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Family And Friends

How to find people on St Helena

A family without a black sheep is not a typical family.{b}

If you want to trace long lost relatives or friends on St Helena, or just find a pen-pal, here are some tips


Who QQQQQnotQQQQQ to contact

Please do not try to ask us for help finding people or information about long-lost relatives. We do not have access to the St Helena Archives; we are not part of the Museum of St Helena; and we do not have the resources to conduct research on your behalf.

If you do try to ask us for help tracing your relatives your email will either be rejected, ignored or you will receive the following automated reply:

Good luck with your search. I regret we don’t have the resources to help with individual enquiries but if you read our pages familyandfriends.htm and escape.htm#sanctioneddepartures you will find some useful contacts to help with your research.

We are sad to have to post this notice but almost every day we get at least one My long lost relative was in St Helena from… query and we just don’t have the resources to deal with them.

Who to contact

Below: Living peopleDeceased peopleDid your person do something notable on St Helena?

Living people

Carnival, 2012

The best way to locate living people is to find them in the Telephone Book. Sure have put the telephone directory online. Failing that, call Sure Directory Enquiries on (+290) 22222 (08:30 - 16:00h GMT Monday to Friday).

An alternative might be to see if the person is on Social Media, or write a letter to the Editor of one of the St Helena newspapers.

Deceased people

Flax rope making, 1962

Here are the main possible sources of information:

  1. The St Helena Archives

  2. The Friends of St Helena website which, for an annual subscription, contains a comprehensive online searchable database based on the St Helena Records and many other sources, compiled by Chris and Sheila Hillman.

  3. The Museum of St Helena: email museum@helanta.co.sh or telephone (+290) 22845 (8:30am-4pm GMT, Mon-Fri).

  4. On Social Media, e.g.:

  5. Other Genealogy Websites and Family History Links, listed below.

  6. St Helena Church records are online here: historicalpapers-atom.wits.ac.za/‌?inventory/U%2Fcollections&c=AB2073/R%2F7365.

  7. You could write a letter to the Editor of one of the St Helena newspapers.

You might also want to consult our page Origins of island surnames to see if your person’s name appears.

If you create a website about your relative, please send us the link so we can include it in the list (below). It may be helpful to someone researching an overlapping family.

Did your person do something notable on St Helena?

Arnold monument

If so they might be included on one of our following pages:

If they aren’t on any of these, but you think they should be, please contact us.

If you create a website about your relative, please send us the link so we can include it in the list (below). It may be helpful to someone researching an overlapping family.

And if you have any stories about their time here we might want to publish them on our page Memories of St Helena.

How to find a pen-pal

Postage stamp, 2016

Despite our slow postal service people do seem to value St Helenian pen-pals. If you want to find a pen-pal on St Helena, your best approach is to write a letter to one or both of the St Helena newspapers (it’s printed free) setting out who you are and what sort of person you would like to hear from.

Read More

Below: Genealogy WebsitesFamily History LinksNewspaper CuttingsArticle: Joan’s famous ancestor came to live in BathArticle: New Zealand Couple seek distant family connectionFilms by Green Renaissance

Genealogy Websites

A list of Genealogy Websites compiled by Arthur Brown and published on the Facebook™ group St Helena Family and Friends.

Please note we have not verified these sites. The opinions expresed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Saint Helena Island Info. Proceed at your own risk.

Family History Links

We present below links to some family history websites or other sources relating to present or past St Helena families. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and if you know of a site that should be linked here please contact us. Also please be aware that we don’t have the resources to continuously check that all these links remain valid; if you spot a link that no longer works please contact us.

Name(s) Site/page link or email
Kendall; Mittens ccd185.magix.net/‌public/‌family/‌kendall.html
Mason, Rich oa.anu.edu.au/‌essay/‌18
Mason, Powell, Gurling, Barrington, Worrall, Alliss, and Tippet james.eieio@gmail.com
Bruce, Thorpe, Solomon, Tracey/Tracy ianbrucefamilyhistory.pdf
Chris and Sheila Hillman transcribed all the (Anglican) Church Registers that are available on the Witwatersrand Library Special Collections site{3}hillman.jesse@gmail.com

Family History articles are often published in ‘Wirebird’, the magazine of Friends of St Helena{4}.

Newspaper Cuttings

If you are researching into past émigrés from St Helena, you might find useful some newspaper cuttings listing names{c} (and some more{c}). Please Note Some of these are relatively poor copies, but should be just-about readable.

Article: Joan’s famous ancestor came to live in Bath

Published in The Independent 19th March 2010{5}{6}

Governor Robert Brooke, 1787-1801
Governor Robert Brooke, 1787-1801

Bath resident Joan Schrecker of Entry Hill has recently returned from the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic where one of her descendants was governor from 1787 to 1801. Governor Robert Brooke resigned as governor there when he became ill and came to live in Bath at 8 Somerset Place. He is buried in St Swithin’s Church, Walcot, where there is a memorial tablet to him. Joan’s trip of a lifetime last month was to find out more on the family tree and the role Colonel Brooke played in the island’s history. He came from Bengal where he had distinguished himself in the service of The East India Company both in a military and civil capacity.

As the eighth generation of Robert Brooke, Joan’s ambition was to see where he spent 14 years of his life and what it was like to live on the island which is the remotest inhabited island in the world. Joan stayed for a week on the island - an early 80th birthday present from her husband - where she visited the archives and found that towards the end of his stay on the island, Robert Brooke had become very ill, so much so that his nephew (T. H. Brooke, Esq.) had to sign all the documents. He had also requested a slave to help him and his family gather everything together before he left. Joan told the local newspaper on St Helena: I have always known I was descended from Robert Brooke because my grandmother was very keen on family history. In those days at the turn of the 1900s she must have paid someone to trace her ancestry back. Robert Brooke’s son was the auditor general of Ceylon and then going further back her ancestry was traced back to King Edward III of England. Joan was delighted to find that her ancestor had been one of the island’s nicest governors.

