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The Saint-Domingue Newsletter
Newsletter Index (1989-2002)

From Volume 10, Number 4 (October, 1998):

"Where do I Start ??"

"How and where do I start looking for my ancestor in Saint-Domingue?" is the most frequently asked question I get. Although many researchers have progressed beyond this, it is a process worth detailing for those who are just starting Saint-Domingue genealogy, and who may not be familiar with the LDS.

The Family History Centers of the Latter Day Saints (LDS or "Mormons") are the most important research facilities in the U.S. for Saint-Domingue genealogy. These Centers are located all over the country and the world. (To find the one nearest you, call your local LDS stake — look in the phone book under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Researchers can access any of the millions of rolls of LDS microfilm, which contain original records, documents, books, maps, etc., through these centers for a small rental fee. And among these millions, are eight rolls that are essential, indispensible to our research — microfilm numbers 1094159 through 1094166. They contain the "mother lode" — indices of church and civil records for the French colony of Saint-Domingue.

But, before you start, it is helpful to keep the following things in mind:

1. Although records for Saint-Domingue exist as far back as 1666, those for most towns in the partie du Nord (the most populous area) run only from 1777 to about 1788.
2. Before 1790, registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials were kept by church officials; from 1790 on, births, marriages, and deaths were recorded by civil officials and are referred to collectively as the État Civil.
3. From 1795 to 1809, France occupied the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo, on the eastern half of the island (awarded by the Treaty of Bâle). 14 registers of French civil records exist for Santo Domingo, for the years 1801 to 1809. If you have had trouble locating your Saint-Domingue ancestor during this time period, consult roll 1094166 for the indices to these 14 registers.
4. Your search will be much easier if you know the name of the town in which your ancestor lived and the approximate time span he lived there.
5. Many wealthy colonists owned property in more than one part of the colony and could have lived on any of it at any given time. They frequently owned large habitations out in the country and maintained town houses in the local capital.

To start, find which microfilm roll contains the indices of the registers for the town of your ancestor. Do this by consulting the "Haiti" microfiche in the Family History Locality Catalog. Look under the heading Haiti - [name of town] - Church Records (or Civil Registration). Then rent that roll from the LDS main library in Utah, and, when it arrives, start searching around and through the time period your ancestor was in the colony. Unless the town was a large one (Port-au-Prince, Cap-Français), the registers will be indexed in 10 year groups, called tables décennales, for example from 1720-1729, 1770-1779. After the 1770s, some registers are indexed on a more frequent basis.

When you find your name in the index, copy down the reference, which will usually include a year, a page number (sometimes followed by R for "recto" (front) or V for "verso" (back), and a letter - B, M, or S (baptêmes - baptisms, marriages, or sépultures - burials). The post-1789 indices will indicate the nature of the act with N, M, or D (naissances - births, marriages, décès - deaths).

The index will often supply some information, such as the names of the parents or a racial designation for baptisms, the name of the other party in a marriage, and, for burials, the name of a spouse, parent, relative, or, in the case of slaves, the owner or habitation.

Then, refer back to the "Haiti" microfiche and look again under the name of the town for the year in which you found your surname listed. Order the roll for the appropriate time period — this film will contain photographs of the actual records. If the town was very small, all the records will be on one or two rolls. For example, all the registers for Petite-Riviere (1710 to 1803) are contained on 2 rolls of microfilm, whereas those of Port-au-Prince (1711 to 1803) are on 13 rolls. Note: There may be church and État Civil records for some towns in the early 1790s, so look under both listings.

When the microfilm arrives, simply find the appropriate register and page containing the act which documents your ancestor. The registers I have viewed in the course of my research are in fairly good shape and legible. If your local Center has a microfilm reader-printer, you can even make copies of the document(s).

It all seems so easy, doesn't it?! Unfortunately, there can be problems.

What if you don't find your ancestor in the registers of a certain town? Examine a map of Saint-Domingue and take note of the names of surrounding towns and search through those indices. Or if your ancestor owned a plantation or lived in a small town, look through the indices of the nearest large town. (This may mean renting more microfilm.)

And — what if you don't know the name of the town where your ancestor lived? Tedious, but still possible. In this case, you must rent all eight rolls of indices, probably one or two at a time, and search through the indices of all the towns during the appropriate time period. This will be slow going, but Saint-Domingue genealogy isn't always a piece of cake - that's why it's so exciting when you find something!

And what to do if you still don't find that elusive ancestor? The possibilities are numerous. Maybe he didn't marry in the colony, maybe she went back to France to give birth to the children, maybe they died at sea or on a visit to Guadeloupe or America. There are many reasons why ancestors may not be recorded in the registers of Saint-Domingue, even though you know they did live there.

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From Volume 11, Number 4 (October, 1999):

The French Connection in Trinidad

The island of Trinidad was discovered by Columbus in 1498, on his third pass through the West Indies. Having no precious metal resources, the it s development was hampered by inadequate financial support from Spain. The colonists were frequently the prey of pirates, and they survived by trading their crops (illicitly and openly) with English, French, and Dutch vessels.
Ironically, Trinidad was not to achieve its greatest era of growth and prosperity until the late 1700s, through the industry of colonists from another European power that would never own it — France.

The main migration of Frenchmen to Trinidad started after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, when France ceded the colony of la Grenade, to Great Britain. Many of the French Catholic planters on the ceded island were subjected to severe political and social discrimination by the Protestant British. These were also difficult times for the planters of the other French islands — they were experiencing problems with depleted soil, hurricanes, plagues of ants, and other economic downturns.

At the same time, Charles III of Spain wanted to hold on to his stepping-stone to the South American continent, but he also realized that foreign immigration would be essential to develop Trinidad.

