Chapter 6 - The Caribbean

Genealogists' Guide to North America

Posted Dec 15, 2012
Last Updated Dec 17, 2012

Table of Contents

Part 1 - The Florida Keys and Bermuda

Part 2 - Islands of the Caribbean

Source: - Caribbean Travel 

There are many islands in the Caribbean with significant human population. There are thousands of small islands and keys, many uninhabited. In addition, The State of Florida Contains the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas that lie about 67 miles west of Key West. The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands designated as a National Park and inhabited only by a group of about 15 National Park personnel.

#Part 1 - The Florida Keys and Bermuda 

#Source:  Miles Media Group, Inc. 

The Florida Keys consists of 1700 small islands, most of which are not inhabited. 800 of these keys are mapped and about 30 are inhabited. Whereas most of the Caribbean Islands are volcanic in origin, the Florida Keys are exposed portions of an ancient coral reef. Most keys are only accessible by boat such as those in Biscayne National Park. The inhabited islands are accessible via an overseas highway extending as a series of bridges from the Florida mainland south of Miami.

The Florida Keys (from the Spanish word Cayo, meaning small island) were first charted in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon. Until the completion of an overseas railway in 1910, the islands were only accessible by water. The Spanish had settlements on the keys, but United States settlers did not start appearing until the 1800’s. During the American Civil War, the Florida Keys were part of the Confederacy.

The following is a list of the inhabited islands in the Keys, starting with those in Miami-Dade County and ending at Key West in Monroe County: These are islands that have residences. Although inhabited, some of these keys are private owned and restricted to residents only. Some keys, although accessible, are not included because they have businesses such as fast food and service stations or provide road access to other keys, but have no permanent residents.

Florida Keys  

  • Key Largo was settled sometime before 1870 when a Post Office was built on the island.
  • Plantation Key
  • Windley Key (Part of the Village of Islamorada)
  • Tea Table Key (Part of the Village of Islamorada)
  • Upper Matecumbe Key (Part of the Village of Islamorada)
  • Lower Matecumbe Key (Part of the Village of Islamorada)
  • Islamorada Key
  • Craig Key
  • Fiesta Key
  • Long Key (the city of Layton is located on Long Key)
  • Conch Key
  • Duck Key
  • Knights Key (Part of the City of Marathon)
  • Grassy Key (Part of the City of Marathon)
  • Key Vaca (Part of the City of Marathon)
  • City of Marathon consists of a number of small keys, some uninhabited
  • No Name Key
  • Big Pine Key
  • Little Torch Key
  • Ramrod Key
  • Summerland Key
  • Sugerloaf Key
  • Saddlebunch Keys. These are a series of mangrove islands. Bay Point and Bluewater Key are the only inhabited islands in the Saddlebunch Keys.
  • Shark Key
  • Geiger Key
  • Big Coppitt Key
  • Boca Chica Key
  • Raccoon Key contains the community of Key Haven
  • Stock Island (a portion of the Island is part of the City of Key West)
  • Fleming Key (Part of the City of Key West but also part of the Key West Naval Air Station and only accessible to military personnel)
  • Dredgers Key (Sigsbee Park) is part of the Key West Naval Air Station and has a population of military and civilian employee families. It is an artifical key created from material dredged to make seaplane runways in the shallow bay.
  • Sunset Key (Part of the City of Key West)
  • Key West was originally known as Cayo Hueso, which means Bone Island. Even though the British took control of Key West in 1763, it was not permanently settled. After the American Revolution it reverted to Spanish control . In 1822, Matthew Perry claimed Key West for the United States. Permanent settlement took place beginning in 1829. Most of the settlers were from the Bahamas. These were the children of British Loyalists who fled from the United States after 1776. Their descendants still live there in an area of the island known as Bahama Village in Old Town.

Bermuda  is not within the Caribbean, nor with any other area of this publication.  For research purposes, I have included in this chapter.  Bermuda is located in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of the U.S., 640 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It is now part of the British Overseas Territory.

