Bahamian Conservation: Turning the Tide

Recently, I came across a Miami Herald article about the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s conservation efforts in the Bahamas. It reminded me of a wonderful bonefishing day Tom and I had with Green Turtle Cay’s Captain Rick Sawyer a couple of years back.

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A Quick Fly Fishing Refresher Course with Captain Rick Sawyer

Though Tom had previously done some fly fishing, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me telling you he was more than a little rusty. But with Rick’s patience and guidance (and his ability to spot bonefish at amazing distances), Tom was soon reeling one in. After a quick photo op, back into the water it went.

First Catch of the DayWhile Tom practiced his fly casting — catching another bonefish in the process — I enjoyed the view as Rick propelled us across the grassy green shallows of Coco Bay. I spotted sea biscuits, sand dollars and starfish in the clear water. Stingrays drifted lazily by and at one point, a little turtle popped up to greet us.

To be honest, I hadn’t planned to fish. I was happy just to spend time with Tom out on the water. But later, as we floated across the flats south of the settlement, he and Rick convinced me to take a turn — though I opted for a regular rod and bait instead of fly fishing.

By then, an afternoon breeze had kicked up, making it difficult to spot fish beneath the water’s rippled surface. (Truthfully, even when the water was glass-calm, I struggled to see the bonefish that Rick seemed to spot so effortlessly.)

Reeling in My Bonefish

Reeling in My Bonefish

When he pointed to clear patch of water some distance off the port side, I cast my line and waited. A few moments later, I felt a small, disappointing pull. The kind that says you’re about to land a hook full of grass. I sighed and began winding in. But then I felt a strong tug. And sure enough, my very first bonefish was on the line.

It truly was a terrific day, with much fishing success and a great many laughs. But the thing that struck me most was a conversation we had with Rick about conservation.

Though bonefish used to be considered a local staple (apparently, it was one of my grandfather’s favourites), for guides like Rick, bonefishing is strictly a catch-and-release endeavour. Having been a fishing guide for more than a quarter century, he understands first-hand the importance of conserving the natural resources of the Bahamas.

Getting Ready to Release

Preparing for Release

Unfortunately, the same cannot yet be said of all Bahamians. In fairness, it wasn’t that long ago that bonefish, crawfish, conch, grouper, turtles and whelks were plentiful.

When we were kids, my grandmother regularly served seafood — grouper cutlets, crab-and-rice and stewed whelks were some of my favourites. And when she was a child, conchs were so inexpensive — “You could buy a big bunch of them for a thruppence,” she said — that Pa Herman fed them to his hogs!

Today, many local species of fish and shellfish are difficult to come by. Rarely do you spot a turtle, especially of any size. Grouper is hard to find and costly even when you can find it. Whelks are virtually nonexistent.

Local overfishing and less-than-responsible fishing practices are primarily responsible, though uninformed visitors must shoulder some of the blame. (A Green Turtle Cay resident recently told me about being “cussed out” by a boatload of tourists after explaining that the conchs they were harvesting were juveniles and suggesting they leave them in the sea to mature.) And the recent, inadvertent introduction of the lionfish — which has no natural predators in the local ecosystem — has only exacerbated the problem.

Understandably, the transition from a mindset of abundance to one of conservation is not easy. Still, given the number of Bahamians whose livelihoods rely, either directly or indirectly, on the sea, it’s vital.

Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning. A number of organizations, including the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the Bahamas National Trust and Friends of the Environment, have created strategies for protecting and preserving local sea life. Conservation programs have been implemented for grouper, turtles, crawfish and coral reefs.

At last May’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, I learned about the recently launched “Conchservation” campaign, which teaches people to identify and harvest only mature conchs. And numerous efforts, including an annual fishing derby, are underway to control and eradicate the lionfish population.

I’ll write more about Bahamian conservation programs in future posts. In the meantime, for more information about fly fishing or deep-sea fishing with Captain Rick Sawyer, check out his website (where I notice he’s offering some specials during March.) You can also reach him at (242) 365-4261 or info@abacoflyfish.com.

Homeward Bound After a Fun Fishing Day

Homeward Bound After a Fun Fishing Day

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A Family Mystery Solved

Often, in genealogical research, we encounter things that don’t make sense. Dates don’t match up, name spellings differ between sources, records are incomplete or illegible (you’d think our ancestors would have put someone with legible handwriting in charge of record keeping!) Unfortunately, records are no more perfect than the humans who keep them.