And so the stage was set. On 3 September 1776, he issued a royal decree, inviting anyone of the Roman Catholic faith to settle on the island. The generous terms of the invitation attracted many of the economically distressed colonists from the French West Indies, among them, a planter from la Grenade, named Philippe Roume de St. Laurent. Realizing Trinidad's potential, Roume took an active part in recruiting new settlers, and by 1779, at least 523 free settlers and 973 slaves had entered the island, nearly all of them French.

Convinced by the success of this first wave of immigration, and encouraged by Roume de St. Laurent's energetic lobbying, the Spanish crown issued the Cédula of Colonization of 1783, which refined and expanded the incentives of the earlier decree of 1776. The main enticements were free land grants, with additional land awarded for each slave brought in, Spanish citizenship, and special long-term tax incentives. It also gave legal sanction to a new class of inhabitant — free men of color. Many of them immigrated and became small landowners, artisans, or domestic servants and held positions in the militia.

During the time of the Cédula, the Spanish colony of Trinidad grew and flourished. The capital was moved from the old San José de Oruña (St. Joseph) to the rapidly expanding town of Port-d'Espagne (Port-of-Spain). The economy was largely controlled by the French settlers — sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton were the main crops. Maurice Picot de la Peyrouse (also from la Grenade) built the first sugar mill on the island. Frenchmen held many important positions in the government — in 1788, six out of nine members of the Cabildo, or city council, were foreigners. Their influence was strong in other areas as well: French social customs had invaded all levels of life, and the French language and the Creole patois were the most widely-spoken languages. French-speaking priests were even brought to the colony. One historian pointed out that, by 1784, Trinidad was "a French colony in all but name."

Immigration to Trinidad in the 1790s reflected the fortunes of the revolutionary war in the French West Indies, especially those of Saint-Domingue — first came the royalists, then the republicans, fleeing the British, then colored republicans fleeing Toussaint L'Ouverture. In 1795 at least one attempt had been made to seize Trinidad for republican France.

In September 1796, Spain, now an ally of France, declared war on Great Britain, and in February 1797, England attacked Trinidad. After only token resistance to the superior British naval and land forces, Governor Chacón surrendered the island. When the British occupation governor Thomas Picton took over in 1797, the total population had reached almost 18,000, (56% of which were slaves), and there were 486 working plantations on the island. Trinidad was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1802 (Peace of Amiens).

The French influence continued to be felt in the British colony of Trinidad, as the Napoleonic wars drove large numbers of French subjects from the other islands. In 1801, official correspondence indicates that several Saint-Domingue refugee families arrived from Jamaica. An 1803 census reveals that, of the 8,000 white and free population, the number of French speaking colonists was almost double that of the Spanish speakers, and more than three times as numerous as the English speakers. A majority of the 21,000 slaves spoke French.

As late as 1839, five years after slavery had been abolished in the British colonies, three shiploads of Frenchmen arrived in Trinidad (total, 676 persons), lured by an "Immigration Ordinance" designed to counter the labor shortage. It was noted that in 1838 "creole French is more the language of the people here than either English or Spanish...".

Although the British ruled Trinidad until 1962, when it was granted independence, a strong French influence still lingers in the customs and traditions of the people of Trinidad and the architecture of its cities.

Sources for Research — Civil, Religious, Others

Although this writer has had no personal experience in researching ancestors in Trinidad, the following addresses are suggested as a starting point:

Office of the Registrar General
Trinidad & Tobago

I do not know if this agency holds any civil records dating back to the era of French immigration.

Concerning official government documents of the British era, Guy Grannum, (in Tracing Your West Indian Ancestors, Sources in the Public Record Office) reveals that "the PRO [in London] does not hold the domestic records of colonial governments. These remain with the colony, and may be found in the former colony's archives." He did not state the nature of these "domestic" records. The address to write to concerning these records is:

National Archives
POB 763, St. Vincent Street
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

Unfortunately the records of the Cabildo from the Spanish era, were lost in a fire in 1903, but a published manuscript entitled Abstracts of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813 exists. Borde (see bibliography) did not mention what, if anything, happened to British era documents.

Grannum's book also discusses the following PRO records that might contain information about French colonists:

1. 1814 List of Land Grants (CO (Colonial Office) 295/35) — abstract of all grants of land made by the Spanish government and all permissions of occupancy or petitions of grants from the Capitulation, 14 June 1813. (This probably contains significant information about the French immigration of 1776 and 1783.)
2. The Slave Registry, 1812-1834 (T 71)
3. Original Correspondence (CO 295, beginning in 1783) , Sessional Papers (CO 298, beginning in 1803), Miscellanea (CO 300, beginning in 1804)
4. Miscellaneous Lists 1814-15, List of persons allowed to remain in Trinidad (CO 385/1)

The PRO does not research mail requests. In order to obtain copies of or search through any of these documents, it will be necessary to hire a researcher or go there and do it yourself.

Sacramental registers are another important source. I have not been able to ascertain where the sacramental registers for the period of French immigration are stored, but the Archdiocese should know. The address is:

Archdiocese of Trinidad & Tobago - Chancery
Archbishop's House
27 Maraval Road, St. Clair
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

The Archdiocese also has a website listing the names and addresses of all the churches in Trinidad by district/town. Many of them have e-mail addresses. The URL for the website of the Archdiocese is

Earlier in this century, the Trinidad Historical Society Historical (later, the Society of Trinidad and Tobago) published a series of about 1,000 unbound 5"x 8" monographs, each about one to five sheets in length. They include transcriptions and translations of documents housed in British archives (mostly the Public Records Office) concerning the history of the island, from as early as the 1500s. A number of these leaflets deal with the French presence in Trinidad. An incomplete (but sizeable) collection of these publications exists at the Howard-Tilton Library of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Malheureusement, the historical society no longer exists.

