Although the vital records (from 1880 forward) are in Guyana, at present, there is no known way of someone outside the country getting access to them or of ordering copies. Even if one was in Guyana there would be difficulty in accessing records at the National Archives as they are available only on Friday. Too, many of the documents are in very bad condition.
Many researchers have sent written requests to various Government departments but never receive a reply. A very lucky few have had success with writing to churches for their records, but even the churches rarely reply to letters or requests, even when money is offered or enclosed with the request.
GUYANA NATIONAL ARCHIVES
The Archives were moved from the original building on Main Street to a new building on Homestretch Avenue, D'urban Park. This blog site shows a photo of the new building.
The archives has a large Immigrant Records Department. The holdings of this department are: 1) Overall view of holdings, 2) Immigrant Death Registers, and 3) Summary of Immigration Department holdings [NOTE: These are PDF files, regquiring the free Adobe Reader}
It is feared that time, weather, and lack of preservation have diminished what was there originally. Just what records are contained in the Guyana National Archives? According to librarian Arthur E. Gropp of the New Orleans Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University of Louisiana in his book "Guide to libraries and archives in Central America and the West Indies, Panama, Bermuda and British Guiana" of 1941 the following records are held (partial listing, as of 1941):
A collection of 30 titles of newspapers, the earliest being the Berbice Gazette, 1818; the Demerara and Essequebo Gazette, 1819; and the Guiana Chronicle, 1819-1841. [NOTE: Printing introduced to BG in December 1790. The first newspaper was printed on November 1, 1793. --------------WEBBER. "Centenary history & handbook of British Guiana, 1931, p. 109. The colonial Secretary reported May 30, 1940, that the introduction of printing took place in 1793 [after Roday, The Press in British Guiana, 1918] and that the first title may have been the "Essequebo and Demerary Council"]
Administrative papers of Berbice
Military Register, 1766-1796
Blue Book of Berbice, 1830-31
Blue Book of British Guiana, 1844-1856
Blue Book of Demerara & Essequebo, 1821, 1827-28, 1830-31
Dispatches, Berbice 1812-1823
Account Book, Rio Demerary, 1794-1796
Registrar's Office Georgetown (almost all records prior to 1803 are in Dutch) agreements, 1770-
Deeds of release of apprenticeship, 1836 (indentureship records)
Leases, 1770 - ?
Parish population records
Plans of plots (originals)
Royal Gazette (1841- ) [Official Gazette from 1851 - ]
Transports, 1770 - (deeds to land in Essequebo and Demerara; Berbice are in New Amsterdam)
Property Register (A book for each district by names of places and urban districts by ward; also includes encumbrances on property)
Registrar General Office - Births, 1869 - , Deaths, 1869 - , Marriages 1903 - (for earlier records see church records for baptisms, marriages & burials)
" From around the middle of the nineteenth century, there are the census records, complete sequences of which are held in the PRO, and incomplete ones locally. In addition, it should also be noted that the registration of births, deaths and marriages became a requirement in the nineteenth century too. These records, however, are not deposited in the Guyana National Archives, but in the Office of the Registrar General, which falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs, not the Ministry of Culture. Its registration records date back to 1865, while it also is a repository for some, although not all, of the shipping records. For some time now it has been facilitating members of the public on Fridays who wish to trace their own family members."
This indicates that the Guyana public can view the Birth, Marriage and Death records on Fridays at the Ministry of Home Affairs. No additional information is known at the present time.
Church Records search suggestions are now contained on a separate page - click here
How can we to verify our ancestors' births, deaths, marriages?
Various Records: For those ancestors who remained in Guyana in the 1940s to mid 1960s prior to emigrating, they may be listed in the "Who's Who in Guyana, 1945-1948" - probably depending on their job and status. This listing may be available on microfilm at the Mormon Church Family History Centers.
Newspaper Resources: When British Guiana gained independence in 1966, the British did take back to England with them copies of many colonial newspapers, among them, the Argosy and the Colonist (for early 19th century).. Luckily they did, as births, marriages and death notices were printed in the newspaper and these may be our only source of getting this data. These newspapers are housed in two sites in London, England, however, the newspapers are not indexed. A wonderful lady named, Inge Veecock, indexed the entries from the Argosy and Colonist papers. The indexes are available in London libraries and also at the Mormon Church Salt Lake City library. The book or microfilm of the index book may possibly be loaned on order at your local Mormon Church Family HIstory Center. A listing of the newspapers of pre-1966 newspapers has been listed from the British Library catalogue where they have copies of the newspapers on microfilm. For more information go to our Newspaper Listing page.
