Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The “Gentlemen of Jones”

SCAN0872 (Large)As my loyal readers (both of you) will recall, I am going through a boxload of old pictures from my grandparent’s house in St. Croix.  While many pictures are of family and friends (and I know who they are now!) many are of the island, the island people, and events.  Some were sent to my family but most were taken by my grandfather, Ludvig Conrad. To date, I have scanned over 1,400 pictures from that box. 

While I was going through them for initial edits and labeling I ran across this picture. Written on the back it clearly said “Gentlemen of Jones”. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Early Christmas Present from the CGL

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Page from the St Croix Passenger List-1797
I got a Christmas present this year from the Caribbean Genealogy Library. Robert Upson of the CGL sent me DVDs containing high resolution images of 1,115 pages of registers of persons arriving and leaving Christiansted from 1797-1847.  Thank you Robert and the CGL for such a wonderful present!

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Little Genealogical Serendipity

One of the fun things about genealogy research is the tendency of the stars lining up where you least expect.  I had one of those events this week.  It was so unlikely that I thought I’d share.  A 100 year old letter in Denmark helped me identify who was in a 100 year old picture I got from my grandmother’s house in St Croix, of a family in New Jersey, featuring a guest from St Croix.  Confused?  We’ll sort it out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Ancestors weren’t Married?! (Part 4-Trends)

This is the fourth part of a series on my study into St. Croix marriages. In Part 1, I described what made me undertake this study. In Part 2, I discussed my methodology and results. Part 3 discussed the decline of baptisms and commented on emigration. In this final part, I will share my findings on how the legitimacy rates changed over time.  Future parts will await further analyses.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Ancestors weren’t Married?! (Part 3-Population)

This is the third part of a series on my study into St. Croix marriages. In Part 1, I described what made me undertake this study. In Part 2, I discussed my methodology and results. For this part, I digress slightly and look at the change in baptismal rates over the period.

From my article on Religion in St. Croix 1841-1911, I saw that the latter half of the 19th century showed a significant conversion from Moravian to Anglican, already the most popular religion on the island.  Since I expected to see a rapid growth in population on the island, I expected to see a corresponding growth in Anglican baptisms throughout the period.  Wrong on both counts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Ancestors weren’t Married?! (Part 2-The Study)

1877-Joseph Christian-64 (Large)
Page from 1877 Baptismal Register
This is the second part of a series on my study into St. Croix marriages.  In Part 1, I described what made me undertake this study. In this part, I discuss my methodology and results.

Researching a population is harder than researching a family, at least in terms of the sheer volume of records. I needed a way to get a feel for the balance of legitimate vs. illegitimate births without making it a PhD dissertation or requiring a Government Grant. The Anglican baptismal registers provided me this opportunity.

In my post Religion in St. Croix 1841-1911 I showed that the Anglican church was the largest church on St Croix throughout the 19th century, and on into the 20th. The congregation was composed of a fair cross-section of the population, from plantation owners and merchants to servants and field slaves. The Anglican church is, and was, a mainstream church, fairly conservative in its doctrine. In terms of teachings, it occupies a space between Roman Catholic and the other large churches, Lutheran and Moravian. There is no reason to believe that either socially, economically, or dogmatically, the Anglican church should have a different view of marriage than the population as a whole. So, I judged the Anglican records as a reasonable sample for my analysis. (Keep in mind that I first noticed this tendency toward illegitimacy in Lutheran records and have seen the exact same tendency in both Roman Catholic and Moravian).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Ancestors weren’t Married?! (Part 1-Intro)

I have heard that “Common Law Marriage” was common (pardon the pun) in the islands.  I had no idea just how common it was until I researched it myself.  Turns out that over 75% of the records I examined showed that children's parents were not married.

