Thursday, September 6, 2012

So, What’s Interesting to You?

I’ve just returned from a short vacation to the sand and sun of southern Florida.  While I was away, I got an email from Bernice Bennett, the host of a genealogy oriented Internet Radio Show, Research at the National Archives & Beyond.  Ms. Bennett asked me if I would be a guest on her show on October 25, 2012 to discuss my research and the interesting topic of Virgin Islands genealogy.  Of course, I can’t refuse such an opportunity.

The show is a live broadcast web-feed show, with listeners commenting and asking questions through on-line chat.  It airs every Thursday at 8pm Central Time. The shows are available as podcast on iTunes for those, like me, who listen to the show later.  The show covers virtually all aspects of genealogy and family history.  I listen regularly.

Ms. Bennett asked me to send her an outline, or at least talking points, for what I want to discuss.  That’s where you can help.  What topics are interesting to you?  Was there a post you would like me to talk more about?  A topic I’ve not addressed you’ve been interested in?  Records I should discuss?  Island history?  Let me know and I’ll see if I can talk about it on the air.  What should we tell the rest of the community about our heritage? All ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Leave me a comment or send me an email at and let me know the kind of things you want to hear about, or things you think the other listeners would be interested in.  After I firm up the outline, I’ll post links to the show and information on how to get the podcast.  I hope you’ll tune in.

It’s not often the Virgin Islands get mentioned in mainstream genealogy circles, much less get a whole broadcast episode devoted to them.  Let’s make the most of it.


  1. Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr.September 8, 2012 at 1:01 PM


    I don't have any suggestions, as you're the expert and I'm a total newbie. But I'm looking forward to hearing your presentation.


  2. The three most important aspects of life in the Danish West Indies/Virgin islands are: culture, culture, and culture. (Also religion!) Virgin Islanders take their culture and their religion very seriously. Modern concepts such as "secular humanism", "secularism" and "atheism" are frowned upon, scorned, and looked at with pity. The churches were the foundation for the entire society. Especially in the Danish West Indies, everybody HAD to belong to a church. 18th, 19th, and 20th century Danish society couldn't conceive of an individual who didn't belong to some church or synagogue. "Confirmation" at age 15 was required by law! Secularism was an unheard-of concept. For that reason, the churches kept good records of births, marriages, baptisms, deaths, etc.

    As a child growing up in St. Thomas, what always fascinated me was their adherence to their religious and cultural traditions. In addition, another fascinating aspect is the sheer variety of the population. Variety in the sense that the V.I is extremely multicultural. You see people of every possible admixture, all displaying the best of all possible worlds: African, Danish, Spanish, Sephardic Jewish, Dutch, English and French, all thrown together to create a dignified, proud community of people deeply rooted in their Caribbean heritage.

    There were old families (like yours)that could trace their lineage back a hundred years or more with a continuous presence in the islands, families like the Christensens, the Creques, the Morons, the Melchiors, the Paiewonskys, the Lockharts, the Bornns, the Sassos, the Monsantos, various Maduro families, the Mooreheads, the Sibillys, the Mylners (descendants of a Danish sea captain), the Levins, the De Castros, the LaBeets, the Blydens, the Farrellys, the Jarvis family, and the Donastorg family, the Lawaetz and the Nelthropp Families of St. Croix, etc.

    While each of these families may have originated in a different country, they blended together into a Creole type of stew, adding intrinsic elements from each individual culture, yet creating a unique, hybrid Caribbean culture deeply rooted in the Old and New Worlds. It's like a little Danish and French cooking mixed old African recipes, like Aebleskiver and kallaloo, fish and fungi and mauby, served with a cold glass of Rum and Coke, and enjoyed while listening to a steel band and Quelbe music. Carnival time is a time when culture takes precedence over everything. It's when cultural differences are celebrated in great, festive syle, yet all representing one definable unit: Virgin Islanders. There is a tremendous pride that the people of the Virgin Islands share, a pride in their unique heritage and culture that started in Europe, swept through Africa, and took root in the New World.

    Nowhere in the world will you see such a unique population that is so aware of and proud of their Afro-Caribbean-European heritage, a heritage that, with the advent of satellites, internet and globalization, they will have to jealously guard if they want to keep it preserved for future generations.

    Here is a video explaining some of the musical and dance traditions of the Virgin Islands:

    Here's a short history and cultural tour focusing on Queen Coziah (a pivotal character portrayed in "Transfer Day"):

    --Good luck with your presentation, Dave!

  3. Here is a Virgin Islands historical timeline for easy reference: