Meindert van der Meulen and Valerie Sheppard
Little Bentley, Barbados - 27 July 2013
I'm Valerie, a Trini-born Sheppard, now the eldest of my family. My father, Andrew Sheppard, was the tenth child in a family of thirteen children. From my early memories of family life with my dad, Barbadian-born mother Betty and my six siblings I remember evenings in our drawing-room hearing him relate with love, humour and passion, stories about his boy days and the joys and challenges of growing up in a large family at their Richmond Street home in Port- of-Spain.
I was a child in the fifties, there was no TV in the West Indies yet, certainly no computers but always music, conversations and stories. I remember and treasure his stories about the old times, many of them left behind for us in his beautiful handwriting. Family means the world to me, and I have inherited my father's love for writing and for telling the stories.
In our younger days, we seem not to have time nor perhaps enough interest to really find out about our families. I mean, really find out. I look back now and wish I had asked all the questions I want to ask now, from all those beloved family members whom I knew and loved so well, but who have now passed on. We tend to think we'll always have them around. I wish I had taken notes, or even recorded some of the tales on tape. Now that I'm older and have finished raising my family, I find myself absorbed in knowing more about my ancestors, where they came from, how and where they lived, what are the things that helped make us, as a family, who and what we are. I feel it is important to pass these stories on to our children throughout the generations.
I was blessed when someone who shares my love and appreciation for family and family history came into my life. My Dutch husband, Meindert van der Meulen, has encouraged me to persue my passion for this, and has helped me and taught me the ins and outs of his hobby, genealogy. It's a time-consuming, precise, but very enjoyable and rewarding pastime. Together, we have worked on building our Sheppard Family Tree. To achieve this, we have contacted family members directly by email, traveled to Trinidad and spent a few days pouring through the ancient official registers lodged in the archives of the Legal Department in Port- of-Spain. We've talked with the older generation who have shared their memories and treasured family Bibles containing notes of births, marriages and deaths. We've contacted archival departments, including those of the military, in Trinidad, England and Ireland. Meindert and I have spent endless hours sifting through the data, and recording it. We have also scanned and archived the old photos. Using all these ingredients, I felt it was time to put them into a narrative to share with family members.
While doing this I find myself imagining what life was like for our ancestors, without all the conveniences and technology we have nowadays. Family traditions and stories were handed down orally, and for this I'm truly grateful. Nowadays, we are able to access information like never before, and we also are able to share to family outside of our own small family circle.
Over the years, Meindert's feeling for preserving and archiving special family moments drove him to film various occasions. Years later, we digitized and edited these so that they could be shared with the family. They are a reminder of the importance of appreciating the precious moments with our families.
Here he is pictured in Trinidad with my eldest cousin, Joan Bodu filming for the documentary "50th Wedding Anniversary - Audrey & Don", which was filmed in Trinidad and Barbados in 1993.
Click here to see all the family videos
For reasons of privacy protection for living members of the family, I have not included the family tree on this site.
If you would like to have more information, please email me, I'd love to hear from you. I also administer two private Facebook family groups and would love to welcome family members.