Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library
The Registrar General's Department (Island Records Office) moved in July 1996 from Spanish Town to Twickenham Park, St. Catherine. If you head west on the Spanish Town Road from Kingston you will pass the records office on your right. At the next round-about (which is one of the favorite inventions in Jamaica--they are everywhere!) you will go east, and park in the outer parking area or in the dirt lot next to the offices. The buildings and a small parking lot are behind guarded gates. There are tents and an area that sells refreshments (patties, of course!) to those who are waiting. Available here, among other things, are the copy registers of births, deaths, etc., (including Dissenter records), wills, and land deeds.
1. Copy Registers
In 1825 the Registrar's Office was set up. The churches sent the Registrar copies of their registers (see 'Archives' below for the registers in question) that existed at that time,. and sent annual transcripts thereafter. The annual transcripts were then copied into books which contained records from all the parishes. Indexes were prepared by the Registrar's Office listing the volume and page for each of the copy registers. For the period from the earliest register up through 1870 each parish has an index of from two to four volumes. There is also a separate and incomplete index for 1860-1871.
In 1843 a law was passed making it mandatory to register births and deaths. The registers were kept for a few years, but not many people complied with the law and it was repealed. From 1871 through 1880 there is a separate set of registers, the Law 6 Registers, with an index of their own. Finally in 1880 Civil Registration came into effect. Registration records are kept by parish and district.
These indexes and registers may be consulted at the Island Record Office at Twickenham Park. The Mormons, however, have microfilmed all of these (starting in 1987) and the films can be rented from Salt Lake City for use at one of their local Family History Centers.
In 1982 when I first did research at the Registrar's Office in their former quarters in Spanish Town, the hard copies of the Registers were available for research in the Armory. It is fortunate that they have now been microfilmed, as the storage area was not protected from dust, and the books were on open shelves. Pages that had come loose from some books were lying in the area but it was probably almost impossible to identify the books from which they had come. Many pages had deteriorated, the ink had faded, and the books showed the effects of the tropical climate. These books are now stored in an air-conditioned vault in the Island Record Office. See photograph at the IRO
2. Wills and Deeds
In 1982 when I first researched wills, people were standing at a counter while consulting the will books. Now that the Records Office is in new facilities it is much more comfortable to do research. If you want to research wills, take with you a list of names and death dates for the testators you are researching. To do research, use the entrance on the right. [See photograph IRO]. You will sign in and receive a visitor's pass from the security personnel, and proceed to the IRO. Once you are seated in the research area they will collect your research fee. As of February 2010, the charge for using the IRO facilities for research is $600 JA per hour to do genealogy research. If you only want to look at Wills and Deeds the charge is $100 JA per hour. If you are doing research in the Registers you are issued rubber gloves for protection. There are also microfilm readers. The cost of a photocopy is $100 JA per page, if it is marked "Specimen." Other copies cost more. (To find the current exchange rate on the Jamaican dollar, you may go to the Announcements page, and click on the link to the Bank of Jamaica exchange rate).
Incidentally, the Mormons have microfilmed the original Supreme Court Wills in Jamaica, and the films became available for use in 1997. Indexes to the Supreme Court Wills are in the Members' pages on this site. The Mormons did not microfilm the District Court Will Books ("LOS", Old Series), or the Resident Magistrate Court Wills ("NS", New Series). The District Court Will Books and Deed Books ("LOS", Old Series) have been microfilmed by the Island Records Office, but are only available for viewing there.
To contact the IRO by e-mail or view the web site for The Registrar General of Jamaica, General Register Office and Island Record Office: http://www.rgd.gov.jm/
When the Island Records Office moved from the Armory in Spanish Town, the Archives [see photographs Archives] remained in their building next door. Their website is at http://www.jard.gov.jm In 1982 I found the conditions to be in total contrast to the Records Office. Here all the books are neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied with pink 'legal ribbon' to protect them from dust. Researchers must use pencils and not pens. There are no card catalogs per se. Items are listed in ledger-type books kept which you may consult in the reading room. You are allowed to take digital photographs for a fee. A member of the staff in the Archives will also take digital photographs which you may then save on your flash drive (USB Drive). Among the items available here are:
1. Original Anglican Parish Registers
In each Anglican Parish Church registers were kept of the local baptisms, marriages and burials. The earliest records are those of the St. Andrew/ St. Catherine/Clarendon areas where some of the entries go back to 1664-1668. In the other parishes records go back as far as 1722-1794, depending on the parish. (The final 14 parishes which now exist were not settled on until 1866. Over the years parishes were split or combined, and borders were moved.) For the most part these "original Parish Registers" are now kept in the archives. There are no indexes. These are very useful if the page from a copy register is missing and you know exactly what date you are looking for. They also have the advantage of being by parish.
2. Dissenter Records
Some of the original Dissenter records are in the Archives.
St. Andrew Scots Kirk started 1819. Baptisms 1819-1850. Marriages 1838-1850.
Brown's Hall (11 miles north of Old Harbour) and Doddington (near Point Hill) 1924 and later.
Records from several churches in St. Elizabeth were being maintained in Moravian Archives, but they were sent to the Jamaica Archives in 1974 on loan. Records start in 1834 and are in numerous volumes.
Most of the Methodist baptisms have been transcribed and placed on this site. For details and links to pages, see Methodist Baptisms.
(Note: Copies of the Methodist marriages are also included in the Dissenter Marriage records. The marriages have been microfilmed by the LDS.)
