Having heard about the centre in South Kensington some time ago at a presentation at the British Museum about tracing your Caribbean roots, I decided to check it out. The attendants there were all friendly and showed me the catalogues of the microfiche records they held. In order to make any real progress one needs certain information about the person/s you are researching. If they are from Jamaica, you need to know both the Parish and the district within the Parish e.g Manchester (Mandeville) or Portland (Moore Town), their actual official name (Jamaicans tend to be known by a different name from which they we registered at birth) and the period within two or three years that you are researching e.g. according to your knowledge they were born between 1924 and 1926. Without these three pieces of information you are searching for a needle in a haystack. Family members may be able to give you some of the relevant information.
You need to realise that Jamaicans in the past (it may be true of other Caribbean countries) may not have always kept accurate records. A death register may suggest that someone was 65 when they died but looking at the marriage certificate it suggests they were 68 when they died. Your grandmmother’s name was Jane White but her real name was Icinda but should could be registered by her middle name which may have been Vernice.They may also have been more than one Jane White in the district.
This all makes researching at the centre potentially frustrating and you may need to go back a few times to get what you want but when you find what you are looking for, it is very exciting. Therefore patience is needed and you need to ensure you have at least 2 hours to spend at the centre on each visit. Ensure you have a little money so if you find a record of a relative and you want to photocopy it, that you can afford to do so.
So don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out first time. Remember “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
By Errol A.
**NB: Hyde Park Family History Centre is now know as the London Family History Centre and their new website can be found here www.londonfhc.org