Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sarah Barber: “Caribbean Heritage/Digital Access”

Sarah Barber

Digitisation and the Survival of Documents:
the records of seventeenth-century Barbados

1> This piece continues appositions’ recent contributions debating the value and pitfalls of digitisation, particularly with regard to material from the early-modern world.[1] Here is discussed the digitisation of manuscript primary sources relating to the Anglophone Caribbean in the seventeenth century. The diversity and diasporic nature of the Caribbean – here expressed as the Torrid Zone, covering the Carolinas in the north, Surinam(e) in the south and Bermuda in the east – means that surviving records are scattered around the world, making collection, access or synthesis very difficult. Digital catalogues, searchable by place,  have helped locate documents, provided that they are held by official, participating repositories.[2] Whilst the picture within the Caribbean itself is very variable, generally speaking the region lacks the resources to participate in such large-scale digitisation programmes; heritage remains a political issue, and is not a priority in economically-developing regions.[3] We are here, therefore, debating an ethical dilemma, relating the complex relationship which we hold with our own histories, with added layers of complexity and confusion because the Caribbean is the scene of the contestation and acculturation of past and present, white and black, free and enslaved, rich and poor, developed and developing worlds.

2> Seventeenth-century studies of the Americas, particularly its Anglophone territories, have been shaped by two, towering strands of teleological historiography. From the Americas, the period between late-sixteenth/early-seventeenth century adventurism and late eighteenth-century independence, labelled ‘colonial’, has invariably sheltered the question ‘why 1776?’, or in other words, how America escaped its colonial status. This has a particular impact on a study of the region embraced by the Caribbean Sea, between 35 degrees north and the equator, since it has the effect of separating the Carolinas from a region which was regarded as integral in the seventeenth century, across, through and around which people of all ethnicities, both genders and any social status – governors, clergy, planters, slaves, servants – ideas, and goods, migrated. Barbados was particularly important in this respect, since it was a small island, and by the 1650s, overcrowded, such that new opportunities on the mainland in the Carolinas -- Charlestown, Goose Creek and Port Royal -- or Surinam, led many in Barbados to desert or diversify their holdings.[4]

3> Historiographies on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean tend towards the imperial because historians are defined both by sources and by access to them. The empire was administered from London, much of the trade was shipped through the metropole, and the apparatus of empire allowed the centralised collection and storage of the documents which charted its operations. These ‘State Papers’ are housed at The National Archives, Kew. ‘Colonial State Papers’ have been commercially digitised and made available to the ‘educational and library market and . . . priced accordingly’ and include Colonial Office (CO)/1, Privy Council papers, and those of the Board of Trade and Plantations, ‘informed principally by recommendations from scholars and librarians, among whom we consulted widely’.[5] The State Papers, calendared or newly available in part, in digital transcription, provide a ready-made skeleton for studies of the Torrid Zone. They are also copious (though less so for the period prior to the Restoration, when the regimes following 1660 attempted to codify and rationalise the upheavals of the revolutionary century).[6] When added to the huge corpus of pamphlets which survive (the vast majority of which were published in London) a very detailed history of the lives of British settlers and those they governed can already be told.[7]

4> Whilst the survival of colonial records of administration provides a coherent regional story of centralisation and imperial administration, the period of increased independence has fractured regional coherence and produced a vast number of diverse sovereign states, each with their own archives' policy. There are both historic and current differences between islands and between islands and mainland territories, and there is an understandable desire to concentrate studies on one part. In this respect, Barbados receives by far the heaviest coverage. It was amongst the earliest parts of the Caribbean settled; it was rapidly and effectively reduced to a (pseudo) form of English administration; and it was not captured by a rival European power. It was the only territory in the region that was not inhabited at the time the English landed, thereby fulfilling Sir Francis Bacon's strictures to plant in a 'pure soil; that is, where people are not displanted'.[8] From the 1640s onwards it developed such a successful sugar economy that London regarded it as the jewel of the empire, a profitable and stable colony and a model of Plantation Society, in which a monoculture cash crop is produced, using economies of scale in land and servile labour force. The success or failure of the other territories in the Torrid Zone is apt to be measured by or modelled on the Barbados experience.[9]

5> But it could equally be said that Barbados is atypical: one of the foremost reasons is the volume of material for the island's seventeenth-century history which is still available in situ. It is the responsibility of three separate organisations. The Barbados Department of Archives (bda) is the main repository of historical records relating to Barbados. It operates from the former leper hospital at Lazaretto, St Michael, to the north of Bridgetown, a building which dates from 1907, and has the advantage of being stone-built, such that the records can be stored in the cool and dark, and relatively close to the campus of the University of the West Indies. It was established as an archives' office by an  Act of 1964, two years before the island obtained its independence from the UK. Those researching Barbados’s history often work through the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, formed in 1933 (the oldest such organisation within the Anglophone Caribbean), its Shilstone Memorial Library, and its journals, Caribbeana and Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.[10] The Society is based in the Museum building, the former military section of St Anne’s Garrison complex, to the south side of the city, around Carlisle Bay. The third institution is the University of the West Indies, at Cave Hill, which runs records’ management courses but confined to archives of its own history.[11] The West Indies Federal Archives Centre/Cave Hill Campus Archives was opened in 2004 with a mission to

select, acquire, maintain and make available, records of continuing administrative, cultural and historical value to the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. The Campus Archives will preserve the institutional memory of Cave Hill Campus as part of the total records management programme. The records of the Cave Hill Campus Archives will be stored, conserved and described in compliance with international archival standards. Provisions for the consultation of records will be made for those of the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean community that it serves. Access to the archives will be provided wherever possible and outreach programmes will be designed to meet the needs of users and potential users.[12]

