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Victor Gittens

James William Gittens – Slavery to Freedom

The story of James William Gittens was researched and written by Victor Gittens.

Victor Elsworth Gittens was born in Barbados and still resides on the island with his wife, Jeanne and children Graham and Jenna. He lived for a short while in Jamaica from 1968 to 1971 while perusing a degree at the university of the West Indies. His family research started in 1973 and has been carried out in spurts over a period of 30 years. He currently is retired and continues to maintain a keen interest in Caribbean history, politics and society.


The History of one Family from the days of slavery in Barbados and its continuation in the twenty first century.

The story of James William Gittens is a very well written account of one Barbadian family whose earliest know ancestor was James William Gittens (1787-1835). James William Gittens was baptized on October 28, 1787, and described as a black slave of the Honourable Joshua Gittens of Pilgrim Plantation. The research and story suggests that James William was probably not just a slave or servant of the Hon. Joshua Gittens, but rather his child, born of a relationship with one of his favoured female servants.

One of the things that makes this story so very interesting is that the narrative traces the early development of Barbados and identifies the socio-political and economic context in which the family of James William Gittens and his descendent arose.

Here is the link to the story

Then open the Word document.

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Chattel House In Barbados

You Discovered a Slave Owner in Your Family Tree? What Does That Mean to You?

Came across this article which was quite fascinating as I had similar thoughts about our slave owning ancestors.

A few years back, when I first met some of my African American linked descendants, I was excited and enthusiastic, ready to embrace them warmly. They opened their arms to me, and the renewal of our family connection has remained a positive part of our lives. For a while, I assumed that every African American with whom I had a family connection would be as glad to meet me as I would be to meet them. Fortunately, one of my linked cousins has kindly and frankly made it clear that she does not want to be hugged and called cousin by every new white relative she discovers in her family history research. I believe that she wants the warmth and friendship to grow out of time-tested relationship and candid dialogue. ……….Read the complete article here

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Unknown little girl

Unknown little girl

Can you identify this young girl?

This picture was found when Louise Williamson’s family was going through the papers of her late aunt Isobel “Jeanne” Gittens who passed away in 2005, in Barabdos. She has passed it along to me to see if by chance anyone on the mailing list might have some idea who the child might be.

On the back of the picture is inscribed with the following, 3(?) letters blanked out…..Photographer, cor, Queen and Orange sts, Lancaster PA.

I am guessing that the picture was taken circa 1880 and we know it was taken by a photographer who was located at the corner of Queen and Orange Street in Lancaster, PA.

If anyone could provide a better estimate of when the picture was taken by the dress style of the young girl that would be helpful.

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Barbados Map

Lady Gertrude Agnes (Gittens) Cameron (1854- )

This is the first of our Gittens ancestors that I have found who has been elevated into the nobility of English society with the title of Lady. I though I would pass along a little bit about her for your interest.

Barbados parish map
Barbados parish map

The Future Lady Gertrude Agnes Cameron was born as Gertrude Agnes Gittens on March 18, 1877 in British Guiana. She was the daughter of Duncan Ostrehan Gittens Esq. and Margaret Amanda (Smith) Gittens. She was one of two girls born in this family. Her grandparents were John Hamlet Gittens, Esq and Ellen Hinds Clark who were a wealthy and influential Barbados family who owned at least two plantations, Oldbury and Applewhaites, in the Parish of St. John.
Lady Gertrude’s grandfather was the Hon. Rev. John Hamlet Gittens, B. A. who has a very interesting background. The Hon. Rev. John Hamlet Gittens, B.A. was a planter, a politician who was a senior member of the Executive Council of the Government of Barbados, and a clergyman. He received a B.A. degree from Cambridge University, England and was ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican Church in Bristol on October 6, 1810. He returned to Barbados and served the church in many roles but most notably as the Rector of St. John’s church (1821-1845) a span of 25 years. Interestingly, his son George Duncan Gittens was also an Anglican minister who succeeded his father as Rector of St. John’s Church in 1847 and stayed at the church until 1862, some 15 years.

Lady Gertrude married Sir Donald Cameron (1872-1948) in 1904 in Guyana which was then called British Guiana. Sir Donald Cameron was a member of the British Foreign Service and he and Lady Gertrude subsequently spent many years in Africa where Sir Donald served as a Colonial Governor in Nigeria.

