Tag Archives: Kingston

The Jamaican Diaspora

 

landing-1820-settlers-1820settlers

 

British settlers landing at the Cape Colony

 

There was of course a huge Jamaican diaspora in the second half of the twentieth century. After the second World War the Windrush generation left the Caribbean in large numbers to work in Britain, in the USA and Canada. Many ended up remaining and making new homes rather than returning.

However, there is a sense in which there has always been a Jamaican diaspora, if it is defined as people born in Jamaica leaving for what was perceived as a better life elsewhere.

I was reminded of this when I came across the name Hercules Ross this week. I have written briefly before about the family of Hercules Ross of Rossie, who made his fortune in Jamaica as a merchant and who had two families. Like so many young white men, while in Jamaica he had a stable relationship outside marriage with a mixed race woman, Elizabeth Foord, with whom he had seven children five of whom survived to adulthood.

Ross, who was one of thirteen children of an impoverished excise man, went to Jamaica about 1760 to work as a naval clerk, became owner of a general merchant’s store and two trading sloops, captain of militia, ADC to a Major General, JP for Kingston and was owner of the 200 acre Bushy Park estate. The young Horatio Nelson was nursed back to health from a fever at Bushy Park. During the War with America from 1775 Ross became Prize Agent for Jamaica taking a cut of the prize money for captured vessels, and running his own privateers. He left Jamaica in 1782 and bought the Rossie estate in Scotland in 1785 for £33,250. Like a number of such men he then married. Harriet Parish was the daughter of a wealthy Scots Hamburg merchant and they had four legitimate children.

However he provided well for his three Jamaican sons and two daughters who came to Britain with him. The daughters became school teachers and his sons had positions in the East India Company. Best known was Daniel Ross, who was one of the two or three greatest hydrographic surveyors of the 19th century and has been called ‘the father of the Indian surveys’. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1822. He died in Bombay, and his obituary was published in the Straits Times dated 18 December 1849.

Of his brother David nothing seems to be known, and it is a common name which makes him harder to trace. Their brother Hercules Ross is believed to have been murdered by pirates, along with his wife, in the East Indies in 1810.

What prompted me to write this piece was encountering a reference to a young Hercules Ross who was Secretary to General Craig in the Cape Colony, on the very respectable salary of £1500 a year, in about 1798. He was referred to by Lady Anne Barnard in one of her letters to Henry Dundas, later Lord Melville, written between 1797 and 1801 and published in book form a century later. It is not certain that he was the same Hercules Ross as the son of Elizabeth Foord, but it is quite likely.

As the nineteeth century began the British Empire was expanding rapidly. No longer did young men seek their fortunes planting sugar in Jamaica, but their descendants, particularly their mixed race sons, often looked to the newly expanding colonies to make their fortunes. Parental influence could get them a place in the East India Company or the Indian Army, or a place in the colonial civil service. Moreover it may be that for those whose mixed race was more obvious it was easier to make a name abroad than at home.

And so a generation born in Jamaica spread out across the world in the first wave of the Jamaican diaspora.

 

Wills, Property and Slave Returns

Slave Return for 1817 from Ancestry.co.uk

I have commented before on how useful Wills can be in establishing family relationships, highlighting people one had missed when searching parish records, and filling in background on where a family was and when.

Following the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Samuel Felsted I have done some further research on his family. His sister Mary, who married Stephen Cooke in Kingston in 1782, outlived her husband by a quarter of a century dying in Bethnal Green, London in 1843 at the age of ninety-three. Her Will is here.

Several branches of the family had settled in London, but Samuel’s youngest son John Lawrence (or Laurence) Felsted probably died in Jamaica, although we know from his Will that he owned a house in London. John’s sister Sarah also died in London and we know from her Will that she owned property in Kingston.

When John Lawrence Felsted died in about 1821 he left property to his two children Justina Frances and Samuel James. This included a house in Church Street, Kingston; a store in Water Lane (convenient for the harbour front) and a Penn in the parish of St Catherine. In August 1820 John had sworn an affidavit on his slave return that in June of that year he had owned three slaves. Only two are named – eleven year old Henry, a creole ‘sambo’, and seventeen year old Betsey a creole ‘negroe’ both of whom appear to have been passed on to John by his mother Margaret Mary Felsted. In 1817 she had been in possession of thirteen slaves, in 1823 this number had reduced to six. Betsey was still enslaved in 1832, the return then being sworn by the attorney for the Executors of John Lawrence Felsted, whose name incidentally was Justinn Nelson which suggests that John’s daughter Justina may have been named after him.

