as it should be.  It is a time when world events reached across the Atlantic to the little Danish islands and brought significant changes, affecting our families and their lives forever.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

St Croix Death Records on

imageWhen I began searching for my family there were very few records available online for St Croix. 

The best online collection was the St Croix census.  There were indexes at the Danish Demographic Database ( and VISHA ( and images on 

There were a few church records on FamilySearch ( and the copy of NARA’s Colored People records M-1883 on Fold3 (which has since been posted to 

That was about it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

St Croix Records Back on Ancestry After a Year

SCAN0170cLong time readers will remember that back in May 2012 Ancestry posted a large collection of records from the Virgin Islands (see my post, New Virgin Islands Records on and then, a week later, yanked them down. (See Virgin Islands Records Vanished from  Well, mostly, they’re back.  Hopefully to stay.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Book-“Island Boy” by Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr



Genealogists tend to live in the past.  A very distant past.  Few of them take the time, or have the interest, to document their own lives.  After all, our lives are recent.  There is no mystery.  Besides, our lives aren’t interesting unless we are movers and shakers, captains of industry or politicians. Somehow we feel that the life of anyone from the 18th century, no matter how dull,  is far more interesting than our own. 

Well, one day, the 2013 will be “long ago” and our descendants (avid genealogists, of course) will be building their family history.  Of course, they will have all of our wonderful research to build on, but it will suddenly end with us.  How will they find out about us?  Can you think of a better gift to leave them than a detailed account of our lives?  About when and where we lived? What we liked and disliked, our hopes and dreams?  About how we were affected by the events of our times?  What would you give to find such an account of one of your ancestors?