finding your roots

The History of Family Migration from 1860s-1960s

Scherin March 15, 2012

I have concentrated my research on the maternal side of my family. It is a fact, that in raising children, women are in the best position to also nurture their children’s feelings of belonging and identity through oral family history. Calling our grandmother’s by the names their children called them has been a tradition in our family, which has passed down through four generations. My mother and her siblings called their grandmother (Amelia Gertrude Christina Sealy), Mama. In turn, I (as with my siblings and cousins) called my grandmother, Mother; the name that I heard my mother and her siblings call their mother. Now, a grandparent myself, I see no need to break with the tradition I learnt in Guyana, and in a country that distinguishes grandparents with names such as Nana and Grandma, my daughter’s children call me, Mum.



It was not until I started doing my research, that my great-grandmother became real to me. Born in 1879 at Ashbury, St George, her parents were George Francis Sealy and Dorothy Anne Nourse. Both parents were from different plantations in the same area of St George, from which they had gained their surnames. Mass migration began from Barbados to Guyana in 1863 so when her parents died, her brother’s took her to Guyana with them. She always said that her family owned schooners and that was the way she travelled to Guyana. The other thing that was common knowledge was that she had white relatives. The family history was that she was the only girl in a family of sixteen boys. However, when research was carried out in Barbados, birth records in St Jude’s church, found that there had been an older sister, born in 1860 and that my great grandmother had a total of 17 siblings; all having the same parents! The whole family had lived in Ashbury, and throughout her life, relatives who knew her said that she never lost her Bajan accent. She and her brothers settled in the Georgetown area of Guyana, around 1880s. She worked as a cook and a cleaner in the homes of white people and was able to secure that position because whites preferred to hire those with a lighter complexion to work in their homes. She had four children: Maud, James (Benjy) Cecil and Eddie. Her first child (Maud Green), my grandmother, was born in 1901.

My grandmother was very independent; qualities that I see in myself and also in my own mother. And like my grandmother, I have always bucked against the oppressive domination that some men want to exert over women which they see as a natural rite. She also played a major role in the lives of her grandchildren and has been an inspiration to the female grandchildren who were allowed to be around her.

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  • Elizabeth Albrecht

    March 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    My mother’s family tree was thought to be Irish, however after some research by my cousin, our family discovered the name Casey was a spelling change from a French spelling of Kasy.

  • Donna

    March 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Fantastic Story!!!!

  • March 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    This is bizarre b/c the name at the top of this story is Scherin. My last name is Cherin. I am of Polish, Russian, Austrian, and German descent…is it possible there is a connection here?

  • Linda A. hackett-Knight

    October 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Sealy is a family name in my ancestry from Barbados. Very interesting. If the same. Connection are to the Carringtons who are white. Goes back to a slave girl on the Carrington Plantation in Barbados named Lucious. Also connected to the Hacketts and so forth.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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