Pa Herman Grave StoneOne mystery from our own family was my great-grandfather, Thomas Herman (“Herman”) Curry. The headstone on his grave indicates that he was born April 20, 1890, and passed away March 5, 1958. Seems pretty straight forward. Except that several sources show a Thomas Herman Curry in Green Turtle Cay who also died March 5, 1958, but was born in 1887.

I  was tempted to just accept the 1890 birth date. After all, you’d think Pa Herman’s wife and daughters – who presumably ordered his gravestone – would know his correct birth date. However, I learned that there existed records showing that Thomas Herman Curry was baptized in 1887. How could a child born in 1890 be baptized three years earlier? For months, I thought this might just be one of those questions whose answer is forever lost to time.

Herman Thomas Curry (1890 - 1958)

Thomas Herman Curry (1890 – 1958)

But then, two things happened…

First, my cousin, Evan Lowe, who writes a blog called Out Island Boy, forwarded a link to an online listing of Bahamian births, deaths and marriages between 1850 – 1950. (Be warned: this is a terrific resource but it takes a great deal of patience.  There’s no index, meaning you have to click through hundreds of pages to find what you’re looking for.)

Then, a few days later, while assembling information about Pa Herman and Ma May’s descendants, I noticed that their youngest daughter, my great-aunt Belle, had exactly the same name – Agnes Mirabelle – as her older sister (known as Mirabelle) who died the year before Aunt Belle was born.

It got me wondering about Pa Herman, so I hunkered down to search the Bahamian birth and death records. A couple of days later, I had my answer.

Turns out there were two Thomas Herman Currys. And, like Aunt Belle and Mirabelle, they were siblings. The first Herman was born to my great-great-grandparents, Thomas Wesley Curry (“Pa Wes”) and Lilla Carleton on August 14, 1887.

Herman Curry Birth - 1887Sadly, the records show that, on June 30, 1888, the infant Herman died from “teething.”

Herman Curry Death 1888On (or around) April 21, 1890, Pa Wes and Lilla had another son, whom they also named Herman.

Herman Curry Birth - 1890This was my great-grandfather, Pa Herman, who passed away March 5, 1958.Herman Curry Death - 1958

I did some digging and discovered that, strange as it seems today, naming a child after a recently deceased sibling was common in years gone by. Parents knew that one or more of their children likely would not make it to adulthood. When a child died, his or her name was simply passed down to next child of the same gender.

In fact, I’ve since learned that professional genealogists suggest that when searching birth records, you not stop when you find the name you’re seeking. Rather, they recommend searching a few more years of records, since the first child may have passed away, and your ancestor may in fact be a subsequent child with the same name.

Related: Out Island Boy: The Unknown Curry

Mo-Mo's Sweet Dreams

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Since she was in the ninth grade, Green Turtle Cay’s Melissa Albury (or Mo-Mo, as she’s known to friends) has dreamed of opening a bakery. Now, just seven years later, she’s achieved that goal, opening Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack in the heart of New Plymouth.

Tempted by the yummy smells wafting through town, Tom and I dropped in for breakfast on opening day last Monday. On display was a wide assortment of freshly baked cakes, cookies, donuts, cupcakes, cinnamon buns, pastries and bread. Hot and cold drinks were also available.

After much deliberation, we each selected a jam blossom pastry and we shared a glazed donut. We also bought a loaf of fresh-baked bread (which, incidentally, was still fresh three days later) and cupcakes as a gift for our hosts at a dinner party that evening. All were delicious.

Cupcakes r

Though Melissa’s name is on the sign, Mo-Mos’s Suga’ Shack is really a family venture. Her dad helped set up the shop and the fixtures, while her mom, Linda, was present on opening day to help staff the shop. And many of Melissa’s recipes were handed down from her grandmother, Esther Bethel who, in recent weeks has traveled from her home in Marsh Harbour to share her culinary secrets with her granddaughter.

Three Generations

Three Generations: (L-R) Esther Bethel, her daughter Linda Albury, and her granddaughter, Melissa (Mo-Mo) Albury, proprietor of Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack.

Above and beyond my own sweet tooth, I love this story for a couple of reasons. It’s terrific to see a young local entrepreneur working hard to bring her vision to life. (And is she ever working hard — several times last week we spotted her in the bakery late in the evening.) It’s also wonderful that her grandmother Esther’s treasured family recipes are being passed down to, and enjoyed by, a new generation.