The most useful work about Trinidad for genealogists is the 54-page article by Xavier Steiner, listed in the bibliography at the end of this article. It contains names abstracted from three of the oldest cemeteries in Trinidad, the most important and largest one being the Lapeyrouse cemetery (the former site of the first sugar factory on the island) in the center of the capital city of Port-of-Spain.

A new website for Trinidad & Tobago has just opened up on the CaribGenWeb. The host is Dean de Freitas. The URL is . It is still under construction and all the links have not yet been enabled. De Freitas plans to eventually post a section about the French immigration to Trinidad.

The Latter Day Saints microfiche for Trinidad & Tobago lists only published works, including some of the histories mentioned in the bibliography below. They have not yet microfilmed any original material.

Readers who wish to study the subject further are referred to the following books. :

Borde, Pierre-Gustave-Louis. The History of Trinidad Under the Spanish Government. Second Part (1622-1797). Translated by Brigadier General A. S. Mavrogor- dato. Paris: Maisonneuve et Cie., 1883. Frequently cites Cabildo abstracts. Of special interest are the 150 names of French settlers listed at the end in the notes for chapter 14.

Brereton, Bridget, A History of Modern Trinidad 1783-1962. Kingston: Heinemann, 1981. A well-written history.
Carmichael, Gertrude. The History of the West Indies Islands of Trinidad and Tobago 1498-1900. London: A Redman, 1961. Thoroughly-researched. Excellent end notes cite many original colonial documents in the PRO.

Grannum, Guy. Tracing Your West Indian Ancestors. Sources in the Public Record Office. London: PRO Publications, 1995.

Joseph, E. L. History of Trinidad. London: Frank Cass and Company, Limited, 1970.

Kaplan, Irving et al., Area Handbook for Jamaica. Washington D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1976.

Millette, James. Society and Politics in Colonial Trinidad. Trinidad: Omega Bookshops, Ltd., 1985. Well-written, very objective and informative.

Ottley, Carlton Robert. The Story of Port of Spain From the Earliest Times to the Present Day. [Trinidad]: Longman Caribbean, [1970].

Steiner, Xavier, "Recherches sur les Français de Trinidad: Les Sépultures des cimitières de Port d'Espagne, Saint-Joseph et Chacachacare", in Cahier du Centre de Généa logie et d'Histoire des Isles d'Amérique, No. 61 (December 1997), pp. 1-54. Contains names abstracted from graves of 3 Trinidad cemeteries.

Williams, Eric, History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964.

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From Volume 12, Number 4 (October, 2000):

"The Germans in Saint-Domingue"

The surviving sacramental registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials for the église catholique of St.-François, Bombarde, Saint-Domingue include only the years 1784 through 1788.(1) Yet these records document more than just life events — they tell of the presence of an "exotic" group of people (as one contemporary writer described them) — Germans who had come to Saint-Domingue twenty years earlier, as refugees of a sort. They had been recruited in Europe, as part of the French expedition of 1763-65 to colonize Kourou in French Guiana, on the northern coast of South America. This effort was a disastrous and total failure. About 14,000 people died because of poor planning and tropical disease.(2)

On 2 August 1764, the Minister wrote to the colonial administrators of Saint-Domingue that the King, in order to augment the white population of the colony, was sending 2,470 Germans there from Cayenne (French Guiana). They would, it stated, be sent with tools, clothing, and provisions.(3)

Between November 1764 and January of 1765, the Germans (and some Acadians, victims of the grand dérangement in Acadie) arrived at Cap Français, taking colonial officials completely by surprise — apparently the royal correspondence had not caught up with them.

A majority of the new arrivals (especially the Acadians) were sent on to Môle-St.-Nicolas. The Môle, located on the far point of the underpopulated northern peninsula of the Saint-Domingue, was then considered one of the strongest naval stations in the New World.(4)

But about a thousand of the Germans were settled inland and to the south of Cap Français, in the parishes of Sainte-Rose and Dondon. They were lodged temporarily in empty barracks, but by January of 1765, each family had its own house and 4 carreaux of land, which included a small planted garden. Unfortunately by December of that year, three-quarters of them had died from disease and the rigors of a climate quite alien to their own. The survivors were relocated to Môle St.-Nicolas, to be integrated into those who had gone there straightaway a year earlier.

However, the Germans and the Acadians did not get along, and Fuzée Aublet, director general of the Môle, separated them. Some 300 of the Acadians moved on to Louisiana. The rest, he sent to rather barren areas on the southern coast of the northern peninsula, one at Plate-Forme and the other on the Baie d'Henne, knowing they were fishermen and that the sea was their livelihood and their destiny.

The Germans, who excelled at animal husbandry and agriculture, were settled in the newly created town of Bombardopolis located inland from the Acadian settlements, on the edge of a vast prairie. Aublet had named the town after his benefactor, a M. Bombarde (who had pulled strings at Court to get him appointed Royal botanist at Cayenne), and added a classical touch with the Greek ending ‘-opolis', although later maps show simply "Bombarde".

Bombarde was laid out on a square plan, 32 blocks, divided by 20 intersecting streets, situated so as to take the best possible advantage of the breezes. Although several main streets bore names honoring the French family and ministers, some of the other names were German in origin. There was nothing pretentious about the town — the houses were humble abodes built with roofs of straw.

The Germans immediately and zealously set to working their lands, which were at one end of a great cool, fresh plain, high above the sea, where the view went on and on, and the air circulated freely. Several small rivulets and springs furnished the inhabitants with water. The Bombarde nights were pleasantly cool and during what was called the "cold" season, the morning dews often reminded one of the white frosts of France. Apparently the topography of the northern peninsula was so varied that conditions a mere ten miles away in any direction might be totally different and insufferable. The Germans discovered this in 1765-66 when some of them were settled amongst the Acadians, closer to the coast, at Plate-Forme and Henne — they promptly left.

