Help and Frequently Asked Questions - St Helena Ancestors
- IMPORTANT: Use of this database
- Searching for Forenames
- Searching for Surnames
- Searching for Years
- Why can't I see the full results?
- How do I join Friends of St Helena?
- What are the benefits of joining Friends of St Helena?
- How to correct transcription errors
- Can data be removed because of privacy issues?
- How to save the data
- What data is available?
- Which years are missing from the Church records?
- Who transcribed these records?
- What is the source of the Anglican Church records?
- Where are the Churches and Graveyards located at St Helena?
- What are the ethnic origins of modern St Helenians?
- British Library Online Searches
- LDS Family History Centre Searches
- Are Wildcards Allowed in Searches?
Searching for Forenames
It is normally best to search with the default Begins with setting. There are two reasons for this:
First, forenames were often abbreviated in the records and these have been accurately transcribed. For example, George might have been written as “Geo”, “Geo.” or just the initial G. Therefore, before searching for the full name of George it usually best to first search for just the first few letters of the forename, e.g. GEO. or just the letter G. Not only will this find every instance of George but also Georgina.
Second, the default Begins with setting will also find ancestors with middle names. For example, a search for GEO will also find forenames such as George John or Georgina Ann.
Only set forename searches to Exact Matches if you are certain there are no variations in the spelling and no middle names.
The two other forename options (Match Anywhere and Ends With) can be helpful if it is suspected the names have been inaccurately transcribed. This can easily happen if the original handwritten records were damaged or poorly written.
Searching for Surnames
Great caution is needed when searching surnames because these were often spelt phonetically or idiosyncratically. This was especially the case in the church records where, for example. the family name Crowie has six different spellings and Isaacs sixteen. Even if literate, few parishioners had an opportunity to correct errors in the church records. Local dialect has also caused confusion, e.g. people may have given their surname as Alexander or Young but this has been misheard and respectively entered as Allick/Ellick or Yon. All these surname variations have been accurately transcribed,
Therefore, it is normally best to search with the default Begins with setting and to start the search by only entering the first few letters. For example, to search for the Crowie family, enter just the first three letters CRO into the Surname box. It should be noted that at least three characters must be entered into the surname search box - an error message will show if only one or two characters are entered.
Only set surname searches to Exact Matches if you are certain there are no hyphenated names or variations in the spelling.
The two other surname options (Match Anywhere and Ends With) can be helpful if it is suspected the names have been inaccurately transcribed. This can easily happen if the original handwritten records were damaged or poorly written.
A useful technique is to search for surnames in full and then see the effect of removing letters from the end of the names.
In the case of marriages and marriage banns, a search for a surname will find records whether it is EITHER the bride's OR the bridegroom's surname (likewise their forenames, although it is usually obvious whether these are female or male).
In the case of baptisms, a search for a surname will find records whether it is EITHER the mother's OR the father's surname (likewise, there are three possibilities for forenames - the baptisee, the mother or the father).
Search for Years
The Year boxes can be left blank but this can result in a large number of hits. In that case, restrict the search by entering years into the Start Year and/or the End Year.
If only the Start Year is specified, searches are limited to the period after that date. Likewise, if only the End Year is entered searches are limited to the period before that.
We have applied a 100-year rule to most of our data, with additional century-old data being released on the first day of each New Year. The exceptions are Burials, Monument Inscriptions, Clerics and Governors where all the data is being made available.
The earliest records are dated 1502 so no records will be found before that year. Likewise, it is not possible to run searches beyond the current year.
How to correct transcription errors
Errors inevitably exist in the data, partly because of the difficulty of transcribing damaged or badly damaged records and also due to simple typo mistakes.
Please direct all comments and corrections to Dr Chris Hillman (Contact Here) providing precise details of any errors and state in which of the 24-plus data tables where they occur.
Can data be removed because of privacy issues?
We have applied a 100-year rule to the release of most of its genealogical data, with additional century-old data being released on the first day of each New Year. The exceptions are Burials, Monument Inscriptions, Clerics and Governors where all the data has been made available.
