My Codrington work
My research centers around a branch of the Codrington family which emigrated from Jamaica to the United States in 1870. One of the few valuable items they brought with them was a Family Bible with notations dating back to 1717.
With a great deal of help from other Gen enthusiasts and persistent research, I can now document the family back to 1719 on Antigua.
Certain documents note "Mr William Codrington and wife, Ann" and study has provided much detail on their lives in Jamaica. But their life on Antigua is still vague.
There are several references to them in Baptismal records in the Parishes of St. John's and St. Mary's and there is a land transaction noted in a will which clearly identifies them as the sellers.
But according to available Codrington genealogies they do not exist, and in order to breach this impasse it became necessary to re-examine the existing literature on the family and pay close attention to associated families in Jamaica and Antigua.
As a result of tracking associates, it became evident that many of those in Jamaica were either of Barbadian or Antiguan origin and most were names consistently seen in association with the more famous Codringtons back to the early days of Barbados.
Study of the extant Codrington genealogies and histories revealed major voids and many examples of undocumented assumptions which are routinely presented as historical fact. So I have basically taken on the job of documenting the Codringtons from their arrival on Barbados circa 1641 through the period of West Indies residence to 1870 when my branch, whatever their origins, left the sugar islands forever.
Where does Genealogy stop and History Begin?
Given the relative fame and influence of the Codrington Family of Barbados and Antigua, and the substantial amount of rumour and innuendo associated with their lives while residents of the West Indies, the existence of an undocumented branch is very evocative. More than likely Mr. William Codrington is an illegitimate son of one of the better documented Codringtons. That still remains to be seen....
But in studying the affairs of this family for clues to William's origin, I've discovered a fascinating struggle for control of the wealth and properties accumulated by the family during the period 1641-1710. The insights provided into colonial life in the West Indies seem far more important than filling in a blank space on a family tree.
Caribbean colonial history is in the process of being re-examined and to some degree, re-written. Many Historians are choosing to view the past within an "Atlantic" perspective which embraces our growing understanding of the many cultures which interacted, struggled and blended to produce the atlantic world we know today. The old imperial narrative of European struggling to control and colonize the islands is now justifiably seen as having ignored many who voluntarily or in bondage made the colonization of the Americas possible.
New methods of History are no less inclined to unfair excess, or prejudice than those which came before; and there are numerous examples of prejudicial or poorly documented writing masquerading as Modern History....But the overall result of the multi-cultural approach is a more humane and honest view of the world many of us came from one way or the other.
To me the study of Planter society on the more intimate level (family studies) can provide an understanding of the motives, actions, pressures and passions which drove the people who left this world as our estate.....with all its' contradictions, beauties, injustices, and troubling problems.
Since I began studying the Codringtons, my secret wish was that it might be possible to determine whether certain emotional and cultural aspects of my own family were in fact a legacy of Sugar and Slavery, scars of a different kind, side-effects of a society who's sole purpose was to feed the mills which made the sugar which could provide the wealth that could elevate and protect a person and his family from a society without "safety nets".
I think there is evidence to show that every segment of the colonial society was scarred by the exploitation of humanity as an expedient to wealth. And though there can be no comparison between the scars passed on in the families of "middling" Planters to the suffering of the African Diaspora, full comprehension of our shared legacy is impossible without a dispassionate understanding of all the people involved.
Not everyone studying their family background wishes to become engrossed in History or to confront their family's role in a society based on slavery. But there is no line of demarcation separating "family studies" from social history, and in truth, without a willingness to study the locales and historical background of a family, it is unlikely a genealogy project will be very meaningful.
After all, it is very possible that you or I will never find proof of paternity for our "William" but we may find a new understanding of the world and the neighbors we share it with. In the end there is little doubt which is more important.
All pages on this site Copyright C.M. Codrington 2008 contents for private use only.