The following Guyana addresses are provided with the caution that they may not have the staff or resources with which to reply:.
- National Archives of Guyana,
Attn: June Du Bissette – Head Archivist
26 Main Street, Georgetown, Guyana
tel: (592) 227-7687, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- GPO (General Register Office)
Head of Administration, Attn: June Walters, Records Manager or Mrs. Gibson, Supervisor
GPO (General Register Office) Building
Robb Street Georgetown, Guyana
tel: (592) 225-7561 [They do not have an email address.]
- Bookers McConnel & Co, Bucklesbury House, Cannon St, London UK (This company owned many of the sugar plantations in colonial British Guiana)
- Wills and Deeds: Registrar of Deeds, Victoria Law Courts, Georgetown, Guyana
- Census (reportedly census were taken every 10 years from 1861-1931): Statistical Bureau, Ministry of Economic Development, Georgetown, Guyana (Note: Have seen UK sites which state these census were head counts only, with no names or personal info)
All those searching for British Guiana colonial record transcriptions know that there are few records that have been transcribed and available for research. Recently, a few British Guiana Directories have become available for transcription and one, the 1904 Directory, has been transcribed by this site's webmaster. Additionally, event calendars contained in the directory have been transcribed and are also available for viewing - see Transcriptions.
Also available through the Mormon church's library system are two volumes of BMDs (Births, Marriage and Death notices) from early Argosy and Chronicle newspapers, transcribed by Inge Veecock.
Online Web sites with online data re Colonial British Guiana:
Immigrants to US: For those who immigrated to the U. S., a Freedom of Information Act request addressed to your local Immigration office may yield a copy of the birth and marriage records, along with the parents' names and other relatives, and usually a photo (mug shot like passports which aren't very flattering, but a photo none the less). Although they may charge for sending copies of these documents to you, they sometimes do not charge a fee. To order this way, one must have patience and be prepared to wait up to a full year. There is a very good chance that your patience will be rewarded. You can download the required form from the web site which makes it very easy. Another source for those who immigrated to the U.S. are death records. Death certificates will most often contain names of parents, birth date, and more. If you don't know for sure when your ancestor died but know the location, a search of nearby cemeteries might result in finding your ancestor's burial place and possible records the cemetery may have.
Guyana Lists online: There is a Guyana web site on which most pages were offline (when checked in early 2006) however one or two pages remain - The National Trust of Guyana. This page lists some names of persons buried in Guyana. Another partial page still online from 2002, has African slave information.
Immigrants to Europe/Canada: For those who emigrated to Europe and Canada, check with those countries for immigration documents.
Sugar Plantation Records: Because the early colony was dominated by the sugar industry, many of us have references to a plantation or estate with our ancestors. We have begun listing the estates and plantations as we hear references to them and their locations on our Plantations and Estates page.
Other methods a researcher can employ include:
1. Communicate.........It is always a good idea to visit online genealogy sites and, if they have a message board, post a query (message) stating the full name of the ancestor you are seeking, the era of time they lived in Guyana, and where they lived (i.e., Berbice, Essequebo, etc.). You may be very pleasantly surprised that a fellow Guyanese might have access to records or even be a relative and able to assist you!!! Visit the following sites:
- Family Search - This site has some international family trees
- Ancestry message board - Guyana, General
- Yahoo Groups Guyana - A Yahoo group where people with an interest in Guyana or colonial British Guiana can meet and have discussions
- General Guyana web sites which have message boards (non-genealogy sites)
- News groups - soc.genealogy.west-indies - this group has a little activity and often data is submitted, primarily of Dutch ship records
- Caribbean Surnames Index list - Caribbean's voluntarily post their names and email address on this site and can be contacted directly
- British-Genealogy.com has a B-G forum where one can post queries about their search for a Guyana/British family
Genealogical Sites: Although genealogical sites, whether free or for a fee, do not have Guyanese records online, a researcher may find something on the surname of interest. There are many genealogical sites:
- Ancestry.com (fee-based but some records free [primarily US records]
- Kindred Trails (fee-based)
- Cousin Connect has a Guyana Genealogy query page.
- Roots web has a mailing list for Guyana.
- FamilyRecords.gov -
UK site has online census for some years - try if your ancestor emigrated from Guiana to England/Scotland/Isle of Man only
- United Kingdom National Archives site has census and other records available for England
- Try college records. For instance, Glascow University Archive Services in Scotland has a list of graduates from British Guiana from 1859-1888.