John’s sister Sarah was also a slave owner, the return for 1817 showing her as having a twenty-nine year old negro creole slave called Cassander and her three sons, Richard, John Walker and William aged twelve, two and four months respectively. She also owned a twenty-one year old African negro woman called Ellen. Sarah was listed as owning Ellen outright, but as having a one-sixth share of Cassander and her children. She shared ownership with  C.Dawson, S.M.Robertson (her sisters) S.M.Fry of London, J.L.Felsted and J.F.Fry ‘an infant of this Island’. All these are descendants of Samuel Felsted and although I have not seen his Will it is reasonable to suppose ownership of Cassander was passed to his children by Samuel. It is possible this list also provides evidence that Ann Cooke Felsted, who married Joseph Fry, had died before 1817 since S.M.Fry and J.F.Fry referred to are her children.

The information from the slave registers for Jamaica can be viewed on Ancestry for the years 1817, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1829, 1832 and 1834 (you do need to be a subscriber to view them). The registers were compiled following the abolition of the slave trade in order to try to ensure that the trade was not being continued.

Returns had to list not only slaves owned, but the changes in numbers since the previous return due to deaths of any slaves or the birth of new ones. Usually in addition to the name and sex of the person, their age and racial mix is given together with whether they were ‘creole’, that is born in Jamaica. I have seen one who was listed as American.

These documents may be one of the few ways someone with ancestors who were enslaved has of finding out about them, and of course they also tell us something about their owners.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of all the Jamaican Wills of the eighteenth century is the way in which slaves are routinely listed as property alongside stock, horses, carriages and all the paraphernalia of the plantation or merchant business. Just occasionally a named individual is able to stand out, perhaps through manumission or the gift of a small legacy, but too often by being passed on, still enslaved, to a new owner.

Jamaican History in postcards

 

There are of course no photographs from eighteenth century Jamaica, and while there are portraits of members of the Plantocracy and some lovely early nineteenth century watercolours of Jamaican landscapes, such as those by Hakewill, it is hard to get close to the lives of enslaved and free mixed race Jamaicans in the early part of the island’s history. By the mid-nineteenth century the advent of photography and the arrival of tourism means there is a legacy of wonderful images such as those in the Jamaica Nostalgia  galleries.

At the turn of the twentieth century many photographs were being taken for the booming postcard industry. While often they were of the hotels a tourist might stay in, or the landscape they saw, there are quite a number showing the lives of ordinary Jamaicans.

 

 

This picture in a banana plantation was clearly posed. In one version a small boy peers out from the leaves at the top of the tree. The white man in the distance appears to be wearing a dog collar and is perhaps the local vicar.

 

 

 

 

 

This hand coloured image of ropes of tobacco at a local market has a more natural feel about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captions often reflected the attitudes of the time, referring to ‘native’ people, but in spite of the sometime patronising tone the images do provide glimpses of the lives of the majority of Jamaicans.

 

 

 

 

 

Street scenes like this one were probably photographed before the earthquake of 1907. You have only to imagine removing the telegraph poles and wires to have a scene largely unchanged for a hundred and fifty years.

 

 

 

It is frequently difficult to imagine the sights and sounds of the world of our grandparents let alone that of three hundred years ago. In the lifetime of my grandmother, born in 1883, she saw the development of the pneumatic bicycle tyre, the motor car and aeroplane, modern telecommunications, the launching of satellites and men on the moon. In the lifetime of her grandparents the developments of the industrial revolution had changed the world. But in the early twentieth century there were still many corners of the world in which ways of life persisted as they had done for centuries before. Subsistence agriculture powered by horses, mules and oxen, harvesting by hand, processing food and clothing by traditional techniques all continued.

These postcards of life in Jamaica at the turn of the twentieth century sometimes allow us to glimpse the island’s earlier past.

 

 

Fort Augusta Jamaica

It is easy to think of Jamaica’s history simply in terms of sugar and slavery and to forget its crucial role as a British military foothold in the Caribbean. Although tens of thousands of enslaved Africans worked to produce sugar, many were also made to work on military building projects in terrible conditions.

From the beginning, with the conquest of the island when it was seized from the Spanish in 1655, the island was home to a transient military population. For most of the eighteenth century Britain was at war with Spain or France or both, as all sought to establish empires, search for gold and other treasure, and plant colonists for permanent settlement.