6> The Barbados Department of Archives houses several corpora of documents which tell of the island’s seventeenth-century history. Only one of these is extant in secretary script: the levy book of the parish of St Michael.[13] Coinciding with the urban area of Bridgetown, this levy of the late-seventeenth/early-eighteenth century lists streets, house-owners along the streets, those living in the properties, and the quantity of sugar which was levied by the parish towards parochial works. Most often in the seventeenth century, this consisted of provision for the poor and the maintenance of highways. Plotting the data against an almost contemporaneous plan of the capital, such as that featured on Mayo’s map of Barbados of 1720, the historian is able to discern the relative affluence of streets and areas of Bridgetown.[14] It is also possible to demonstrate concentrations of populations, such as the Jews; individuals or companies of merchants operating both economic and social networks; and the cross-referencing of names against other evidence.

7> The bda also houses a transcription of the St John vestry minutes, between 1649 to 1683, although the manuscript transcription is from the nineteenth or twentieth century.[15] These again are concerned with provision for the poor and maintaining the highways, albeit in the case of this sugar-producing area of the island, among vestrymen and churchwardens who were planters of considerable wealth and social standing. However, there is also evidence of the operations of the local clergymen, particularly William Leslie (Lesly) and his replacement, Benjamin Cryer, who was the so-called Commissary for Barbados.[16] More importantly, for the process of the digitisation of these records, are details of the construction of the church and a house for Rev. Cryer. The former were in train around 1661, overseen by Samuel Major, for which two pounds of sugar per acre was to be levied towards its completion, rising to three, because the smaller sum was thought insufficient: in 1676 it was ordered that the church and porch be pulled down and rebuilt.[17] At its meeting at the start of 1679, weighing ‘the Inconvenience the Minister of the parish lyes under by reasone of the greete [sic] distance he lives from the parish Church and also ye Inconvenience to the parishioners thereby’, plans were made to build a house for the minister near to St John’s church.[18] Two pages detailed the building materials, process and dimensions – 40 x 21 feet – of a three storey, stone building with wooden porch, shades and staircase, which if fed into architectural software could reproduce a plan and sketch of one of the few descriptions of domestic-scale buildings from the seventeenth-century Caribbean.[19] The first edition of the Journal was keen to list and report on all extant heritage sites on the island, but despite the statement by Sir Richard Dutton, that buildings of ‘stone, or brick and covered with tiles, slate, or shingles, and built after the English fashion for commodiousness and decency, as well as strength’ were, by 1681, ‘general all over the Island’ only churches and plantation houses remained standing.[20]

8> There are voluminous parochial records which come under the heading of parish records, wills, and deeds.[21] None of the seventeenth century originals survive and historians are reliant on the transcriptions which were made in the late nineteenth century by a small army of civil servants, overseen by a senior official who checked and added his name in the margins at regular intervals. If these transcriptions had not been made, then likely any evidence of these records would have been lost altogether, but they nevertheless set up a number of questions for the historian (and the archivist) regarding the status of transcription and copy and who owns the intellectual property of each possible version. The civil servants who transcribed the documents were not skilled as historians, and whilst they may have had knowledge of Barbados, they lacked any of the seventeenth century, and its idiom and of the European elements of the documents. Thus, documents are not always transcribed in full. Deeds and inventories followed a regular legal formula, and publishers began to raise income by producing books of indenture, will, or deed pro-formas, onto which parties could write in details particular to their transaction.[22] An historian would very much like to know the progress that printing such pro-formas followed, places in which parties deviated from the formulaic legalese and why. Similarly, it is possible to glean some evidence of the levels of literacy in Barbados from the number of people who signed and those who made a mark, but the transcribers were far from consistent in noting such details or in detailing the nature and look of a mark. Names, particularly personal names, were spelled differently between and within documents but may not have been accurately read or transcribed by the civil servants, so often a degree of surmise is necessary in deciding whether two individuals are the same, or part of the same kinship network. There are areas in which the transcribers have not been able to read the original and have guessed at its contents, other places in which there is a wavy line, sometimes a gap, and sometimes the illegible material is just omitted and the ‘sentence’ carries straight on.

9> There are two types of parish document bound in a series of huge leather volumes and kept in repository at the Barbados Department of Archives. The first of these is known as ‘Deeds’, bound in volumes of nearly a thousand pages each (see fig.1), and collectively catalogued at ‘RB’.[23] They are indexed alphabetically, include deeds and counterparts, and

Photograph Sarah Barber, 2007:
BDA, RB3/1.

begin in earnest in 1640.[24] Before editorial correction, the index can be used to map the level of activity in the land market against prevailing conditions on both sides of the Atlantic, and make estimates, for example, of the relative volume of migration in response to the civil wars. With names edited, analysis within the index can reveal the relative affluence or otherwise of settlers, merchants and employees, the growth of companies and economic networks (which can be cross-referenced with other documents for both confirmation and expansion of the links), and secondary migration around the region. The list was originally taken, for example, to track the numbers of those present in Barbados between 1640 and 1660 who subsequently appeared to be planting in Surinam, representing diversifying of successful interests, re-starting of unsuccessful ventures, and political control and resistance.[25]