We believe this rule ensures no privacy issues exist in our genealogical data. However, where users believe the confidentiality of private information has indeed been breached, they should email Dr Chris Hillman (CONTACT HERE) providing full details of their concerns. A judgement will then be made whether specific data should be hidden or entirely removed.
How to save the data
The detailed forms can be printed off to hard copy or printed to a PDF file. To avoid repetitively printing off the background description at the end of each form, it is recommended that a webpage screenshot utility such as Fireshot is used to save sections or entire pages to PDF or image files.
Why can't I see the full results?
All visitors to the Friends of St Helena website can run searches for their St Helenian ancestors. Full details of each ancestor can then be seen by clicking onto the data table hyperlink. However, to see these details, users must first log in to the website as members of the Society of Friends of St Helena. Here is a link that explains how to join the Society for a nominal fee. Here is another link that explains the several additional benefits of joining the Society.
The summary of results shows full names (forenames and surnames) of St Helenian ancestors, the year(s) when their names were recorded and the data tables in which they were found. This information is usually sufficient for non-members to determine whether further information is available on St Helenian ancestors. A considerable amount of additional information is normally available from the 24 data tables. For example, in the case of Baptisms, researchers will normally find:
The date of birth.
The date of baptism.
The mother's name - this is separately indexed.
The father's name - this is separately indexed.
The father's occupation.
The names of sponsors.
The clergyman's identity.
Where the original record can be seen - a URL of the original records and the page location.
What data is available?
At present, the information is based on 24 sets of data with 57,154 lines of data. Most baptism data lines have three indexed names (usually a child, mother and father) while marriage and marriage banns all have two (bride and groom). In addition, many church records have the names of witnesses or sponsors, none being indexed.
03 Marriage Banns
05 Gravestones & Memorials
06 St Helena Regiment
07 Hon EIC Company Master Listing
08 St Helena Clerics & Bishops
10 Passenger to and from St Helena
11 1673 Settlers Return
12 1679 Funeral Bier Signatures
13 1814 Census
14 1815 Principal Houses Census (Kitching)
15 1815-1821 St Helena Who’s Who (Chaplin)
16 1815-1821 French Presence on Island
17 1827 St Helena Inhabitants (Fox)
18 1827-1839 Fox Slave Lists (Fox)
19 1860 USA Census St Helena Birthplace
20 1881 UK Census St Helena Birthplace
21 1938 Gosse People Names
22 1885 People Names (Janisch)
23 2007 People Names (Royle)
24 Freemasons on St Helena
Who transcribed these records?
Most of the records were transcribed by Dr Chris and Sheila Hillman. The exceptions to this are:
Colin Fox transcribed the names of over 3,000 men who served in the St Helena Regiment in 1819 and/or 1827; over 300 inhabitants listed in the 1827 East India Company Register & Directory; over 3,000 slave names listed in the 1827 Valuation list and the 1836 Emancipation Loans list.
Christine Adams transcribed the names of over 300 householders listed in the 1814 census data.
Details of over 2,000 gravestones and memorials were transcribed in the 1970s through a school project conducted by the then Education Officer Basil George.
What is the source of the Anglican Church records?
The Anglican Church Register records date from 1680 and were transcribed from the scans of the original documents available on the Church of the Province of South Africa records archived at the University of Witwatersrand Library (CPSA Diocese of St Helena Registers 1680-1986).
The original Registers held at St Helena are in a parlous state, with old-style handwriting, and have been subjected to centuries of indifferent care, being affected by rain, dust, insect damage and mould making some parts illegible. It is also evident that some volumes may have been missing at the time they were scanned (the 1980s). Until 1830 all Anglican church events were conducted and recorded at St James’ Church in Lower Jamestown. After that date, additional churches were built and came into use, with their own registers at St John’s in Upper Jamestown, St Matthew’s at Hutt’s Gate, and St Paul’s Cathedral near Plantation. More recently other churches were built – St Helena and the Cross at Bluehill, St Mark’s at Longwood, St Martin in the Hills at Thompson’s Hill, St Peter’s at Sandy Bay and St Andrew’s at Half Tree Hollow – but it would seem their events were recorded in the main three church registers listed. There are also some “Garrison Chapel” records that seem to largely duplicate those from St James, being for families of the HEIC military. New sects also came into being on the Island in 1852 and later – primarily the Baptists and the Roman Catholics, but these records have yet to be transcribed. If you fail to find a name you may need to request a search from the St Helena Archives or from the church concerned.
