Tracing Black Ancestry

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British and North American descendants of ancestors once enslaved, often assume their surnames are a legacy of slave ownership. Some Black and mixed-Black descendants reject their ‘slave name’. For others, the ‘slave name’ may be their only link to a history that has been intentionally erased.

In this masterclass, African Caribbean genealogist Paul Crooks will reveal new insights into names and naming practices within North American enslaved societies. The focus will on Jamaica, as a proxy for what was happening in other parts of North America once colonised by slave owners and administrators, mainly from England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Paul will draw from historical documents based on his search for his ancestors captured off the Gold Coast and enslaved in Jamaica. Paul will throw light on:
• his journey to bring his black family history to life
• name giving within slave society
• the tradition of Caribbean nicknaming
• evidence of covert resistance by his ancestors and enslaved communities in Jamaica, to the imposition of slave names
• documents revealing the widespread use of African names prior to emancipation
• the adoption of surnames following emancipation in British colonies in 1838.
Paul research displaces disempowering histories of how Black people in North America and naming practices with a more empowering version.

Booking Information:
https://black_history_speaker.eventbrite.co.uk//

About the speaker
Paul Crooks is a published author and trailblazing genealogist with a specialist interest in Black ancestry. He pioneered research into African Caribbean genealogy during the 1990s when he became the first to trace his family history from London, back six generations, to ancestors enslaved on a sugar plantation in North America 200 years ago. Paul discovered that his ancestors were enslaved on a sugar plantation in Jamaica.

Paul gained national recognition for his work when his acclaimed historical novel Ancestors (based on the true story of the author’s Ancestors) was published in 2002. He appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? (Moira Stuart) as the expert in African Caribbean genealogy. His second book A Tree Without Roots is the seminal guide to tracing Black British ancestry.

Paul is credited with inspiring an upsurge in interest in Black and British ancestry. He is also recognised for having spawned an industry in African Caribbean genealogy.

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