10> The author has, to date, collected a ‘copy’ of a portion of RB3/1, which covers the majority of the years 1640 to 1643, but the material is not arranged chronologically, either year on year, or within each year, so one of the editing tasks if a complete transcript should become available is to place the indentures in the linear order that they were issued. Whilst they are ostensibly a rather sterile list of legal documents, and are still consulted by lawyers seeking to establish claims to land and property in Barbados,[26] they are a huge and invaluable resource for the historian. They detail the individual wealth and status of planters, merchants and others who made a will on the island, or transferred property and had it described and inventoried; their labour force, and the respective proportions of servants to slaves; the location of land and/or property, and the origin and status of grantees. To offer one example, the deeds record two men, Thomas Brough, described as 'of Barbados'[27] and Jacob the White, a merchant, possibly Jewish, of Amsterdam, who were sharing accommodation in Brough’s thatched storehouse, subdivided into rooms. In the summer of August 1643 Brough sold a part share in his storehouse to White – for 3,000 lbs. of tobacco – to facilitate White's erection of an eight-foot extension in which to live, whilst the two men would continue to receive 'country' goods brought to them from the island, and should White be able to secure another worker, they would together grow, dig and dress potatoes.[28] Such humble origins of the merchant, settler and commodity markets of the West Indies signal a valuable corrective to the later image of sugar monoculture which generated Barbados's model plantation society. Even the idea of degree of dependence on and independence from the mother country are challenged by the early use of 'the country' to describe Barbados's hinterland. Similar in usage to the English conflation of 'county' and 'country', the description of 'the country' in the West Indies is an indication of customary practice developing, peculiar to individual settlements.

11> The second set of documents are catalogued at RL, and are predominantly transcriptions of parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Survivals begin from varying dates, which differ between sacraments. There are unexpected pitfalls for the historian of such material, since practice was not necessarily the same as that within the Anglican Church in the mother country. For example, often families did not have sufficient money to pay for the feast which constituted the minister’s ‘payment’ for performing a baptism – a disappointment for him, under-paid for his time in the tropics and reliant on such meals to supplement a meagre income[29] – and these were postponed until several children could be christened together, or waited until the individual was an adult. Such prosaic, practical considerations should neither be interpreted as a commentary by liberated (and not necessarily Anglican) parishioners on the contemporaneous debate about paedo-baptism nor optimism about the life expectancy of new-borns in the Caribbean. A cursory glance at the registers, let us take that of St Michael as an example, shows the value of both individual pages and overall trends. Our first example is a double page of the transcript of the St Michael parish registers, showing the period from 18 July to 2 September 1681.[30] Madam Thornburgh was of sufficient status to be buried in the church, whilst John Murphy and Isaac Hobbs were buried in the churchyard, despite being Roman Catholics.[31] On the 30 September, the birth that same day of John, a son for Captain William Marshall, provided the opportunity to christen both John and Samuel who was already nearly two years old.[32] On 1 September ‘7 men executed’ were buried: these were presumably seven of the eight sentenced to death – four for murder and four for burglary – by Sir Richard Dutton at the Sessions held between 16 and 27 August, but much to everybody's frustration, the transcriber had added the word ‘namely’ and then scored it out again.[33] Another individual sample page from the same register, in 1670, shows a hugely disproportionate number of burials in comparison with baptisms and marriages. This information, more systematically examined would reveal a great deal about historical demographics, but even this one page reminds us that one of the most dangerous aspects of Barbados was the ocean passage, and that a large number of burials, in a parish which included Bridgetown port, would be of people who had died at sea.[34]

12> Genealogists have been the predominant users of the voluminous corpora of Barbados material: and the main reason that use has not extended wider is the absence of systematic copying for analysis.[35] The records' offices of the Caribbean do not have the equipment or funding to engage in large-scale copying, particularly digitisation, and the Barbados Department of Archives stipulates that it will not allow the copying of manuscripts that have already been copied by another party. Individual users of the records’ offices on a short term basis provide a small but regular income for cash-strapped institutions, the usual user being a holiday-maker searching for ancestors, or a solicitor conducting searches for historical title. This kind of enquiry provides a controllable situation for the staff – readers are asked which name they are searching and can be directed to the precise volume and page through the index lists – which minimises handling. Thus, it is resident scholars who have had past, regular access to the archives, who have been able to make more systematic use of the manuscripts. The cost to scholars who have to come from further afield and remain for long periods is prohibitive.[36] In the case of Barbados, a number of private scholars – such as Ronald Taylor, son of the proprietor of Hothesal’s, St John, and Director of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, 1973-1980; and Jill Sheppard, for eleven years the Executive Director of the Caribbean Conservation Association and resident in the ‘Engineers' House’, Garrison – were able to spend extended time with the surviving evidence and produced valuable histories.[37]