Melissa says that this is only the beginning. There are dozens of recipes she’s eager to try. And in the near future, she plans to expand her offering to include fresh-baked rolls, sandwiches and a variety of savoury items.

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Open Monday through Saturday, Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack is located in the beautiful and historic Pink Pearl building on Parliament Street, directly across from the Albert Lowe Museum.

Fish Hooks Video Diary: The Move

As you can see in the above video, our journey toward restoring Fish Hooks took an unexpected detour a week ago. Last Thursday, we learned that the crane we hoped would move the cottage was out of commission, and nobody knew how long repairs would take.

Needless to say, last weekend was a stressful one for Tom and me. We wondered if, despite our months of planning and anticipation, we might leave Green Turtle Cay without moving the house at all.

Green Turtle Cay 101: An Introduction

Recently, I’ve received a number of emails from folks wanting to know more about visiting Green Turtle Cay. This post is the first in a series entitled Green Turtle Cay 101: A Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here and Enjoying all that Green Turtle Cay Has to Offer.

Junkanoo Performers

Local schoolchildren perform at Green Turtle Cay’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, held each May.

If you visit the Bahamas and don’t get any further than the cities of Nassau or Freeport, you’ve really only scratched the surface. For a truly authentic Bahamian experience, you need to visit one of the country’s out islands, also known as the “Family Islands.”

Island HouseAs you’ve likely surmised, my favourite family island is Green Turtle Cay, because quite simply, it’s the polar opposite of Nassau or Freeport.

There are no duty-free shops or noisy casinos, no high-rise chain hotels or American fast-food joints, no cruise ships or smoke-belching Jitneys, no Bay Street peddlers hawking cheap t-shirts.

Instead, there is peace. There is privacy. There are pristine (and often deserted) beaches, charming locals, bikes and golf carts for transportation and more stars at night than you could ever count. There’s a vigorous domino game in town, rake-and-scrape music at sunset, local kids shooting hoops (you’re welcome to join in), home-baked coconut bread at the local grocery, and conch salad chopped fresh while you watch.

Look What We Found!

A few days after Tom produced this video, we were rooting around in Fish Hooks cellar, and guess what he uncovered…?

Cellar Marble

Yep, a marble! We don’t know for sure whether it dates back to the childhood meeting of my grandparents that Tom describes in the cellar video, but based on a little preliminary research into vintage marbles, it very well could.

Also, turns out that Tom and I may both have been wrong as to the origin of all those glass bottles beneath the house. Since I posted the cellar video, a number of local folks have told me that, in years gone by, Green Turtle Cay residents collected glass bottles for toting water from the communal spigot, storing kerosene for stoves and canning tomatoes.

The latter seemed a bit strange to me. After all, these narrow-necked bottles don’t seem particularly well-suited for canning. But sure enough, in reviewing notes I made of my grandmother’s childhood recollections, Pa Herman grew what she referred to as “bottling tomatoes,” and my uncle confirms that, indeed, Pa Herman and Ma May preserved tomatoes in glass bottles similar to those in the cellar.

Fish Hooks Video Diary: Beam It Up

As you can see in this latest entry in our Fish Hooks video diary, Oral, Jason and Gavin have made great progress in the past few days. “Moving day” is growing ever near. We expect it will be sometime next week, depending on the availability of the crane. Will keep you posted!

A huge thank you to my husband, Tom Walters, for all the hours he’s put into documenting the restoration of our little house by the ferry. No doubt these are videos we will treasure in the years to come.

Related Stories: We’ve Hooked the Small One, Fish Hooks Update – The Inspection, Attic Archaeology, And Then There Were These…, Fish Hooks Update, Fish Hooks Video Diary: A Solid Start, Fish Hooks Video Diary: The Cellar, Fish Hooks Video Diary: Ready, Set…, Fish Hooks Video Diary: The Move.

Another Island Home Saved

Our end of the New Plymouth settlement is looking great these days. In addition to the two new houses that have been built nearby, we were thrilled to see that the house around the corner from Fish Hooks has been beautifully refurbished.

As often happens on the out islands (and as was the case with Fish Hooks), the original owners of the home had passed on, and their children had moved away for work or to start families.