This series of posts will share the methodology I used and results I obtained by examining and recording over 9,000 baptismal records from 1841-1934. Since this is a long topic, I have decided to split it over several posts. In this first post, I describe why I decided to take up the study, and how it fits into the understanding of my family.  Subsequent posts will share what I learned.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Case Study: Amy McNobney’s Family

1802-Baptism Claudius Guert van Beverhoudt-p105a (Large)
1802 Baptism showing Sally MacNobney as a witness
Today I discovered an interesting record that seems to fit into my family tree, but it is indirect, rather than direct evidence of a family relationship.  I figured that I’d share it and the logic I used to add to my tree.
As I mentioned before, I have been going through Lutheran Church records and collecting information on Johannes van Beverhoudt and Amy McNobney’s children.  I found children back to 1790.  One of the children, Claudius Guert van Beverhoudt (b. 2 Nov 1802) had a listing of witnesses that included one “Sally McNobney”.  Since the surname was pretty rare on St Croix in 1802, it seems likely that Sally was related to Amy.  Since the most common relatives asked to be

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Photographing Microfilm Records

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Original Photo of Microfilm Record
After spending over 12 hours in the Family History Center looking through a single roll of microfilm, I had found some 200 pages of family information, but I was still finding records I had overlooked. This is great since it means that there is a lot of information to find, but I have a long way to go.  I have ordered a total of 5 rolls from them but can only spend about 3-4 hours per week at the center.  How can I possibly go through them all?  Then I had an idea.  What if I photograph the roll quickly and review it at my leisure at home?  So, I have begun experimenting.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Children of Amy McNobney

This week I have been spending considerable time with the Lutheran Church records on the FHC microfilm roll 38861. This is a time consuming process, but I really found a lot of good information.  In particular, I mostly settled a nagging issue I had concerning siblings of two of my ancestors.
Amy McNobney's Slave Tax Document from 1800
The oldest family I found in the censuses (taken in 1841) was the Amy McNobney family.  Amy appears to have been born around 1771 in St. Croix. In all the censuses, she lived at 45 Fisher St. (which I started referring to as “the old family home”) until her death between 1861-1870.  She appears in censuses in 1841, 1846, 1850, 1855, 1857, and 1860 with a rather large and constantly changing family.  I made the assumption that these people were her children, although I had no proof. Her “children” appeared to have all been born from about 1800-1817.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Photos: Cartes-de-visite (CDVs)

1890-Louisa v Beverhoudt (Medium) (2)
Louisa van Beverhoudt, 1890
This weekend I spent a big chunk of time going through the old pictures from St. Croix.  The pictures seem to run from about the 1880's to the 1980's in a variety of formats, including 4x6 cabinet cards and little cartes-de-visite.  I discussed the Cabinet cards in by post Profile: Mary Conrad Simonsen.  Most of the oldest pictures are of that format.  The "carte-de-visite", or CDV, was another popular format, approximately 2.5" x 4" and, like the cabinet cards, mounted on thick cardboard.  Sizes weren't variable since they were made by cutting down standard film sheets to pre-defined sizes. The process was developed around 1854 and became popular because it was easier and cheaper than older photographic processes.  It was common for people to get many of these printed up and hand them around, as the name suggests, as visiting cards.
When dealling with 19th century photography, it is important to understand a little of the history of photography.  The earliest photos were daguerrotypes (c. 1839) which were imaged on silver.  Ambrotypes (c. 1854) were on glass, and tintypes (c. 1856) were on cheaper iron (not tin).  This brought photography in reach to the masses.  Portraits of common

Friday, October 21, 2011

Profile: Mary Conrad Simonsen

One of the reasons I wanted to start a family history blog was to share my research on my family.  This week, as a result of my post “I Found My Great-Great Grandfather” I made contact with a cousin who gave me critical information to track one of my relatives, Mary Conrad,  and pointed me to another cousin, who was a descendent of Mary’s. As luck would have it, when I went through the boxes I described in “Treasures from Mom’s House”, I found pictures of Mary Conrad.  I figured this would be a wonderful opportunity to share the information I have on her and where it came from.  I thought my new found relatives would appreciate seeing it too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Treasures from Mom’s House

