By Dr. Dante Beretta
The 1st of February 1911, Census Day, was an important day for the town of Charlotte Amalie in the Danish West Indies and a busy day for at least two of my ancestors.
Choosing the Census Takers
The Danish Police Magistrate appointed two respectable inhabitants for each street who were the census takers for their neighborhood.
Among the individuals the magistrate chose were my grandfather, Giorgio Antonio Beretta (1885-1931) and my great-grandfather Archibald Augustus Dinzey (1858-1912).
Giorgio Beretta, a Main Street merchant, lived in Crown House at the time and was responsible for recording the names of those living in that part of Dronningens Gade in Kongens Quarter.
A well-respected Master Tailor, my great grandfather, Archibald Dinzey helped take the census on Borger Gade, Kronprinsens Quarter.
In the case of Archibald, this is the only sample of his handwriting that our family has.
I knew neither of these ancestors personally, but when I reviewed these records, I felt as if I was walking up and down the steep, hilly steps and streets with them.
Familiar names on the Census
Another aspect I found fascinating about the 1911 census, is that many people accounted for, I actually knew and visited as a child.
For example, there were family members like Miss Verna Dinzey, my grandmother.
I found other well respected St. Thomian ‘old-timers’ I remembered visiting in my youth including; Alton A. Adams Sr. (U.S. Navy Bandmaster); his sister Edna ‘Auntie’ Adams who lived to be 105 years old; Isidor Paiewonsky (Historian, businessman); and Geraldo Guirty (Author, community activist).
It is interesting to see these people as children in their family of origin being enumerated by the respected community members of their day.
Danish Archives Volunteer
I recently joined a project through the Danish Archives (Rigsarkivet) to index these records.
I have found it incredibly rewarding to index the streets where my ancestors lived and did their civic duty to help with the census.
In a sense, I feel that I’m completing work that they started 105 years ago.
Copyright © 2016 Dr. Dante Beretta. All Rights Reserved.
About the author Dr. Dante Beretta grew up in St. Thomas and now lives in Minnesota. He has been researching his Beretta and Dinzey family history which stretches back at least 200 years in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He’s interested in hearing comments on this story and from anyone interested in finding or indexing the records now available online at the Danish Archives. You may click on his name to send him an email message.
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