Pink House Before 2

Time and weather had not been kind, and the house looked as if it might soon be beyond repair.

Fish Hooks Video Diary: The Cellar

There’s a lot of work being done underneath our little house by the ferry in preparation for the big move. Over the weekend, Tom explored the old cellar beneath Fish Hooks, and documented his discoveries for our restoration video diary.

Oral, Jason and Gavin are making terrific progress, and the house should be ready to move later this week or early next. We’ll post a move date as soon as it’s confirmed.

Related Posts: Fish Hooks Update – The Inspection, Attic Archaeology, And Then There Were These…, Fish Hooks Update, Fish Hooks Video Diary: A Solid StartFish Hooks Video Diary: Beam It Up, Fish Hooks Video Diary: Ready, Set…, Fish Hooks Video Diary: The Move.

Fish Hooks Video Diary: A Solid Start

As you can see in the above video, our restoration of Fish Hooks is finally underway. First thing Monday, Tom and I met with Jason and Oral Bethel to finalize plans for the project.

Almost everything will proceed as originally planned, except for moving the house. Instead of jacking it up and rolling it back onto its new foundation, we’ve decided to use a huge crane to lift and move it. Not only will this result in less stress to the structure, but, as a bonus, it should shorten the move time considerably.

Work officially began Tuesday morning. By the time I arrived at the property that day, the location for the new foundation had been marked off. By mid-afternoon, most of the 12 holes into which the 16”x16” footings will fit had already been chiseled out of the rock.

Happy New Year from Green Turtle Cay!

Photo by Tom Walters

Photo by Tom Walters

I’ve been blogging less than I’d like over the past month or so, partly because of holiday commitments and partly because I’ve been helping a friend with a project which I hope to be able to share with you soon.

However, we arrived in Green Turtle Cay this past Friday, and I’m excited to get back to Little House by the Ferry and on to the restoration of Fish Hooks.

A Hard but Happy Childhood

Lurey Merlee (Curry) Albury
1919-2010

My grandmother, Lurey Merlee Curry, was the oldest of Pa Herman and Ma May’s four daughters. She was born in Green Turtle Cay in 1919 and lived there until moving to Nassau at age 17.

Tomorrow (December 16) would have been her 94th birthday.

Even in her later years, my grandmother’s memories of Green Turtle Cay remained vivid. “I can remember more about what happened to me as a child than I can remember day-to-day,” she would say.

And so, whenever I visited, we’d sit together in her front porch and, over the creak-creak of her gliding rocker, she would tell me about life “over home.”

Lurey Curry c 1933

Lurey Curry circa 1933

More often than not, her stories were about the adversities her family faced – the sudden death of her six-year-old younger sister, Mirabelle, the loss of their family home in the 1932 hurricane, the poverty they endured during the Great Depression. “They were hard times,” she would say. “But people were happier. We were happy.”

And indeed, despite their many hardships, the love between my grandmother and her family and the simple pleasures they derived from everyday life were always evident in her stories. In honour of her birthday, I wanted to share two of her many Green Turtle Cay memories.

The Cane Mill

“When we were children, there was a cane mill at The Bluff. On the days that Daddy went to The Bluff to cut canes, we wouldn’t go to school. We would go with him to make the syrup. The boat would be loaded down with sugar canes. They were so soft and had long joints. Children used to come to buy them.

 You’d have to push the mill around and around. Someone had a horse that would pull the mill. Mama used to bake something for us to carry down there to eat. If she had coconut, she’d bake coconut bread.

 We used to chew on the sugar cane and drink the cane juice, which made us crave something salty. So when we got home, we would fish on the rocks for those yellow grunts. Mama would cook sweet potatoes and stew the grunts for us under the wild dilly tree where she used to cook.” 

 The Watermelon Farm

“You know in Black Sound, where you go up in and meet mangroves? Daddy used to grow watermelons on the north side of that harbour.

He had two boats. One with a well, that he went fishing in, and another small one.

Just about every Saturday afternoon when watermelons were in season, when he got through cleaning out the boat with the well and he chopped up fat pine – that’s what we used to start a fire in the wood stove outside – he would say, “Lurey, you want to go over to Black Sound? Let us go see if any watermelons are ripe.”

We would go in the small boat and coming back, we would sail. Daddy would cut up a watermelon and I would sit up on the bow and dip it in the salt water and eat it.