Routes of commerce opened between the Môle and the three ‘refugee' towns on the south side of the peninsula. The area developed and by September 1765, all of the inhabitants were comfortable lodged, and plans for barracks and fortifications were drawn up. In April 1766, Bombarde counted 776 Germans. In July 1767, Môle-St.-Nicolas was made an entrepôt - an international, open port, and the "trickle-down" effect helped Bombarde to prosper — the Germans sold all their surplus produce there in the markets. In 1784, when the Môle's entrepôt status was revoked, they turned to the cultivation of coffee, and by 1787, the parish had produced 250,000 livres (pounds) of coffee. As a tribute to industry of the Germans, it is worth mentioning that in 1793 the British forces which had taken over Môle-St.-Nicolas were totally dependent on Bombarde for their produce and poultry.(5)

Moreau mentions the Germans in Saint-Domingue only briefly during the 1770s, when their lands (along with the King's habitation) were officially surveyed. Almost a generation later, in February of 1789, they petitioned the government to divide up these Royal lands near Bombarde among them, as they were mostly lying fallow and not reaping any great profits. Moreau also mentions the hurricane of 1772, after which the area was siezed by a cruel dry spell which lasted until 1774.

In spite of Bombarde's prosperity, and probably because of the initial, hard conditions and high mortality rates, the town remained small. By 1770 the German population in the parish had decreased to 334 (down from 776 in 1766). Twelve years later, in 1784, the parish of Bombarde had only 600 whites (French and Germans), 50 free people of color, and 900 slaves. In 1789, the town had two companies of militia, one of which was composed of Germans. These militia companies along with some free men of color totaled 160 men-at-arms.

Moreau's work ends in 1789 and, thus, does not address how the Germans were affected by the slave revolts at Cap Français in August of 1791. However, on 26 September 1793, the inhabitants of Bombarde (mostly Germans) capitulated to the British forces from Jamaica, that had just invaded and occupied Saint-Domingue. But their loyalty remained uncertain, especially as no British troops were available to garrison the place. In fact, half a year later, the Germans defected to the Republicans and repulsed an attack by British marines. (6) In 1796, Lt. Thomas Phipps Howard, a soldier stationed in Saint-Domingue during the British occupation, referred to Bombarde in his journal: "[It is] inhabited by a Colony of Germans, where there is a tolerable strong Fort tho' the Place itself is but an inconsiderable Burg." (7)

But this "inconsiderable burg" made a considerable difference in the lives of the Germans who arrived there thirty years before with nothing but a willingness to work and a desire to succeed. Moreau paid this tribute to the Germans: they are, he wrote, "a sober and laborious people, whom France has neglected [as colonists]. Their success and prosperity were the result of their own economy and efforts, the sweat of their brows and the strength of their arms, in spite of living in a climate so alien to the one from which they were transplanted. From the beginning they have paid a cruel tribute because of this transplantation, but their industriousness promises them a only bright and shining future."

A perusal of the decennial tables alphabetiques for church registers of the town of Bombarde (1784-88) reveals the following 49 names which are obviously of German origin. A survey of the actual records would probably reveal more, including, perhaps, some places of birth in Germany. No doubt the Saint-Domingue notarial archives at Aix-en-Provence, France would be even more fruitful:

 Anhauser  Fogel  Louthinger Schnellemin
 Appel Gaab  Martz  Singlas
 Branberg Gratz  Meyr Sippemane
Brindel  Haine  Miller Thal
 Christ  Haortz [?]  Odo Verner
Connerath  Hay Openheiser Volfensperger
 Creber  Helmispac Risser  Voock
Ey [Ei?]  Herman Schell Wackner
 Felshaver  Hoffmaennin Scheloite Wattre
Felzeaur  Laissert Scher Woock
 Ferdig  Langerat Scherman  
 Flick  Lenard Schliere  
 Flock Linek  Schneider  

Sources and notes

1. Latter Day Saints microfilm no. 1094171, "Eglise catholique. St.-François, Bombarde, Haiti" (Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1974). Indices to the registers are on LDS microfilm no. 1904159, item 1, "Saint-Domingue. Greffes des Tribunaux civils. Tables alphabétiques des registres paroissiaux". The original registers and indices are housed at the Archives d'Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence, France.

2. James E. McClellan III, Colonialism and Science. Saint-Domingue in the Old Regime (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 61-62; and The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia. Vol 7. (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1970), 714.

3. Médéric-Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie Française de l'isle Saint-Domingue. Revised and expanded edition. Edited by B. Maurel and E. Taillemite. 3 vols. (Paris: Société de l'histoire des Colonies Françaises et Librairie Larose, 1958), 232-33, 267, 735-37, 752-61. Unless otherwise cited, the information in this article was found in Moreau's work and translated by this writer. Although Moreau cites official correspondence which states that 2,470 Germans were sent to Saint-Domingue, nowhere in his work does he account for the placement of all of them. An examination of the C9A papers (Correspondance générale, Saint-Domingue. 1664-1792) might illuminate this subject considerably.

4. David Patrick Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution The British Occupation of Saint Domingue 1793-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 108, 114, 233.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Robert Norman Buckley, The Haitian Journal of Lieutenant Howard, York Hussars, 1796-1798. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), 37.

This article was originally inspired by the German names I found in the Bombarde indices. I enjoyed researching it and have learned a great deal about this little-known aspect of Saint-Domingue history. If readers have any further information, corrections, or ideas (an extraction project?), or find any references to this interesting subject (published sources or original material), I would very much like to hear from them.

