What’s the best way to research Bajan roots?

Dear Professor Gates:

I am doing my husband’s genealogy. His grandmother was born Ethel (Etherea) Chantilla Pounder on March 23, 1898, in St. Philip Parish, Barbados, West Indies. Her father was Arthur Pounder and her mother was Avis Jordan. How can I find records on Arthur and Avis? —Patricia L. Blackwell

There are plenty of resources available to you! However, before we list them, we want to remind you that the first step to tracing relatives of an immigrant ancestor is to gather as much information as you can from documents in the United States, such as passenger lists and U.S. census records.

Search by Family, Not Just the Individual

Beyond the information included for immigrant ancestors, passenger lists and census records often list other individuals with which they may have immigrated or settled in the United States. Usually this indicates a close relationship prior to their immigration—often a familial one.

You can search Ancestry.com passenger records (for a fee) and see that an Aditha C. Pounder is listed on a passenger list from Barbados to New York, N.Y., July 12, 1922. The record states that Aditha C. Pounder was 20 years old, which places her birth at circa 1902. Her “ethnicity/nationality” was listed as black. She was traveling to Brooklyn, N.Y., to visit her sister, Eudoria Perryman, at 661 Franklin St. Her next of kin was listed as her father, Arthur Pounder, of St. Philip, Barbados.

Could this record possibly be for Ethel (Etherea) C. Pounder and they misspelled her first name as Aditha? Or was Aditha a possible sister of Ethel? Searching the entire passenger list for others traveling from St. Philip to Brooklyn, or who share Ethel’s surname or her mother’s surname, may indicate a relationship that you could note when searching for other records.

Since you also know from the passenger record that she was in the United States by 1922, you could search the 1930 census for more information about Pounder. We found an Ethel Ponder living in Manhattan, N.Y., in the household of Lyod Bolden as a boarder. Ponder was born in 1898 and is also a likely match for your Ethel Pounder.

When reading census records, pay attention to the families living near the individuals you are researching, since they may reveal relationships that could lead to further records. In this census, Ponder was living in close proximity to a number of individuals who were also born in the British West Indies and who immigrated between 1920 and 1922, namely Jestina Harrison, Robert Christian and Millicent Christian. Keep these names in mind when searching through records in Barbados, since you may see these names again, revealing additional clues about her ancestry.

Ethel Pounder Blackwell is included in the California Death Index, which states that her mother’s maiden name was Jordan, her father’s surname was Pounder and she was born on March 23, 1898, in “Other County,” which means she was born outside the United States. It tells us that she died in Los Angeles on May 2, 1983. You could search for an obituary or newspaper article on her that may reveal more about her parents and other relatives. If you have or are able to locate information about any of her siblings, it may help you determine if you have located the correct family in the Barbados records.

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