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Wealth of Genealogy Data On Loan to Williams Library

Jan. 20, 2008 — Crucians researching their family tree should grab their pencils and head to the Florence Williams Library in Christiansted soon, where a huge trove of genealogical records spanning several centuries on St. Croix is on loan until April.
"This is an excellent resource to be able to make accessible to researchers on St. Croix," said Donald "Ducks" Cole, acting director of libraries, archives and museums, Saturday while the microfilm was unpacked and sorted in the library's Caribbean Collection and Archives.
"We would like to purchase a similar set for permanent use. Meanwhile this gives St. Croix genealogical researchers a chance for easy access to them," Coles said.
The Caribbean Genealogical Library (CGL) is loaning the set of 130 microfilm roles from its own collections on St. Thomas.
Veronica Phillips, a founder of the St. Croix-based Virgin Islands Discovery Group, was working at the CGL on St. Thomas recently when she came across the records. Many of them had been thought permanently lost. Now, if you are looking for your ancestors in the 1890 St. Croix census, Phillips can lead you right to the documents.
The collection consists of 130 reels of photos of Caribbean records held by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. They include St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John Mortgage records from 1756 to 1801, property and head tax records from 1743 through 1924, birth records, death records, suicide records, marriage records, lists of property owners, plantation acreage and tax records and much more.
Page after page of photos of yellowed colonial era records are written in the stylized, florid quill and ink writing of those times.
Following the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the U.S. in 1917, Denmark left behind records concerning local administration, according to a description of the microfilm collection from the National Archives. Most of these records were brought to Washington D.C. in 1937, 1954 and 1955.
All told, the U.S has in its possession Danish language records from the territory that fill about 600 meters of shelving, amounting to more than 2,300 cubic feet or about four million pages. Records and documents from the American era come to over half a million pages.
CGL is familiar to many members of the St. Croix genealogy and research community. Recently, when CGL President Susan Laura Lugo learned St. Croix did not have a copy of these National Archives microfilms, she asked her board to consider loaning one of CGL's copies.
"The board's response was immediate and unanimous," said Lugo in a press release about the microfilm loan. It fits squarely in the CGL mission of preserving and providing access to Caribbean genealogy, history and cultural heritage information, she said. "In a community like the Virgin Islands, where dedicated resources often are constrained by budget or geographically limited, it is especially important to optimize library holdings whenever possible," she said.
CGL was established in 2000 on St. Thomas as a volunteer nonprofit corporation and is funded by membership fees and donations. For more information about the organization, membership and hours, email CaribGenLibrary@gmail.com or call (340) 714-2136.
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