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

Sunday 31th July

Unveiling new, pioneering and empowering research that throws new light on naming practices in North America.


British and North American descendants of ancestors once enslaved, often assume their surnames are a legacy of slave ownership. Some Black and mixed-Black descendants reject their ‘slave name’. For others, the ‘slave name’ may be their only link to a history that has been intentionally erased.

In this masterclass, African Caribbean genealogist Paul Crooks 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.

Paul will draw from historical documents based on his search for his ancestors captured off the Gold Coast and enslaved in Jamaica. Paul will throw light on:

  • 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.

Paul research displaces disempowering histories of how Black people in North America and naming practices with a more empowering version.

Premium Ticket holders

Premium Ticket holders will receive African, Irish & the Music of the Caribbean, A research project by Paul Crooks following the event.

About the speaker

Paul Crooks is a published author and pioneering genealogist with a specialist interest in Black ancestry and Black history.

Paul came to prominence with his pioneering research into Black genealogy During the 1990s, when he became the first to trace his family history back 6 generations, from London to his ancestors enslaved on a sugar plantation in North America 200 years ago. He discovered his ancestors were enslaved on a sugar plantation in Jamaica.

His books Ancestors and A Tree Without Roots – The Guide To Tracing British, African and Asian Caribbean Ancestry have brought him international recognition for his breakthrough research into Black genealogy.

Paul Crooks has appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? with Moira Stuart as the expert in Black genealogy and has been recognised for inspiring an upsurge in interest in Black and British ancestry.

Paul is credited with inspiring an upsurge in interest in Black and British ancestry. He is also recognised for having spawned an industry in Black genealogy.

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

Welcome to Black History Speaker Paul Crooks’ masterclasses – a unique programme of onlaine and live events exploring Black Ancestry, whilst extending knowledge of Black History.

Paul Crooks is a Black History Speaker and pioneering Black genealogist. He helps people satisfy a deep need to understand how we fit into the broader world around us. Black History and Ancestry are journeys of many lifetimes woven together from the past, the present and the future.

There are lessons to be learned – both good and bad – from the way our ancestors have interacted to survive racial injustice. Those historical stories can serve to inspire individuals to higher levels of achievement. Inspirational stories from the pages of Black history fire peoples’ imaginations and spur them on to higher levels of performance in their personal and work lives.

Paul’s online and live events inspire a deeper understanding of difference. He speaks on important topics relating to the Black experience, including identity, inequality and national history.

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