Discover your Bahamian ancestors in this online index of registered births from the Bahamas, from 1850-1959. Birth records are essential to expanding your family tree. There are over 290,000 records in this collection, giving information about relatives born in the Bahamas, compiled from difference sources under the civil registration system.
In each you record, you will find a transcript, in some cases with a link to view an image of the original document. You are likely to find at least the following information, with other facts appearing depending upon date and place:
As mentioned, you may also see such other information as occupation of father.
Church and civil registration in Bahamas. The official registering of births, marriages and deaths by the state started in 1850. Before that date, there was only the semi-official registration of baptisms, marriages and burials by the Anglican Church.
Initially, all the islands of the Bahamas were covered by a single Anglican parish, Christ Church, in the capital Nassau on the island of New Providence. This was the case from 1734 to 1768. From 1768 onwards, new parishes were created, eventually leading to Christ Church being raised to the status of Cathedral and the centre of a Diocese. Those other early Anglican parishes from the 18th century – St Andrew (George Town, Exuma), St David (Albert Town, Long Cay), St John (Dunmore Town, Harbour Island), St Patrick (Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera), St Paul (Clarence Town, Long Island) and San Salvador or St Saviour (Cat Island) – also became mother churches with associated chapelries and subsequently parishes emerging from them. This means that baptisms for any one place could appear under two or more different parishes over time.
The names of the Anglican parishes also commonly appear in these births from the civil registration system. However, because these are civil registers, they include records from all other denominations on the islands, including Baptist, Catholic and Methodist.
Districts. The original records often group different places, for instance within a related island group, under one heading. Where this is the case, often we have used the first place named. For example, records grouped under “Mangrove Cay, Wood Cay & Long Bay Cay” will be shown under Mangrove Cay for search and results purposes. However, the transcription retains the original text as indexed. If uncertain, use keyword search to return more search results.
Cat Island and San Salvador. Cat Island was called San Salvador, while San Salvador was known as Watling’s Island, until 1926, when the two acquired their current names. This means that in the present record set the original records for Cat Island would have been under “San Salvador” and those for San Salvador under “Watling’s Island”. However, we have standardised to the present names for search purposes. However, if you do not find what you are looking for under Cat Island, please check under San Salvador, and vice versa. This applies to search both before and after 1926. Coverage. It is important to understand that this record set is not comprehensive or complete. Records may come from different sources, and some individual births may appear twice, while some records are very detailed transcriptions yet others are quite basic index entries.
Accuracy. The records were transcribed by volunteers and, as a result, are uneven in the quality and accuracy of indexing. We have done our best to standardise and enhance the place values so as to make the records more user-friendly. You can search by parish, place (town or village) or island, or use keyword. However, you may prefer to start with a broad search and then refine your search by adding one field at a time – this is regarded as best practice (rather than filling in all fields in an online search form). Race. For certain periods in the early decades of the 20th century, the schedules in which births were registered may include a simple code indicating race. This was usually expressed as below:
A – African
E – European
M – Mixed
Occupation. These registers begin in 1850, after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 had taken effect in 1834. For an interim period, former slaves became apprentices working for their former masters. However, from 1840, the last of the apprenticeships in the British West Indies came to an end and emancipation became a reality. The Slave Compensation Act of 1837 compensated not the slaves but the former slave owners. From the start of the civil registration period, then, many of the Black and mixed race poor were working as paid labourers on plantations, although over time more acquired their own smallholdings. This is why it’s not unusual to a page of birth entries where nearly all the fathers are described as planters or farmers in their own right. Of course, given the nature of the Bahamas, many men worked as seamen.