Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mixed Race Jamaicans in England

The status of  mixed race Jamaicans in eighteenth century Jamaica was always going to be less than than of white colonists, but it was possible for them to become established and successful in England. A case in point are two of the children of Scudamore Winde.

Ambrose Scudamore Winde (he seems to have dropped the Ambrose early on) was born about 1732 at Kentchurch in Herefordshire, son of John Winde and Mary Scudamore.  The beautiful Kentchurch Court is still in the hands of the Scudamore family as it has been for the last thousand years or so. In 1759, following the suicide of his father, he and his brother Robert went to Jamaica where Scudamore Winde became an extremely successful merchant.  He was also Assistant Judge of the Supreme Court of the Judicature and a member of the Assembly.

Like many white colonists of the island he had relationships with several women but did not marry.  When he died in late September 1775 he left generous legacies to his various children. His business had prospered and a large part of his assets were in the form of debts owed to him. According to Trevor Burnard[1] he had  personal assets of £94,273, of which £82,233 were in the form of debts. This would be equivalent to about £9.3 million relative to current retail prices or £135 million in relation to average wages today.

Scudamore Winde freed his negro slave Patty who was baptised as Patty Winde in 1778 at Kingston when her age was given as about 50.  Patty and her daughter Mary were left land that he had bought from Richard Ormonde in Saint Catherine’s with the buildings on it, and £100 Jamaican currency together with two slaves called Suki and little Polly.  It is not clear whether Mary was Scudamore Winde’s daughter for although her name is given as Mary Winde she is referred to as a negro rather than mulatto.

Scudamore Winde had a mulatto son called Robert, possibly the son of Patty, who was born about 1759, and three children with Sarah Cox herself a free negro or mulatto (records vary).  Her children were Penelope, John and Thomas born between 1768 and 1774.  John may have died young and Thomas elected to remain in Jamaica where he had a successful career as a merchant in Kingston.  Robert and Penelope travelled to England under the eye of Robert Cooper Lee who was trustee and executor of his close friend Scudamore Winde’s Will.

Robert went into business in London as a merchant, listed in various directories from 1784 and for some of the time in partnership.  The firm of Koithan & Winde traded out of 20 St Martin’s Lane London in the 1780s, and there are records of Robert Winde ‘gentleman’ at 48 Jermyn Street in the 1790s when his wife Jane is listed as a haberdasher taking out fire insurance with the Sun Insurance company.

Robert married Jane Bateman at Holy Trinity Clapham in 1781 and they had at least six children. Four were living in 1794 when Robert Cooper Lee left legacies to ‘the two sons and two daughters of Robert Winde’, but only Jane Anne seems to have lived to adulthood.  She married late in life to a widowed solicitor called Henry Pinniger of Westbury in Wiltshire, who had seven children by his first wife.  The implication is that Jane Anne Winde had inherited sufficient income of her own to live comfortably as a spinster until then.

Robert Winde’s partner Frederick Koithan was born at Bremen in Germany and applied for naturalisation in England in 1791 by Private Act of Parliament.  He died in 1809 but the partnership seems to have ended before this with Robert Winde then trading on his own.  I have not found a burial for Robert Winde, but his wife Jane was recorded as living in Downing Street Westminster at her death in 1822.

Robert’s half sister Penelope married a young lawyer called David Steel on 1 May 1786 at St Martin Orgar and St Clement Eastcheap.  Robert Cooper Lee was a witness at the wedding.  Penelope was a considerable heiress. She had been left  £2000 in the first part of her father’s Will with a further £2000 on the death of her brother John plus another £1500 in a codicil.

This is particularly interesting since under the 1761 Act of the Assembly illegitimate mixed race Jamaicans were debarred from inheriting more than £2000 and I have not found any private Act permitting the Winde children to have more. I can only guess that since Robert Cooper Lee was administering the trust from England he had liquidated the Jamaican assets so the trust fund was based in England and therefore exempt.