 Daddy sold the watermelons when he could, when anybody wanted one. Sometimes, the young boys would buy one and go out on the dock and cut it up.

 When I came to Nassau, the Priscilla (the mail boat) used to run every two weeks from over home. Daddy would always save the best watermelon to send down here to me. Sometimes, though, the rats would eat them on the trip. So I told him, ‘Daddy, keep them and sell them.’”

Though we lost my grandmother almost four years ago, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and her stories of Green Turtle Cay. I hope she’d be happy to know that Tom and I are restoring the little house where she and her family shared so many sweet memories.

My grandmother and me

My grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and me

Bahamas DNA Project Update: DNA Test Kits on Sale

163021_177015328991668_2983161_n Good news for those of you thinking about participating in the Bahamas DNA Project, or looking for unique Christmas gift ideas for family and friends (Bahamian or not.) Family Tree DNA test kits are on sale from now until December 31.

Since Family Tree DNA sells a number of different test kits, Peter Roberts of the Bahamas DNA Project offers the following guidance for Bahamians wishing to be tested:

“It would be helpful if anyone with any Bahamian ancestry ordered a Family Finder test for $99 (but don’t count on the included $100 Restaurant.com coupon due to poor reviews I see of Restaurant.com).

If you are male (and your direct paternal line is from the Bahamas) I recommend the Y-DNA37 test for $119, but e-mail me at peterebay@yahoo.com to be sure you don’t retest an already tested direct paternal line.

For males or females, if your direct maternal line is from the Bahamas (and we determine you belong to an untested direct maternal line) I recommend you order the mtDNAPlus test for $49 (but you will need to phone in your mtDNAPlus order at (713) 868-1438 because it is not listed during this sale period).”

While everyone with Bahamian heritage is encouraged to participate, the Bahamas DNA Project is especially interested in having Bahamians of African, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese and Native American ancestry tested. For more information, visit the Bahamas DNA Project’s website, their Facebook page, or the Bahamas DNA Project Page on the Family Tree DNA website.

NOTE: You do not have to be Bahamian to purchase/use Family Tree DNA kits. These tests will provide information about your lineage, regardless of where your ancestors come from. (I should also mention that, aside from being a happy customer, I’m not affiliated with Family Tree DNA in any way.)

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Recognize Anyone?

Here are a few more photos from the albums of my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and my uncle, Cuthbert Albury. I suspect most of these were taken in Abaco, but aside from that, I know very little about them. I’ve included whatever information I have in the captions below each photograph. If you can help identify any of these people or scenes, please post a comment below, or email me.

If I had to guess, I’d say this was Cherokee Sound during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the early 1940s.
Anyone know for sure?

This group looks like the staff of a hotel, perhaps. I’m fairly certain that the man seated in the front row third from left
is my uncle, Cuthbert Albury, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

I know this is the wedding of Dorothy Albury, daughter of Bissell and Jean Albury, but I don’t know who any of the guests are.
Anyone know?

My cousin, Evan Lowe, and I wonder if this could be my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Wesley (“Pa Wes”) Curry, of Green Turtle Cay….?

Related posts: Putting Names to Faces, Faces in Need of Names , (More) Faces in Need of Names, We’re Getting There

Bucket List Beaches

Treasure Cay Beach, Abaco, Bahamas Treasure Cay Beach, Abaco, Bahamas

Recently, I came across a Huffington Post article about the world’s bluest beaches. This piece is essentially a ready-made bucket list for me, since I love beaches of all kinds, in all seasons and in all sorts of weather. It’s entirely possible that I’m biased, of course, but I think the Bahamian out islands have some of the most spectacular, unspoiled beaches in the world. So does National Geographic,  which named Abaco’s Treasure Cay beach (pictured above) one of the 10 most beautiful on the planet.

Below are a few more of my favourite Bahamian beaches. What about you? Where’s your favourite beach?

Bahamas DNA Project – Untangling My Family Roots

DNA vials 5

Some people’s family trees grow in neat, tidy branches. My ancestry is more like a twisted, rambling vine, or a set of tangled Christmas lights.

On the Bahamian side, my ancestors include Eleutheran Adventurers (English Puritans fleeing religious persecution in Bermuda, who settled on the Bahamian island now known as Eleuthera), British Loyalists who fled the U.S. and settled in Harbour Island and Abaco following the American Revolution, and at least one pirate.

