- One ancestor converted his entire family to Swedenborgianism, a new religious movement in the 1850s.
- Another relative appears to have lost both parents, moved in with her maternal grandmother's family, and subsequently married someone from Maine who was renting a room at her paternal grandfather's home. They ultimately emigrated to New York.
- My 2nd great grandfather and his close friend married sisters, the daughters of a plantation estate manager, a year apart.
- And then there is the issue of "common-law marriage". Not all of my ancestors were formally married. As much as this offends our modern sensibilities, it was commonplace at that time and place. My current brick wall is part of my direct line where I have only records of the women, children and mothers with different surnames. No fathers.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Inaugural Post-So, What’s this Blog About Anyway?
My mother was born and grew up in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, the “American Paradise”. As a child, and later as an adult, I visited St. Croix from time-to-time and have always felt a connection to the island. Whether it was the lure of a simpler island life, the siren call of clear blue water, or the knowledge that this was the land of my ancestors is hard to say. I just know that when I am there, I feel like a local.
My mother wasn't the first of my family born there. Although she always knew that her father was born on the island, she never knew much about his parents; when they went to St. Croix and from where. Supposedly they were Danish. Finally, I decided to find out -- thus began my study of genealogy and my St. Croix family history.
In researching my family tree I have learned a lot about my family, genealogy research, and the history of the Islands. I learned that my family's residence on St. Croix goes further back than my great-grandparents. Much further. My great-great-great-great-great (that's 5th great) grandfather lived on St Croix by 1774. When my grandmother died in 1986, my direct ancestors had lived there for over 200 years.
Through my research, I discovered that I descend from a branch of the van Beverhoudt family, a prominent Dutch planter and merchant family with members on all three of the islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. Van Beverhoudts have been on the islands since early colonial days, the earliest recorded was E. van Beverhoudt in St. Thomas in 1673, a year and a half after the island was settled (Svend E. Holsoe, "Virgin Islands Families", van Beverhoudt, March 2011). I have no idea if we are related yet, but if so I will have to rename this blog! There are a host of other surnames as well, like Conrad, Anderson, Scott, Robson, Moorhead, Pentheny, Colbeth, McNobney, Quickly, Dalton, and many others. Some are ancestors, some cousins, some are in-laws.
Why I am writing this Blog
I began my genealogical research to try and build a family tree. Initially, my goals were rather modest: just collect up the names and dates of the direct line. I subscribed to Ancestry.com, reviewed NARA and FHL microfilms, searched online collections and amassed a fair bit of information. I followed the direct line and also the brothers, sisters, and collateral families. As I reviewed the information I noticed that nearly all of the people were born, lived, and died on the same island, often the same city: Christiansted. Along with the bare facts, I suddenly started seeing stories develop from census records:
The more I look, the more I find, and the stories are interesting. At least to me. Hopefully, I'll make them interesting to you too.
Like most family historians, I am looking for a way to share my research with my family, mostly non-genealogists, who don't like the idea of reading a 400-page book, properly sourced, listing every fact on every person. But they do want to know; they are interested. I keep hearing, "you should write all this up"? This is my attempt to do just that.
Another reason, perhaps one with broader appeal, is that there are very few resources, and very few blogs, that deal with Caribbean family history, and none that I have found that treat the US Virgin Islands. There are few published genealogies of families of the area (I have only found one) to get a sense of place and time. Reference materials are hard to come by and not widely known. This is a gaping hole in the genealogy universe, so perhaps I can help fill it.
Plans for the Blog
I plan to use this Blog to share my genealogical journey. To tell the stories I uncover. To share my analyses and findings with other researchers. I hope to reach out to cousins I have never met and guide others in exploring this fascinating area. Perhaps, with luck, I will find others who will guide me in my work, helping to fill that genealogical hole.