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Guinea, officially Republic of Guinea, is a nation in West Africa, formerly known as French Guinea. Guinea's territory has a curved shape, with its base at the Atlantic Ocean, inland to the east, and turning south. The base borders Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, and Mali to the north and north-east; the inland part borders Cíte d'Ivoire to the south-east, Liberia to the south, and Sierra Leone to the west of the southern tip. It encompasses the water source of the Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers. The name Guinea is used for the region of most of Africa's west coast south of the Sahara desert and north of the Gulf of Guinea. Guinea is sometimes called Guinea-Conakry per its capital, to differentiate it from the neighboring Guinea-Bissau (whose capital is Bissau).
The land occupied by modern-day Guinea has been part of a series of empires, beginning with the "Ghana Empire" which came into being around 900 CE. This was followed by the Sosso kingdom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Mali Empire came to power in the area after the Battle of Kirina in 1235, and prospered until internal problems weakened it, and its states seized power in the fifteenth century. One chief state was the Songhai state which became the Songhai Empire. It exceeded its predecessors in territory and wealth, but it too fell prey to internal wrangling and civil war and was eventually toppled at the Battle of Tondibi in 1591.
Then the area fragmented until an Islamic state was founded in the eighteenth century, bringing some stability to the region. Another important event was the arrival of Fulani Muslims in the highland region of Fuuta Jalloo in the early eighteenth century.
Europeans first came to the area during the Portuguese Discoveries, that started the slave trade, beginning in the fifteenth century.
Present-day Guinea was created as a colony by France in 1890 with Noël Balley as the first governor. The capital Conakry was founded on Tombo Island in 1890. In 1895 the country was incorporated into French West Africa.
On 28 September 1958, under the direction of Charles de Gaulle France held a referendum on a new constitution and the creation of the Fifth Republic. The colonies (Algeria was officially a part of France and not a colony) were given the choice between immediate independence and the new constitution. All colonies except Guinea voted for a new constitution. Thus Guinea became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate ending of all French assistance.
Sources: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook
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