Falmouth circuit, Trelawny baptisms 1824-1874. (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
Coke Circuit, Kingston baptisms 1821-1927 (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
(The Coke Circuit includes Kingston and Port Royal)
Port Royal baptisms 1837-1936 (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
Kingston marriages 1840 and later
Stony Hill marriages 1840 and later
Montego Bay baptisms 1827-1909. (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
Montego Bay baptisms and Negro marriages 1818-1826. (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
Montego Bay marriages 1827 and later
Lucea marriages 1827 and later
Spanish Town baptisms 1828-1874 (transcribed and placed on this site), (images of records from 1875 to 1881 are also on this site,) and 1882 to 1961(not on this site)
Spanish Town circuit baptisms 1875-1881
Spanish Town marriages 1829 and later
Brown's Town circuit, St. Ann baptisms 1838-1898. (Transcribed and placed on this site.)
Brown's Town circuit, St. Ann marriages 1840 and later
These are itemized appraisals of the personal property of deceased persons, whether or not they had a will. Values are assigned to each item. Any slaves they had are named. The index of inventories lists names and years, but no parishes.
4. Patent Books.
Patents were recorded in these book starting in about 1661. Generally these are copies of land grants, documents conveying the public lands to individuals. The early years also contain some indentures recording sales of property from one individual to another, as the "Deed Books" (which are now at the IRO) were started at a later date. The indexes to the patents generally give the name, number of acres ( or "foot land"), month and year. The patents generally had very long preambles about the King who was granting the land. At that time England was trying to persuade people to colonize Jamaica. Grants were being made of public lands, usually in return for an annual "quit rent". Some land was later given to second parties because the first had failed to pay the annual quit rents due to the King.
5. Plat Books.
These contain records of land surveyed, many of which were land grants. Each contains a description of the land and its boundaries. Most of the Plats have a roughly drawn chart of the land being surveyed or granted.
6. Manumission of Slaves.
Records of deeds freeing slaves 1747-1834. Release of apprenticeship 1834-1838.
7. Registers of Returns of Slaves.
Returns made by each slave owner 1817 to 1832.
C. The National Library of Jamaica
In the earlier years The National Library of Jamaica [See photograph NLJ ] was known as the Institute of Jamaica [see photographs Institute]. There are very few books printed in or about Jamaica that are not included in their holdings. They also have many books about the other islands of the British West Indies.
Here there are books, other than rare books. There is now a computerized catalog for these books. There are also collections of Biographical Notes on individuals. These notes may be copies of newspaper clippings, letters, items from books, etc. Each surname (or name if there are many items) has its own folder. The receptionist has a book with a list of the names available. You fill out a request for each name you need. Request forms must be filled out here for items on this floor or in rare books.
First floor or mezzanine
Rare books are housed on this floor. The library has the Almanacs for 1780 through 1881. They also have the records of Private Acts that were passed. Photocopies are made for you by an attendant, and paid for on this floor.
Manuscripts can be consulted and are listed in a computerized catalog.
Newspapers from 1780 to the present can be seen on microfilm. The desk clerk has ledger-type books that list the newspapers available.
Maps can be seen, and are listed in a card catalog. They have surveyors' maps that provide information on over 20,000 land holdings in Jamaica. If you wish to consult more than 5 maps you have to reserve them 2 days in advance. Maps can be photographed for you (not photocopied). There is a price list available at the desk. The photographs will be ready for you in 7 days.
You may view the web page for The National Library of Jamaica at: http://www.nlj.org.jm/
Photocopies of maps may be purchased here. Maps vary in area from individual properties to the entire island.
In St. Andrew (Kingston 10), Jamaica, at the junction of Dunrobin Avenue and the Constant Spring Road there is a Family History Center at the Mormon Church. Here they have the microfilms of the Jamaican registers that the Mormons did in their first filming. You should call ahead to ascertain the days and times that they are open. If you are on vacation in Jamaica and know what you are looking for, this easy access to films can be a great help, even though they do not have a photocopier.
In Salt Lake City the Mormons have some microfiche and books that list information about the Archives. (Books may only be consulted in Salt Lake.)
As mentioned above, there are also Family History Centers around the world, which are open to the public for genealogical research. Films can be rented from Salt Lake for short term (3-4 weeks), long term, or on an extended basis. If you are just starting research, once you have obtained information from your oldest living relatives, this will be your best tool. To find the Center nearest you, go to their site at https://www.familysearch.org.
For further information about the LDS microfilms that are available at their Family History Centers, please go to Microfilms.
If your ancestors were Roman Catholic, you could make arrangements to visit the Roman Catholic Archives at the Archbishop's Office, 21 Hopefield Avenue, Kingston [See photograph Chancery]. For the Archivist it is a labor of love, and you will have to make an appointment [see photograph Archivist]. The contents of many of the Roman Catholic registers are already on this site. In addition to Registered I had already transcribed, in 2002 I obtained photocopies of another 20 volumes, [see photograph Volumes] which have been loaded on the site.
Visit cemeteries. People were also buried on private properties, and some of these graves have tombstones.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a lot to do on your vacation!
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Jamaica Almanacs (property owners; civil & military)
Registers (Church of England, Dissenters, Civil Registration); Wills
Jamaican Roman Catholic Church Registers
Jamaican Methodist Baptisms
Slaves and slavery in Jamaica
Immigration Immigrants to Jamaica
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