*   Land and Property
Search Tracing Your Roots  *

* Introduction
* Caribbean
*Tracing Caribbean Roots
*Life Events
*Land and Property
*Slavery Records
* Irish
* Jewish
* South Asian


In this section * * * * *
Deeds and Patent Registers*    
Maps and Plans*    
Probate Records*    
Plantation Records*    
Other Records*    

A photograph, taken in 1908 or 1909, of a small house in Jamaica with a wooden shingle roof and white-painted window frames
A photograph, taken in 1908 or 1909, of a small house in Jamaica.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (RGS) S0001571

Records relating to land ownership and property are a useful family history resource, especially where other records of birth, marriage or death have not survived. For people with slave ancestors these are especially important because slaves were personal property and are rarely recorded in any other type of record.

The most useful sources for information on land and property are:

  • *Deeds and patent registers
  • Maps and plans
  • *Probate records
  • *Plantation records
  • Rate books and other miscellaneous records
Most records relating to Caribbean land and property will be found in Caribbean archives and departments.

*Deeds and Patent Registers*top of page

*Deeds registers were used by colonial governments to record land ownership, grants of land, transfer of property and land, mortgages and the manumission (freedom) of slaves. Copies of wills were often recorded in deeds registers.

Deeds registers were not sent to the UK and are to be found locally in the relevant archive, register office or perhaps with the court records.

However, occasionally the governor sent abstracts of lands granted, especially of crown lands, and these can be found in the Governor's Correspondence in the National Archives. Also, lands granted by the local government may be recorded in the minutes of the government assembly sessional papers. Again copies are held by the National Archives.

*Maps and Plans*top of page

A plan of the cane fields on the Worthy Park Estate
A plan of the cane fields on the Worthy Park Estate in January 1834.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (PRO) MPGG 1/56
Maps of the islands can provide a lot of information about landowners. Maps are produced for a wide variety of reasons; for example, to show the extent of land ownership, the amount of land under cultivation, boundary disputes (local and national), for court cases, applications for mineral or oil exploitation, the extent of land owned by the government or to show land recently sold by the government.

Plantations, which were often named after the owner, are usually listed and many have since become villages bearing the same name. Many maps were produced under subscription and will include lists of the subscribers often with their addresses.

Many maps were produced to show grants of land and there is usually a key to the numbered plots showing owners.

Collections of maps are to be found in the local libraries, archives, surveyors' or planning departments, the British Library and the National Archives.

The Directorate of Overseas Surveys, and its successor Ordnance Survey International, undertook aerial surveys of many of the Caribbean countries from the 1930s, and these photographs have been used to create topographical maps of the countries. Maps and photographs, with some restrictions, are available from the Ordnance Survey (Ordnance Survey, International Library, Romney Road, Southampton SO16 4GU, tel: 023 8079 2912, *www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osi).

*Probate Records*top of page

The probate of Caribbean wills and grants of administrations were handled through the local courts and should survive in the local archive, register office or even with the courts. They were often copied into the deeds registers or separate wills registers.

The types of records are:

Bequeathing property to immediate family and friends. They usually give information on the *testator property including slaves who may be named.
Letters granting administration of an estate to the *next of kin, or *creditors, in the absence of a will. Letters of administration do not usually give much information beyond the name of the administrator (man) or administratrix (woman).
List of the testator's estate with estimated value. They may include lists of slaves.
Most Caribbean wills were probated locally; however, if the deceased was normally resident in the UK or had estate in the UK the will would usually be proved in the UK church courts until 1858 (1875 in Scotland), especially in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

*Plantation Records*top of page

Plantation records are the personal records of the estate owner. The types of records created by the owner relating to their estate can be very varied and may include plans, accounts, inventories of property, livestock and slaves, correspondence and diaries and journals.

These records are extremely useful for the descendants of slaves because slaves were personal property and they had a value according to their age, physical ability and employment on the estate. Information may include work carried out, sales and purchases, punishments, births and deaths, family relationships and contract work where slaves were hired out.

New houses built for workers on the Diamond Sugar Plantation in the West Indies in 1950
New houses built for workers on the Diamond Sugar Plantation in the West Indies in 1950. These houses replaced the old slave-type dwellings which held 10 families.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (PRO) INF 10/378/003
On road to the wharf with sugar and rum
Wagons on road to the wharf with sugar and rum in Jamaica, 1891.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (RGS) S0001685
Plantation records may survive in a variety of places that reflect the movements of the owner. For example, *absentee owners who lived in the UK, or if the family migrated to the UK may have deposited their papers in a British archive service. Papers of families who remained in the Caribbean may survive in that country's archives, but note that many families held estates in more than one country. It is also possible that any records may survive with the family who owned or managed the estate.

The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts merged with The National Archives in April 2003. The National Archives, *www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, may be able to advise on any papers that survive in the UK.

Try searching *www.a2a.org.uk for plantation records in England and Wales and *www.scan.org.uk for Scottish records.

*Other Records*top of page

There are a wide variety of other records that can be useful for describing land and property. For example:

  • Rate books, which list owners and occupiers and the rateable value
  • Land and house tax defaulters
  • Notices for the sale of land
  • Mortgages
  • Applications for mineral exploitation
  • Creditors' notes
  • Notices of bankruptcy
  • Court cases, especially chancery (in the UK and the colonies), which dealt with such matters as disputes over land, inheritance, marriage settlements, money and debt; these will name the parties involved and may describe the property, boundaries and content; personal papers may be exhibited at the court and if not returned may survive with the records of the court
  • Transports (transfer or sale of property)
  • Arrears in rent of government property
  • Applications for land claims
  • Electoral registers, which give the address of people eligible to vote
These types of records are usually to be found in local archives, libraries, register offices or the courts. However, many of these were announced in the relevant Government Gazettes.

Creators: Guy Grannum

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