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Commentary: Our unknown ancestry
Published on July 17, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anatol Leopold Scott

This is a list of names of Vincentian Plantation Owners in 1829 as provided by Charles Shepard in An Historical Account of the Island of Syet. Vincent. As anyone can see, the vast majority of names on this list are still commonplace in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Anatol Leopold Scott is a graduate of the St Vincent Boys’ Grammar School. In 1969, he was appointed executive secretary of the St Vincent Tourist Board under James Mitchell, the then minister of agriculture, tourism, and trade. He emigrated to Canada where he worked at different jobs in government and private enterprises. He pursued higher education at the University Of Alberta, graduating BA (1993) with distinction, and MA (1994) in History.
I’ve taken the liberty of arranging the information in a format which would enable Vincentians whose surname appears on the list to be able to search forward from 1829 to the present, hopefully, in order to discover, a little bit of their family history and the role their family may have played in the progression of the nation. For most individuals they will quickly become frustrated by this undertaking in that the place to do this type of research is the Registry in Kingstown.

Unfortunately, there you will be confronted with mostly insurmountable roadblocks in terms of incomplete or unavailable information or a demonstration of lack of interested service by many so-called civil servants. Just to give an example, I will relate here an example of the type of frustrations I went through on a recent (six-month) visit to St Vincent. I needed to get a death certificate for my mother in order to clarify her share of family land ownership in St Martin. Understandably, her birth was not registered in St Vincent because she was not born there. Based on this roadblock and, knowing that one of my brothers (Lancelot) was born in St Vincent, I asked the official to search for his birth information.

This information was readily available but, according to the official, the record indicated that his mother was someone by the name of Adelle. I asked to see the computer screen in order to verify this preposterously incorrect information. In order to clarify the misinformation, I presented our official Aruba Family Registry to the official and showed her that our father’s name was Sanford and our mother’s name was Odette, not Adelle, and that Lancelot is listed as one of her children on the Family Register.

Next, I asked if it would be possible to get this wrong information corrected. I was informed that it could not be done by them and that I would have to go to the attorney general’s office to try and get that information changed. That proved to be a lost cause since I discovered that I would have to hire a lawyer. I decided to postpone such action until this next winter when I will again return to St Vincent for my six-month snowbird escape.

At least, reluctantly the official did accept that my mother’s name was Odette and agreed to search for her death certificate. To my amazement, that was promptly produced.

The further back you go in a forward search, the more likely the possibility that you will run into this type of frustration and, in the end, you will have to visit a tiny side room with a mass of people who seem to have no appreciation for the importance of the documents before them, as they roughly dig through a pile of crumbing, thick binders that are mostly illegible and almost useless.

The St Vincent Registry is supposed to be one of the places where the history of all Vincentians should be held in high esteem and properly safeguarded for posterity. Instead, it is one of the most disgustingly atrocious excuses for an archive that one can ever imagine. Apparently, there is now an attempt to improve the system and to bring it more up-to-date using modern technology. Having worked in the National Archives of Canada years ago, I can appreciate the tremendous difficulties ahead for those who are involved in this project. Good luck to them.

Instead of working forward, by working backwards and by questioning parents and grandparents, one might be able to recover important details of family members going back two or three generations before approaching the Registry for whatever other information you might be able to discover.

Good luck to those who care enough to persist!

As for me, I am rather surprised to discover that my family surname, Scott, is on the list of plantation owners attached. Apparently, three brothers, Thomas, Walter and William Scott owned half (309.5 acres) of the Spring plantation in Bequia. Of course, I know I’ll have to work through the difficulties of illegitimacy and other social conundrums but, what the hell! It’s fun! If they (the original Scotts) turn out to be somehow related to my line of Scotts of Campden Park, St Vincent, I think I’ll have a good chuckle but I’ll also know a heck of a lot more than I know now. By the way, the known extent of my line is as follows:

George Scott m. Jane Scott (maiden name unknown); their daughter, Augusta Scott had an illegitimate child with a Willington Charles; that child, Robert Sanford Scott m. Odette Eulalie Scott (nee James) in Aruba; their children, in order of birth, are:

Augusta Amancia Brown (illegitimate daughter of Robert Sanford Scott, mother’s name not known) -- born in St Vincent before Robert went to Aruba
Robert Camille Scott (Bobby) -- born Aruba
Anatol Leopold Scott -- born Aruba
Jeremiah Cavallaneous Scott (Jerry) -- born Aruba
Nathan Caswallon Scott (Jimmy) -- born Aruba
Sanford Lancelot Scott (Lance) -- born St Vincent
Raphael Ishmael Scott (Raffy) -- born Aruba
Ludencia Armadine Scott (Lou) -- born Aruba

Even more fascinating to me is the fact that the other half of the Bequia Spring estate was owned by a Charles Warner. I find it very interesting that, more than a century later, there was a Warner family in Campden Park when we were young and that our two families were very close. Is this all coincidence? Even more interesting to me is the idea of how the other Scott families in St Vincent might be connected to us and to each other. If any of you accidentally find out any information on my family, I can be reached on Facebook.

Sometimes, it is enlightening and fun to open a can of worms but, it is an interesting way to go about binding a community together.
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Vinci Vin:


Thank your lucky stars that you have the time to spend 6 months in SVG. On my last visit to SVG I started the research about my grand-father who died around 1955. Throughout his life he carried the last name Johnson. But I couldn't find a birth record under that name. So I tried his mother's maiden name "Matthew", nothing. Her birth records are not available in SVG as she was born in Scotland. She was not married to my grandfather's father -- a Mr. Johnson whose name would not appear on my grandfather's birth certificate. There is a possibility that my great grand mother Rosie came to St. Vincent under a different last name. If I knew the approximate date of her arrival I could check the ship's records. Also, I might be able to check her brother's information (He came to St. Vincent as a civil engineer in HMS) and try to make the connections, especially about the date when she arrived in SVG. But that takes a great deal of time, especially when you are only on at home for 3 weeks.

Another complication is the possible adulteration of the name "Matthew" to "Matthews". While there are quite a few Matthews in SVG, I have not encountered a single "Matthew". While in New Foundland, Canada about 15 years ago there was the celebration of a ship, called The Matthew, that brought the first Scots to Eastern Canada. The ship was named after a Scottish clan called Matthew. I wondered whether my great grand mother came from that family. To confirm that I would have to go to Scotland and do the research. So I do appreciate your plight.

By the way, there are Scots in Windward Lowmans where I grew up. Some of the off-springs are now carrying the lastname Francis, cousins, aunts and uncles to the PM.

Good job with the historical analyses.


Peter Binose:

One of the difficulties of our black bretheren's family history is that, years ago we took the surnames of our masters and some times used the name of plantations and estates where we worked and toiled as our surnames. SO although the phone books may be full of the names of old planter families, both French and British, we may not be related to those old families at all.

Where a foreigner was introduced into the family at a later date, that family should be able to be traced, records in the UK and in many other places are good and very open and useable, some of it on line.

Of course there are many white families still here that go way back to slavery days.

There are even very black Gonsalves living at Ralph's old village, whereby the Gonsalves' great great grandparentage bred with a black lady, the historical fact and records are there.

THe only way we realy know who we are is perhaps DNA testing, or who we are a small part of.

But is that realy important, unless we want to claim some superiority by way of lineage, or not knowing is driving us mad, or turning into internet crazies.


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