Each record should show as a minimum the following:
In addition, some records give title, age, occupation, nationality, and parish or place within an island.
This record set is a collection of a number of early census substitutes – lists of adult inhabitants – from some of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean which formed part of the British West Indies. The four islands included are:
• St Kitts
The range of years is from 1678 to 1753. It’s important to emphasise who might and might not be included in these lists, which are not all-name censuses of the kind familiar from, for example, 1841 to 1911 in England & Wales. Essentially, these records include only:
• Heads of household
• Men bearing arms
What this means is that they overwhelmingly show the adult male white population of these islands. In the original documents, held at The National Archives, against names in most of the lists there is a count of any other members of the household, usually divided by sex, age and race. This information has not been indexed. However, where a named individual is shown as having one or more Black members of their household, a working assumption has been made that these individuals would have been slaves, and we have recorded the fact of slave-owning in transcriptions. Some planters and merchants had dozens of slaves, while some householders had one or two slaves presumably working as the equivalent of domestic servant.
For the most part, women appear in their own right only where they are widows or, perhaps in some cases, spinsters who have inherited wealth or estate from a deceased parent. Married women are unlikely to appear.
The population included is the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish settler population, with some French, Jewish and Dutch (and perhaps others too). Only six Black men are recorded in their own right, three of whom are designated as “free negro” and are shown with both forename and surname; the other three have incomplete names, and two are servants. Nevertheless, the other records may be of value to Black historians as a potential indicator of the source of surnames on these islands, if, as often the case, an ancestor took the name of the man or woman who had been an enslaver.
Nationality is sometimes shown in the originals, although not necessarily accurately – the Welsh seem usually to be shown as English, and sometimes the Irish too. In some cases where the original document is silent, we have assigned nationality, based upon names, where it seemed safe to do so. This is especially true on the island of Montserrat, which had a large Irish population.
It is assumed that the records were compiled by English clerks. Spelling of surnames can be phonetic, according to English precepts, and therefore approximate and sometimes wrong. This is especially true of the Irish and French names, many of which are not spelt as per our current standards. For example, Irish surnames such as Donovan and Sullivan are spelt in many different ways which would now be regarded as non-standard – e.g. “Dunavane”, “Sullavane”. Similarly, Gaelic-origin forenames, which are common in the data, are written in Anglicised ways – Dermond, Murtow and Teige, for instance. Note that Florence (usually spelt as Flourence) is exclusively a man’s name in this record set.
The irregular spelling also applies to English surnames. Names such as Bishopp, Daniell, Gardyner, Hollyday and Perkinson may be correct or may represent earlier irregular or phonetic spellings of surnames of today. On the other hand, some forenames nearly always appear in one way in the original; examples include Mathew (and never Matthew) and Phillip (and only once Philip). Therefore, please exercise caution and discretion when searching the records.