13> Those who have made more systematic copies of large bodies of material are also connected to genealogy, wishing to facilitate the tracking of individual names. Collection of material has been dominated by two US-bodies: the Genealogical Company, based in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.[38] Both have engaged in large-scale ‘copying’ of records kept in Caribbean repositories, which enables records' offices to re-direct enquiries which depend on more systematic use of material. The parish registers have been microfilmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints and are available to consult through the Family History Library: the resources, both of storage and technology possessed by the Family History Library enables huge quantities of material, the copying of which would not be allowed in the original repositories, to be transferred from microfilm, via scanner to digital files (jpgs).[39] Even in terms of individual searches, the digitisation of the images which can be read as jpg files is a boon to the historian, as many which were previously unreadable can be made legible with selected areas of a page adjusted in tone, contrast, brightness and high-resolution zoom.[40] They remain limited, however, to individual searches by name, and are thus of huge value to genealogists, and to historians who wish to trace a humble individual (whose name they know), or those who wish to trace elite, political figures. They do not offer a window onto the existence of Africans in the Caribbean – not listed by name other than by familiar, given names – the social histories of the vast majority of white Bajans, or the survival of the indigenous Americans who came with the first English settlers.[41] The anecdotal evidence provided by the copies I have so far gathered provides tantalising additions to debates which have been conducted over many years, but for which statistics and comprehensive analysis are not yet available. Hilary Beckles instigated a debate over whether African enslavement in Barbados was prefigured by planters’ treatment of indentured labourers, particularly from Ireland.[42] One of the key differences between indentured labour and African labour was the loss of identity – specifically name[43] – suffered by the latter in the passage across the Atlantic, and whilst not seeking to deny the disproportionality represented by the numbers of unnamed and untraceable slaves shipped to the Americas, when set against single anecdotal examples, the appearance within the deeds of ‘Daniel the Irishman’ seems to connote that even this difference may not have been universal.[44]

14> If historians’ use of documents such as the parish registers, wills and deeds, however, is dependent on their being copied to the point at which systematic and large-scale analysis can be conducted, what represents ‘copying’ is a moot point, as is the point at which knowledge of the contents of documents becomes intellectual capital. The ‘ownership of knowledge’ is not considered greater than that implied by ownership or custody of the physical document. I have considerable knowledge about Barbados, and specific documents, but cannot share it whilst it falls within a format which might be considered copying - hence I cannot give image examples of the pages of registers discussed here. There are myriad problems, none of which have yet been resolved. The first concerns from whom to seek permission to copy. In the case of the Barbados parish registers (RL), does the fact that the physical documents have been copied onto microfilm open up copying rights, and is there a difference in both quality and extent between making public a single frame of these documents and making available large-scale copies? It could be argued that the fact that the physical documents are already 19th-century copies frees the historian to make large scale systematic analysis (and tools for analysis) of the seventeenth-century content available to others.

15> The author was given permission to make digital photograph copies of the St Michael levy book and the St John vestry minutes – the first seventeenth century originals, the latter 19th or possibly 20th century copies – in 2004. Permissions to copy these records digitally do not extend to making available copies of the photographs, or distributing extensive sections of transcriptions. Permission to copy did not apply to the Deeds (RB) however, possibly, although this was not explicitly stated, because of their extent. Readers are increasingly being denied access to these as the manuscripts are degrading, which further begs the question whether physical ownership may have to be relinquished (albeit temporarily) to send them to a repository in which they can be preserved; whether the bda will have to accept outside interference and resources to enable the manuscripts to be stabilised; and whether the need to capture the contents digitally becomes even more acute. It would have taken eight volumes of nearly 1000 pages each, with pages themselves which would take three or four photographs to capture in their entirety, to copy the deeds between 1637 and around 1720.  More explicitly, it was not clear, given the subject of the deeds – the historical fixing of claims to property in real estate – and their continued use in contemporary legal searches, whether permission to copy lay with the Department of Archives in so far as they were historical records, or with the Land Registry because they related to real estate. Application to copy using digital photography was made to the Land Registry and there was later a hugely frustrating encounter in which having been passed around various offices of the Registry, the Registrar maintained in interview that the decision lay with the Archives, whilst the Senior Archivist maintained the decision had to come from the Registry, but neither would commit that decision to paper.[45]

16> Assuming that application for permission to photograph the deeds may have been granted, a further visit to Barbados was arranged in 2007. An advance courtesy call just before the flight, however, revealed that it would not be possible to use digital photography, and having recently purchased recording equipment for oral history interviews, I speculatively requested whether I could speak the contents of a volume into a tape recorder, for which permission was granted. I thus had a total of nine working days, in which to sit in the bda and speak the contents (in a low whisper, so as not to disturb other readers) into a tape recorder. Thirteen tapes thus captured about two-thirds of the first volume of deeds. It had been thought that this would at least enable a pilot study to be constructed using the full records surviving for the year 1643; a case study which would demonstrate to the archives' office and the registry the value of being able to copy, edit, save and analyse on a systematic basis, the records of the deeds, display the findings using, for example, Historical GIS, and by demonstrating the sorts of knowledge and its range which could thus be generated to add hugely to our knowledge of Barbados both past and present. Unfortunately, it transpired that not all of the records for 1637 to 1643 were within RB3/1, but some were scattered in other volumes.

17> This means of capture necessitated parallel notes to be taken, as speaking the deeds could not capture the manner in which the nineteenth-century transcribers had rendered sections in Latin, the signs made as marks or their position,[46] or elements of additional information and marginalia which I felt it was important to record (fig.2). This process began the first ‘volume’ of a series of A4 spiral-bound notebooks (now a manuscript primary source in themselves) in which the manuscripts which cannot be digitally copied have been hand-transcribed,

SEB transcriptions, vol.1, p.8.