Although David Steel began married life as a barrister, on the death of his father he took over his business as a nautical publisher and bookseller.  When he died in 1803, aged only 39, the Gentleman’s Magazine recorded

David Steel Esq. of Little Tower Hill. He was universally respected by those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and has left a widow and a large family to lament the irreparable loss of an affectionate husband and fond father in the prime of life. Mr. S. was orginally employed in the Navy Office, but quitted his situation to the study of law and practiced for several years with the profession of a barrister; he quitted the profession on his father’s death and succeeded him in his business as a book, map and chart seller. The literary world are under great obligation to him for the active part which he took as one of the committee for obtaining the repeal of the duty on paper[2].


He had been publisher of the Navy List and of “The Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship and Naval Tactics” which is still available as a digital reprint.

Penelope found herself a widow with five small children and remarried to William Mason in 1806.  It seems likely that her eldest son David Lee Steel did not get on with his stepfather, and when he died at the age of 31 of “a rapid decline “(probably tuberculosis) his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine hinted at a family row over his inheritance.

 Gentleman’s Magazine  Vol.88 Part 1 Jan-June 1818, p.572


His younger brother Scudamore Winde Steel was made of sterner stuff and had a long and distinguished career in the Indian Army ending up as a Lieutenant General and with a knighthood. Their sister Penelope Sarah became a schoolmistress at the National School, Batson Street, Limehouse and lived to the age of 84.

Lt.-Gen. Sir Scudamore Winde Steel

Anne Steel followed in her father’s footsteps marrying twice into the printing and publishing trade. Some of her descendants live today in the USA but her nephews and nieces had all died without children by the early twentieth century.

Her nephew Charles, son of Sir Scudamore Winde Steel, married the sister of Kitty O’Shea – but that as they say is another story.



[1] Kingston Merchants and the Atlantic Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century, Trevor Burnard, BGEAH, Stirling, 3 September 2009

[2]    Gentleman’s magazine Vol. 73 (1803), p 93.


Wills, silver candlesticks, and green handled knives

Samuel Alpress c. 1780


The most disappointing Wills from every point of view are those where a man leaves everything to his ‘beloved wife’ (un-named) and says nothing else, apart perhaps from commending his soul to God and requesting payment of all his just debts – not the unjust ones of course! Admirable as it is that he provides amply for his widow, he leaves little to the family historian.

The best Wills for a genealogist are those that mention lots of friends and relations by name, perhaps even including their home town or street. If they also include details of the relationship so much the better, although you do have to remember that ‘my sister’ might be ‘my sister-in-law’, my niece could be a great niece and ‘my kinsman’ may give you weeks of work trying to work out just how they were related.

By far the greatest quantity of seventeenth and eighteenth century Wills relating to Jamaica were written by men, but there are Wills for those women who outlived their husbands and had property in their own right. In some cases such as thrice-married Mary Rose who I wrote about a while ago, although the main part of her husbands’ estates went to her sons she still had property of her own.

In the case of Margaret Eleanor Alpress, whose Will I recently transcribed, she had outlived her husband by many years and was wealthy in her own right.

Margaret Eleanor Alpress ‘of the City of Bath in the County of Somerset Widow but now in London’, was born Margaret Aikenhead in Jamaica in the early 1740s and married Samuel Alpress in the parish of St Andrew on the 27th January 1761.  He died in 1784 leaving his widow and three surviving daughters.

Samuel’s father George Alpress had owned 125 acres in Clarendon and 51 acres in Vere in 1754 and used his wealth to send Samuel to be educated in England where it has to be said he did not shine! During his time at Jesus College, Cambridge Samuel  was said to have started a riot in Ely and in a letter to Stephen Fuller in 1757 (the Fuller family were in loco parentis on George’s behalf) William Hawes wrote that ‘The conduct of Mr Allpress does not warrant his remaining at college’. He also appears to have run up considerable debts.

Samuel returned to Jamaica where his father died sometime before 1766. His mother Jane remarried on the 25th of June 1766 to Dr Cholmondeley Dering of South Carolina but was drowned at Dry River four days after her wedding while returning  from Spanish Town to Withywood. Samuel inherited £4000 Jamaican currency and the plantations.

Samuel and Margaret had at least three daughters born in Jamaica of whom only Elizabeth survived. Two more daughters followed – Milborough, who may have been born in Jamaica, and Jane Eleanor born in London in 1771. It was to these daughters that Margaret left her most personal possessions.

Elizabeth who had married Kean Osborn at Spanish Town in 1780 was left a silver christening bowl; and Milborough, married to Richard Crewe of Crewe Hall in Cheshire, was left a silver epergne. It was the youngest daughter Jane Eleanor who received the bulk of her mother’s personal possessions. Whether this disparity reflected earlier gifts to the older daughters, their husbands’ relative wealth or favouritism to the youngest is unclear. Kean Osborn and his heirs are shown as owners of the Caswell Hill property mentioned in the Will in various early nineteenth century listings, by which time they were absentee landlords, its size given as over 2000 acres in 1845. Jane’s husband Richard Bulkeley was the sole executor. It is possible both other sons-in-law were out of the country, Kean Osborn in Jamaica and Major General Richard Crewe serving with the army.

Jane received ‘three Mahogany Cases with Silver Locks and Handles, the two larger Cases containing two Dozen Green handled Knives and Forks ferrelled with Silver and one Dozen of Table Spoons, and a Marrow spoon in each Case and the smaller Case containing one Dozen of Green handled knives and forks ferrelled with silver and one dozen of Desert Spoons, and also a Silver Cruet stand both Compleat, two pair of high Silver Candlesticks, one flat silver candlestick, one large silver Tankard and Cover, two Silver Cups and Covers ,one large round Silver waiter, one ditto next size two hand round Silver waiters, one Silver Tea urn, one Tortoises Shell Tea Chest with silver Canisters Compleat, fifteen Silver Tea spoons and a pair of silver Tea Tongs’.

Margaret’s sister Elizabeth Townsend received a large square silver tea board, her sister Milborough McLean a large silver saucepan and cover, niece Elizabeth Trelawny Townsend a silver teapot, and a friend called Mary Stern a small silver saucepan for cream.

There were jewels also, with daughter Elizabeth receiving ‘my Diamond Necklace and Ear Rings, one large Diamond Pin, and her Father’s Picture set round with Diamonds’, while Jane was left ‘my two next sized Diamond Pins and six smaller ones, my Diamond Pin with her Father’s Hair and a smaller Diamond Pin with Hair in it and my Rose Diamond Ring’.

There was a hoop diamond ring for god daughter Elizabeth Raine(?) Wilhelmina Pringle and money gifts to grandchildren including grandson Kean Osborn, who sadly would die at Salamanca during the Peninsular War.

The item that most intrigued me was the green handled knives and forks with their silver ferrells. A little research showed that such handles were often made of ivory stained green. If anyone can tell me how this was done I’d love to know.


Death and Disease in Jamaica

aedes aegypti – the mosquito that transmits yellow fever


The colonists who went to Jamaica in the 17th and 18th centuries were aware of many of the risks to their health but not of the causes.  Much has been written about the reasons why white society in Jamaica never became established to the same extent as it did in North America in spite of the fact that the Caribbean islands were regarded as part of the same territory.

It is notable that of the early colonists who arrived with Penn and Venables from 1655 onwards few had descendants still on the island a century later.  Very many marriages were terminated within a short time by the death of one partner. Infant and maternal mortality even by the standards of the time was shockingly high, and more than one colonist died at sea fleeing the island for the sake of their health.  Of the eight children of the Rev William May featured in an earlier article only one survived to full adulthood, with two sons aged fifteen and twenty dying at sea on their way to Boston “for the recovery of their health”.  Young girls seem to have married earlier on average than their equivalents back home in England, and it is likely, quite apart from the shortage of young white women in Jamaica, that this was at least in part an attempt to ensure the production of children before their parents’ anticipated early death.  Visitors to the island noted with shock that few of the tombstones recorded Islanders who had made it past their early thirties.

The reasons for the very high infant mortality included waterborne infections such as diarrhoea and dysentery, measles, smallpox, whooping cough, and especially in the case of infants born on the plantations to enslaved mothers infantile tetanus (known as lockjaw).  This disease whose spores are transmitted through animal faeces nearly wiped out the population of the Scottish island of St Kilda in the 19th century, until the local minister studying a course on midwifery prevented the anointing of the baby’s cord with sheep dung.  On the Jamaican plantations where women carried baskets of dung on their heads to manure the sugar cane, such knowledge and choice was unavailable.  There is no record of the number of babies who died in this way but it must have been high.