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From Volume 8, Number 2, (April 1996), pages 6-7:

"S-D Refugees in Puerto Rico"
[The Real Cédula de Gracias de 1815]

Although there is no evidence to substantiate that any great number of Saint-Domingue refugees fled directly to the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico in the 1790s, there is proof that there was a substantial number of French and refugee families residing there after 1815.

And, of the 561 books in the Tulane University Latin American Library that deal with various aspects of the history of Puerto Rico, none seems more appropriate to our focus than La inmigración a Puerto Rico durante el siglo XIX, written by Estela Cifre de Loubriel, Ph. D. (Call number JV7382.C5.)

Although this work discusses in detail, migration to Puerto Rico from other parts of the Spanish empire, it also mentions the "mayor número" of French that settled there after the Cédula of August 1815.

According to the author, the largest number of non-Spanish immigrants to take advantage of the Cédula were the French, followed by those from the islands of the Caribbean. No doubt, some of the "French" were Saint-Domingue refugees who had returned to the metropole (France). [Or who were French and had migrated to Saint-Domingue.]

The Réal Cédula de Gracias of 10 August, 1815 was a royal invitation, the first legislation formulated exclusively for the island of Puerto Rico. It's intent was to foster industry and agriculture on the island, by attracting emigrants from all parts of Spain and foreign countries.

People of all races — whites, mixed bloods, and blacks were invited to settle on the island, but only natives of those countries that were at peace with Spain, and only those who professed the Roman Catholic faith were permitted.

The immigrants had to be free persons, but they were allowed to bring slaves with them. The law also granted them certain concessions, guarantees, and rights: free land; all rights and privileges of citizenship, including honorary titles and military positions; tax-exempt status (for whites), freedom to return to their native land during the first 5 years, without any legal or financial penalties; the freedom to will their possessions to relatives wherever they may reside; a 15-year extension on the "diezmo" (a 10% tax on goods brought into the colony), with a reduction of the tax to 2½%; the ability to travel anywhere in the Spanish empire or foreign dominions, with permission of the governor of the island; the right to import slaves, free of taxes, to name a few.

After 5 years the immigrants, if they were persons of good character and credit, were permitted to become citizens. (Those who wished to leave Puerto Rico after 5 years were not penalized, but were given time to put their affairs in order before departing.). There were other stipulations and later refinements to the law, but the basic conditions of the Cédula remained the same.

This seems like quite an attractive package and it is easy to understand why one's French ancestors might have taken advantage of Spain's generous immigration policy.

About 663 "non-Spanish" persons went to Puerto Rico in the first 2 years after the Cédula. Evidence of their move can be found in Legajo 2421, Audiencia de Santo Domingo, Archivo General de Indias, which contains a list of 612 "foreigners" who took advantage of the decree. (51 other names appear in the Archivo Eclesiástico Castrense de Madrid.) Most of these immigrants were planters and farmers.

La inmigración... is divided into three parts. The first is a brief discussion of earlier migration from the 16th through 18th centuries. The second part discusses in detail migration to Puerto Rico during the 19th century: political and economic causes, legislation that encouraged it, and statistical analyses of the kinds of immigrants: their ages, occupations, geographical origins, and motivations, followed by a bibliography.

The third part is a catalog of immigrants containing 13,217 names, culled from 365 documents in some 40 different sources.
A random selection of 2 pages of Ls and 2 of Ds reveals a number of sons of Saint-Domingue, France, and Louisiana who went to Puerto Rico as a result of the Réal Cédula de Gracia of 1815. It is possible that the ones listed as natives of France lived in Saint-Domingue at some time.

[Since the publication of this article, another, more comprehensive book dealing with the subject has been published. The following review was published in The Saint-Domingue Newsletter , Volume 14, Number 3 (July 2002, page 24 "What's New and Not-So-New?":

§ La Real Cédula de Gracias de 1815 y sus primeros efectos on Puerto Rico, by Doctora Raquel Rosario Rivera. San Juan, P.R.: First Book Publishing of Puerto Rico, l995. LOC number: TXU6644-295. 295 pp. Available from the author at P. O. Box 194544, Hato Rey Station, San Juan, P.R. 00919-4544. $25, all charges included. In Spanish.
The Real Cédula de Gracias was an attempt by the Spanish crown to foster industry and agriculture in Puerto Rico by attracting Catholic emigrants to the island. (See Saint-Domingue Newsletter, Vol 8, No. 2, p. 6). It has been treated in other works and papers, but never in such detail as this.
Rivera's book discusses the conditions in Puerto Rico that led to the issue of the Real Cédula, its affects on the other islands of the Caribbean, the affects of the immigrants on the society and economy of the island, and, specifically, the immigration from Louisiana.
Numerous tables, graphs, and charts, are used to illustrate the statistics Rivera gleaned from Spanish and Puerto Rican archival sources: an annual break-down of the adults, children, and slaves arriving, by country (the largest number of immigrants listed France as their country of origin, but there is no indication as to whether they had come via Saint-Domingue. Italy, Venezuela, and Haïti were also represented by substantial numbers.); a list of the professions of the immigrants; the amounts of capital introduced into Puerto Rico by nation (those settlers France were the largest contributors to the economy of the island).
Even for non-Spanish speakers, the appendices are especially important. One contains a compiled "register of immigrants, established in Puerto Rico during the period 1815-1820" (compiled by the author, taken from archival sources and listed alphabetically), giving the first and last names, country and city of origin, race, profession, marital status, and (if appropriate), the names and origin of the spouse. A second list contains archival citations of documentary sources for each immigrant in the list. Also listed were the number of children, slaves, and capital they introduced into the colony.