- Military site for British Commonwealth/British Guiana - Regiments of the West Indies, a good site to begin search for military ancestors
- NALIS library site - An act from Trinidad/Tabago created an international library database with many online items
- Did anyone in your family graduate from the University of Guyana? Check their list of alumni
The Guyana Consulate has a page which may not be current or correct however the Guyana Internet Directory lists URL's for Guyana government offices, schools, newspapers and businesses; and the Library of Congress on their "Portals to the World" web site has a page on Guyana genealogy.
|Berbice High School||St Philips Anglican School - Georgetown (no online source)|
|Bishops' High School - Old Students||St. Joseph's High School - Alumni - Toronto|
|Bishops' High School - Alumni - Toronto||St. Joseph's High School - Alumni - U.K.|
|Central High School - Alumni - Toronto||Tutorial High School|
|Christ Church Secondary School - Alumni||Tutorial High School - Alumni - Toronto|
|McKenzie High School||Tutorial High School - Alumni|
|North Georgetown Secondary School (no online site found)||Tutorial High School - Alumni - New York|
|President's College (their site is no longer online)||University of Guyana|
|Queens College Alumni Associations|
Other Online Sources:
- Don't miss a visit to Don Mitchell's West Indian Bibliography. Don has compiled a vast bibliography from 1492 to the present, English-language Non-fiction of the West Indies. Don began the compilation with the first edition in March 2000. The Bibliography is currently in it's 8th edition dated April 2005.
- Guiana (Guyana) Colonial Newspapers - Go to this site and be ready to spend some time -- you're going to enjoy reading the many transcriptions from the colonial "Royal Gazette". John Wilmer has transcribed data from the historical newspaper microfilm held at the University of Florida. He has extracted "what is perceived as the unique items referencing people and events in the colonies of Essequebo, Demerara (Demerary) and Berbice as reflected in Proclamations, Public Vendues, Advertisements, etc." Some records are in Dutch but most in English. He provides an index of surnames included in the work.
- Louisiana State University Special Collections:
Berbice Colony slave records, 1826-1827. 3 items, 1 microfilm reel. Location: OS:B, Mss.Mf:B. Deed of arrangement between owners of three sugar plantations in Berbice (Guyana), and lists of slaves attached to the plantations as of October 20, 1826, citing names, ages, employment, places of birth, and distinguishing marks. Also listed are children born to slave mothers on the plantations (1819-1826) with names, dates of birth, ages, and names of mothers noted. For further information see online catalog. Mss. 2934.
- Adam Matthews Publications: A small portion of what is available on microfilm as described on their site, is on Reel 12 of the collection:
- 5/1/1: 31 Oct -29 Nov 1823- Traveling expenses in Britain and Ireland, and legal expenses relating to the acquisition of the plantations.
- /2: 1829-1834 List of births and ages of children born to slaves on the plantation. [note: probably the Hanover plantation or more?]
- /3: 31 Dec 1832 List of Plantations for District of Berbice, giving number of slaves and returns for each plantation.
- /5: 1 July 1834 Balance Sheet of Utile and Paisible Plantations.
- /6: 1 Aug 1834 Return for slaves on Plantation Utile and Paisible for workforce.
- /6A: Aug 1834 List of labourers in Plantations Utile and Paisible.
- /7: Nov 1834 Balance Sheet for books, clothing, sundry items.
- /8: 1834 Liquidation of Claims against Plantations Utile and Paisible.
- /9: 1834-1841 Memorandum and Extracts from letters and sales estimates as to value and sale of Estates.
- /10: 1836-1837 Calculations of costs of Hanover Plantation.
- /14: n.d Salaries and sundry expenses on Demerara Estate. This collection is available for purchase for $3,5000.00 !!!
- British Association for American Studies - Some microfilms available regarding Guiana (Guyana) for purchase: i.e.,: (Thesis) Moore, R. J. East Indians and Negroes in British Guiana, 1838-1880 Sussex University, 1970 1 Reel 96998
- Latin American Collection at Yale University - Yale Latin American collection of microfilms; i.e., Colonial Office records, several years in America & West Indies
- Wheaton College Archives - Records of the Billy Graham Center - Methodist Missionary Society: Inventory of Correspondence; Collection 163...Sheet 11 contains British Guiana, 1867-1889
- Dissertations at University of California at Berkeley - Look Lai, Walton --- Sugar plantations and indentured labor: migrations from China and India to the British West Indies, 1838-1918, PhD Dissertation, New York University, 1991 ;
- Sohal, Harinder Singh --The East Indian indentureship system in Jamaica, 1845-1917. PhD Dissertation, University of Waterloo (Canada), 1980
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