but the requirement to use pencil means these are liable to fading, smudging and indistinct scan imagery.[47] The taped sound was fed through voice-recognition software (in itself a problem since the tape recorder being used was not in itself digital, the words were spoken quietly, and so much of the language was alien, archaic or the result of original phonetic transliteration (particularly Irish names).
18> The original physical document, therefore, is an incomplete and inaccurate nineteenth-century transcription of the originals. These contents have then been rendered as voice, captured onto tape, fed through voice-recognition software, digitised as a largely gibberish trans-scripted version, edited to make the digital transcription sensible when set against the recorded voice, rendered into modern spellings,[48] edited to insert words and passages which can be interpreted from a knowledge of original form, names rendered in several possible spellings to allow for cross referencing, and other editorial and marginal information added, and these presented as a series of word-processor and jpg files. It is hard for the historian to accept that this newly-created version remains a copy of the original towards the facsimile end of the copying spectrum. Nevertheless, progress with this process has stalled. A research student went to Barbados in the year following the capture of the deeds on tape, to continue to copy at least 1643, from which he could produce a dissertation in which their usefulness could be demonstrated through a one-year case study. He was denied permission to continue recording the deeds vocally. The Archives and Land Registry announced talks to decide on appropriate legal permissions required to copy the deeds, fees that might be charged for doing so, and so on, but without a constant presence in Barbados to keep such decisions high on the agenda, no advance has been made.
19> Nor does prior copying open up future copying or transcription rights. Permission to copy remains with the custodians of the original documents (that is, the 19th century transcriptions). The contract between the Genealogical Society of Utah  and the Barbados Department of Archives to copy the parochial registers resulted in microfilms being available in 1978.[49] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are themselves possessed of very clear and defined parameters on the rationale for copying, bounded by the faith requirements of individual, familial searchers.[50] Although there are Family Search Centres around the world, and the FamilySearch.org web-search facility, the hub of their collection is in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library. Originally opened in 1894 to assist Church members in their own genealogical research, it is now open to wider public genealogical searches, and contains records of over two-billion deceased people.[51] The search engine provides an opportunity for individuals to add to the digitised records which can be searched online: there being ‘many opportunities for you to contribute to family history work and make more resources available to people around the world who are seeking after their ancestral roots’.[52] This is a valuable resource but is dependent on the accuracy of the record keepers, the families engaged in this work, and is hugely dependent on being able to trace particular individuals, by a name (and first name) already known, further delimited by date and place categories. One cannot search for 'Daniel the Irishman' in FamilySearch.org or in the Genealogical Company's databases of indentured labourers shipped to the Caribbean. A search for Thomas Brough, receiving any of the sacraments, between the dates 1590 and 1670, results in a list of 51 people, with Thomas Broughs from Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Kent, Somerset, Durham, Cheshire, and elsewhere, and no means of telling which of these, if any, travelled to Barbados, or what happened to him whilst he was there. The addition of ‘Barbados’ to the ‘place’ category yields no results. Jacob ‘White’, should he be a Dutch Jewish merchant, would not be listed in these Christian genealogies at all. Thus histories are determined by specific family trees, perpetuating the historical dialogues between genealogists and political historians, but excluding any study which requires statistical overviews of categories of people. ‘[P]ublication or distribution of the actual record images or documents (including via print or the Web) and wholesale indexing, transcribing, or translating of the records (even when these activities are for non-profit purposes) are prohibited by the contracts’, and thus the ability to analyse vast corpora of records, in a way which would be facilitated by digitisation, transcription, entry onto database and so on, is stymied.[53]
20> The records are too vast for one person to transcribe and enter for their own research purposes, and if the process of copying the records in the first instance is blocked (or prohibitively expensive), then later analytical processes will not follow. In the case of this piece, therefore, I cannot share images of the single pages of parish records copied in the Family History Library, nor photographs of individual pages of transcribed deeds. I can describe the content of individual deeds, such as the relationship between Thomas Brough and Jacob White, but you have to trust my relation of it and the form in which it is contextualised. Presumably, should a reader wish to check or follow up any reference, they would travel to Barbados to view the original deed (assuming that it remains sufficiently robust and stable to be produced). Whilst the large-scale transcription of the deeds is