Infections such as measles, smallpox and whooping cough were no respecters of colour or class but there is evidence of appallingly high mortality among slaves newly arrived in Jamaica.  Their health already compromised by dehydration, poor food, lack of fresh air or exercise and suffering from grief and depression, those on the lower tiers of a slave ship spent the voyage unable to avoid the urine and faeces of those above them. If they survived the voyage they too easily succumbed to epidemic diseases on arrival. It was generally the practice to “season” new arrivals allowing a period of acclimatisation often by working on the pens tending livestock or producing provisions before they were put to work in the cane fields or at the more skilled and exhausting tasks in the boiling houses.

Major epidemics killed white settlers and slaves alike, with regular outbreaks of yellow fever, measles, smallpox and yaws all of which were highly infectious. There is evidence that on some plantations it was realised that the slaves themselves were better at treating yaws, with which they were familiar from their home countries, than the European doctors who prescribed mercury itself a poison and used by them to treat the related condition of syphilis[1].

Yellow fever had probably arrived in the West Indies from Africa by the mid seventeenth century. Like malaria it is dependent for its transmission on mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water, both then present in abundance in Jamaica. The clay pots used in sugar production when broken were cast down and provided small pools of water; hurricanes and earthquake tsunami created larger bodies of water ideal for breeding.

Following the disastrous earthquake of June 1692 a correspondent of Sir Hans Sloane wrote on the 23rd of September, “We have had a very great Mortality since the great Earthquake (for we have little ones daily) almost half the people that escap’d upon Port-Royal are since dead of a Malignant Fever, from Change of Air, want of dry Houses, warm lodging, proper Medicines, and other conveniences.”[2]

Another wrote “The Weather was much hotter after the Earthquake than before; and such an innumerable quantity of Muskitoes, that the like was never seen since the inhabiting of the Island.”

In addition to infectious illness with high mortality Jamaica’s inhabitants had to contend with problems caused by ticks and jiggers. Blood sucking ticks particularly attack bare flesh around the legs and infected bites could lead to more serious problems. Jiggers, or chigoe fleas, bore into the feet to lay their eggs and were particularly problematic for anyone without shoes, which of course was most of the enslaved population as well as some poor whites. It was important to remove the jiggers early in their life cycle using a specially designed knife, and many cases of lameness among slaves were attributed to the lesions from untreated jiggers. They could also attack the hands, and any part of the person exposed to the ground, such as legs or buttocks. Many plantations carried out weekly hand and foot inspections.

Europeans arriving in Jamaica recognized smallpox and dysentery, measles and whooping cough but yaws, tropical ulcers, the dry bellyache and miscellaneous fevers were new to them. Most were infections against which there was little remedy but the dry bellyache should have been avoidable by the mid-eighteenth century when its cause was understood to be lead poisoning resulting from the stills used for making rum.

Benjamin Franklin “wrote about lead poisoning on several occasions, in particular about a disease known as the dry-gripes (or dry-bellyache) that had plagued Europe and the colonies for years….in 1723 the Massachusetts colonial legislature passed a bill outlawing the use of lead in the coils and heads of stills.  Observance of this law led to vastly decreased incidence of the dry-gripes, as the population drank less and less lead-contaminated rum.” [3]

In 1745 Thomas Cadwalder had drawn attention to the extreme cases of colic ‘West India dry gripe’ that were caused by the use of lead piping in rum distillation, but it seems nothing was done and it is not clear when the use of lead was reduced in Jamaica, with large scale illness and death among the garrisons and in the navy still occurring at the end of the eighteenth century.  The better off colonists avoided the worst of this by drinking imported claret, brandy or Madeira as well as rum, but excessive use of alcohol leading to liver damage further weakened their ability to withstand illness and live to see old age.

One notable exception was Jane Gallimore born about 1664, who outlived her husband Matthew Gregory by nearly forty years and whose burial record in St Catherine in 1754 gave her age as ninety. Mary Bailie was buried on 22nd July 1756 when her age was recorded as ‘about 95’.