She has a miniature portrait of Robert Brooke, which is featured in one of the main books about the island, and she had been hoping to find a bigger portrait of him on the island but was told that all past governor portraits had been taken down and there was uncertainty about where they are now stored. Joan said on her return: There are a number of links between Bath and this remote island. Firstly, I am a resident of Bath and also a descendant of Colonel Brooke; secondly, when he resigned his governorship in 1801 because of ill health, he came to live in Bath; and thirdly there is a memorial plaque in the vestry at St Swithin’s. And lastly but less directly the anti-slavery movement at that time was strong in Bath (as it was elsewhere in Britain) and Colonel Brooke was concerned about the enslaved on the island under his care. Slavery was not illegal at that time in Britain or in any of her dependencies but Colonel Brooke insisted on bringing new and controversial measures limiting the authority of the slave masters in St Helena and giving the right of appeal to the enslaved to go to the island magistrates if any of the enslaved believed they had been unjustly treated by their masters.

Article: New Zealand Couple seek distant family connection

By Nick Hewes, published in The Independent 2nd June 2006{6}

Article image 01

Alan and Diana Baker have come to St Helena for a few days in order to research the life of Charles Joseph Sampson, who was Diana’s great, great, great grandfather. Major Sampson of course, gave his name to Sampson’s Battery, the fortification that overlooks Jamestown.

Having spent a few days in the Archives, and also visiting Major Sampson’s former home, Old Luffkins in Sandy Bay, they have unearthed some interesting pieces of information. It seems that Charles originally came from Cork in Ireland Diana told me; He then fought in South Africa for The East India Company. He got a bullet wound in the groin for his troubles. The bullet apparently stayed in his body for the rest of his life; it didn’t seem to be a big problem however, because he went on to have a very large family! In 1792 he came here, and married a Mary Bagley. Mary’s family had been here since the Great Fire of London in 1666. That’s as far back as the family connection to St Helena goes. Once he was stationed here he was promoted to the rank of Colonel; then, whilst Napoleon was imprisoned here, he became a Captain. Finally he was made a Major. At that point he was Quartermaster of the whole garrison of 3,000 men. The reason of course that there were so many men stationed here, was the great fear of the Dutch trying to retake the Island.

Article image 02
Old Luffkins in Peakdale, once the home of Major Sampson

Charles Sampson lived in Old Luffkins, just below Peakdale in Sandy Bay. This historical residence, built in 1720, now lies in ruins. Alan and Diana paid the house a visit.

We were thrilled to see the ruins. Some of the walls are very well built, and therefore still standing: it is a very impressive place. We’d like to thank Mr Julian Cairns Wicks [the present owner of Old Luffkins] for being so helpful to us in our search for information. Unfortunately Old Luffkins passed out of the Sampson family in the space of two generations, due to the deeds and Records having mysteriously disappeared after many of Charles’ family left the Island for Cape Town (a result of the collapse of The East India Company in 1840). When his grandson and heir returned to reclaim his estate, he found that a Judge Phelps was living in the house. So that was that.

The most obvious memorial to the Charles Sampson is not Old Luffkins however, but Sampson’s Battery. This impressive fortification was built in 1811. It is noteworthy as one of the few artillery emplacements that faces inland, as well as out to sea. Diana said,

It was brilliant to go up to the Battery, if slightly scary, due to the steep drops down the cliff.

As a result of the aforementioned family exodus to Cape Town in the 1840s, the Sampson name is now well established there. The story of the Sampsons who travelled to New Zealand has a strange and coincidental twist. During those lean years following the demise of The East India Company, two of Charles’ grandsons travelled, unbeknown to each other, to New Zealand. It was to be a full 20 years before the brothers, who were both born on St Helena, met up with each other again, completely by accident.

Films by Green Renaissance

In 2018 a team from Green Renaissance made a number of short films about St Helena, but instead of focussing on the scenery and sights, they focussed on the people. The films make fascinating viewing and you might say they feature modern-day local characters. You can view them on the Green Renaissance website.


{a} INNES, A.L. (late 1800s, early 1900s){b} Heinrich Böll{c} Ian Bruce


{1} This is a photograph of the Ward Family taken around 1922 at Ferndale, China Lane, Jamestown. It shows Fanebridge Ward (Jones) Nee Corker, and her children. The two boys on the left are James (Jim) Ward in front and behind him is Fred (Sonny) Ward.{2} If you think you’re related to Napoleon please contact us. If you think you are Napoleon, please consult a mental health professional…{3} There are 32,000 records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials which can now be searched by up to 29 different aspects, including forenames, surnames, event dates, place of abode, occupation, church, military or slavery connections, etc. Additional records are available in lists of boat passengers to and from the island, St Helena Regiment, East India Company service, the enslaved, slave owners, French connections, censuses on St Helena, or the UK and USA with St Helena as birthplace. This information is now publicly available for research on the Friends of St Helena website, with full details available to paid-up members. There are over 90,000 records in all that can be searched. Chris says he is prepared to carry out searches for people with St Helena ancestry when they hit a brick wall provided you can supply some names and dates to start with. There is no charge for this service, but donations can be made to Friends of St Helena or the Museum of St Helena to help develop a public portal for the database.{4} The four ‘Wirebird’ publications should not be confused.{5} Originally from the Bath Chronicle 17th March 2010.{6} @@RepDis@@