Treasure Chest Thursday- 1855 DWI Census Record

I owe a sense of gratitude to a stranger, for the discovery of a Gem in the form of the 1855 Danish West Indies Census. It all began when an member saved a census record that was linked to my relative. While sharing, and assisting with their research; my genea-buddy and I discovered: Nancy, my African Ancestor, my 4th Great- Grand mother.

She appears on The 1855 St. Croix Danish West Indies Census. This census is my Thursday Treasure and for all times. This beautiful document describes Nancy as born in Africa, 70 years old, Lutheran, unmarried, invalid, supported by her children at Hill Street-46 Christiansted; living with daughter, Ann DeWindt, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grand-children. .

Every time I look at this census it brings so much emotion. It lists “All my Mothers” beginning with Nancy; and her daughter Ann DeWindt; and Ann’s daughter Emelia Petersen; my 2nd great-grand mother, and mother of August C Bough, my great-grandfather. The census record below, also supports the sketchy oral history of my Great Uncle on his African Ancestry, as told to me by his niece many years ago; admittingly I was not paying close attention.

dewindt-anna-1855-42-680 (2)

Little is known, about Nancy’s life in Africa, her parents, or their professions. However, other information researched showed that she was born about 1780, and at approximately 14 she arrived in St. Croix, worked as a servant with the same Danish family most of her life. Nancy received her freedom on July 3rd 1848, when Gov. Gen. Peter von Scholten proclaimed the freedom of all slaves in the Danish West Indies. Nancy died, bet. 1857-1860 and was buried on St. Croix.

Tracing my maternal family to the Danish West Indies has been quite exciting, and now finding an African Ancestor has caused many emotions, mainly a drive for more data. I went over the census record with my family, they seemed to understand the value of “what we do” as family historians. As a result, we were rejoicing and echoed Alex Haley by saying “I found you” Despite the new and different direction this new information brings; it has provided me with a better appreciation of oral history. Oral History, together with supporting document = the Happy Dance. Now thats a treasure.

By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information that is disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. As a native New Yorker, with roots in Coastal Georgia and deep roots in the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands of the United States or commonly referred to as the United States Virgin Islands, I have always had a yearning to return to my maternal homeland. In September of 1976, my family and I relocated back to St. Croix. While living in New York, I was always telling my friends about my trip back home, but here I was actually waking up every day, walking among the streets and people that I have identified myself with all of my life. At the time, I was not involved in any genealogical work, but I knew there was a missing link that became completed after I was offered the opportunity to transfer Danish documents into a database. That opened up my world and I realize that this was my niche. I now had the tools to explore and document my ancestry. Growing up, my mother always impressed upon her children the pride in being a “Bough”, which was her surname. Now I was able to track where that pride came from, through participating in family history projects and meeting new family, as we gathered together for the Bough Family Reunion on St. Croix in July of 2012. As I continued to research, I found my passion extending to photography. Sunsets and street art are my favorite features, as shown in my tumblr blog I also began blogging, and found that it has help me to improve my writing skills. Through the comments and well wishes, I have been encouraged to continue to write the stories and events of my life. Whether or not your roots trace back to the Danish West Indies, you will find a beautiful tapestry of life that reflects our “baseball and apple pie”. This site affords you the chance to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) where life was both simple and complex. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance in searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email.


  1. Shelleye,
    You are right, this is a BEAUTIFUL document and truly a family treasure!!! WOW! I am thrilled to hear about this recent discovery and about your collaboration with others who helped you find this precious document!

    I can certainly relate to all the emotions you felt just holding and looking at that document. I haven’t made an Africa connection just yet, but I know I will. The closest I’ve gotten is connecting with the great-grandson of the Master who owned some of my paternal ancestors. WOW! Your Treasure for this Thursday is a true celebration . . . CONGRATULATIONS! — Liv


    1. Liv
      Although the Danish West Indies, (now the US Virgin Islands) is just a speck on the map it has a history in the slave trade. Before becoming a U.S. Territory, Denmark own the islands and the Danish people were notorious record keepers for many purposes. Therefore, if you can obtain the record, usually the information is pretty precise. There are still issues with many of the historical records remaining in Denmark but overall we are able to get access to most.
      Your find of the Masters grandson is pretty awesome as well. I would love to read about that journey. You’re right will find your African ancestor.


  2. This is really, really so cool! I’m excited for you – brings me tears of joy ! Just think of the priceless treasures your children and theirs and theirs will have because of your passion for family !
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®


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