close enough in content to the original for it to constitute a copy in the eyes of the archives (and presumably land registry), the historian is frustrated that their knowledge, expertise and labour in rendering the documents usable (and some distance from their original form) is unable to be made available in a form which will advance wider knowledge. Despite having passed through a number of processes, I cannot publish a sample of the transcription process to show other historians or to illustrate the value and importance of the work, both in terms of preserving the content and generating the tools of historical analysis, because it is considered either too close or too extensive a copy (or both). Thus the work of the historian is devalued: in its own terms; in terms of contextualising the knowledge of other disciplines (including genealogists and archival scientists); in contributing to heritage, its preservation and its value in defining identity; and in terms of the dialogue between past and present.
21> The Torrid Zone which possessed such coherence, criss-crossed by networks, has become atomised in the modern world. Attempts have been made to make connections across the region – the Caribbean Community, ‘caricom’, and there is a network of regional archives, carbica -- but each location has a sovereign, post-Independence history, and carefully guards its difference, necessitating that not only do negotiations with each repository proceed with painful delay, but a parallel series of such negotiations is required for all the repositories under their different jurisdictions and employers.[54] In terms of funding opportunities, and the requirements of funding councils in the UK to record the contemporary impact of any research, the gathering and digitising of Caribbean records contains a strong thread emphasising the long-term ecological benefits generated by one person travelling the region and potentially digitising the records for on-line access, thus saving such extensive and repeated travel by others. The Caribbean, particularly the territories of the UK Commonwealth[55], maintain a delicate dependency with the former ‘mother country’, wishing to forge regional independence and self-reliance, distance itself from the past of slavery and possession, and distinguish between commemoration and celebration of parts of its heritage, whilst remaining reliant on the United Kingdom for tourist income and Commonwealth links to global resources. Outsiders and occasional visitors continue to associate the Caribbean with luxury and leisure – and scholars and their funders are prone to the same assumptions – and the presence of comparatively well paid and resourced academics, could be characterised as depriving a country of its intellectual ownership of heritage, to the additional detriment of the continued income which individual, non-academic visitors provide and which keeps an archive open and its staff in employment. What is required is a major international collaborative project, but first some progress has to be made in highlighting its importance, and scholars need to be able to publish seed-corn case studies to demonstrate the value of the whole.
[1] appositions: Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture, vol.3 ‘Digital Archives’ (May 2010); Sarah Barber, ‘Re-writing the British Caribbean’, appositions e-conference (2010), http://appositions.blogspot.com/2010/02/sarah-barber-rewriting-british.html (recovered 22.02.11).
[2] The most important for the purposes of collecting the records of the seventeenth century Caribbean is Access to Archives, operated by The National Archives, Kew:
(recovered 22.02.11), which is hugely important in locating records in repositories in England and Wales, whilst many corpora of records go unremarked in Scottish repositories. When funding streams dry up, there are not the resources to keep up these databases, add to them or correct mistakes.
[3] D. Akmon , ‘Only with your permission: how rights holders respond (or don’t respond) to requests to display archival materials online,’ Archival Science vol.10.1, (2010): pp.45-64; the debate about heritage and archives in the Virgin Islands is well advanced: J.A. Bastian,  (2001) ‘A question of custody: the colonial archives of the United States Virgin Islands’, American Archivist vol.64.1: pp.96-114; Idem., Owning Memory: How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found its History, (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2003); Idem., ‘Reading colonial records through an archival lens: the provenance of place, space and creation’, Archival Science vol.6.3-4, (2006): pp.267-284.
[4] Louis H. Roper, Conceiving Carolina: Proprietors, Planters and Plots, 1662-1729 (Macmillan, 2004); Sarah Barber, A Revolutionary Rogue: Henry Marten and the English Republic (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2000); Idem., 'Power in the English Caribbean: the proprietorship of Lord Willoughby of Parham', in L.H. Roper and B. van Ruymbeke (eds.), Constructing early modern Empires: Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp.189-212.
[5] Email correspondence, Chris Cotton  (Product Specialist, ProQuest) to Sarah Barber, 8 Feb., 2010 (recovered 09.02.10); Colonial State Papers digitised by ProQuest and marketed by Chadwyck Healey - http://colonial.chadwyck.com/ (recovered 04.02.10): TNA CO/1, Privy Council and Board of Trade and Plantations papers, for the Americas, 1574-1739, Calendar of State papers Colonial, America and West Indies.
[6] Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History (4 vols.), (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934-1938); K.G. Davies, The Royal African Company (New York: Longmans, Green, 1957). 

