EDITORIAL: The means for looking back
Sun, August 12, 2012 - 12:00 AM
A major and interesting aspect of the Second Disapora Conference, held in Barbados during the past week, has been the family history workshop on ancestor research. The object of the exercise was to enable relatives of Barbadians abroad to reach back into the past and trace their family histories and thereby cement their connection to this island.
The presentation by Sandra Taitt-Eaddy, a Barbadian genealogist based in the United States, was an eye-opener for those of us not learned in the art of tracing our roots. It emphasized how much more attention we ought to pay to those records and sources which we handle on a daily basis, but which may provide vital links to the past for future researchers.
Books, court records, probated wills, marriage records and things of that ilk may assume great importance to almost anyone; but it seems that what might be regarded as everyday trivia, such as travel records and artwork, might prove to be of inestimable value in future attempts by our descendants to the search for our past.
Of course, the oral traditions, including reported conversations and accounts of old people passed on from generation to generation, will still be useful sources of information, but clearly the written word takes pride of place.
We ought therefore to be aware in our daily dealings that papers and other records we carelessly discard may just be the link so critical to a future search, even if nowadays there are improved opportunities for making permanent the temporary happenings of our everyday lives.
It must now be very obvious that the people of the present-day Caribbean have an opportunity denied their forbears to look back carefully at their history and to distil the facts so the truth may be unearthed about our ancestors, their history and their activities in strange lands while doing their best to survive in desperately difficult circumstances.
A disadvantaged and occupied group or race would not have had the opportunities of others, who did not have to labour under such harshness, to faithfully record their own histories. A duty therefore devolves on this generation as the first one truly free from the shackles of oppression, denial and deprivation, to quicken itself about the business of discovery and research of our history and culture.
There ought to be a national effort to increase awareness at every level about the need to ensure preservation of all relevant material, and personal papers of people in the public eye, such as ministers of Government.
In this respect we support the archiving of copies of all newspapers, company reports of entities small and big because the contemporaneous recording of news and commentary is probably the most accurate reflection of national and daily events. The easy availability for inspection and research of such materials should continue to be a resource for our students and university researchers, as well as for those who interested in simply tracing their family histories.
Chief Archivist David Williams told the Second Disapora Conference that one could do practically any type of research related to Barbados’ history or culture or Barbadian institutions at the Department of Archives. That statement emphasizes the importance of careful recording for posterity of documents and papers and other such materials, critical to those people who may reflect, now and in the future, on our life and times.
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