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Q My husband’s maternal great-grandfather, John Fitzarthur CASTLE, can be found in 1881 living in Southampton, single, aged 20, an unemployed ship’s steward. His place of birth is recorded as: West Indies Barbados (British subject). In 1883 he married Elizabeth Harding JONES. In 1891 they are still in Southampton with their three children, including Edward Fitzarthur CASTLE, aged seven. Edward is the father of my mother-in-law (now in her mid-80s). John is by this time a servant on a steamship. By 1901 the family has moved to Portsmouth and John, aged 40, is listed as a merchant seaman. After this I can find nothing more. My mother-in-law tells of a family belief that John had a ship which he sailed to Australia, and no one knows what happened to him after this. The fact that John was born in Barbados was a complete surprise to my husband and his mother (and probably the reason I could find no birth record). Purely coincidentally we love Barbados and had already booked a holiday for next April – our fourth visit to the island. Our holiday will be a great opportunity to visit any record offices where we might search, if only I can find where that would be. My query breaks into a number of parts. Firstly, can you help with suggestions for where I might look for information on John’s birth record, and when and how he left Barbados to come to England? Secondly, does the fact that he is shown as a ‘British subject’ mean his parents were born in the UK? Were there many British migrants to the West Indies in the mid 1800s? Will their movements be documented anywhere? Thirdly, could you suggest any preparatory work I might be advised to undertake before heading to Barbados – such as writing to the consulate or registrar. Fourthly, do you have any suggestions as to how I might trace where he went and when he died? I have looked at lots of web sites and searched unsuccessfully on FindMyPast’s passenger lists, although I think it more likely that he ‘worked his passage’ to wherever he went. Finally, my mother-in-law remembers someone in the family speaking of a sugar factory, so maybe that could be a clue. Fitzarthur seems to be a family name and that might be another. Since starting on my own family history two years ago I have been an avid fan of FHM, and always read the advice you give with great interest and enjoyment, never dreaming that one day I might have something interesting enough to approach you with. Now just a short while into looking at my husband’s family (setting my own aside for a while) I find myself hoping for your assistance.

Carol I Baron

A The 1881 census entry does not state ‘Barbados West Indies British Subject’ but ‘Barbadoes N British Subject’ (although the ‘N’ is not certain). However, the 1891 census gives ‘W I Barbadoes British Subject’. As you know he married in 1883, to Elizabeth JONES, I guess you do have his marriage certificate. What is the information about his father’s name and occupation? This could be very important in understanding why John was born in Barbados. Turning to John’s death for a moment, there does not appear to be any registration in England and Wales for a John Fitzarthur CASTLE between 1901 and 1920 (using the website) so perhaps he died at sea or overseas. Have you investigated this possibility? Deaths at sea may be recorded in the Marine Registers of Deaths, and you should also investigate the Consular Returns of Deaths. Although I did not find any entry to 1921, I did note that two John CASTLEs are listed in the Naval War Deaths, 1914–1921. Sugarcane was introduced to Barbados in the 1600s and the island eventually had one of the world’s biggest sugar industries after Brazil. As the industry developed Barbados was divided into large plantation estates that replaced the smallholdings of the early British settlers. Although the British abolished the slave trade in 1807, the continuation of slavery caused the largest major slave rebellion in 1816 and many whites were driven off of their plantations, although mass killings were avoided. Barbados is currently divided into eleven administrative parishes. The LDS Church has recorded a great deal of Barbadian records on microfilm. The LDS Hyde Park Family History Centre has the largest UK collection of Caribbean records, particularly Jamaica and Barbados. I would advise you try and spend a day at the centre investigating what they have (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 64-68 Exhibition Road, London SW7 2PA; tel: 020 7589 8561 email:; website: You should certainly read Tracing Ancestors in Barbados: A Practical Guide, written by Barbados-based researcher Geraldine Lane and published by the Genealogical Publishing Company. You should also look at the website of the Centre for Barbados Studies in History and Genealogy ( This includes many useful links. Between the book and the website, you should discover all you need to know about the research you need to undertake before leaving for the island and what you will need to do once you get there.

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