[7] Early English Books Online (EEBO), Chadwyck-Healey; Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), Gale cengage Learning; 17th-18th century Burney Collection Newspapers, Gale cengage Learning; Natalie A. Zacek, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670-1776 (Cambridge: CUP, 2010).
[8] Sir Francis Bacon, 'On Plantations', The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St. Albans (London: Printed by Iohn Haviland for Hanna Barret, 1625), p.198.
[9] Vincent T. Harlow, A History of Barbados, 1625-1685 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926); Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713, (University of North Carolina Press, 1972); Gary Puckrein, Little England: Plantation Society and Anglo-Barbadian Politics, 1627-1700 (NY: New York University Press, 1984); Carl Bridenbaugh, Vexed and Troubled Englishmen, 1590-1642 (New York: OUP, 1972); Hilary Beckles, A History of Barbados: from Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State Cambridge: CUP, 2003); Larry Gragg, Englishmen Transplanted: The English Colonization of Barbados, 1627-1660 (Oxford: OUP, 2003).
[10] ‘In Barbados we have waited over 300 years to found a historical society, but once this was founded there has been no delay in issuing a Journal’: ‘Editorial Notes’, The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (JBMHS), vol.1, number 1, (Nov., 1933), p.1.
[11] Archives Records Management Programme (ARMP), University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus,
 http://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/armp/ (retrieved 14.02.11).
[13] BDA, Parish levy of St Michael, 1682-1712, pp.53-190.
[14] Martyn Bowden, ‘Three centuries of Bridgetown: an historical geography’, JBMHS vol. xlix (2003): pp.1-138. This is work which has been done by undergraduate students on the Lancaster University level 3 course 'Society and Anarchy in the English Caribbean, 1600-1720'. It is planned to make some of this work more widely available through the research website, 'Disputatious Societies':
[15] BDA, St John vestry minutes, 1649-1683, 68pp: the original manuscript in 19/20-th c.(?) transcription, and transcribed into a MSWord document by the author in 2009. It was also used as a teaching tool with classes of third-year undergraduate history students, who, spared the difficulties of seventeenth-century palaeography were nevertheless given rigorous instruction in the value of accuracy, precision and completeness, and the mutability of names and other spellings, as well as the sorts of work undertaken by a seventeenth-century vestry.
[16] Commissaries were first appointed, by Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, across the foreign outposts of the Anglican Church, to act as overseers of the clergy within that region, and spokespeople for the clergy to the Bishop and vice versa: William Wilson Manross, The Fulham Papers in the Lambeth Palace Library: American Colonial Section (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965); Sarah Barber, ‘“Let it be an Englishman”. Scots and Irish in the Anglican clergy of the Caribbean, 1610-1740’, in Douglas Hamilton and Allan I. Macinnes (eds.), Mobility and Identity from Jacobitism to Empire, 1680-1820 (forthcoming 2012); P.F. Campbell, ‘The Barbados vestries, 1627-1700’, part I JBMHS vol.xxxvii.1 (1983): pp.35-56: part II JBMHS vol.xxxvii.2 (1984): pp.174-96.
[17] BDA, St John’s vestry minutes, p.15: meeting of the vestry, minister and churchwardens, 9 Sep., 1661; p.37, 5 Feb., 1676(7).
[18] BDA, St John’s vestry minutes, p.47: 17 March 1678(9).
[19] BDA St John’s vestry minutes, pp.51-52: 24 Nov., 1679. It appears from a reference to 1681, in which Benjamin Cryer was to be paid an extra £20 sterling as he was to move into ‘a new house’ that the building took around two years to completion; Roger H. Leech, ‘Impermanent architecture in the English colonies of the eastern Caribbean: new contexts for innovation in the early modern Atlantic world’, Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture vol.10, (2005): pp.153-67; J. S. Handler and S. Bergman, ‘Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838Journal of Caribbean History, vol. 43: pp.1-36.
[20] Sir Richard Dutton’s responses to the heads of enquiry about Barbados, 11 June 1681, The National Archives (TNA), Colonial Papers, vol. xlvii, No. 7, and Col. Entry Bk., vol. vii., pp. 76–84; Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, vol.11: 1681-1685 (1898), pp. 65-80; ‘The historic sites and buildings of Barbados’, The Report of the Committee to enquire into the present condition of historic sites etc.’, JBMHS vol.1.1 (1933): pp.16-32.
[21] P.F. Campbell, ‘Aspects of Barbados land tenure, 1627-1663’, JBHMS vol.xxxvii.2 (1984): pp.112-58.
[22] For an example of a surviving printed indenture from seventeenth-century Barbados see that between William Powrey (an alias for Hay) on the one hand and Anthony Turnell of Berkshire, dated 2 Dec., 1648, ‘Printed for Nicholas Bourn, at the South-entrance of the Royall-Exchange’: National Archives of Scotland (NAS), GD504/2/72/5/1.
[23] The first is RB3/1, and begins with a series of more political documents in which attempts were made to secure propriety following the dispute over agency between Henry Hawley and Henry Huncks (figure 1 shows RB3/1), and the index volume, valuable as an historical tool of analysis in its own right, is RB3/48.
[24] The author has a hand transcribed the index of names and volume references from RB3/48 – ‘Index to Recopied Deeds’ – between 1640 and 1660, and is in the process of typing up the list to allow it to be edited and analysed. This hand-written list comes to 171 A4 pages.
[25] Sarah Barber, A Revolutionary Rogue: Henry Marten and the English Republic (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2000), pp.124-40; Idem, ‘Power in the English Caribbean: the Proprietorship of Lord Willoughby of Parham’, in L.H. Roper and B. Van Ruymbeke (eds.), Constructing early-modern Empires: Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750 (Leiden: Brill Publishing, 2007), pp.189-212; John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI., Cabinet Gm667 Di Ms.: ‘A Discription of the Coleny of Surranam in Guiana Drawne in the Yeare 1667’.
[26] One of the main reasons that the deeds are currently consulted, but in consequence, a source of contested authority between the BDA’s responsibility to keep the island’s past, and the Land Registry’s role in ensuring just and fair rights to land in the present: see below.
[27] Even this seemingly small detail is important, signifying as it does, a degree of settlement and permanence on the part of this man operating as a merchant, although it makes it more difficult to trace his genealogy in Britain and Ireland.
[28] BDA, RB3/1 p.106, listed 9 Jan., 1643(4); given the construction of his name, Jacob may have been one of the so-called White Jews of the Portuguese East Indies, which fell under Dutch control: Pius Malekandathil, ‘Winds of change and links of continuity: a study of the merchant groups of Kerala and the channels of their trade, 100-1800’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol.50.2 (2007): pp.259-86.
[29] The ministers were often without glebe, we have seen that they did not have a stipulated house, and regular payments of levy, in kind, were not made by parishioners and were of no immediate use to the minister if paid, for example, in cotton wool: Barber, ‘Let him be an Englishman’, op. cit..
