Wedding celebrates ancestral roots

An Alabama woman experienced more than a wedding blessing on her short visit to Grand Cayman last week; she also stepped back in time to learn of her ancestors.

wedding blessing

Wedding blessing celebrant Joy Basdeo prays over the couples rings while witness Bobbie Parsons Murray looks on. Photo: Cliodhna Doherty

Jessica Guffey, who married her first love, Thomas, a couple of years ago, had always dreamed of visiting the Cayman Islands since childhood, when her grandmother told her about the history it held for her family.

Jessica’s great-great grandfather from her mother’s side of the family was Custos Edmumd Parsons, an important historical figure in the Cayman Islands who was chief magistrate in the latter decade of the 19th Century.

But despite her dream of getting married in the Cayman Islands, Jessica went along with family wishes for a bigger wedding at home in Alabama.

However, before making her first ever visit to Grand Cayman as a stop on a cruise ship, she came across the online blog of. Joy Basdeo of Simply Weddings. Having contacted Mrs. Basdeo it was soon arranged that Mrs. Guffey and her husband would have a very special day here indeed.

In a wonderful wedding blessing, the couple reaffirmed their vows to each-other last week amidst the scenic beauty of Seven Mile Beach.

A long lost cousin of Jessica’s, Bobbie Parsons Murray, who is also a relative of Custos Edmund Parsons, served as a witness at the ceremony.

The simple but touching wedding vow renewal ceremony was conducted by Mrs. Basdeo.

A champagne toast and some photos followed on the beach.

‘Great’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’ were words the couple used to describe Grand Cayman.

‘The photos don’t do it justice,’ said Thomas.

Then it was off to the Cayman Islands’ National Archive to discover more about Jessica’s important ancestor – all arranged by Mrs. Basdeo.

Having only ever seen one photo of her great-great grandfather before, she said she was looking forward to seeing more at the National Archive.

Giving some family background, Jessica explained that her grandmother Barbara Parsons, from Alabama, had married Dudley Parsons Jr., also from Alabama.

‘It’s his side that’s from here. My great grandfather was in the British Navy, but I don’t know if he was born here or not,’ she said.

Mrs. Basdeo said, ‘The Parsons were a very well known and respected family in George Town who lived on North Church Street.’

Speaking about Mr. Edmund Parsons’ appointment to custos, Mrs Basdeo said, ‘It was very unusual in that he was a local person. In those days, prior to a governor, you’d have a custos who was the head honcho, the chief administrative person in the Cayman Islands, and he would have been responsible for customs, immigration and a whole slew of different things.’

Once at the National Archive, the couple learned from archivist Tricia Bodden that Edmund Parsons was appointed acting custos in 1887 and in 1888 he was appointed custos or chief magistrate at a salary of 80 pounds per annum.

He was in the role for 10 years and served as the last custos because in 1898 the role changed from custos to commissioner. The new titled role was appointed to Frederick Sanguinetti.

At the National Archive the couple were shown the Reginald Parsons collection, a genealogy of the family which goes back to 1796, in which Jessica found her own name in the listing for the family.

The National Archive staff presented the happy couple with a 1773 map of the Cayman Islands, some archival materials and the historical book He Hath Founded it Upon the Seas by Michael Craton.

The couple also planned on making a visit to Elmslie Memorial Church during their few hours on the island, as this was the local church of the Parsons family.

Asked if they planned to return again to the Cayman Islands, perhaps for longer next time, the young couple confirmed that they definitely will.

”I’m told the Jazz Fest is great,’ said Thomas.

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