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Genealogy in Trinidad

Shamshu Deen- Genealogy in Trinidad and Tobago


Shamshu Deen

Born in Preysal, Mr. Deen has contributed significantly to the area of genealogical research mainly in the East Indian Diaspora. Through his book, Solving East Indian Roots in Trinidad 1994) he undertook the task of answering the question, Where did we come from? According to Simon Lee (Freelance journalist, U.K.),"Deen's work provides the basis not only for others to trace their ancestry but also for sociological and cultural studies at the grassroots level." His studies at the University of the West Indies (B.A. History and Economics) and Manitoba (M.Ed. Special Education) helped to hone his research techniques. This as well as his ability to harvest the memories from the most reclusive minds make him the ideal expert on genealogy in Trinidad. In the article Genealogy in Trinidad and Tobago , he shares some of his experiences in the field.


 Genealogy in Trinidad

Genealogy in Trinidad and Tobago is perhaps a new and invigorating study. I try to combine oral research with searches among our documents at the National Archives and elsewhere in order to produce a solution to the family history puzzle.

My most important concept is an Ancestral Family Tree by which I trace and draw your family of two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents etc.. In this way I hope to get to the arrival of your ancestors to Trinidad. By including an estimate of ages over the generations I usually have a base year in which your ancestor arrived.From there it is to search the documents, period newspapers, gazettes etc. for mention of the name.

The main challenges faced are that people generally exaggerate the ages of their ancestors and documents are not always supportive of their claims and estimates.
In the case of East Indian documentation an estimate of eighty percent of those arriving were registered with one name and sometimes hundreds had the same one name e.g.. Ramlal, Edoo, Nasiban, Parbatie. Then too the concept of last name changed dramatically over the generations with many a father using his first name as his children’s surname so that after four or five generations no one remembers the name of the arriving ancestor.
Despite these and many other challenges, Genealogy is a very exciting and rewarding study. Most people are intrigued by the idea of finding the origins of their families to Trinidad and Tobago. Now some countries like India are giving certain benefits to those in their Diaspora who can link themselves by documentation to their ancestor’s country.

I chronicled the search for my ancestors in the book, Solving East Indian Roots in Trinidad

Shamshu Dean's Family Tree

Excerpt taken from:

Deen, Shamshu. Solving East Indian Roots in Trinidad . Freeport: Shamshu Deen, 1994.
Shamshu Deen, or telephone 1-868-656-3874 or 1-868-789-8769.