A unique and mysterious name from St Kitts

1656 Map of St Kitts (creative common license)

I’ve written many times about my husband’s ancestors from the tiny Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis, including the use of surnames as middle names in his Mallalieu tree. This can be very helpful in looking for the names of ancestors going further back. His great-grandfather, John Nicholas Faxivo Mallalieu (1869-1859) has a middle name that echoes his grandmother’s French surname Fasioux, as it was spelled in early 19th century Kittitian records (Catherine Fasioux is believed to have been from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe). For John Nicholas’ sister Ann Gerio Mallalieu (1855-1936), her middle name is probably an anglicized version of the French name Gerreaux, which relates back to Catherine Fasioux’s mother, Ann Gerreaux (believed to have been from the island of Dominica). The surnames of ancestors like Maillard and Walton also made appearances in the family. Another of John Nicholas’ siblings, Frederick Francis Canarakin Mallalieu (1863-1954) was a cleric in the Church of England, serving in West Indian islands like Grenada and Barbados. His middle name Canarakin seems to be particularly unique.

Searching on genealogy sites such as ancestry.com and familysearch.org, I haven’t been able to find anyone with surnames similar to Canarakin. Google comes up with absolutely nothing. So where did this middle name come from, and what could be its ethnic origins?

Searching through 18th century sources from St Kitts reveals part of the answer. In a transcription of a British census from 1707, with the heading “An account of all and singular white men, women and children at present residing and inhabiting in this her majesties island. As also of all slaves, men, women and children, belonging unto said inhabitants”, there is a listing for a John Cannarican and an unnamed women, most likely his wife. John is recorded as being 27 at the time, so he would have been born about 1680. While most of the white people listed in the census held slaves, John Cannarican did not, which could be an indication of relatively low economic status.

If he wasn’t a wealthy land owner, what could his background have been? At that time, most of the European residents of St Kitts had their origins in either Great Britain or France. The island was divided at various times during the 17th and 18th centuries between those countries, with the middle part of the island ruled by Great Britain, and the northern and southern ends (Capesterre and Basseterre) governed by the French.

Some of my husband’s Kittitian ancestors were Huguenot French, who were often allied with the protestant British. The great majority of the surnames in the 1707 census appear to be British or possibly Irish. Some of the Europeans who came to St Kitts during that period were indentured servants, many of whom contracted to provide labor for five to seven years before being released from their contract and awarded either with a monetary payout or a small piece of land. In the 1650s, the British government under Oliver Cromwell followed up a military invasion of Ireland with forced deportation of Irish Catholics to British Caribbean territories, but that would have been before John Cannarican’s time. So it would seem to be a reasonable possibility that John came to St Kitts from somewhere in the British Islands, as either an indentured servant or as a laborer hoping to succeed in the New World.

More information on the Canarikan name (and its variants) can be found in transcriptions of old 18th and 19th century Kittian records from the St Thomas Middle Island parish compiled by Vere Oliver Langford in 1915. The name (as both a surname, and later, as a middle name) appears in several ways in the parish registers:

  • Cannarigan
  • Canarigan
  • Cannarakin
  • Canariken
  • Canarikan

The baptism, marriage, and death records make it possible to create a hypothetical family tree that goes from my husband’s great-great-grandmother Ann Francis Catherine Maillard (the mother of John Nicholas Faxivo and Frederick Francis Canarakin, who married William Mallalieu in 1853) back to the John Cannarican who lived in St Kitts in 1707:

The dotted lines indicate a possible/probable family link that isn’t explicitly documented in the parish records. Records in the Slave Registers for St Kitts (1817-1834) also provided some hints about family relationships. For instance, in the 1828 slave register, Catherine Fasioux is listed as a proprietor holding three enslaved people, with information reported by “M. C. Maillard”, most likely Michael Canarikan Maillard. My assumption is that Michael C. Maillard was the father of her child Ann Francis Catherine Maillard, through marriage (or even out of wedlock).

What has happened to the surname Canarikan in St Kitts? It has disappeared. The last evidence I have been able to find of it is a civil death record for a Thomas Canarakin from 1865. Thomas was listed as a black manual laborer, 28 years of age, who died of consumption (tuberculosis). Was Thomas a family relation of the Canarakins of my husband’s family tree, or was the name adopted through a non-family connection? We’ll most likely never know.

Sources

  1. Caribbeana being Miscellaneous Papers relating to the History, Genealogy, Topography, and Antiquities of the British West Indies, edited by Vere Langford Oliver, 1914
  2. Caribbean Histories Revealed, The National Archives
  3. Sugar Plantations, National Museums Liverpool, 2022
  4. The Indentured Servant System, University of the West of England, 2022
  5. The Registers of St Thomas, Middle Island, St Kitts by Vere Oliver Langford, 1915.
  6. Former British Colonial Dependencies, Slave Registers, 1813-1834, ancestry.com, 2022

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