My grandmother Olga was something of a packrat.  When I was little we visited her in her house on Strand St. in Christiansted.  She had all kinds of stuff around, papers, knickknacks, odds, ends, everything a little boy could want.  She used to tell me she had a “Curiosity Shoppe”.  When she died, it took two trips to the island to sort things into what to ship, what to give away, and what to donate.  Fortunately, my mother kept the photos.  Boxes of them. That was 25 years ago.  Last night, we opened the boxesC. A. Conrad2 (Medium)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dealing with Bad Images

As you know if you’re following this blog, I’m working with microfilm images.  After I collect them I usually have to do some image manipulation.  Sometimes I just have to attach facing pages that have been scanned as separate frames and sometimes microfilms can be difficult to read due to darkening or lightening of the original document.  Here’s where scanning can be a real help.  This is a marriage record from 1820 of a Gertruyd van Beverhoudt (don’t know if she’s family yet).  As you can see, it’s very dark.

1820-Beverhoudt Andrea (pg 74)-detail

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Lutheran Family

Phew! I just finished going through a roll of microfilm at my local Family History Center (FHC).  The roll was FHL INTL 38861, Den Danske Folkekirke, Skt. Croix sogn (Danish Peoples Church, St. Croix parish).  It covers the Lutheran church records from 1797-1865.  It took about 10 hours to go through the roll, looking at just about every line searching for ancestors.  In Danish.  Well, the process was tedious but well worth it...
Book 8 Title-c (Medium)
Title Page from Baptismal Record from 1828-1860

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blogging for Cousins

Genealogy is a fascinating hobby.  Sometimes it is a scene from Indiana Jones (the dusty library scenes, not the grabbing artifacts from tombs and running from Nazis scenes), sometimes it is solving a mystery like on CSI.  It satisfies my inner nerd, collecting and analyzing data, citing sources, and compiling detailed histories of my family.  It helps me figure out “Who Do I Think I Am?”  But the greatest part is finding out that you have a whole lot more family somewhere in the world. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Found My Great-Great Grandfather

Today I made a great find at the Family History Center.  I located my 2nd great grandfather. This was a brick wall that I have been struggling with virtually from Day 1 of my genealogical journey.  I got started on this hobby (obsession) by chancing across an on-line database, the Danish Demographic Database (Dansk Demografisk Database).  This is a free searchable database of Danish censuses and church records.   They have a link to the St. Croix Census records on their site.  By querying this I found my grandfather (Ludvig Conrad), great grandfather (Christian Andreas Conrad), and his mother (Sophia Andersen).   No father.  No Conrad. I searched the VISHA database and Try as I might, I couldn’t locate a Conrad to be the source of that family name.  No Conrad appeared in any census that would fit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Great Find

I got a nice email today.  I had sent a request for information to the St. Croix Landmarks Society a short time ago asking for information regarding house addresses in Christiansted.  I wanted to be able to see where family members lived and who their neighbors were.  Unfortunately, knowing the addresses just wasn’t sufficient.  Just like tracking family migrations in the US from state to state, mine migrated from street to street. For example, Johannes van Beverhoudt (b. c. 1760) lived at 11 Queen Cross St and moved to 45 Fisher St.  How far was that?  Since these streets run perpendicular, this could have been next door or clear across town. 
The problem is that addresses tend to be unimportant in Christiansted.  Even current residents don’t know the house numbers.  Even Google Maps didn’t know.  It finds the street, but not the number.  I had tried every way I could think of, even posting a question to the St. Croix Message board at
All this got resolved with my email.  The St. Croix Landmarks Society just sent me a scan of a US Government Public Works map entitled “Old Limits of Christiansted Town” with each unit marked and numbered.  The map is undated, but since it is a US Government map, it must have been after 1917.
Map Of C'sted Town old limits - Copy
Section of Christiansted map showing the location of 45 Fisher St. in Red.
By looking at the map, I am finally able to answer the question about the residences.  11 Queen Cross and 45 Fisher St are contiguous properties.  They moved just around the corner.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Microfilm’s In–An Offer for Readers

I just found out that the microfilm roll I ordered from the FHL is in.  It is the Lutheran church records for St Croix (FHL INTL Film 38861) covering:

  • Baptisms 1797-1865
  • Confirmations 1788-1860
  • Marriages 1788-1864
  • Burials 1788-1822
  • Communicants 1805-1818

Given the number of Lutherans in my van Beverhoudt family, this may be a gold mine, and it may be a dud.  I’m hopeful for the latter.  I figure it will take me a while to get through the roll, given the time it took to go through the Anglican records posted by, so if I’m doing the time perhaps I can help someone else too.

