This list is far from comprehensive but will I hope be useful to anyone wanting to find out more about early Jamaica and its inhabitants. I have divided it into those sites that are free to access and those for which a subscription must be paid.
The World GenWeb Page page hosted on Ancestry displays a large matrix of useful links for Jamaican Genealogy. It includes links to history, maps, pictures, civil and church records, probate and much more.
The Family Search site of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, is according to its own description “the largest genealogy organization in the world.” An updated version of the site now makes searching much easier combining sources and including the old IGI (International Genealogical Index). They have made images of the Jamaican Parish Register transcripts available online, ahead of completing the full indexing of all the Jamaican records, civil and parish. The earliest parish records date from 1664. The old handwritten indexes are only partly alphabetical, but usually helpful if you do not have a precise date and parish in mind. The early records mostly list only white people or those who were free, and where a child was born out of wedlock whether to white or mixed race parents, the parents are frequently not listed. As these records are transcriptions from the original parish registers they do include some errors.
Now a free site and crammed full of useful information, although you may have to dig to find what is relevant to you, is the Jamaican Family Search site run by Patricia Jackson. New information is being added all the time and includes an eclectic mix of land records; Jamaica Almanacs from 1751-1875; extracts from parish records; Methodist, Moravian and Jewish records; slave lists; newspaper articles; wills and monumental inscriptions; photographs, maps and prints and much more.
New in 2014 is the Jamaican Ancestral Records website which offers high resolution images of tombstones in Jamaica for sale with transcriptions if required.
The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) is a cooperative digital library for resources from and about the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean. dLOC provides access to digitized versions of Caribbean cultural, historical and research materials currently held in archives, libraries, and private collections. Useful material includes the 1910 edition of Caribbeana and the Jamaica Journal. There is an on-going project to digitise and make accessible much historic newspaper material.
A useful source of printed books and CDs of genealogical material particularly relating to the early history of the American colonies, which of course included Jamaica can be found at Genealogical.com.
Among Jamaica’s own websites relating to its heritage are the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Jamaican Archives and Records Department. The Caribbean Register of Documentary Heritage will point you in the direction of various collections of documents you may find helpful.
If you’d like to discuss your findings or seek help from others the Jamaica Genealogy Forum may be useful.
For history specific to the town of Port Royal, largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1692, you can consult the website of the Texas A&M University Port Royal Project which also has some Will and Probate inventory transcriptions.
An individual take on Jamaican history and one of its Plantocracy families can be found on Nick Hibbert Steele’s website on the Hibbert family. Recent individual journeys to find Jamaican roots can be found on the BBC website for the programme Who Do You Think You Are? and some can still be viewed through iPlayer while others are currently being repeated on other channels. The BBC Family History website is full of useful hints and tips.
Much useful material can be found through the UK National Archive website, especially Wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. You can download copies for £3.50 and can also request copies of other documents – helpfully they will send you an estimate of the cost before you find you have committed to paying for an entire boxful of documents! The a2a catalogue includes huge quantities of material held at other locations such as County Record Offices and often just reading the catalogue entries provides much helpful information.
For general historical background it is always worth searching in British History Online which is a ‘digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.’ Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust here you will find parliamentary papers relating to Jamaica, material relating to land ownership in England by Jamaican planters and histories such as Daniel Lysons late eighteenth century Environs of London. Some content is available by subscription only, currently £30 for an individual.
The Legacies of British Slave Ownership website makes available the details of the compensation records compiled at the ending of slavery and in many cases has biographical details of slave owners. It does not currently carry details of those who were enslaved.
For links to all things genealogical there is the wonderful Cyndi’s List one of the oldest established resources on the internet.
Some subscription only sites may be available for free through a public library, local studies centre or educational institution.
Dianne T Golding Frankson is an experienced Jamaican Genealogist whose colourful website Genealogy Plus includes some free material. She can also supply transcriptions of early Wills and conducts commissioned research on request.
You may find items of interest in old genealogy books such as those which can be downloaded in pdf format for a fee from History Book Corner. The site concentrates mainly on items relating to the United States but has family name books and some material relating to the UK.
Other Useful Information
Other sites I have found useful include the wonderful Measuring Worth website where you can calculate the equivalent value of historical sums of money in several modern currencies. Particularly helpful for the eighteenth century is the calculator of purchasing power.
If you have ever encountered an old occupation and didn’t have any idea what it was you may find this list useful.
If you are having trouble reading old handwriting, the alphabets on this site may help.
Last updated January 2016.