In the 1970’s my parents and brother immigrated to Canada and soon after I was born. Growing up, I had been asked on multiple occasions where my family was from. I’m a 1st generation Canadian, and my family is from Barbados. When I would reply with “Barbados” or the “West Indies” it would almost always be received with the same response. A strange look followed by, “But you’re not black” or “Yeah, but where is your family REALLY from?”. My response was always the same. “They are REALLY from Barbados”.
Sometimes they would push, “But where are your grandparents and great-grandparents from?” “Barbados”, I would respond again. At which point the conversation would be dropped, usually with a confused look from the other party. Barbados is all I knew and had known. As a child I had a hard time understanding why it felt like people wanted to argue with me or seemed to be searching for another answer to come out of my mouth. As I got older, I learned what a stereotype is and realized that many Canadians and Americans unknowingly have them. There is a misunderstanding of Caribbean history and there are a lot of people who believe that to be from the islands you must have certain skin tones. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Each island has a diverse history of its own and there are proud West Indians and Caribbean people of all colours and stripes.
Eventually, after having this conversation with so many people over the years, I started to wonder and felt the need to seek for answers myself. Barbados was settled in the 1600’s and my family surnames are all deeply rooted on the island. I had so many questions.
* Were my ancestors among those first settlers or did they come to the island much later?
* Were they wealthy landowners or indentured servants?
* Were they Enslavers or were they the Enslaved?
* Were they white or were they black?
The truth is, I didn’t know. I did not know any of it. I was a young teenager when I first started to wonder about these questions, and I was fortunate enough to still have my grandparents around so that I could ask them. I did discover a few things… mostly that they did not know either, nor did they like to talk about the past. Looking back, I am glad that I had the chance to ask the things that I did, although today there is so much more that I wish that I had the foresight to have asked or have pushed on when they were still alive.
Over the years I started researching, asking, probing and searching. I stumbled at first, especially before research on the internet was available. I joined a lot of online groups and met strangers in cyberspace that would point me in the right direction. In time I learned where to find the best research sources and would visit the Archives in person. Thanks to over 25 years of trial and error, I’ve learned great tips and some do’s & don’ts along the way. Time gave me experience. I eventually started helping others and am especially proud of the connections that I have made for adoptees, missing family members, and stitching together my own family history. My research has led me to meet extended family members and develop great relationships with so many amazing people. It has been an honour and some of the most rewarding work I’ve done. It is this passion that led me to further my Genealogical studies and want to help other people find their own family stories and connections. Going back to school to study professional genealogy skills, DNA & Genetics, ethics and the Genealogical Proof Standard has been invaluable.
In my own research, I found things that I was not expecting. I think that most people do. Some of it I’m proud of knowing and on the flip side, some of it makes me uncomfortable. Depending on what you are looking for, Genealogy Research is an endeavor that can be never ending and constantly expanding. I am constantly learning and finding out new things. I’m thankful to learn what I have so far and was surprised to see how deeply my roots go in all directions, touching different areas of Barbados’s past. The research keeps unfolding, but I did find the answers to which I was seeking above.
The answer was “yes”. To all of them.