Many colonists chose not to risk the hazards of Jamaica once they had established their plantation, or made their fortune as merchants and left the island for ever hoping thereby to live a long and healthy life ‘back home’.

[1] Richard B. Sheridan, Doctors and Slaves, Cambridge University Press, 1985, reprinted 2009, pp.86-7

[2] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1694, 18, pp.78-100

[3] Lisa Gensel , The Medical World of Benjamin Franklin, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 98, No 12, pp. 534-538


New Records for Jamaican Genealogy online

I have written before about the Family Search site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormons, whose wonderful website was one of the very first to make indexed parish records available through the internet.

The good news for anyone researching ancestors in Jamaica is that there is now a new batch of indexed records online which link to the images of the early parish registers. You can find them here, or by selecting Caribbean, Central and South America from the home page and then choosing Jamaica from the list on the left of your screen. You can still opt to browse the images by parish without going through the computer indexes if you prefer. There are handwritten indexes you can use but be aware they are not fully in alphabetical order and are listed in date blocks. Dissenters’ marriage records from 1838-78 are now included.

In addition to the new indexes now provided for the transcripts of the parish registers, there are also updates to the Civil Registration records for Trelawny, making a total of over 2 million Jamaican records available for searching, dating back to 1664 for some parishes.

There are some very particular problems searching for Jamaican ancestors, compared with say those recorded in English or Scottish parish registers. Climate, hurricane, earthquake and sheer carelessness often resulted in damage to or destruction of records. The microfilms now indexed were taken from transcripts of the parish registers and so copying errors have sometimes crept in, some microfilm images proved too pale to be read and so could not be indexed.

Before the arrival of standard forms for recording births, marriages and burials different parish priests followed different conventions (or none!) for recording these events. Remember that spelling of names varied a lot and you may need to be creative when searching.

Where the person you are searching for was white and property owning there is a reasonable chance there is a fairly full record of a baptism or marriage. For most early burials only a name is given – an age, relationship or cause of death is a real bonus but is rare before the late 18th century.

Sadly for most slaves nothing was recorded except perhaps in plantation records where they were treated as property or ‘stock’ in the same way as cattle or mules. It is worth remembering that shocking as this is, a wife was also legally her husband’s property and she had no rights over her own children.

Even with the aid of the new indexes it can be difficult to locate an illegitimate Jamaican ancestor. Where the child was acknowledged by the father it may have been recorded with the names of both parents – the choice of surname for the child might be of either parent and the vicar may have recorded that it was illegitimate and may have included whether it was mulatto or quadroon. If only the mother’s name is given it is reasonable to assume the parents were unmarried, as also where no parents are named.

As far as I can tell the new indexes do not yet cover burials or marriages – they will be really useful when they do particularly for locating the marriage of a woman, since the original hand written indexes were by man’s surname only. A quick check for some records that I know exist also suggests that baptisms have not yet been completed for all parishes.

However, the computerisation of indexes makes a huge difference to the speed of searching for records and the remaining entries will I am sure be added soon.

Anyone can volunteer to help with indexing records, so it may be of interest to describe how these indexes are created.

You can find out about it here, register as an indexer and  download a small application to your computer. You can select a level of difficulty according to your level of experience and choose your language as well as selecting your preferred option from the current list of available records, some of which will be listed in red as of highest priority for completion. Census records are being indexed as well as parish records, civil registrations and other lists include clan genealogies, pilgrimage records, American Civil War Service records and many more.

When you have downloaded your chosen task you will be presented with a form according to the type of record you are indexing, and instructions covering the fields being indexed. You simply type in the details from each record as it appears (odd spelling included!) – name, date of birth, baptism, marriage or burial and so on. There is help with difficult handwriting, a Facebook Group, and online discussion forums, but if a batch is too difficult for you, the image is unclear or you simply don’t have time to finish it you can pass it back for someone else to complete.

Once you have completed your group of records the application will take you through a checking process. Another person will index the same group of records and then the two sets of results are sent to a moderator for checking, adjudicating on difficult handwriting and so on. The overall result is a highly accurate set of records.

If you have some time to spare and are interested I can thoroughly recommend indexing. You can do as few or as many as you like and there is huge satisfaction in knowing that you may have helped someone find their long lost family history.