|Page from the St Croix Passenger List-1797|
The DWI Passenger Lists are of particular interest to me, since I am hoping to find information of my family’s travel to and from the islands. While most of my St Croix family was born there, some arrived from elsewhere (like my 3rd great-grandfather, Joseph Robson of England). I’m hoping that I can discover when they arrived on the island and that this will help me find where they came from.
For those of you who are not familiar with it, the CGL is a small library on St Thomas, located at Al Cohens Plaza, just east of Charlotte Amalie. The CGL is both a physical library and a genealogical society, offering a wealth of materials on island research, microfilms, and over 5,000 volumes of rare and historic books and periodicals. As a society, they hold meetings and seminars, organize research projects, and publish a (more or less) quarterly Newsletter. Their current projects include indexing and digitizing the M1883 Free Black Register, the Step Street Family Census, and the DWI Passenger Lists.
DWI records are spread out in a few locations which makes family research there much more difficult than, say, Missouri. When the Danish left in 1917, they offered the US Government their entire archive of records from 1680-1917. The US wasn’t interested and told them to take whatever they wanted. They wanted quite a bit and shipped it to Copenhagen, where it currently sits in the Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet). Around 1936 an archivist from the US National Archives visited the Virgin Islands and shipped much of the remaining/surviving documents to the US. These currently sit in NARA Record Group 55 at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. According to Erik Gobel in his book A Guide to Sources for the History of the Danish West Indies (U.S. Virgin Islands), 1671-1917, the Danish Archives contains “well over 1,500 running metres” and NARA holds over 600. Some of this material has been microfilmed, but most has not. Both NARA and Rigsarkivet have produced microfilms over the years, and there is some effort (however slow) to digitize those collections.
The DWI Passenger lists are one of those collections. These records were maintained by the colonial government and consist of groups of records related to arrivals and departures from the Islands from 1794-1899. These were microfilmed before 1980 in a 25-reel set. Copies of these microfilms were sent to libraries in the islands. In October 2010, Rigsarkivet made a gift to the Virgin Islands in the form of a 34 DVD set of high resolution scans of these microfilms. One of these sets was provided to the CGL.
Through some email discussions with Robert Upson of the CGL, I mentioned that I was looking forward to the availability of these records and he offered to send me copies of a few DVDs. He sent me copies of DVDs 1-3 of the collection, the discs that covered arrivals in St Croix.
I’m sure it will take a while to go through all 1,115 pages of old handwritten Danish registers, but being able to do it from home rather than having to visit an archive is wonderful. I’ll be sure to blog about anything I find.