Damani Davis has written an excellent introduction to researching ancestors from the West Indies. The article has been published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and is now available to everyone on the NARA web site at no charge.
“The ancestors of most Americans either immigrated to the United States, served in the military (or married a veteran who served), or were at least counted in one of the decennial censuses. Consequently, the most relevant federal records for genealogical research are those that document these three activities.
“This generality, however, does not always apply to the ancestors of African Americans. Immigration records, in particular, have no immediate relevance for researching enslaved ancestors who were transported to America via the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Since enslaved persons were considered “chattel,” or property, they were not recorded as immigrants.
“Most African Americans tend to dismiss immigration records and instead focus on other records held at the National Archives, such as those of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Freedman’s Bank, Southern Claims Commission, and the United States Colored Troops.
“But if researchers of black American ancestry adhere too rigidly to such assumptions, they may miss valuable information contained in less-than-obvious sources.”
The 7-page article may be found on the National Archives and Records Administration web site at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2013/fall-winter/west-indies.pdf.