Bermuda 1612 British


Source:  Island 

#Part 2 - Islands of the Caribbean

Most of the Caribbean Islands were formed by volcanic activity. They lie in a region of intense seismic activity, which includes frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

European contact began with the voyages of Christopher Columbus who first landed in the Bahamas in 1492. The Portuguese and Spanish began claiming territories. Gold, sugar cane, rum and other riches available in this area made it an area of European conquest, war, and exploitation for centuries. England, France and the Netherlands also established colonies to gain economic advantage. The Spanish in particular enslaved the native population nearly to the point of extinction. All of the European nations imported slaves from Africa to work the plantations in their colonies. Since there are thousands of islands, most are either uninhabited or have been settled recently. The presence of fresh water has always been a deciding factor, and with today's power boats available to bring water in on demand many small islands have private ownership or are used as research stations and lighthouses.

The following lists inhabited islands of the Caribbean, showing what countries colonized them. Dates are provided, along with changes in ownership, treaties, independence and current status to help Family Historians with ancestry in this area.

#The Bahamas are in the British Overseas Territory and consist of more than 3000 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean South of Florida.Source:  Ezilon Maps

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas consists of more than 3,000 Islands, cays and islets in the Atlantic Ocean Southeast of Florida.  The Bahamas were originally a British Colony, but became independent in 1963.  They are now part of the British Overseas Territory in the Commonwealth of Great Britain.  The Bahamas were settled in 1718.



 Acklins Island
 Bimini Islands
 Cat Island
 Crooked Island
 Eleuthera Island
 Grand Bahama
 Abaco Island - Big & Little
 Great Inagua
 Long Island
 Man-O-War Cay
 New Providence
 North Andros Island
 San Salvador
 South Andros Island
#Turks and Caicos.    Turks and Caicos. I have included East Caicos. It once had a population but has been uninhabited since the early 1900's. These islands are part of the British Overseas Territory and are located at the southern end of the Bahamas Archipelogo.

East Caicos 1783 British
Middle Caicos 1783 British
North Caicos 1783 British
Providenciales 1783 British

#Central American Caribbean - 
The Corn Islands were leased by the U.S. from England in 1914 and a Coast Guard presence is maintained there to control drug traffic. Panama controlled islands are all in the Bocas del Toro Archipelogo and those of Honduras are in Honduras Bay.

 Belize          Nicaragua          Mexico  Panama    Honduras

Ambergris Caye 1848 British Belize
Corn Islands 1655 British (1971 turned over to Nicaragua) Nicaragua
Cozumel 17th Century Spanish Mexico
Isla Mujeres 17th Century Spanish Mexico
Bastimentos Island 16th Century Spanish Panama
Colón Island 16th Century Spanish Panama
Popa Island 16th Century Spanish Panama
Solarte Island 16th Century Spanish Panama
Guanaja 16th Century Spanish Honduras
Roatan 16th Century Spanish Honduras
Útila 16th Century Spanish Honduras

#South American Caribbean. Providencia was claimed by Spain, Argentina, Nicaragua and Columbia at various times.

 Venezuela         Columbia

Coche Island 1800's Spanish Venezuela
Isla Margarita 1498-1914 Spanish Venezuela
Providencia 1630 British (1803-1912) Columbia since 1912 Columbia
San Andrés 1627 British (Spanish since 1792) Colombia

#Greater Antilles.  The Greater Antilles contains three of the four largest islands in the Caribbean - Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.  Hispaniola Island contains two nations, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Hispaniola was settled by the Christopher Columbus and La Isabela was founded in 1493 in present-day Dominican Republic as the first European settlement in the Americas.  From West to East, the Islands are Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. Jamaica in 90 miles south of Cuba and the Cayman Islands are northwest of Jamaica.

Greater Antilles - Dominican Republic  (part of Island of Hispaniola)

Dominican Republic           1821 Independent

Greater Antilles - Haiti (part of Island of Hispaniola)

Haiti 1804 Independent Republic of Haiti
Gonâve Island 1697 Spanish Republic of Haiti
Île à Vache Island 1697 Spanish Republic of Haiti
Tortuga 1697 Spanish Republic of Haiti 

Greater Antilles - Jamaica


Jamaica (Spanish Santiago) 1509 Spanish (British 1655)   (1962 Independent)

Greater Antilles - Cayman Islands.  Now part of the British Overseas Territory

Cayman Brac 1661 British
Grand Cayman 1661 British
Little Cayman 1661 British

Greater Antilles - Cuba.  The Republic of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is located 90 miles south of Key West Florida.

