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Tracing Caribbean Roots
Land and Property
With the exception of a minority of indigenous Caribbean Amerindians, the majority of Caribbean people are immigrants. Caribbean people are also a migratory people and have settled elsewhere such as South, Central and North America as well as Britain.
This section describes records for the study of Caribbean migration both to and from the Caribbean.
There were three main categories of migrants:
Click the link for more Information on Migrant Groups mentioned above.
Since the first British settlements in the Caribbean people have returned or migrated to Britain. However, it was not until 1948, with the arrival of the Empire Windrush, that large numbers migrated to the UK.
This can be demonstrated from a Home Office report in 1963, which summarised New Commonwealth Migration and uses census returns, 1891-1951 for people born in the Caribbean:
(source Walvin, Passage to Britain (Penguin Books, 1984))
The primary sources to use are:
Click here for General Sources of Migration Information regarding the primary sources listed above.
The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act also restricted free migration to the UK from the Commonwealth and colonies, except for students, visitors and dependants. People who did not have a passport issued in the UK or were not registered as Citizens of the UK and Colonies had to first obtain labour vouchers from the Ministry of Labour in order to be granted entry. There were three categories of vouchers:
A selection of vouchers issued to Commonwealth subjects, including rejected, returned or unused vouchers are in National Archives series LAB 42 and LAB 48.
The 1962 act also allowed for the first time for colonial subjects to be deported; for example, HO 372/29, 1962-63 contains recommendations for deportations, and HO 344/73, 1962-63, contains cases of colonial deportations.
West Indians have not only migrated to Britain but to other British colonies and Commonwealth countries as well as to foreign countries, especially in the Caribbean and the Americas.
Before the 19th century merchants and adventurers moved with their servants and slaves to settle in new British colonies. For example, people from St Christopher moved to Nevis and the other Leeward Islands and Barbados as they became British, and Barbadians settled in South Carolina and Jamaica in the 17th century.
From 1834 with the abolition of slavery, there were much larger movements of people who migrated for land and work, especially from the more populated countries, such as Barbados and Jamaica, to less populated countries like Guyana and Trinidad. British West Indians also left their countries for non-British countries in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, such as Costa Rica, Cuba and Panama. For example, in the 1850s many West Indians worked on the trans-isthmian railway in Panama, and between the 1880s and 1914 more than 100,000 left to work on the Panama Canal. However, the USA and Canada received the largest numbers of West Indians for education, employment and to buy land.
Information relating to emigration, immigration, recruitment schemes, deportation, welfare, relief, distressed British subjects, West Indian relations, overseas births, marriages and deaths of British subjects, criminal activities and working conditions is to be found in the archives and departments of the countries of emigration and immigration. The following link provides more information relating to Overseas Migration. However, some information can be found in the records of the Colonial Office (for migrants to British colonies), Commonwealth Office (for migrants to Commonwealth countries) and Foreign Office (for migrants to non-British countries) in the National Archives.
Creators: Guy Grannum
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