DEATH, BURIAL & CEMETERY RECORDS: THEIR IMPORTANCE (TRINIDAD & TOBAGO)
In Trinidad, Local Government authorities are responsible for the provision, maintenance and control of public cemeteries
and cremation facilities (Ministry of Local Government)
The Regulations in respect of Public Burial Grounds state that
Books shall be kept by the Keeper, in which shall be accurately registered the interment of all persons buried, with
the number of the section and allotments, and the date, name and age of the deceased, and also the name of the
officiating minister, or in his absence, of some person present at the burial.
The Keeper shall furnish certified extracts of such books to all persons applying on payment to the Keeper (for his
own use) of one dollar for every certificate.
The name and phone number of the public cemetery keeper/facility administrator and further information can be obtained
In Tobago, the House of Assembly is responsible for its cemeteries and crematoria.
Cemeteries are repositories of our history
The late Richard Bolai, photographer, graphic designer and bookbinder, travelled all over Trinidad and Tobago amassing
photographs from cemeteries and asked many times, what was happening with the preservation of our monuments.
Adele Todd (2005) who saw some of the work involved has stated that Richard’s photographs show the love and care of
some family members in respect of their gravestones, but Adele was also disturbed by the evidence of neglect and
disrespect for the dead and the country’s past, noting that, In time, these valuable monuments will decay and disappear
“There are gravesites with information about arriving on the island and dying of fever in 1868, Chinese characters
and hybrid names from intermarriage with other wealthy families . . .”
Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Phillip Street, Port-of-Spain
Tel.: (868) - 625 - 2275
Open: 8am - 12pm & 3pm - 6pm Monday to Friday. No Saturdays.
Burial Registers, available from 1870 onwards. Some are in very poor condition and are being improperly stored.
Lapeyrouse Cemetery is administered by the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and, before visiting, it may be advisable to
write first to the Chief Executive. Contacting the Lapeyrouse Cemetery Keeper direct by telephone to obtain information
from the burial registers may not be profitable.
At Woodbrook Cemetery (Mucurapo Road, St. James), on the eastern side of the cemetery there is a section reserved
for Jewish burials, called Bet Olam. The graves lying side by side each other are neatly kept. and well maintained, with
all the headstones having a constant coat of white paint.
On examining the head stones you will see the individuals were buried between 1931 to 1950, with a few more recently.
You will also note that the persons interred in these grave came mainly from Eastern Europe.
St. James Military Cemetery is worth visiting. It is adjacent to the crematorium, immediately before Camp Ogden.)
The cemetery is open Mon - Fri 09:00 to 13:00 and is locked at other times. Out of hours opening can be arranged by
contacting Robert Agie of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force well in advance of the intended visit.
Tel: (1868) - 771 - 4223 or Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Paradise Cemetery, a.k.a. Pembroke Cemetery, Paradise Street, San Fernando.
As a result of the 1854 cholera epidemic, which resulted in the closure of a small cemetery on Chacon Street, the
Borough Council, in January 1868, bought land from the Paradise Estate and opened Paradise Cemetery.
Paradise Cemetery is administered by the San Fernando City Corporation
Kheera Victoria Daly (2009) of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, in her research, examined four major
cemeteries in Trinidad:
(i) Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port-of-Spain
(ii) Catholic Cemetery, St. Joseph
(iii) St. Mary’s Anglican Church Cemetery, Tacarigua
(iv) Grand Chemin Catholic Cemetery
and has noted that these sites are largely untapped repositories of research, which will add considerably to the growing
body of data on mortuary studies in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean.
Birth to Death Records
Common-law marriage was widespread in Trinidad. Old birth and baptismal registers indicate that there were many births
and baptisms to parents who were not married. Sometimes the parents married after the birth of several children and
some, of course, never married. If this is the case, it is essential to know the surname of the mother as the father’s name
may not have been registered, ie listed, in the birth or baptismal register. Neither parents are recorded in the burial
register or on the death certificate.
The early marriage registers, ca 1830s, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port-of-Spain may give the
names of both parents of bride and bridegroom, even where the parents were not married. However, by the 1870s,
neither parents are recorded on the children’s marriage certificates.
When the parents were not married, the person was usually registered only under the mother’s surname. Your ancestor
may have been given the father’s surname in later years and therefore could have married and died under a different
surname (and even christian name) from that which they were given at baptism or birth.
It can be very puzzling when the baptismal names are different from the names used at marriage, but this can be
compounded if additional ‘official’ names are also used at other times, eg in property transactions, etc. The oldest family
members may be willing to clarify these difficulties but cannot always do so.
In summary, there may be problems in locating members of your family in the baptismal and birth registers and, if there
was no marriage at all, they will not be found in the marriage registers either. Consequently, where this is the case, death
and burial records assume special importance in researching family history in Trinidad and in Tobago.
Everyone dies and is buried, usually with a ‘familiar’ surname, so searching
the death, burial and cemetery records
may advance your research. Some of these records have survived.
You can request a copy at the BNF reprographic service, using the reproduction order form, in English, available at
the following address:
These lists of cemeteries, no doubt, contain errors and important omissions, particularly in respect of Tobago.
Unfortunately, trinidadandtobagofamilyhistory.org, at present is unable to provide any help on the oldest cemeteries, the
gravestones or surviving records.
Wanton disregard for our cemeteries (Angelo Bissessarsingh)