If you think your ancestor might be on this roll, please let me know what to look for so I can keep an eye out for it.  I’ll need to know the names and approximate dates, and which section (baptism, marriage, etc.) I should look in.  If I can, I’ll try to get a scan of the relevant pages.

I’ll start at the beginning and go to the end either way, and after I finish this roll, I’ll order another (unless I find that my family didn’t go to that church).  The collection is 4 rolls.

I’m hoping to get started Monday Oct 10, so let me know if you want me to look for something.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Case Study: Adelaide’s Maiden Name

Sometimes it’s nice to have a family entirely contained within a single island the size of St. Croix.  From 1835-1911, 87% of the census respondents listed St. Croix as their birthplace. In the mid 1800s, most people didn’t travel from the island and lived their whole lives there.  This makes it possible to do things that are difficult in other places.  One key technique for research that doesn’t work as well elsewhere is “process of elimination”.  I used this process to find my 2nd great grandmother’s maiden name. In this post, I will show the process I followed and the value one can get by looking beyond the ancestors to other people in the document. Virtually all evidence I found was indirect evidence, but indirect evidence can be as compelling as direct sometimes.

The Problem

My great grandmother’s name was Hester Franklin van Beverhoudt (isn’t that a strange middle name for a girl?).  I found her in the 1860 census, age 3, living with her father Claudius and mother, Adelaide.  Adelaide and Claudius were listed as married in both the 1855 and 1857 censuses. The question was, how to find Adelaide’s maiden name.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Anglican Church Records at

A visitor to my blog suggested that I talk about the sources I'm looking at in my own research to share what's out there and perhaps give some commentary on the sources. That sounded like a good idea, so I'll start with the most recent collection I've been viewing. is the on-line presence of the Family History Library (FHL) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Among other things, the new FamilySearch site hosts browsable images of VI church records. On September 7, 2011 they added a collection of Anglican church records from St Croix for both St John's Episcopal Anglican in Christiansted and St Paul's in Frederiksted. These records are organized into groups of Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, and Burials spanning 1765-2009. This is quite a large collection of images of the church registers. Most of them appear to be originals, even showing editorial comments (such as payments for baptisms). Since, as I showed in my earlier post, Anglican was the largest denomination on the island, these are quite valuable resources for genealogy...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Religion in St. Croix 1841-1911

In my last post I discussed the genealogist’s go-to record, the census.  The DWI census records have one major advantage over US census records: they indicate religion.  This is very helpful as often the only source of birth and death records come from church registers.  How do you know which church to look at if you don’t know the denomination?  Fortunately, it’s right there in the census (Also it’s really convenient that there were only a couple of churches).   I thought it would be interesting to see how popular each religion was, so I collected the data from VISHA and performed an analysis.  Since the official religion was Lutheran, one would expect that most people would be Lutheran… but one would be wrong.

I tabulated all the St. Croix censuses spanning 1841-1911 (with the exception of 1857, which is mostly missing from the VISHA database). This was a total of 203,144 census records.  Of that number, only 987 indicated...

About the Danish West Indies Census

One of the reasons I decided to start this blog was to share information about the records, resources, and techniques of Virgin Islands genealogy. Periodically, I will post information on the types of records I find to help other researchers (who may not care about my particular family) understand what's available, how to get it, and how to use it. It seems natural to begin with the most commonly sought genealogical records: the censuses.
Detail from 1841 Census showing my great-great grandmother, Sophia Andersen and her mother Eliza Scott

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.