Faced with a cholera outbreak, potato blight and political unrest, my Dad’s great-grandfather moved his family from Germany to Jamaica in 1834. My paternal grandmother’s heritage goes back to Curacao, Cuba and the Danish West Indies before bringing her to Jamaica where she met and married my grandfather.

Because of the relatively tiny communities in which many of my ancestors lived, I often find I’m related to the same person through different pathways. For example, I’ve discovered that three of my four maternal grandparents are direct descendants of Wyannie Malone, a Loyalist widow said to have settled Hope Town, Abaco in the late 1700s. Long story short, I’m the human equivalent of a Bahamian potcake.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history!

One of the speakers at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was Peter Roberts, administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project, a private, non-profit organization that connects people who share Bahamian ancestry and traces their origins in Africa, Europe, and North America.

DNA testing, Peter explained, can help determine whether others with your surname are related to you, and identify family connections that may not be traceable through other genealogical research methods. It can also scientifically verify traditional genealogical research, and locate relatives you never knew you had.

Peter also recounted some of the many success stories that have emerged from the Bahamas DNA Project. For example, DNA testing has shown that Bahamians with the surname Albury (i.e., my Mom) can trace their ancestry back to medieval European nobility. And though most assumed that the Bahamian Lowes (including my 2x great-grandmother, Jessie Lowe) were of British ancestry, testing shows that their roots are actually in Mexico, Portugal, Brazil and Tanzania, and their heritage can be traced back to pirates. Matthew Lowe, a well-known pirate in Bahamian history, was my 8x great-grandfather.

I’ve wanted to participate in the Bahamas DNA Project for a while, and after Peter’s presentation, I signed up on the spot. Submitting my DNA sample was easy. I just swabbed the inside of my cheek with a tiny brush (plus another one, for backup), sealed the brushes in the tiny vials provided in the test kit, and mailed off the samples.

Genetic Makeup

My genetic makeup, from FamilyTreeDNA.com

I ordered two tests: mtDNA and Family Finder. The mtDNA test traces maternal DNA passed from mothers to their children, male or female. It traces your maternal line (i.e., your mother’s mother’s mother, etc.), and is best suited for revealing deep ancestry. (Men with paternal ancestry in the Bahamas can also order a y-DNA test, which traces your father’s father’s father’s line.)

Family Finder helps to locate more recent genealogical matches (i.e., within the last 10 generations or so.) It’s an autosomal DNA test that compares your DNA with that of others who’ve been tested, and identifies people who share parts of your DNA.

After about eight weeks, I received an email with a link to my results. Here’s just some of what I learned:

214px-King_George_V_1911_color-crop

King George V

Genetically, I’m 86.6% Western European (specifically from the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland), 5.9% West African (from the Mandinka and/or Yoruba ethnic groups) and 7.4% Middle Eastern (Mozabite, Palestinian, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, and/or Jewish ethnicities.)

I belong to Haplogroup T2, a subset of Haplogroup T. (A haplogroup is basically an ancestral clan, kind of like the Vikings or the Celts.) Haplogroup T is believed to have originated in Africa about 45,000 years ago. Over time, this group spread into northern Italy and eventually throughout Europe. About 10% of modern day Europeans, Palestinians, Turks and Syrians belong to Haplogroup T, which is found in particularly high concentrations around the Eastern Baltic Sea, Ireland and west of Britain.

220px-Jesse_james_portrait

Jesse James

Some better-known members of Haplogroup T (and therefore, people with whom I share maternal ancestry) include Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, American outlaw Jesse James, and Kings George the I, III and V of England.

As for more recent relatives, my DNA tests have revealed dozens of people world-wide with whom I share DNA — and therefore, at least one common ancestor. In some cases, the connections are quite far back in time and difficult to trace. But in many cases, the DNA test shows that the connection is fairly recent. I’ve been in touch with some of my newly discovered relatives and we’re comparing family trees and DNA results in an attempt to identify our common ancestors.

Though quite a few Bahamians of European descent have been tested since the Bahamas DNA Project began in 2004, the project is eager to have more Bahamians of African, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese and Native American ancestry participate.  Depending on what tests you choose to have done, prices range from $49 to $199 plus postage, though if cost is a concern, you can request sponsorship.

To participate in the Bahamas DNA Project, visit the project website, their Facebook page, or the Bahamas DNA Project Page on the Family Tree DNA website.

