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Your questions answered

With our panel of experts Jayne Shrimpton, Penny Walters, Colin Rogers, Emma Jolly and Tim Lovering

Tracing Caribbean heritage

QI would like to trace my Caribbean ancestry through the slave trade registers back to England and Ireland and also back to Africa. I am having difficulty proving some facts, however, and would like to find out the following:

1. Whether Virgina Flynn (died 28 March 1895), who was married to John Garrick Flynn, was my actual 2x great-grandmother?

2. Who were the parents of my paternal 2x great-grandfather (John Garrick Flynn, died 18 April 1889)?

3. The whereabouts of the birth certificate of William Theophilus Willis (my maternal grandfather, born 1937), who was adopted.

4. Lastly, I can’t find the birth records of my paternal greatgrandmother Louisa Jane Smith (married 1 November 1893).

Ruth Flynn

AThank you for your enquiry. You mentioned four people that you have become ‘stuck’ with. I see from the notes you sent that you have already had some help with your paper trail, by the Jamaican Registrar General’s Department. I would suggest that you go over the key points it provided, and incorporate all the information into your tree, and put it online, so that you can get hints and even help from people with matching trees. The will of John Garrick Flynn indicated that he fathered at least eight children, so there should be plenty of descendants to collaborate with.

There are at least four people on Ancestry with trees that overlap your family. They all saved John Flynn’s death record, which had been obtained from John Flynn’s death was registered in Pedro, St Ann, Jamaica, on 20 April 1889, by Alfred Flynn. He was married, aged 70 years, and his occupation was a planter. Cause of death was chronic kidney disease for eight months.

St Ann parish is the north parish of Jamaica: try Google maps, Trip Advisor or books about the area to yield some further clues.

Another John Garrick Flynn’s death was registered in 1922, so this sounds like a descendant or at least a relative, and may be worth pursuing too.

I think that your search would be aided by doing a DNA test, to help with your ethnicity estimates, and giving you the chance to collaborate with matches. Some people are really helpful, and some just don’t reply, so stay optimistic when collaborating. I find that about 1 in 10 people reply to me. When you have done your DNA test, upload your DNA to GEDmatch, which combines the four major sites, and gives you many more matches to collaborate with. Your ethnicity estimates will give you clues as to whether you ancestors were enslaved from Africa, and suggest countries. My Jamaican heritage children have ethnicity estimates from Ghana, Benin & Togo, Cameroon, Congo, southern Bantu and Nigeria, all Ivory Coast, which gives a further clue as to their roots, but also a huge indication towards an enslaved ancestor.

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It’s time to dig for victory, see what clues your delving can unearth! Turn the clock back to 1939 with our special issue and discover your family’s story. This month we’re commemorating the 80th anniversary of the start of World War 2, and are researching and celebrating our ancestors’ lives from the time. To help you trace your family tree we’ve got: a packed guide to the essential family history records all you need to know about researching family in Second World War and first half of the 20th century and a bumper crop of tips to help you create your own family history home archive – filled with carefully stored photos, stories, notes and treasures. Beginner or expert, there’s plenty to discover and do as your learn more about your family’s story. Enjoy!