The following excerpt is from a book written by Harry A. Gailey titled “Sir Donald Cameron Colonial Governor”. The excerpt provides a glimpse into the personal life of Lady Gertrude.

“Cameron was married at the age of thirty-one just before leaving Guiana for his new position in Mauritius. The future Lady Cameron was Gertrude Gittens, a resident of Oldbury, Barbados. Despite much later speculation that Cameron’s marriage was not totally satisfactory, it was a union which lasted almost forty-five years. That Cameron was devoted to his wife seems clear from a close reading of his book or a perusal of his first will written when Lady Cameron had been ill for some time and was then hospitalized. It is undoubtedly true, as many observers have noted, that Lady Cameron was a quiet, introverted woman who much preferred to remain in the background and who did not thrive on the many social functions that the wife of a governor had to perform. She appears not to have been Cameron’s intellectual equal, but there were few who could make this claim. As Governor of Tanganyika, Cameron tended to invite certain couples over and over to small informal parties at Government House. In most cases the wives were charming and witty and the governor obviously enjoyed their company. But there was never a hint of scandal and it is obvious that Cameron’s marriage was at least satisfactory. Thus the charge by Sir Edward Grigg that Cameron was a lonely man during the crucial years of 1926-27 must be measured by an understanding of the different interpretations of the term lonely. The Camerons had one son, Geoffrey Valentine. To Sir Donald’s great sorrow, his son who was then Legal Secretary to the Malta government was killed in an aircraft which disappeared in the Mediterranean in May 1941. This tragedy obviously affected Lady Cameron greatly and her condition which later required continuous hospitalization can be said to date from the loss of their only son.”

(This Blog was edited on December 8, 2010 to correctly identify Lady Gertrude Agnes Gittens as the daughter of Duncan Ostrehan Gittens and his wife Margaret Amanda Smith. Many thanks to Harold Hart for bringing the correction to my attention.)

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Wyndham House, Barbados

A Curiosity – The Origin of the Wyndham name

In my family research I have found a few naming conventions that had been quite puzzling. One of these is the use of “Wyndham” as a second or third given name in one of the Gittens family lines. The reason for the curiosity is that the origin or significance of the “Wyndham” name has not been identified.

Typically, but not always, children are named after family members, parents, grandparents and great grandparents, or other close relatives. For example, a wife’s maiden name is often used as a second given name, or even sometimes as a third given name.

An example of a fairly typical naming convention is my own name. In my particular case my full name is Clifford Charles Gittens. I am named after my great uncle, Clifford Bertram Gittens and my maternal grandfather, Charles Leslie Crittenden. In the case of each of my children, their mother’s maiden name of Johnson was included as one of their given names. However, the use of Wyndham as a second given name does not seem to fit any pattern. The first use of the Wyndham name in the Gittens family was with Fenwick Wyndham Gittens. We believe Fenwick Wyndham Gittens was born on the Island of St. Kitts in about 1857. His parents were William Nathaniel Gittens and Ann Christian Field who both were born in Barbados. Initially, I expected to find the Wyndham name used somewhere in the ancestors of William Nathaniel Gittens and Ann Christian Field. However, after researching their respective families back for two generations, the Wyndham name was not present. Further research revealed that the surname of Wyndham does not appear in the baptismal or marriage record in Barbados prior to about 1890, which is the date that Barbados records are available online.

Wyndham House Barbados
Wyndham House Barbados where Fenwick Wyndham Gittens lived.

Fenwick Wyndham Gittens married Florence Elizabeth Hordle Mann on 14 Dec 1880, in Barbados. They had 6 children who survived into adulthood, 3 girls and 3 boys. In the case of the girls only one daughter used the Wyndham given name with her children. Edith Wyndham Gittens who married Doctor Longfield Longfield-Smith named her oldest son, John Wyndham Longfield-Smith [who I refer to as John Wyndham Longfield-Smith Sr.] John Wyndham Longfield-Smith Sr. had two children and carried forward the Wyndham given name with his son, John Wyndham Longfield-Smith Jr., but did not use the Wyndham given name in his daughter’s name. In the case of Fenwick and Florence’s sons, only Darnley Erroll Wyndham Gittens (“Erroll”) had children. Erroll was married twice and had two children in each marriage, in total 3 boys and one girl. Each of these 4 children has Wyndham as a second or third given name.