The time periods for registers at the different Island churches are as follows:
|St James||St Paul's||St John's||St Matthew's||Garrison|
What are the ethnic origins of modern St Helenians?
The first people to land at St Helena, to the best of our knowledge, were a few Portuguese mariners in 1502. Since that time people from very varied origins have landed, lived, bred and died on the island to produce today’s very cosmopolitan population. These include “Honourable East India Company” (HEIC) officials until 1836 when the British Government (Crown) took over governance following legislation two years earlier. HEIC encouraged settlers from England to farm and work the land, as well as bringing in slaves from Madagascar, the West Coast of Africa, and from their holdings in the Far East – such as Indian stations, Bencoolen and others. Over time these were augmented, especially by men serving in the St Helena Regiments and passing seamen in their hundreds – who, however, while they may not have settled, certainly contributed to the gene pool. Other itinerants were the whalers from New England and England, and merchant ships from the Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal, USA and Scandinavian countries. A large number of Chinese indentured labourers were brought in to work the land as slavery was abolished. Large numbers of freed slaves – the “Liberated Africans” – were brought to the island by the British Navy West Africa Squadron – who then lived on the Island for periods before being moved again, and a few of whom settled and integrated.
All these made their contributions to the present-day makeup of the Island population. The late 1800s saw an economic downturn of the Island’s economy due to the change from HEIC to Crown governance, the emancipation of slaves, and the reduction in visiting shipping as the Suez Canal came into use and sail gave way to steam-powered ships. This led to a massive emigration of “Saints” who left the Island and settled elsewhere – particularly in South Africa and the UK.
Where are the Churches, Graveyards and other sites located at St Helena?
The following map shows the location of churches (colour-coded Red text with Green spots) and graveyards (colour-coded Black text and spots) in the map below.
Please click into this location map for a higher definition image (map created by Dr Chris Hillman)
|St James (graveyard covered over, inside memorials)|
|St John’s (gravestones stacked against the outside wall, inside memorials)|
|St Michael’s, Rupert’s Valley (gravestones from St James stacked outside)|
|St Marks’, Longwood (no graves)|
|St Matthew’s, Hutts Gate (graves around the church)|
|St Helena & the Cross, Blue Hill (graves around the church)|
|St Mary’s, Briars (no graves)|
|Baptist Chapel, Sandy Bay (no graves)|
|St Peter’s, Sandy Bay (no graves)|
|St Paul’s Cathedral (inside memorials, extensive graveyards)|
|Baptists Chapel, Knollcombes (graves around the church)|
|St Andrew’s, Half Tree Hollow (no graves)|
|St Martin in the Hills (no graves)|
|Roman Catholic Church, Jamestown (no graves)|
|Baptist Church, Jamestown (few outside memorials)|
|Salvation Army Hall, Deadwood (no graves)|
|Salvation Army Hall, Half Tree Hollow (no graves)|
|Salvation Army Hall, Jamestown (no graves)|
A number of graveyards have no associated church:
|Middle Burial Ground, Jamestown (no longer visible)|
|Plantation (2 Butcher’s Graves)|
|Knollcombes, Boer POW graves|
|Teutonic Hall (one grave, location lost)|
|Halley’s Mount graveyard|
Which years are missing from the Church records?