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From Volume 13, Number 4, (October 2001), pages 28-29 :

Frenchmen Who Took the Oath of Allegiance in Santiago de Cuba, 1808

The initial slave uprisings of 1791 were perceived by many of the colonists of Saint-Domingue as a temporary condition. Many of them sought refuge in the eastern part of Cuba (especially in the towns of Santiago and Baracoa), with the hope of returning to their plantations and businesses after the revolts had been suppressed. When they realized that things would never return to normal, they put down roots in the Spanish colony and began new lives, also breathing new life into Cuba's ailing economy. In most secular and religious documents they were designated as "French", but their children were born in and grew up in Cuba, without ever having known the soil of France or Saint-Domingue. A final flood of refugees arrived in 1803 with the French surrender and evacuation of Saint-Domingue. Napoleon Bonaparte had failed to recapture the richest of the 18th century Caribbean colonies. But as Emperor of France, Napoleon still had ambitions in Europe, and the war that eventually erupted over there, would profoundly affect many of the (estimated) 20,000 Saint-Domingue refugees who had fled to Cuba.
In March of 1808 French troops entered and occupied Spain, and placed Joseph Bonaparte, brother of the Emperor, on the Spanish throne.
The news that arrived in Cuba in mid-July of 1808 was unsettling: in May, the citizens of Madrid had risen up and killed 200 French soldiers stationed there. Reprisals were swift and bloody — the suspects were rounded up and shot the following day, a scene made famous in Goya's El Tres de Mayo.
On 17 July the Captain-General of Cuba, the Marquis de Someruelos, sent instructions to Sebastian Kindelan y O'Regan, governor of the eastern region (the one most heavily-populated with Saint-Domingue refugees), and to other officials, to draw up a general census of foreigners in their districts, especially the French. Although they wanted to preserve the goodwill of the refugees, who had contributed greatly to the economic rejuvenation of Cuba, Spanish officials were concerned about the risk of a Fifth Column.
The census divided the French into two groups: those who could stay, and those who had to leave. Many of them made plans to depart that very summer of 1808.
Those who had become naturalized citizens of Spain, or who had married Spaniards and had children, and those who had taken the oath of allegiance to the Spanish crown were permitted to stay.
The French who wished to remain made haste to begin the naturalization process by taking the oath of allegiance in August and September of 1808. They were called "New Spaniards". Those who had previously taken the oath before the start of the troubles, were required to renew it at that time.
The Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, Spain houses a collection of documents called the Papeles Procedentes de Cuba. Within the PPC is a document, dated 31 October 1808, entitled "Lista de los franceses juramentados en esta Ciudad conforme al Oficio del Governador y Capitan General de la Isla, su fecha 31 de Agosto ultimo", ("List of Frenchmen taking the oath in this city, in accordance with the order of the Governor and Captain General of the Island, dated 31st of August last [1808]"). (AGI, PPC, Legajo 226 (xx), folios 965-970.)
This list of 112 Frenchmen contains significant personal information about the individuals, and is valuable for Saint-Domingue researchers because it provides positive proof that they were in Cuba in the Santiago area in August of 1808. There is no indication whether they were taking the oath for the first time or just renewing it.
(Continued on Page 29)
(Continued from Page 28)
I have presented the contents of the "Lista de franceses..." in table form (column format) for easier reading. The entries in the original are individually numbered and written across the page in paragraphs. The upper inside corner of the first sheet is stained The lower inside corner of each folio has crumbled away (about 10% of each page - negligible data loss).
The table on pages 30-32 maintains the numerical order of the original document. No attempt was made to translate any of the terms or to correct any of the information. The intent of this article is to present information, not to interpret it or re-arrange it, although I did make some observations in brackets. These notations are as follows:
[*] - data missing due to deterioration;
[ ? ] - unable to understand writing or spelling;
[text] - data missing-educated guess; or a spelling suggestion; or my comment;
— - not stated.

In the table below, two categories of information from the original document were omitted due to space limitations: abonadores (sureties) and religion.
The places named in "Native of" are Spanish renderings, i.e., "St.a Mar/S.n Marco en St.o Dom.o" is obviously the town of St. Marc in the partie de l'ouest, and "Ave de Gracia" in France is obviously Havre de Grace. Most of the other abbreviations can be fathomed, but three that are similar in appearance, have different meanings: haced.r (hacedor) means maker; hac.d.o (hacendado), land-owner; has.da (hacienda), hacienda or plantation. The letters following periods in abbreviations are superscripted in the original record.