 

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Green Turtle Cay's Historic Cemetery

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As Bahamian performer Ronnie Butler sings, “Everybody wan’ go to heaven, but nobody wan’ dead.” But if you have to go, I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to be laid to rest than the cemetery in Green Turtle Cay.

Pa Herman’s grave and part of his previous tombstone, likely damaged by a hurricane.

The two-acre graveyard, located at the foot of the hill east of town, dates back to the late 1700s, though it’s been destroyed several times since by hurricanes. At low tide, you can still spot fragments of old tombstones on the beach below.

Overlooking the Sea of Abaco, Green Turtle Cay’s historic cemetery is a peaceful space where tropical flowers grow among the graves and dance in the breeze, and from which you can watch pelicans dive for their dinner and fishermen try their luck on the bonefishing flats.

I often wonder whether it’s coincidence that the Tiny Turtles Preschool is located right next door. There’s something sweet and life-affirming about paying respects to those who’ve left us while listening to a new generation of little voices laughing and singing.

Though most of their grave markers have been lost to time and weather, a number of our family members are buried here, including Pa Herman, Mirabelle, my grandmother’s sister who died at six years old, and their youngest sibling, a boy who was stillborn. One of my grandmother’s children, a girl born premature, is also here.

If your ancestors are buried in the Green Turtle Cay cemetery, the Find A Grave website includes a list of the interments for which there are existing markers.

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From My Grandmother's Kitchen: Banana Pudding

My grandmother and me, 2005

My grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury was a wonderful and generous cook. Her fried chicken, stewed whelks, guava duff and banana pudding were among my favourites, and there was always enough for her children and grandchildren.

Like many Bahamians, though, my grandmother cooked strictly by taste and feel, which made obtaining her recipes a challenge.

At first, I’d ask her to prepare a dish while I watched, jotting notes and estimating ingredient quantities. This was how I learned to dress and bake a ham, and make potato salad, Bahamian pumpkin pie, tuna salad and guava duff.

By the time we got around to banana pudding, however, my grandmother was in her late 80s and rarely cooked. So, at the breakfast table one morning, she dictated the recipe, guessing at the quantities for each ingredient.

As I scribbled notes, she told me she’d been making this banana pudding for more than 50 years (no wonder she didn’t need a recipe!)

When she and my grandfather were first married, she said, they didn’t have much money, and sugar was being rationed due to WWII. At the time, however, my grandfather worked on the Anne Bonny, a freight boat that transported bananas from Haiti to Miami. When he returned from a trip, he’d bring bananas and a sack of sugar, and my grandmother would bake banana pudding.

ingr 5Sadly, by the time I got around to using her banana pudding recipe, my grandmother had passed away. I followed the notes she had dictated, but the flavour wasn’t quite right and the texture was way off.

I searched my Bahamian cookbooks and scoured the Internet for a similar recipe, but all the banana pudding recipes I came across were in fact custards or just glorified baked bananas. None sounded similar to my grandmother’s sweet, sticky, bread-pudding-like treat.

Determined to get it right, I revisited her recipe. I added more flour and less liquid, and vice versa. I baked the pudding at 325F, and then 350F. I tried baking it for an hour, and then an hour and a half.

Since Bahamian cooks swear that Canadian flour is better for baking than American flour, I ignored the exasperated eye-rolling of a certain other member of our household and schlepped six pounds of Robin Hood flour home from Green Turtle Cay.

More than a year and close to a dozen tries later, I think I’ve got it nearly perfect. The texture isn’t quite the same as my grandmother’s banana pudding, (maybe because I’m using a different type of banana?) but the taste is spot on.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, here’s the (slightly amended) recipe.

Lurey Albury’s Banana Pudding

  •     11 or so medium-sized, very ripe bananas
  •     ½ c. evaporated milk
  •     1 ¼ c. brown sugar (you can use a little less if the bananas are very ripe)
  •     1 – 1 ¼ c flour
  •     2 beaten eggs
  •     1 tbsp melted butter
  •     1 tsp vanilla (this wasn’t in the original recipe, but I added it.)

Mash bananas thoroughly. Stir in all other ingredients. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish and bake at 325 for 1 ½ hours, or until well-browned. Let cool completely (even overnight) before cutting.

If you can adhere to that last instruction, you’re a better person than me.

Pudding 4

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