Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Call for Help: Virgin Islands Departure Lists

I began this blog because I couldn’t find any online resources to help guide my research and I thought that others may be having the same issues.  I wanted to share what I had found and maybe create a small community to share our knowledge and excitement of this particularly interesting region.  Over the past few months I have received many comments and emails from readers, letting me know that we are a community and that there was such a need.

Occasionally, I get requests for assistance from readers working on their own research.  I welcome these, as it gives me a chance to take a break from my own family for an evening and chase down something new. It’s hugely gratifying to find someone's family and help them push their research forward. 

Sometimes, though, I get requests that I don’t know how to fill.  I usually try to give suggestions as where someone might look, but I don’t always have a good answer.  So, I thought that maybe I’d throw these questions to you, my readers.  Many of you, to judge from your thoughtful and insightful comments and emails, are quite expert in the resources and records of the islands and may have access to things I don’t yet know about.  From time to time, I will post a “Call for Help”.  I’m hoping that all of us can learn from all of you.

I have received a couple of requests for information about people leaving the islands.  I know of no source of emigration records, and only limited immigration records.  Here is an example I got tonight:

Keturah Eliza Krause was born in 1882 on St. Croix and her son, Ira Vilhelm Sanberg was born on St. John's in 1903. From Keturah's application for a passport in 1917 she stated you left the VI in 1907 to go to Germany. From there she went to Holland. In 1921 she went to Belgium and was expelled in 1924 and went to Denmark. From the Danish records we know that Ira was in Copenhagen in 1919 and died in Denmark in 1943.

My question is, are their any records of people leaving the Danish West Indies during that period. We do not know if Ira went with Keturah or went at a different time.

If anyone knows of emigration records from the islands in the early 1900’s (or any other time, for that matter), please post a comment or send me an e-mail at delynch@verizon.net and I will pass it along to the requester.  I’m sure many of us would like to know if these records exist!


  1. If Keturah left the island with her son, most likely his name (and photo) would also appear on her passport application. I remember a few years ago the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in Frederiksted hosted an exhibit about the first ever passports issued to Virgin Islanders (1917-1918) who were leaving the islands to go to NY, Puerto Rico, wherever. Some of those passports were on display plus the stories and photographs behind the individuals. Here is a portion of an article from 2006 regarding the exhibit:

    " traveling exhibit on Transfer Day is presently at the Caribbean Museum Center on Strand Street and Fort Frederik in Frederiksted. The exhibit features photo transparencies of the first V.I. residents to request passports following the 1917 transfer. The exhibit highlights include a 1917 video clip taken at the transfer ceremony, an audio presentation of Transfer Day recollections from an 8-year-old girl witnessing the ceremony dreaming of eating "American apples," photography and paintings of the era. The exhibit successfully captures a significant moment in V.I. history.
    Collaborating on the project were St. John artist Janet Cook-Rutnick, digital media artist Edgar Endress, Syracuse University anthropology Ph.D. student Lori Lee, playwright and poet Edgar O. Lake, storyteller Elaine Jacobs and St. Johnian Theodora Moorehead."

    You can reach the Caribbean Museum at 340-772-2622 or at info@CMCARTS.ORG or you can contact Janet Cook-Rutnick about how to get more information about these passports or where the passports are actually stored at cookrutnik@gmail.com.

    Here is a link that shows you some actual passport applications plus photos. Lamentably, none of them are of your Keturah, but I'm sure her application exists somewhere!
    (This website should also direct you to the exact location of these early passport applications in College Park.)
    Good luck!

  2. David,
    In the VSHA documents that were removed, there were documents for applications of incoming and outgoing, and for moving from country to town and visa versa.
    These documents, are as you know, during the Danish period

  3. I think it would be best to call Denmark to see if they could provide those records.

  4. Delighted that I found your site, fantastic info. I will bookmark and try to visit more frequently.


  5. Welcome and I hope you come back often!