By Melanie Clifton-Harvey
In early January 2010 a group of passengers from the Holland America cruise ship found their way to the museum. After being told to look for Melanie by the ladies in the Gift Shop they came around to the Science building and the gentleman came upstairs. “My wife is a Tatem,” he said, “and we are trying to find out more about the family before we have to go back to the ship, they told us to ask for you!”
Now usually I try to get people to make an appointment to give me time to find something about the family, or at the very least find out that we have no information and provide ideas for other places to look. On this occasion I already knew that I had nothing about the Tatem family that would help this couple and as the lady had been in a car accident I thought it best to go down to her to discuss the options. Mr. and Mrs. Grether from South Carolina were looking for birth or marriage certificates from their family because some of their relatives had been born on Grand Turk, but sadly we didn’t have anything from the right time period for them in the TCNM.
I walked the couple down to see Ms. Sigrid Lightbourne and her staff at the Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths on Front Street. I explained the system to apply for a certificate, if there were any records in existence, and after doing my bit as tour guide along Front Street, we got to the Registry. The Head Registrar, Ms. Sigrid Lightbourne, very kindly said that she would make copies of any records they found in time for the couple to get back onto their cruise ship that afternoon!
I took my leave of the couple, Ken and Diane, knowing that I had left them in capable hands and it wasn’t until I received a letter from South Carolina dated January 21st that I thought any more about a typical museum day. Mrs. Grether had written a letter to me and another to Dr. Toni Carrell at the friends of the Turks and Caicos Museum in New Mexico to thank me, and say that they had left the island with the birth certificate of her father who had been born here in 1914! Diane was extremely grateful and said that I had “aided her in achieving a special wish”.
It is always nice to be appreciated for helping people, and it was lovely to receive such a nice letter. It came as an even bigger surprise then when in mid-February I was told that I had been mentioned on the local radio station in the government news section. Apparently, Diane had also sent a letter to Ms. Clara Gardiner, Permanent Secretary for Border Control and Immigration, praising both Ms. Lightbourne and the Registry staff for their special treatment and me, and Ms. Gardiner had wanted to share this news across the Turks and Caicos Islands!
Another happy visitor!