[30] BDA, St Michael, Barbados parish register, photograph by Sarah Barber, ‘St Mich 261.jpg’, created 27.09.09.
[31] This may have been Helen Rich, née Thornborough, grand-daughter of the Bishop of Worcester, and married to Robert Rich Jnr: Vere Langford Oliver, Monumental Inscriptions: Tombstones of the Island of Barbados (n.p.: Borgo Press, 1989), p.6 (Oliver originally collected his grave memorials in 1913-14).
[32] Samuel was born on 2 Nov., 1679.
[33] Col. Papers, Vol. xlvii., No. 49;  CSPC vol.11, 1681-1685 (1898), pp. 98-105.
[34] Figure 3: BDA St Michael parish register, photograph by Sarah Barber, ‘St Mich 163.jpg’, taken 27 Sep., 2009, showing entries from 22 Jan.- 27 Feb., 1670(1).
[35] Geraldine Lane, Tracing ancestors in Barbados: a practical Guide (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company Inc., 2006).
[36] Records offices and registries often charge a daily rate to readers, the Registry on the outskirts of Spanish Town, Jamaica, is one example, and whilst their records (in this case, wills) are on microfilm, they do not possess the equipment to copy the reels, or to make print-outs from them in situ, so the only option is to hand copy what amounts to 500 pages of un-catalogued material, out of chronological or page order.
[39] Barbados Parochial registers, Series A, 1637-1850 (Anglican), Salt Lake City, Utah, filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978: a total of 38 reels of 35mm film. The Index to the parochial records is catalogued as BDA numbers RL1/57, 65, 68, 69. There are also St Michael baptism, marriage and burials from 1648; Christ Church baptisms from 1637 and marriages and burials from 1643; St Philip baptisms from 1648, marriages and burials from 1672; St John marriages and burials from 1657; and St James baptisms, marriages and burials from 1693.
[40] This is most striking with the court records known as Record of Enrolment books: Court of Common Pleas, Antigua, 1676-1907,  Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1993, 10 reels, 16mm. Those collected are ROE Book, Box 187, 1676-1739, a total of 69 document images. The originals are so fragile they are unable to be produced and the microfilms, left unedited, are illegible.
[41] Jerome S. Handler and JoAnn Jacoby, ‘Slave Names and Naming in Barbados, 1650-1830’, The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd.ser. vol. 53.4 (1996): pp.685-728.
[42] Hilary McD Beckles, White servitude and Black slavery in Barbados, 1627-1715, (Knoxville, TN.: University of Tennessee Press, 1989); Idem., ‘A “riotous and unruly lot”: Irish indentured servants and freemen in the English West Indies, 1644-1713’, William and Mary Quarterly  3rd.ser., vol. 47.4 (1990): pp.503-522.
[43] Other forms of identity loss, because of the enormity of the breach with Africa which the slave trade engendered, have been partially addressed by technological advances such as genetic testing.
[44] In June 1640 appraisers listed the property (chattels) on the estate recently purchased by  Ensign George Buckley, which included the labour of eleven indentured male servants, one of whom was listed solely as 'Daniel the Irishman', whose labour was worth 100lbs cotton wool per year, in comparison to others, whose labour could be worth over seven times as much: BDA, RB3/1, p.14.
[45] Letter, Sarah Barber to Mr Timothy Maynard, Barbados Land Registry Department, 02.04.04: permission at this stage was sought to copy up to the year 1700, and thus for volumes RB3/1-7. Subsequent experience shows that extending the seventeenth-century search to c.1720 is prudent and would involve including vol.RB3/8; Timothy Maynard, ‘Country experience in land issues – Barbados’, (Land Tenure Center, 2003).
[46] Most marks are recorded as a simple x-cross. For the deed of Adrian Turke, however, the transcriber has drawn an escutcheon featuring three curved lines which are probably either scimitars or crescent moons: BDA, RB3/1 p.98; Sarah Barber transcriptions, vol. i, p.11.
[47] There are currently ten volumes of these notebooks, amounting to approximately 1000 pages of transcript. Figure 2 is scanned here at a resolution of 600dpi, and it is still not possible to read those sections in which the pencil marks have not been subsequently overwritten in black pen (which makes the process even longer and more cumbersome).
[48] It is possible to spell out words in the voice-recognition software, but imagine how much time is added to this process when virtually every word is not spelled consistently, and one has no means of knowing how accurate was the nineteenth-century transcribers' versions in any case: thus, ironically, the decision to modernise the spelling renders the 21st-century version closer to the 17th-century originals.
[49] Barbados parochial registers, Series A, 1637-1850 (Anglican), SLC, Utah, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978 (38 reels, 35mm). There is also a burials’ register for ‘other denominations’ which dates back to the seventeenth century, in this case the prominent Jewish community in Barbados: BDA, RL1/86 (hand  transcribed, SEB A4 notebooks, vol.5, pp.6-10); E.M. Shilstone, Monumental Inscriptions in the Jewish Synagogue at Bridgetown Barbados with Historical Notes from 1630 (Barbados: Macmillan, 1988).
[50] The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘The Family’, http://lds.org/family/proclamation?lang=eng (recovered 22.02.11): ‘The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally’.
(recovered 22.02.11).
[52] https://giveback.familysearch.org/: ‘Giving back: together we can make a difference’, (recovered 22.02.11). Amongst current projects is listed the baptism records of Jamaica from 1664, but this is the only Anglophone  listing from amongst very few that cover the Caribbean  region and seems less concerned with earlier time periods than the 19th century onwards. My thanks go to the National Archives, Spanish Town, Jamaica for providing a full set of microfilm copies of the extant parish registers of Jamaica to c.1720.
[53] Email: Anonymous respondent from Family Research Support [Support@FamilySearch.org] to Sarah Barber, 21.02.11 (recovered 22.02.11).
[54] http://www.caricom.org/ (recovered 22.02.11); carbica (2011) Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives,
 (recovered 15 February 2011).
[55] And regional islands which are British Overseas’ Territories.
Dr Sarah Barber is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Lancaster University (UK), specialising in the seventeenth century.  Her recent work has been dedicated to identifying, collecting and disseminating the extant history of the Anglophone Caribbean. This has widened the debate about intellectual property, copying and public access, explored here.
Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern
Literature & Culture,
ISSN: 1946-1992,
Volume Four (2011): Texts & Contexts


nickdavey said...

I am searching for a Marriage in circa 1671 in Barbados of Lt Rupert Bellingsbe/Billingsley, His son Rupert is Baptised in Aug 1671 St Michaels, Barbados.

Any suggestions would be grately appreciated.

Nick Davey

John Billingsley said...

This would be the Capt. B. who stayed with his men when the Constant Reformation founded off the Azores The Prince was taken to another ship and presumably the young Rupert when with him to become one of the 8 Admirals painted by Dahl c 1710.?