Whenever someone comes to me with a tough 1600s and early 1700s research problem (both Catholic and Protestant), they always want to know about records in Ireland. Well, there aren’t that many, but people are usually shocked when I ask if they have looked at the Caribbean. The early colonial migrations were so often from Ireland to the Caribbean and then up the coast.
Irish went to the English Caribbean colonies as indentured servants, slaves, plantation workers, prisoners, exiles, merchants, and soldiers. Much of this was just prior to the full scale importation of African slaves. In fact, the island of Montserrat was an Irish Roman Catholic colony! Another little known fact is the original parishes of South Carolina were named after the Barbados parishes. This was because settlers from Barbados immigrated north to help develop South Carolina.
Main English islands where Irish immigrated or were brought include Bermuda (1609), Barbados (1627), Jamaica (1655), and the Leeward Islands: Antigua (1632), St. Kitts (St. Christopher) (1623), Nevis (1628) and Montserrat (1632).
It’s amazing that between hurricanes, volcanoes, rain, fungus, earthquakes, insects and humidity that anything survived. Much is available either in the Caribbean or from copies filed in England. Key records have been inventoried in Christiana K. Schaefer’s Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americans (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).
Many records have been published or are on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Others are at the National Archives in Kew, outside of London, and still others are at the archives on the islands. Regardless, access to these valuable and essential records is now easier than ever.
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