Each Frenchman had two abonadores who vouched for him. Most were Spaniards, but four have French family names: Don Manuel Duhaut (guarantor for 13 refugees); Don Pedro Laclau (10); Don Estevan Valanguè [sic] (1); and Don Franco José Mustelier (1). All but two of the men were"R.C.A.R" (Religion Católico Apostólico Romano), Roman Catholic. In the case of No. 8, [*] Bremon, the page is deterio- rated, the entry lost; for No. 42, Josef Vendon/Verdon, no religion was indicated, perhaps an oversight
The column labeled "ST" indicates the marital status of each man — c (casado), married; s (soltero), single; v (viudo), widower. Two particular entries deserve noting: in the case of No. 19, Pedro LaFon, the page has crumbled away, leaving only "no" ([+] in the "ST"column), which might indicate that "Theatre of Operations of the Campaign of Santiago de Cuba" from The Campaign of Santiago de Cuba, by Herbert H. Sargent, Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1907. Although this map is based on those contemporary to the Spanish-American War (1898-1899), several of the locations mentioned in the PPC list show up on it.
he does not know what happened to his wife in Saint-Domingue. This is probably also the case with No. 102, Francisco Delmas, whose entry states "se ignora" — he does not know ([‡] in the "ST" column).
The document was signed and dated on the last folio, number 970, thus: "Sant.o de Cuba y Oct.e 31 de 1808 año. Martin de [?]"The complete document can be viewed on microfilm at The Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA, on the PPC microfilm, edition 106, roll 104. It is near the end of the roll. To view an abstract of the list click here.
It is not known if other, similar documents exist. This list is an isolated one, and is grouped together with several other non-related items at the end of Legajo 226, which have been labeled as "Varios".
For more about the events that led up to the May 1809 expulsions of the refugees from Cuba, the reader is referred to Gabriel Debien's article, "Refugies de Saint-Domingue Expulsés de la Havane en 1809", in Anuario de Estudios Americanos, Vol. 35, pp. 555-610, my source for the historical context of this article. It includes a listing of 482 refugees, only one of whom appears in this list — Antonio SERRES, No. 89.
For a detailed study of refugee life in Cuba, researchers should consult Gabriel Debien, "Les colons de Saint-Domingue réfugiés à Cuba (1793-1815)", in the Revista de Indias , Vol. XIII, No. 54 (Oct.-Dec. 1953), pp. 559-605; and Vol. XIV, No. 55-56 (Jan.-Jun. 1954), pp. 11-30. An English translation of this article appears in The Road to Louisiana, The Saint-Domingue Refugees 1792-1809, Carl A. Brasseaux and Glenn R. Conrad, editors, pp. 31-112.
Are there more lists like this one? Debien's article about the expulsions from Havana indicate that there are lists of French residents of the island (related to the expulsions) in Cuban archives, perhaps provincial archives, definitely in Havana. Have any of these been microfilmed or transcribed and made available in the United States?
According to Roscoe Hill's study, Descriptive Catalog of Documents Relating to the History of the United States in the Papeles Procedentes de Cuba deposited in the Archivo General de Indias at Seville (1916, reprint 1965), there is much material in the PPC relating to the refugees in Cuba in various years, but not all of these documents have been microfilmed for United States repositories, because it does not directly with the history of the U.S.

From Volume 16, Number 2, (April 2004), pages 4-5 :

Jérémie Papers Open To Researchers Again, Abstracts Now Online

The Jérémie Papers, acquired by the University of Florida in Gainesville over 50 years ago, are a significant collection of French colonial documents from the Grand' Anse region of Saint-Domingue. They are housed in the Special and Area Collections Department of the University's Smathers Library. About ten years ago they were closed to researchers, but they have recently been re-opened, and abstracts of almost all of the documents are now online!
Under an initiative begun by John Nemmers, Descriptive and Technical Services Archivist, graduate student Keith Manuel (a native of St. Landry parish, Louisiana) has written an online guide and finding aid to the Papers. The guide places the material into historical context; and discusses the kinds of and significance of documents in the collection. In addition, Manuel has just abstracted 700 records of the greffe, and these are available online, along with abstracts of the notarial records that were prepared years ago. Below (in quotes) are excerpts of Manuel's guide.

"The Jérémie Papers encompass the notarial and administrative archives of the municipality of Jérémie, located on the northern coast of present-day Haiti's southern peninsula. Under the French colonial regime, the jurisdiction of Jérémie (also known as la Grand'Anse) encompassed two parishes, Saint-Louis de Jérémie and Notre Dame du Cap Dame Marie, which were both civil and ecclesiastical divisions. Several bourgs, or small towns, existed in the outlying districts, or cantons. During the 1770s and 1780s, Jérémie experienced a coffee boom, as did many other parts of Saint-Domingue that contained highlands not suitable to sugar cultivation. In addition to coffee, many of these highland plantations grew cacao and cotton as secondary crops. A handful of sugar plantations existed on the coast near Jérémie."
Manuel also discusses the different "strata" of inhabitants (whites, free people of color, slaves), all of whose lives are reflected in the Papers.
On the scope and content of the collection: "As the records of the jurisdiction of Jérémie, the Jérémie Papers contain the archives of more than thirty notaries who operated both in Jérémie and in outlying areas. These archives contain such legal documents as marriage contracts, wills and successions, and sales of both urban and rural real estate. Pertinent to the study of the African slave population are sales of slaves, slave emancipations, and the sale of plantations, which often included the enslaved workforce. The economic life of the free inhabitants of the quartier is recorded in documents forming and dissolving partnerships, buying and selling property, and recording the property left behind upon their death.
"The Jérémie Papers also contain ecclesiastical records covering scattered years for both parishes of the Grand'Anse. Though fragmentary, they are important sources for the religious and social life of the region, recording not only baptisms, marriages, and deaths but also who attended these important occasions. These records are presumably copies of those sent to Versailles and now housed in le Centre des Archives d'Outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, with the exception of those dealing with the 1790s. No copy of these latter documents are located in archives in France.
"Finally, the Jérémie Papers contain records of the quartier's civil administration. Some land survey records have survived from the period beginning in the early 1770s, and several land concessions from the governor and intendant of the colony survived as well. More plentiful are the registers of civil proceedings recorded before the greffe, a municipal office similar to that of a clerk of court in the United States. Though only an unknown fraction of the original civil registers has survived and though years covered by the extant registries are uneven, these manuscripts offer scattered images of daily life in Jérémie and its outlying dependencies.

"Three kinds of registries have survived:
1.) minutes of the notaries, in which were transcribed notarized documents;
2.) records of the senechaussee, or local court (named after the presiding officer, the senechal), which amount to lists of monetary awards given in lawsuits; and,
3.) declarations made before the greffier (registrar). Complete lawsuits are not recorded in the registries of the senechaussee, and if these records survived, the University of Florida does not have them."
The Jérémie Papers encompass almost two centuries, 1714-1896, but most of them fall between 1770-1804, a brief but hectic 35 years. The collection occupies 27.25 linear feet in 65 acid-free boxes. The identification number is Ms Group 17.