There are a number of gaps in the St Helena Church records. Perhaps the most significant is the early 1680-1767 St James burial records.
|St James, Established 1659||Burials||1680-1767|
|St Paul's, Established 1822||Baptisms||1848|
|Marriages||1845-1846, 1855, 1868-1869, 1942|
|St Matthews's, Established 1862||Baptisms||1939-1940|
|St John's, Established 1862||Marriages||1862-1881|
British Library Online Searches
The British Library has for some years provided an online service that allows a search to be made of 300,000 births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials in the India Office Records. This includes records from the East India Company (1600-1858). Most of the records relate to India, China and other territories such as Iraq, Kuwait, Malacca and even the UK. In other words, St Helena's church records from the EIC period form only a small part of the total database. The information mainly relates to baptisms, marriages and burials 1767-1835 plus baptisms and deaths, 1737, 1747-1766. It also includes records of the St Helena civil and military establishment 1780-1794 and wills and inventories 1820-1826.
Log onto the British Library Advanced Search webpage and search for the ancestor. Always set the Area to "Other". This includes St Helena and forces the exclusion of territories such as Bombay, Bengal and Madras.
More general genealogical information held by the India Office Library is provided by on their India Office Records and Private Papers: family history page
LDS Family History Searches
The Church of the Latter-Day Saints operates Family History Centres where microfilms relating to St Helena can be viewed. The LDS are in the process of digitising all their films so that records can be searched online. As a result, a number of the smaller Family History Centres have been closed. This switch in priority has led to some deterioration in both the quality of microfilms and viewers. The digitising of St Helena records seems to have been given low priority, few of which are yet been seen online. A number of LDS links have been found not to provide information directly, but instead taking users to general sources such as the Witwatersrand University or the India Office websites.
The full set of LDS films were collected several years ago by Christine Adams. From a genealogical viewpoint, the most important are:
Index: Film #0498603 item 2. Records: Film #0498605.
This is a copy of the British Library India Office records. Baptisms, Marriages and Burial, 1767-1835.
Civil Registrations, 1852-1936
These are copies of the original records at the Archives office, Jamestown. It includes separate indexes for marriages and deaths.
Registers of Wills, 1682-1839
Film #1259107, item 4-6: Will registers 1682-1745, 1746-1793 and 1788-1815.
Film #1259108, item 1-2: Will registers 1815-1821, 1821-1839.
These are copies of wills Microfilms of the originals at the Archives Office, Jamestown.
St Helena Muster and Pension Rolls, 1789-1859
Films #2029841-2029846 and 2029863, partially indexed.
These are copies of the British Library India Office military records L/MIL/13/1-15 with records of East India Company troops and (after 1836) regular British troops. The data normally provides names, ranks, company, regiment, date of arrival, date of discharge and sundry other information.
Council Consultations to 1836
Films #1259066-1259098; 1259102, 1259103, and 1259113-1259121, 45 reels in total, partially indexed
These are copies of records at the Archives office, Jamestown. Includes early records of court sessions, passenger lists, and census lists. Later consultations include muster rolls, court-martials, account statements, tax lists, leases, correspondence, wills, proclamations, etc. The consultations are divided by subject after 1824.
Passengers Proceeding to England, 1807-1812
Film #1259112, item 2.
These are copies of records at the Archives office, Jamestown.
Register of Leases, 1682-1855
Films #1259108, item 3-6 and #1259110, items 1-5.
These are copies of records at the Archives office, Jamestown and include leases, free grants, a survey of farmlands, and an index to the register of leases for 1809.
Land and Property Records. Deed Books, 1729-1849
Films #1259110 item 6-7, 1259111 and 1259112, item 1, individually indexed
These are copies of records at the Archives office, Jamestown and include deeds, bills of sale, mortgage bonds, leases, indentures, permission to marry, powers of attorney, letters of emancipation, affidavits, guardianships, etc.
Inventories of Estates of Deceased Persons, 1744-1760
Film #1259112, item 3, indexed.
These are copies of records at the Archives office, Jamestown.
Are Wildcards Allowed in Searches?
Wildcard searches are not allowed. Such searches normally take the form of prefix txt with an asterisk placed at the end of a name. For example, a search for the surname John* in the hope of finding surnames Johns, Johnson, Johnstone, etc. will not work. This is because searches are already defaulted to locate names that begin with whatever text characters entered into either the forename or surname boxes.