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

Sunday 22 September

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.

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul will draw from historical documents based on his search for his ancestors captured off the Gold Coast and enslaved in Jamaica.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

  • name giving within slave society during and after enslavement
  • the tradition of Caribbean nicknaming
  • evidence of resistance to the imposition of slave names
  • the widespread use of African names prior to emancipation

Paul’s research into his ancestry is displacing disempowering histories of Black people in North America with more empowering versions of events.

Who is this talk for?

This talk is suitable for you if:

You want to develop your knowledge and understanding of the relationship between African Caribbean history and African American history.

You’re new to exploring family history.

Get these e-Books when you “Get Tickets”

  • The ‘Africans, Irish, and the Music of the Caribbean’ e-book. See trailer video
  • DNA Testing Demystified: Separating Fact from Fiction in Genealogy’ to deepen your understanding of genealogy e-publication. See trailer video
  • Paul Crooks’ latest novel ‘Descendants,’ ebook.See trailer video

Get discounted access to Paul Crooks’ Caribbean Surname Origins Search. It’s designed to help you discover the earliest mentions of your family name and connections within the Caribbean. A successful search provides a valuable starting point for further research. More details will be available to those registering for this event.

See trailer video

How to gain access to this event

This talk will be held over Zoom. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration confirmation email.

About the speaker

Trailblazing family historian Paul Crooks pioneered research into Black genealogy during the 1990s. He traced his family history from London, back 6 generations, to ancestors enslaved on a sugar plantation in North America.

Paul was told that it would be impossible to trace records of slave-ownership let alone his Ancestors enslaved on plantations in North America. “No one had tried because such records did not exist.” Undeterred, he embarked on a journey of discovery that led from suburban North London to North America and ultimately back to the Gold Coast.

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

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

Paul is first among peers being an individual advocate for helping schools figure out how to deliver empowering history that

  • helps young people increase their self-esteem
  • others to look at black history through a more appreciative lens

Be sure to follow Black History Speaker Paul Crooks on Eventbrite!

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