Manuel's guide and finding aid is at:

The most important section is the Contents List which contains two parts:
1.) The Papers of the Greffe, with a hyperlink to the 700 abstracts that Manuel has prepared, representing 18 boxes of documents (extreme dates 1714-1821).
"The registrar of the greffe, known as the greffier, included documents from a variety of sources in his archive. This official registered personal papers presented by the inhabitants of the jurisdiction for safekeeping.
"The greffier also registered a copy of the ecclesiastical registers from each of the two church parishes that existed in his jurisdiction, as well as the registers generated by the civil and criminal courts held by the senechal. "The notaries of the jurisdiction also registered with the greffier, copies of the acts that they had drawn up for the inhabitants. Finally, like the greffe of the intendancy in Port-au- Prince, the greffe of the senechaussee also registered all concessions of land that the governor and intendant granted with the jurisdiction of Jérémie.
"The papers of the greffe held by the University reflect the diverse nature of the documents kept by the greffiers from whose archives the Jérémie Papers originate. No attempt was made to organize this portion of the collection by type of document (e.g., land surveys, notary documents, court petitions). Instead, the registers were arranged chronologically to ensure ease of use."
2.) The Notary Papers, with hyperlinks to abstracts of the records of each notary.
"The notarial documents have been organized by notary [30 named notaries and one "other"] and then chronologically. Such documents include marriage contracts, last wills and testaments, sales of land and slaves, etc. Some notarial documents exist in the papers of the greffe, so the other series should be checked for related and complementary materials."
It was just recently discovered that the notary thought to be named Momal was really named Thomas.
Note: there is no name or subject index to the abstracts, but they can be easily searched for names or key words by using the computer's <CTRL-F> (find) function.

Researchers should also remember that these abstracts are only for the Jérémie Papers at the University of Florida. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library (see "Computer Corner, page 6) also acquired materials that complement these records. In addition, other materials related to the region of la Grand'Anse exist in le Centre des archives d'outremer in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Researchers who are interested in using documents in the collection should notify the archives in advance so that the staff can have the materials ready. Contact information: University of Florida Smathers Libraries, Special and Area Studies Collections, John Nemmers,, or 352-392-9075, ext. 213.
Archives policy regarding use: "The Jérémie Papers are open to the public, but researchers may be restricted from handling particularly fragile records. Due to the poor condition of certain documents, photocopying may not be permitted. Patrons must seek permission from department staff prior to reproducing these items."
Many thanks to Keith Manuel and John Nemmers for permitting me to quote liberally in this article, from the University's online guide; and a heartfelt Bravo! to them from Saint-Domingue researchers everywhere for taking an interest in the Jérémie Papers, and making them and the abstracts accessible to researchers.
The Jérémie Papers will be microfilmed when sufficient funding can be found for the project. We hope this will be very soon.

From Volume 16, Number 1, (January 2004), page 1 :

GHC Index, 1989-2003, Online

We have some exciting news from France: the Association de la Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe, (GHC) now has its own website, and has given genealogists everywhere a wonderful gift! An index to the society's bulletin (known as Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe or GHC for short) is now available online through that website. This includes an Index of Names, as well as an alphabetical listing of all articles published in the GHC from January 1989 through December 2003 – 165 issues, 4,041 information-packed pages.
To access the index, go to the GHC website at:

This page, labeled "GHC Index des années 1989 à 2003" contains three options.
Option #1 links to the cumulative Index des Noms. Click on the hyperlink ( to open a File Download option window. From here you can either save the file on your computer (to unzip and read later) or you can open it, unzip it and search it immediately. The Index is a text file written in Word Pad, and can be read on all computers. The file takes about 10 seconds to download (using a DSL modem) and even less to unzip. Most all of the names in the Index are family names, except for those slaves who had none, in which case, they are indexed by their first names.
Option #2 links to a year-by-year alphabetical listing of all articles published in the GHC. Click on the hyperlink ( to open the File Download window, where you have the same choices as in option 1. This file, however, is written in Word. It downloads in about 3 seconds with a DSL modem.
Both of the above documents are fairly easy to use even if your knowledge of French is limited. But to fully utilize and understand them, you should start with
Option #3, (, same procedure as above) links to three documents, the most important of which is Intro.rtf (written in Word). It lists the codes used for the locales listed in the Index of Names (the départements of France are listed by their numbers, other countries, by multiple-letter abbreviations). Page two of the Intro tells you what to do if you find the name(s) for which you are looking, in the Index. Page-No.txt (readable in Word Pad) is a "concordance" – a list of all 165 issues and the page numbers contained in each.

The GHC has also given us a little "lagniappe" – almost half of the GHC issues can now be consulted online in DOS-type text, (but cannot be downloaded) with a simple click on the hyper-links. Just go to:

The issues that are accessible online are listed at the bottom of the page. All pages and links on the GHC website are searchable using <CTRL-F>.
If you do not find the issue you need on the website, the GHC is available in the United States, in at least five locations: Jefferson Parish Eastbank Regional Library, Metairie, LA; Smathers Library, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN; New England Historical and Genealogical Society Library, Boston, MA; LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT (only issues from 1996 through 2001). It may also be available in partial or full runs in other U.S. libraries. In addition, it is in the library of the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica.
IMPORTANT: The index is not necessarily just for those researching ancestors in the Caribbean. A glance at the 156 location abbreviations in Intro.rtf reveals that GHC articles frequently trace families back to France, and even to other countries and continents. The GHC has performed an invaluable service for genealogists around the world. We offer them a heartfelt "Merci infiniment" for sharing their treasure.



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