Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genealogy in the Virgin Islands-A Curse … and a Blessing

I have been taking a time-out from my VI research and spreading my wings a little researching my wife’s family (I figure she’ll be a lot more cooperative with my obsession if I get her family involved). Her family comes from southwestern Virginia, a little town in Russell County called Swords Creek. With the experience I gained doing my own family research, I knew I would be able to make decent headway fairly quickly, I had no idea how easy, and hard, it would be researching an all-American family. In the process, I’ve had occasion to think contrast the challenges we face as Virgin Island researchers. So in this post I thought I’d contrast the two.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tracing Your Sources

Trace your Sources?  I’ve heard about tracing your ancestors, but how do you trace “sources”? 

While researching my family I worked with many sources of information.  Sometimes, the sources are freely available, other times they can be quite tough to find.  In addition to primary original sources, such as certificates and registers, there are loads of secondary sources as well as derivatives and transcriptions.  A good researcher makes use of all of them in their research, giving each source the credibility it deserves.  It also allows careful researchers to verify your research for themselves.  Sometimes, derivative sources point to primary sources but other times they simply point to more derivatives.  Then you need to trace them back, step by step.  I had to do this recently myself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The First van Beverhoudts in the Danish West Indies

The van Beverhoudts were among the earliest families in the Danish West Indies.  They were Dutch planters that settled the island and made it their home.  This post discusses the earliest known Beverhoudts to live there and some of my oldest ancestors from the islands.

The Danish West India company established their first post on St. Thomas, in what was to become the Danish West Indies, in 1657.  The Danish West India and Guinea Company, chartered in 1671 by King Christian V of Denmark, established control over St Thomas by 1672 and controlled the island until 1754.  This period was described in the landmark book, “The Danish West Indies under Company Rule (1671-1754)” by Waldemar Westergaard in 1917.  The book is public domain and can be found online and is very interesting reading.  It is the standard reference for the earliest days of the Danish West Indies.  On page 38, Westergaard describes the earliest colonists on St Thomas [emphasis mine]:
The new masters had scarcely begun settlement, before  colonists of various sorts began to seep in. The greater number  of them belonged to the Dutch nation, and were seeking the  protection of a state that they supposed to be on friendly terms  with the English, who were harrying the Dutch wherever they  dared. Some of these, as John von Beverhoudt, became planters of distinction and even founded influential families; others, like Carl Baggaert, an absconder from Middelburg, became trouble makers who soured the life of the governor and those in authority with him. Although French, Germans, English, and Jews were among these early settlers, Dutch became the prevailing language from the beginning.
Who, exactly Westergaard was referring to as "John von Beverhoudt" is unknown (there were several Johannes van Beverhoudts), but it is known that the Beverhoudts were among the earliest families on St Thomas.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Understanding Virgin Islands Records at Rigsarkivet

In a previous post, New VI Records-First Impressions, I discussed some new records  posted to from several sources.  In that post, I described how to recognize and source records from NARA RG 55.  I had begun a follow-on article on how to understand the records from Rigsarkivet (RA), the Danish Archives.  Sadly, the collection only lasted a week before it was withdrawn (Virgin Islands Records Vanished from, and so I never completed the post.  As I'm watching Gabby Douglas struggle on the Balance Beam in London, I figured I'd complete that post.