The Caribbean Genealogy Library will co-host a three-day conference discussing the shared connections amongst islands in the Lesser Antilles and how it has helped to shape the lives and institutions of today’s people and places.
“This is the first time this particular conference is being held,” said Genealogy Library president Sophia Aubin of the Inter-Island Connections in the Lesser Antilles Conference. “For centuries, islanders living on small islands, in proximity and with a limited resource base, have turned towards their neighbors across the sea. They have crossed formal and informal borders to carve out places for themselves and their loved ones. And it is this dynamic of inter-island movement that we wish to explore at the conference.”
The conference is organized by the Caribbean Genealogy Library, the Society of Virgin Islands Historians, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the IN THE SAME SEA research project from the University of Copenhagen. It will take place from Feb. 23-25 and be held at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas Campus in the ACC Conference Room. Virtual attendance will also be available.
Historians, archaeologists, authors, and artists will make presentations throughout the conference discussing identity and cultural traditions. Twenty discussions are anticipated to be held surrounding the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands.
Dr. Gunvor Simonsen of the University of Copenhagen said, “I am very excited about bringing together family historians, public historians, and university historians. I expect to learn a lot from our dialogue. I hope to gain knowledge that cannot always be had from studying old documents.”
According to Aubin, a big focus throughout presentations will be the topic of migration. The earliest topic will be related to Amerindians and their navigation of the region. Other discussions will be of the early history of the colonies in the Caribbean from the late 1500s onward, but majority of the talks will be related to events within the 1800s and 1900s.
Discussions will be “more specifically how islanders depended on neighbors for trade, for resources, for work and for seeking spouses,” said Aubin. “There are also presentations on how this plays out in communities and families. There is a talk on language and what it means to belong in a new community and a talk on identity.”
The first day of the conference will open with a discourse by professor Joy Lewis on the relationship between the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands. It will be followed by discussions on the role of creole women in the founding of the Danish Colony on St. Thomas, the role of religion and its impact on enslaved people in the French Antilles, Amerindian navigation, and more.
“We hope attendees of the conference will take away an appreciation of the important inter-island connections that islanders in the Lesser Antilles have established throughout their history, and second, we hope to inspire attendees to research and document their family history,” said Aubin.
The conference will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 24, and Feb. 25.
This is the first time the Inter-Island Connections in the Lesser Antilles Conference is being held. Registration is $20 for the three-day conference which can be attended in person or virtually. Students can attend for free once a valid university ID card is provided.