Islam Channel, ‘Living the Life’ 28th May 2013

It was an honour to be invited onto the show ‘Living the Life’ to talk about  genealogical research as an educational tool. It is often said that to know where we are going we must know where we are from. For Black British younsters to learn about their family origins, the contributions their ancestors made to society, and the struggles they overcame – these are very empowering topics that can help young people to achieve their own aspirations.

Andrew Muhammad – historian, writer and teacher, was also a guest on the show. He does fantastic work in schools, inspiring both pupils and parents alike through his motivational presentations.

For help getting started with YOUR family research, please contact me at:



Lambeth Caribbean Family History Group

While Solihull has flourished, Lambeth has withered. However, plans are afoot to revive it. I’m aiming to hold some workshops in Lambeth Libraries in the run up to Black History Month. Hopefully this will form the basis of a new group meeting regularly to discuss and promote Caribbean ancestral research. My new website is or I’ll be advertising courses there, many of which will be funded, so your wallets will be safe! Ayshah

Reflections after Southwark & Croydon family history workshops

Sadly no photo of the group from last Thursday’s event at John Harvard Library in Southwark, but we hope some of you will post your views and some of the lovely photos I caught a glimpse of! In fact, when we started the blog we asked for photos so that we could change the banner every now and then. So please do send them in with a little info about them. The same plea goes out to the group from Croydon Supplementary School, seen here hard at work last Friday:

For those who asked about military records, check our Military section in a day or so – I will upload some links and articles.

On a final note, get down to the family history centre in Kensington. Once you get started you will be hooked!

Explore your Black Ancestry

Part of Southwark Black History Month, two sessions introducing family research techniques. The  sessions will demonstrate the use of relevant websites and advise on which centres to visit. There will be time for everyone to start searching, there will be documents on display for handling, and  also plenty of group discussion. One of the discussion topics will be ‘oral tradition versus written records’.

Thursday 21st October 4.30 – 6.30: John Harvard Library

Saturday 23rd October 2.00 – 4.00: Peckham Library.

Booking details will be supplied nearer the time.


Research and document your family history, using memory and online resources.

Every Monday 1pm – 3pm
Enrol: 11th January 2010
Start: 18th January 2010
End: 29th March 2010

Sunnyhill Children’s Centre, Sunnyhill Road, Streatham, London SW16 1UW, Tel. 07815 935 397. Click here for map

~ Access and search microfilmed records
~ Learn to read old script
~ Build a family tree
~ Start a personal family blog to share with children and relatives
~ Write an account of an interesting person or event in your family history (e.g. emigration)
~ Visits to the Family History Centre

Open to anyone with regular access to the internet.

Tutor has successfully traced her own family history back to the 1840s, and is passionate about the subject.

Course is funded by Lambeth Adult Learning.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Singer

We search the records and compile a list of names, dates and somewhat unreliable ages; possibly an occupation, planter being a common one, which could mean anything from one yam plant inna yard to several hundred acres.

We look with envy to those celebrities on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, and the colourful facts uncovered. We want the dry facts to leap off the page – we want to know who our ancestors were and how they lived.

Personally, I am yet to discover a prince, rogue, villain or saint. But when my parents visited from Jamaica in June, my dad casually asked my mum: ‘What was the name of your cousin the singer again?’ It turns out he was none other than Jamaica’s very own reggae singer Jacob Miller.

Jake Miller
Jacob Miller and Bob Marley (via Flickr Diego’NoMas !)

At this stage, there is little I can say about him that isn’t already known – except that he definitely wasn’t born in 1960, as some sources assert. My mother left Jamaica in 1960, and she remembers Jakey as ‘a sweet little boy playing in the yard’.

I am now corresponding with my aunt who grew up with him. She was delighted when I told her I wanted to write about Jakey. As soon as I find out anything interesting, I will share it.

The relevance of this to all you family researchers out there is: when questioning relatives, be persistent and don’t take ‘I don’t remember’ for an answer. Otherwise when you finally hear something interesting and you wonder why they didn’t tell you before, the invariable answer is ‘You never asked’.

by Ayshah Johnston

Using the Ellis Island Foundation for tracing Caribbean ancestors

The Ellis Island Foundation website is useful not only if your Caribbean ancestors migrated to the USA, but also for a general ancestor search. Given how near the two regions are (a mere five days by steamship!) many Caribbean travellers simply visited and returned. And as the Ship’s Manifest records detailed information about each passenger, it’s a great starting point.

Procedure: Enter your ancestor’s name, gender and approx. year of birth. A list of possible matches will (hopefully) appear from which you may select the following: Passenger Record, Ship’s Manifest1, Original Ship’s Manifest2 and Ship Info. You will need to log in, but registering is free. If nothing comes up, try omitting a first name, varying the possible dates and even the spelling of your surname – spellings were pretty random in the past, and mistakes common.

The Ship’s Manifest is particularly useful as it records details such as the passenger’s name, age, marital status, ethnic origin, country of residence and address in the States. Both the Ship’s Manifest and Passenger Record may be viewed for free, or hard copies purchased from the Foundation. As a registered member, any additional information you have about the passenger may be added on the Create an Annotation page, for other users to see.

My Search: I have been trying to find out about my great grandparents. The eldest of their 13 children, Herman Johnston (No. 003) emigrated to the USA in 1914. I typed only his name, and to my amazement his entry was there along with some surprising additional information:

1 Ship’s Manifest fragment
Ship’s Manifest fragment

extract courtesy of Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc

2 Original Ship’s Manifest fragment

Original Ship’s Manifest

extract courtesy of Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

He travelled with five other family members (Nos. 2–7) and stayed with a Mrs. Alalia Joyce of 308 West 119th St., NY. The record shows she is his aunt, and the mother of Adrian and Evelyn Joyce (Nos. 6 & 7). It would appear that Alalia Joyce is my great grandfather’s sister. I do not know who Frances Johnston is (No. 2), but the scribble that looks like ‘dght’ could be daughter, meaning that Alalia is her daughter, therefore she herself would be my great grandfather’s mother. If so, then I have managed to go back one more generation without expecting to!
I definitely recommend this site. It is easy to use and has yielded exciting clues into my ancestry.

by Aysha J.


More information:
Ellis Island