Only Erroll’s boys in turn had children. Each of these three boys used the Wyndham second given with every single child born to them. Each successive generations of children repeated the pattern of using Wyndham as a second or third given name. We have as many as 6 generations who have used and are continuing to use the Wyndham given name. I have had the opportunity of asking a few people who use the Wyndham given name what its significance was and if they knew why it had been carried for so many generations.

No one was really sure of what the history of the name was. This certainly increases the curiosity……???? My purpose in publishing this blog is to see if anyone associated with the Gittens Family is aware of any family lore, or family history which might shed some light on the Wyndham name. If you can provide any information regarding the Wyndham name please submit a comment in the box below.

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Gittens Quakers

Barbados Quakers – Early History

In 1655, two Quaker missionaries, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher, arrived on the island to propagate the Quaker faith. Their mission was very successful. One of the islands most respected and wealthy families, the Rous family, became Quakers and many others followed.

Barbadian Quakers were subject to persecution by the local government for their non-conformist views, which included better treatment of slaves and freedom for slaves after considerable years of service. The Quakers were also one of the first Christian churches to encourage the slaves to join them. This so angered the Plantation owners that it resulted in the legislation of 1676 that made it illegal for blacks to attend a Quaker meeting. This law was repealed only in 1810. Despite enduring suppression, arrest, and crippling monetary fines, prominent and ordinary Barbadians joined Quaker ranks, including plantation owners, businessmen, physicians and others. This list included the Gittens ancestors who were primarily planters and businessmen.

Prior to the Quakers’ large-scale migration to Pennsylvania, Barbados had more Quakers than any other English colony. However, on this island of sugar plantations, Quakers confronted material temptations and had to temper founder George Fox’s admonitions regarding slavery with the demoralizing realities of daily life in a slave-based economy—one where even most Quakers owned slaves.

Since Quakers refused to conform to the Anglican Church, they were generally not recorded in the parish registers. They established their own registration system for birth, marriage and burial. These records do not survive in Barbados. The loss of these records much complicates the research on the early Gittens family.

By the end of the 17th century, Barbados was home to at least 5 Quaker burial grounds and 5 meeting houses with substantial memberships. Through out the 18th century Quaker numbers began to decline as a result of persecution and other factors. By 1780, the island’s meeting houses had been destroyed by hurricane and were not rebuilt. The burial grounds fell victim to the elements and development.

Today only the Cliff Burial ground survives its original form. It was established in 1670, when Quaker Richard Settle gave a legacy in his will for the purchase of land in St. Phillip Parish. There, he directed that part of the bequest be used for construction of the Windward Meeting House and the rest for a “burying ground for friends upon the Cliff.” His Stepson, Richard Taylor, constructed a family vault there, as did John Gittens, Dr. Ralph Weekes, and others. In all, six tombs were hewn into the natural coral stone of the Cliff Burial Ground. (Note 1)

Gittens Quakers

The first evidence that our ancestors became Quakers was found in a land purchase of a property more recently known as Epworth House and owned by the Wesleyan Church since 1861. In 1668, John Gittens was a member of a Quaker group that purchased the dwelling and land for a Quaker meeting house and burial ground. It is unknown if the property was ever used for these purposes.

The 1680 Census of landowners in the Parish of St. Phillip included a listing of Quaker Land owners. and detailed the following people:

  • Gittens, John Sr. husband of Q Hannah Gittens 30 acres of land 8 slaves
  • Gittens, John Jr. son of Q Hannah Gittens, 5 acres of land 4 slaves
  • The Will of John Gittens was dated 10 November 1698, in St. Phillip Parish. It states that he wanted “To be buried in the manner of Quakers.”   It is the Gittens tomb in the Cliff Burial Ground that is pictured above.

One of the more significant factors that points to our ancestors being Quakers is the absence of baptism and marriage records from 1650 until 1699, in the Parish of St. Phillip, almost a 50 year period. On April 10, 1699, Isaac had his sons Robert, Isaac, Joseph, Benjamin and John baptized. On April 19, 1699, he had his daughter Sarah baptized. This would appear to be conversion to the Anglican Church which was likely caused by persecution of some form.

