Are You a Descendant of the First Families of Abaco?

Historian Betty Bruce and Artist Alton Lowe, founder of the Island Roots Heritage Festival

Forty years ago this week, the inaugural Island Roots Heritage Festival took place in Key West and then in Green Turtle Cay .

During the planning for the first Island Roots Festival, Key West historian Betty Bruce – whose ancestors were among those Abaco families who settled Key West – began gathering the names of other Floridians whose roots stretched across the Gulf Stream to the Bahama islands.

She posted a sign-up sheet in the Monroe County Public Library in Key West and put the word out.

Within just a few months, she had gathered several hundred names on a scroll, which now resides in the archives of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Reading through the scroll, you recognize many common Bahamian surnames, such as Pinder, Knowles, Kemp, Symonette and Moss, from the various Bahamian islands including Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, Long Island, Nassau and Grand Bahama.

Names of Florida residents whose roots reach across the Gulfstream to the Bahamas.

By far, however, the majority of those listed descend from the first families of Abaco, with surnames such as Curry, Lowe, Key, Russell, Albury, Roberts and Sawyer. Not entirely surprising, since wreckers from Abaco were among the first settlers of Key West.

What about you? Were your ancestors Abaconian? If so, I’d love to know more about them!

I’m gathering information about the first families of Abaco and their descendants for a series of blog articles. Please feel free to send your family trees, old family photos or any stories you’d like to share to amanda(at)littlehousebytheferry(dot)com.

Also, just between you and me, there’s been some talk of arranging a giant homecoming/ family reunion for the descendants of Abaco’s first families. If you’re interested, drop me a note with your contact details and I’ll make sure you receive all the info once it’s available.

  3 comments for “Are You a Descendant of the First Families of Abaco?

  1. Reggie Pattweson
    November 28, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I love the idea of a huge homecoming/family reunion. Where and when? Something like this would have to be planned at least a year out. As for the where, I suspect somewhere in FL would be the best. Simply because it costs so bloody much to fly to the Bahamas, and Florida is sort of a neutral location. Not too expensive for anybody to get to, except for someone like Cheri Petters, and lots of reasonably priced accommodation.


  2. Marvine Dethloff
    December 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Hi Amanda. I see Reggie’s response and I too would be very interested in a homecoming/family reunion of descendants of the early settlers. My lines go back to Capt. Gideon Lowe. I love to visit Abaco and Green Turtle Cay. My last few visits were with four-generations of my family. Precious memories in a beautiful setting. I look forward to more details as this develops.


  3. Melinda Kemp Lyerly
    December 6, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    My family names from the Bahamas include Kemp, Lowe, Albury, and Villajelu (sp?)
    From what I understand, my father’s family had been in the Bahamas since 1651. My father was born in Key West in 1905, but his father (Kemp)and mother (Villajelu) were from Green Turtle Cay, Abaco. I would be very interested in information/connections/ a family reunion!

    Melinda Kemp Lyerly


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