About this website

Robert Cooper Lee carried his bundle carefully along London’s Bread Street and into Starr Court. It was 1749 and though he was not yet thirteen he was about to embark on his second career. The bundle, neatly wrapped in calico and tied with torn strips of cotton, contained a parcel of assorted ribbons and tapes, and Robert Cooper Lee was going to sell them in Jamaica.

He had paid for them with part of the twenty pounds prize money he had won as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. Now peace had come, for the moment at least England was not at war with France, and Bob (as he was known to family and friends) had come home to London in the midsummer of 1748. In Jamaica the following spring he joined his older brother John, already working for Dr Rose Fuller as a planter attorney in Spanish Town, and in 1753 their youngest brother Joseph abandoned his legal clerkship in London for a new life with them.

Only Bob lived to return home to London, his story preserved in a collection of family letters.

Welcome to A Parcel of Ribbons, a website about Georgian Jamaica named after the parcel that Robert Cooper Lee took with him to Jamaica. Here you will find original articles, family trees, transcriptions of Wills and other documents and links to useful information resources for anyone interested in Jamaican genealogy and the history of the colonial period.

I came upon Jamaica quite by accident while researching my family history. I have always been fascinated by the past lives of ordinary people. School exam history with its emphasis on wars and acts of parliament bored me, but the lives of our ancestors, where and how they lived, that was something else.

It is a cliché, but nonetheless true, that the internet has revolutionised family history research. When I first began using a primitive computer database to record my findings almost the only website available for basic parish register data was the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Now there is a huge amount of available material and much of it is in image form reducing the need to seek out the original source in person.

I hope that by sharing here some of what I have accumulated it may prove of use or interest to others researching their Jamaican connected families, or who simply have an interest in the history of the eighteenth century.

The ‘long eighteenth century’ from the exiling of James II in 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, or even the great Reform Act of 1832, is an amazing and formative period in the creation of the modern world. It is also a critical period in the history of Jamaica, from its colonisation by the British beginning in 1655, through the development of ‘King Sugar’ made possible by the enslavement of tens of thousands of Africans, to eventual emancipation in 1838 – all driven by the white Plantocracy for whom Jamaica would provide the route to a fortune or an early grave.

Anne M Powers

August 2015