Cuba 1511 Spanish (1902 Independent) Republic of Cuba
Cayo Coco 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Fragoso 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Guajaba 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Guillermo 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Largo del Sur 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Romano 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Sabinal 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Cayo Saetia 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba
Isla de la Juventud 1511 Spanish Republic of Cuba

#Lesser Antilles (also known as the Caribbees) are a long, partly volcanic island arc in the Caribbean Sea. Most of its islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, with the remainder located in the southern Caribbean just north of South America. The Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles, which are in turn part of the West Indies along with the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  The islands of the Lesser Antilles are divided into three groups. The Windward Islands in the south, the Leeward Islands in the north, and the Leeward Antilles in the west consisting of islands just off the coast of Venezuela.


Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: Independent Nations

 Antigua and Barbuda         Barbados

  Nevis       Saint Kitts

Antigua 1632 British (1981 Independent) Antigua and Barbuda
Barbuda 1685 British (1981 Independent) Antigua and Barbuda
Barbados 1627 British (1966 Independent) Barbados
Nevis 1628 British (1983 Independent) Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts (Saint Christopher) 1623 British (1625 French) (1983 Independent) Saint Kitts and Nevis

Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: French Overseas Region (F.O.R.)

Saint Martin is the smallest Island in the world to be split between two countries, Saint Martin belonging to France, and Sint Maarten to the Netherlands.  Saint Martin officially flies the French Tricolor, but has a collective flag also. Îles des Saints, La Désirade and Marie Galante all fly the flag of Guadeloupe an unofficial flag.  All officially fly the French Tricolor.

Saint Barthélemy         Guadeloupe   


Saint Barthélemy (Saint Barts) 1623 French (1946 F.O.R.)
Saint Martin 1648 French (2003 F.O.R.)
Guadeloupe-Grande-Terre 1635 French (1946 jF.O.R.)
Guadeloupe-Terre-de-Bas 1635 French (1946 F.O.R.)
Guadeloupe-Terre-de-Haut 1635 French (1946 F.O.R.)
Îles des Saintes 1649 French
La Désirade 18th Century French
Marie Galante 1648 French

Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: Kingdom of the Netherlands (K.O.N)   Aruba   Bonaire    Curacao

  Saba   Eustatius   Maarten

Aruba 1508 Spanish (Dutch since 1836)
Bonaire 1621 Dutch
Curaçao 1600's Dutch
Saba 17th Century Dutch
Sint Eustatius 1600's Dutch
Sint Maarten 1648 Dutch (2010 K.O.N.)

Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: British Overseas Territory

Anguilla     Montserrat

Anguilla 1650 British
Montserrat 1632 British

Leeward Islands - British Virgin Islands:  

 The British Virgin Islands consists of over 50 islands and cays, about 15 inhabited.

British Virgin Islands
Part of British Overseas Territory
Anegada 1672 British
Jost Van Dyke 1672 British
Tortola 1672 1648 Dutch - British since 1648
Virgin Gorda 1672 British

Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: Puerto Rican Virgin Islands

Puerto Rico and its islands are an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Puerto Rico 17th Century Dutch (1898 U.S. Protectorate)
Culebra 1880 Spanish (1917 Independent Municipality)
Isla Mona 15th Century Spanish
Isleta de San Juan 15th Century Spanish
Vieques 1811 Spanish

Lesser Antilles Leeward Islands: United States Virgin Islands

The U.S Virgin Islands were acquired by the United States in 1917 and are classified as United States Protectorates.


United States Virgin Islands
(1917 U.S,)
Saint Croix 1650 French (1713 British) (1917 U.S,)
Saint John 1718 Danish (1917 U.S,)
Saint Thomas 1672 Danish (1917 U.S,)
Water Island 1917 Danish (1917 U.S,)

Lesser Antilles Windward Islands:  Independent Nations

 Dominica     Saint Lucia

Dominica 1673 British (1715 French) (1978 Independent) Commonwealth of Dominica
Saint Lucia
1643 French (1814 British) (1979 Independent Saint (Santa) Lucia

#Windward Islands - The Grenadines


The Grenadines are windward islands, but they lie south of  the boundary of the Lesser Antilles.  This chain consists of two large islands, Saint Vincent to the north and Grenada to the south with a series of small islands between.  There are over 600 islands total, most of which are uninhabited.  The small islands are divided between ownership, part to Saint Vincent and part to Grenada.  Saint Vincent with its islands is the country of "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines".  Grenada and its islands are the country of "Grenada".

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


These islands, along with Saint Vincent, make up the Grenadines Parish

Island of Grenada

Carriacou and Petite Martinique are dependencies of Grenada.



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