Black Ancestry | The Truth About What’s in a Name?

In this masterclass, Paul 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.

Audiences will gain insight from historical documents related to Paul's search for his ancestors. Attendees will broaden their understanding of

  • 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.


The talk is suitable for you if

  • you’re new to exploring family history
  • you have some experience searching for your ancestors and want to know about other sources of information
  • you’ve started and you’re having problems furthering your search
  • you want to develop your knowledge and understanding of Black History.