Through this 50 year period we know that there were Gittens families living in St. Phillip Parish as evidenced by a few of our ancestors Wills in the early 1700’s. These people were all living before 1699.

  • Hannah Gittens, Feb 1720, St. Phillip Parish
  • Isaac Gittens, Mar 1713, St. Phillip Parish
  • Isaac Gittens Apr 1717, St. Michael Parish
  • Joshua Gittens, 1714, St. Phillip Parish
  • Robert Gittens, 1715, St. Phillip Parish
  • Samuel Gittens, 1718, St. Phillip Parish

The final bit of evidence confirming the existence of the Gittens families in the Parish of St. Phillip is the Census of 1715. The census lists 12 Gittens families in St. Phillip Parish and one in St. Michael parish.

The 50 year absence of baptism and marriage records in the Parish of St. Phillip and the knowledge that there were Gittens families living in the Parish at the time, as evidenced by wills and the 1715 census, supports the conclusion that all of our ancestors became Quakers. The really interesting fact then is that all Barbados Gittens families originally descended from these early Quakers.

The conversion back to the Anglican Church started in 1699, with Isaac Gittens and his family. Slowly over the following years many, if not all, of our ancestors reverted to the Anglican Church.

Note 1 – Source Pamphlet titled “Quaker Burial Ground c. 1670” prepared by the Committee for the Preservation of the Quaker Burial Ground.

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The Gittens Family of Barbados – At the Beginning

The intent of this blog is to gather information about the history of the Barbados Gittens family, who were very early English settlers in Barbados, and to make the information available to family members and other interested individuals.

This first blog contains an overview of the Gittens family history and its origins in Barbados. Future blogs will attempt to highlight some of the interesting aspects of the Gittens family of Barbados over the past 350 years.

All comments, suggestions and or ideas are invited and welcomed. I would especially appreciate making contact with other members of the Gittens family who have an association, past or present, with Barbados.

The start in Barbados

My ancestors, the Gittens Family, were white settlers who arrived from England in the mid sixteen hundreds. It appears likely that the family came from England but as yet there is no direct evidence supporting this assumption.

The early history of the Gittens family in Barbados is often confusing as records of this era, if they exist, are somewhat brief. For example baptismal records often only include a parish name, date, name of father and name of child.  As time progressed the record keeping became better, often including the first name of the mother on baptismal records.  Adding to the confusion were the naming preferences of the era. The Gittens family, for example, often used John, Nathaniel, Isaac, Benjamin, Joseph and Joshua for male children and Mary, Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Hannah for female children. This meant that almost every family had children with the same names making positive identification of children often challenging.

Further complicating the family history was the illiteracy of the 1600’s.  The officials doing the record keeping wrote names as they heard them. The majority of the people of the era could not read or write so they were not able to correct spellings. Because of this the Gittens name had many variations, some of which included Gittings, Githens, Gittins and Gettings. The name standardized to Gittens following the census of 1715.

The final factor that adds to the confusion is that many of the Gittens in Barbados took up the Quaker faith in the 1655-1700 era. Unfortunately, all of the Quaker records have been lost over time.

The First Settlers

John Gittens and his wife Mabel were the first Gittens family to have children baptized in Barbados. It is likely that there were 8 children fathered by John Gittens as follows:

  • Mary Gittens, daughter of John Gittens was baptized 12 June 1648 in the parish of St. John. This is the earliest record of the Gittens in Barbados.
  • Isaak Gittens, son of John Gittens, baptized 22 November 1650 in the Parish of St. Phillip.
  • Maria Gittens, daughter of John Gittens and Mabel baptized 31 August 1678 at the age of 18 years and 7 months, in the parish of Christ Church. Maria was also married the same day to John Herbert in the Parish of Christ Church.
  • Joseph Gittens, this relationship was establish from a census done in 1679/80 listing the militia members
  • James Gittens, this relationship was establish from a census done in 1679/80 listing the militia members
  • John Gittens, This relationship was determined through a 1679/80 census of land owners which included three Gittens in the Parish of St. Phillip: John Gittens Senior owning 30 acres and 8 slaves (father) : John Gittens Junior, owning 5 acres and 4 slaves (son of John Gittens senior): Isaak Gittens. owning 25 acres and 8 slaves (son of John Gittens Senior)
  • Elizabeth Gittens, married Edward Barrett on the 14 February 1681 in the Parish of St. Michael.
  • Elizabeth Gittens was mentioned in the will of Thomas Pooler. She was the daughter of John Gittens and his second wife Elizabeth Pooler.

