Abaco Genealogy

The roots and branches of Abaco’s family tree extend far beyond the island’s white-sand shores.

Long before they settled in Abaco in the late 1700s, many British Loyalists, slaves and free blacks had left entire branches of their own family trees behind in Africa, Europe and Great Britain when they emigrated – some voluntarily, others not – to America.

The American Revolutionary War would scatter their families even further afield. While some Loyalists fled south to the Bahamas and Caribbean, others chose to migrate north.

A plaque in Hope Town commemorates the British Loyalists who settled first settled there in 1785.

The list of Loyalists who sought refuge in Canada includes many surnames also common in Abaco, including Adams, Baker, Curry, Dean, Hall, Harris, Farrington, Lowe, McIntosh, Roberts, Russell and Saunders.  

Early in the 1800s, as a result of changes to U.S. wrecking laws, hundreds of Abaconians relocated to Key West, which at the time was virtually uninhabited. By 1860, two-thirds of the island’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent.

William Curry, a Green Turtle Cay resident who migrated to Key West in the late 1830s, would go on to become Florida’s first millionaire, and the wealthiest man in the state. (Oil painting by Alton Lowe.)

And as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, Henry Flagler’s railroad stretched into South Florida, setting off a building boom. With their own economy in decline, and jobs available in Miami for every Bahamian who wanted one, one-fifth of the Bahamian population – including many Abaconians — emigrated to the U.S.

L-R: Morris Key from Marsh Harbour, and George Russell, whose father’s family migrated from Green Turtle Cay to Florida, were among Miami’s first streetcar operators.

A series of destructive hurricanes during the 1920s and 30s would inspire another wave of Abaconians to seek new lives and opportunities in the U.S. and abroad.

Want to learn more about your own Abaco roots and genealogical connections? Here are some links to get you started:

Here are some genealogy-related Abaco Sun articles that may also be of interest.