Genealogy with Sandra Lovell Taitt-Eaddy

by Cynthia Johnson

Mrs. Sandra Lovell Taitt-Eaddy is an educator; a social studies teacher with a focus on history and social studies since 1991. She has over 25 years in genealogy. Born and raised in Barbados, and with both parents from Barbados, Mrs. Taitt-Eaddy, migrated to the US in 1975 and settled in Hartford, CT at age 12. Her mom had a connection in Connecticut, Mrs. Taitt-Eaddy explains, so that is where we headed. She has been there ever since. There is a migrant farm community and a Tobacco Growers Association. Surprisingly to those who don’t know of our community there are lots of Bajans.

CHM: How do you feel Caribbeans have impacted culture (worldwide, in the U.S. or Europe and beyond)?

ST: Economic culture, and empires were built on the backs of Caribbean people. When you discuss reparations, you must see the billions of dollars in labor extracted from the Caribbean. During the building of the Panama Canal, upwards of 40K Barbadians were in the canal zone helping to build. This workforce helped to propel the US into its #1 financial status.

When you look at some of the leaders who have emerged Eric Holder (father from St. Joseph, Barbados), Kwame Ture previously known as Stokley Carmichael (born in Port of Spain, Trinidad), Marcus Garvey (born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica) and Shirley Chisholm (parents born in Barbados) through history, you see Caribbeans making a difference for both their countries of birth and their adopted countries. In the fight for civil rights, some of the most influential Black people in the fight have Caribbean roots. For example Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Helen Norton Little, was a Grenadian-American activist born in La Digue, St. Andrew, Grenada, and WEB Dubois’s father was from Haiti.

I think it’s because we come from such a tradition of resilience and such a strong work ethic because we recognize how far we’ve come. It’s important for these genealogical stories to be told. If we only rely on books and media to inform us of who we are, we might fall short. When we see and learn these stories for ourselves, it’s a very personal connection to history from which we can draw strength and inspiration from.

CHM: Tell us a bit about what you do?

ST: As a genealogist I am interested in reconstructing the lives of our ancestors via documentary and other evidence. I use oral history, vital records, all types of records and now DNA.

CHM: What inspired you to become a genealogist? How did you get started?

ST: I was having my 1st child and knew that
I needed to be grounded in terms of who I was if I was going to raise a child with a strong sense of self and heritage. I began with my own family tree. Creating it was a deeply emotional and impactful journey. There is nothing like the joy of discovery and learning social history. The stories surrounding the records are profoundly interesting . There is often a bit of disappointment in not always being able to find records. It’s been an awesome journey actually. I enjoy recovering documents and history through the late 1700s, getting beyond the late 1800s and that period of enslavement and finding ancestral records more in the business records of the enslavers (if the records survived) rather than among the typical records.

Slavery was absolutley dehumaninizing, a complete stripping of identity. I think we ought to be more careful how we throw that word around. It begs for context. While there are modern forms of other types of slavery there has never been any slaverly like what our ancestors endured and I pray that it will never be again.

Sandra Lovell Taitt-Eaddy

CHM: Tell us more about your work.

ST: All in all, I find more joys in this work than disappointments.
If it’s just names and dates to you, you’re missing the boat. I was fortunate to have a grandmother who was a storyteller. The stories that are impactful for me are the stories of those who had to overcome being treated as property. I acknowledge my European ancestry, but I feel more deeply about the woman who raised me, often times without help. Often in genealogy people are looking for royalty, politicians, or big name person but the unsung heroes, what they lived through, all deserve to be uncovered and recognized. This is my dream. That every single name in a slave register is connected to someone real, someone who lived. When I touch that record it becomes alive and they are humanized in a way they may not have been in the past. I always encourage people to go as far as they can when they search.

My very 1st trip to the archives, I was young and didn’t know a lot about the time period. I was looking for my grandma’s grandma and I found a record that said her mother’s name was Amelia. I was so excited, I found her. I also found 200 plus Amelia’s with no surnames. It was shocking, but it also inspired me to keep going because these people deserve to be known. Finding records and information comes with the power to transform our own perceptions of our ancestors, and see them as people, our own people and not simply slaves. It is really hard for me to fathom that this term can be taken so lightly and used so freely. Slavery was absolutley dehumaninizing, a complete stripping of identity. I think we ought to be more careful how we throw that word around. It begs for context. While there are modern forms of other types of slavery there has never been any slaverly like what our ancestors endured and I pray that it will never be again. I feel, because it was perpetual, demeaning, based on race- something our people had no control of and because it was defined by violence, it was especially heinous.

CHM: What advice or tips you would give to anyone embarking on genealogy, especially Caribbean genealogy?

ST: The first thing I would stress is the collection of oral traditions. Talk to relatives, the elderly, neighbors and get all the stories you can and write them down. Get all the details that are available. Take down names, dates and places and write them down while you can. When we lose an elder they sometimes take information that will be lost forever. Often they have a key piece of information that they don’t even know is helpful that may take years off your research. The act of sharing and interviewing often triggers deep memories to arise. Remember to build trust and reassure them that your intentions are honorable. You aren’t looking for dirt, but to honor the ancestors and their contributions and sacrifices.

CHM: What are some of the resources for Caribbean genealogy?

ST: Online resources are amazing, is free and has a very accessible database and is easy to use. Ancestry and Ancestry DNA are becoming more popular tools. Research what records sets are available for your specific country and research interests.

CHM: Any final thoughts?

ST: It’s important for people to understand that genealogy is more than just dates and names. There are links and keys that help the information to become clear. Even when it appears there is no way to search there often is. I have been able to help adopted people identify a parent and find a family they didn’t know and it was incredibly powerful. Giving people back their roots is powerful.

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