It is from these eight children that the Barbados Gittens family is descended.

The next blog will focus on the origins of the Gittens name.

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Paul Foster

Paul Foster, Barbados tourism pioneer, passes away

Paul Foster, founding partner of the travel agency Foster & Ince, died this morning. He was in his early nineties.

Friends and loved ones have been offering their condolences on social media to the family of a man being remembered as a visionary and champion of tourism and heritage, who made a sterling contribution to the development of Barbados in the post-Independence period.

First Vice President of the Barbados National Trust, John Webster, in paying tribute to him said: “His contributions to the advancement of the Barbados National Trust (BNT) in its earlier years are immeasurable and we are fortunate to have had his leadership during the years he served. He was also a great photographer and documented many of the activities of the BNT and life in Barbados.”

Prior to venturing out into his own business, Foster was the manager of the Barbados Tourist Board – the predecessor to the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. – and a past President, Executive Director and Council member of the Barbados National Trust.

He was also one of three founders of the Rotary Club of Barbados; as well as founder and first president of the Barbados Jaycees and national president of the West Indies Jaycees. He was also a former captain of the Barbados Water Polo team.

In previous media interviews, Foster noted that his main focus at the Barbados Tourism Board was to encourage cruise ships to visit Barbados and to promote Barbados as a summer destination.

Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards in recognition of his public service and contribution to tourism, including the Gold Crown of Merit in 1985.

Article was published in the Barbados Loop News on December 24, 2016


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Allen Gittens

Allen Gittens – Tributes paid to well-known councillor and sports figure

(By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: January 11, 2016)


FORMER Scunthorpe borough councillor Allen Gittens has died at the age of 86.

Father-of-two Mr Gittens worked on the Tata Steel works in Scunthorpe – then the British Steel Corporation – as an assistant engineer before he retired.

He stood as a Conservative candidate in the Lincoln Gardens ward in the 1978 local council elections, but later defected to the then-fledgling SDP party.

But Mr Gittens was best known as a community leader.

He was a founder member of the Scunthorpe Anchor Swimming Club and at one time helped to run the Scunthorpe Steelers American Football team.

He was also a governor at the town’s Brumby Comprehensive School – now Outwood Academy Brumby.

Paying tribute, Shay Eddy, a former player-coach with the Scunthorpe Steelers, said: “Allen was a well-loved member of the Steelers family throughout the late-1980s.

“His enthusiasm and zest for life saw him helping out behind the scenes and on the sidelines.

“He worked well with head coach Robin Burton and was instrumental in attracting coach Antimarino to help out at the club.

“He was at that great victory away at Aberdeen and ended up celebrating in the freezing sea.

“My family thought the world of him and his wife Doreen. We will always remember him smiling and shouting encouragement from the sidelines.”

A further tribute came from former Scunthorpe mayor and council leader Cyril Nottingham who said: “It is sad to hear of Allen Gittens’ passing.

“During the years I worked with Allen he was a great supporter of the swimming clubs. He believed by getting on the council he could help more people.

“Like many of us, his disappointment was with the council and that it worked very slowly.

“In the end, Allen decided to go back to charity work. His wife Doreen backed him to the hilt.

“Allen was always cheerful and always found something good to say about people.

“Otherwise he was silent. As those who remember him as a councillor, which was many years ago, he took his work very seriously, but found it hard with the council to get things done that he would have liked for the people. He will be missed.”


Scunthorpe is a town in North Lincolnshire, England. It is the administrative centre of the North Lincolnshire unitary authority, and had an estimated total resident population of 72,514 people in 2010.[2] A predominantly industrial town, Scunthorpe, the United Kingdom’s largest steel processing centre, is also known as the “Industrial Garden Town”.[3][4] It is the third largest settlement in Lincolnshire after Lincoln and Grimsby.


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