Saturday , September 30 2023

Of Saban Descent keeps roots alive – Updated with link to film

Update: Click here for the link to the film “When We Was We”, the oral history project.

Saturday, April 11, marked a varied evening dedicated to keeping Saba’s past and roots alive. This writes The Daily Herald. The Saba Archaeological Centre (SABARC), together with Will Johnson, organised a presentation by Raymond Stanley Simmons II, who is currently visiting the island. Simmons runs the well-known Facebook page ‘Of Saban Descent’ and has been doing genealogy research about Saba for almost 30 years. All this research is part of the Saba Family Tree project, which means to give people an overview and access to their family’s roots. The database already contains almost 24.000 names of people of Saban descent and keeps growing.

At this point, Simmons is looking into the best way for people to access the database to trace their roots and have a look at the thousands of records of birth, marriage and death. There are also some 8,000 photographs connected to the names, so people can see what the older generations looked like.

Simmons encourages anyone to contribute to the Saba Family Tree project, and has announced that he is willing to assist in photo restoration for anyone interested.

In the second part of the evening, the public watched the premiere of a unique, new film about Saba’s history. In the 1980s, interviews with elderly people were conducted about what life was like in the olden days. Peter Johnson found these tapes in the Queen Wilhelmina Library, listened to all of them and made digital copies. This gave him the idea to share the best quotes in a film, full of beautiful time-lapses of the island, historical pictures from various collections and the music of The Occasionals.

The Prins Bernhard Cultural Foundation Caribbean decided to financially support him in this endeavour and “When We Was We” is the 26-minute result. It takes people on a journey through Saban life as it once was, and has become a time-capsule that can be enjoyed by generations to come. It is also available on YouTube. Click here for the link.

Another highlight was the sur-prise presentation of a lifetime achievement award by Simmons to Johnson for his relentless dedication to keeping the lore of Saba alive, making sure oral history is recorded, and facilitating those who want to know more about or share the stories of Saba’s past.


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  1. I would like to add that ‘Of Saban Descent’ and The Saba Family Tree project are supported by my co-administrators Anne Richter, Henry N. Hassell’ the late Gosta Simmons and Will S. Johnson. Thank you all for your support!

  2. It is so fitting that both of these mean be honored. I subscribed to the Saba Herald when Will Johnson sent paper copies by mail, all the way to California. I remember thinking, “I hope this man lives a long time. He is preserving a wide range of knowledge about Saba and its people.” And now his son is also doing it. Many thanks.