In the case of Jamaica the port of Kingston, with its huge natural harbour, also became one of the largest in the world for the slave trade, receiving enslaved Africans from the notorious Middle Passage and selling many on to Britain’s American colonies in the Carolinas, Virginia and further north, and also selling on into Central and South America. This was a valuable trade that required protection at sea, but although Jamaica did have her own Militia it also created a situation that from time to time threatened to erupt into rebellion,calling for additional military support on land. Those soldiers were housed in a variety of barracks and forts, the remains of which form a very significant part of Jamaica’s eighteenth century historical legacy.

The strategic location of Jamaica and the safe harbours she provided gave the island added military importance throughout the eighteenth century and during the Napoleonic Wars. Funds for the building of forts were largely provided locally and voted by the Jamaican Assembly, and the labour was largely provided by slaves. Today this heritage is overseen by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

 Eighteenth century Plan of Fort Augusta from Historic Jamaica from the Air p.79

One fort that has recently been in the news is Fort Augusta, which was built in swampland to protect the western end of Kingston harbour, facing across to the remains of Port Royal and which despite huge earthquake damage in 1692 still also housed a military presence.

Fort Augusta is notable both for the huge effort, and loss of life, that went into filling the swamp, and for its curtain wall of cut stone blocks. On three sides this is 1500 feet long,  42 feet thick and nearly 16 feet high. On the northern side a further 900 feet of wall six feet thick faces onto Hunts Bay. Once this eight acre fort would have housed large numbers of British soldiers and their supplies including gunpowder. In modern times it has housed a women’s prison.

In 1763 the Fort Augusta gunpowder magazine was hit by lightning, killing 300 people and breaking windows up to seventeen miles away. Benjamin Franklin had already been involved in developing lightning conductors to protect such military installations from similar disasters, and had developed his lightning rod in 1749, but there is no evidence it had been fitted anywhere in Jamaica.

 Fort Augusta in 1967 from Historic Jamaica from the Air p.78

The reason Fort Augusta has been in the news recently is because of plans to expand Kingston’s ability to handle container shipping. The container port is on the opposite side of Hunts Bay (now enclosed by the Port Kingston Causeway) from Fort Augusta. There is a classic conflict of interest between the needs of economic development and the benefits of preserving a nation’s history, highlighted in a recent letter to the Jamaica Observer. Fortunately assurances have been received that there is no intention to demolish Fost Augusta.

 

Fort Augusta today showing the Port Kingston Causeway top left, which now encloses Hunts Bay (from Jamaica Observer online 6 August 2012)

Many places have found that by preserving their history alongside modern developments their cultural heritage is enriched and the economic benefits of the new development are enhanced. Let us hope this is possible in the case of Fort Augusta and that the development will bring a renewed interest in Jamaica’s history and appreciation of those who lost their lives creating it.

 

Historic Jamaica from the Air, by David Buisseret with photography by J. Tyndale-Biscoe and cartography by Tom Willcockson, Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston Jamaica 1996.

 

Of an unjust imprisonment and a shocking legacy

By Thomas Hudon, engraved by Johan Faber (The National Maritime Museum), via Wikimedia Commons

Many who are new to tales of Jamaican slavery are deeply shocked when they discover that freed slaves and mixed Jamaicans often themselves owned slaves. I think this is understandable (which is not to say justifiable), if you accept that for most people in the eighteenth century slavery was a fact of life and one which they generally did not question. Since owning slaves reflected your economic and social status it is unsurprising that freed slaves and mixed race Jamaicans would want to reinforce their new status, in much the same way as aspiring middle class Victorians in England would employ a live-in maid or a cook. A key difference of course being that the latter were free to leave for other employment.

However, I did find it particularly shocking when I read the Will of Francis Delap to discover, that in freeing and educating his little six year-old mulatto son Arthur, he was requiring his executors to provide Arthur with ‘three new Negro Boys nearly of his Age to be bought for him by my Executors immediately after my death to be marked AD and to be bred to the same Trade with himself’.  Not only were three little African boys straight off the boat to be branded with Arthur’s initials, but they were to be the slaves of another child of their own age.

Since they were all to be bred up in the same trade I presume Francis was trying to provide Arthur with the ultimate means of setting himself up in business. And of course this is not the only case of a child being given his own slaves.  But shocking nevertheless.

Francis Delap has however gone down in history for quite another reason. He was at the centre of the great Jamaican controversy in the mid 1750s surrounding the location of the island capital.

When the British arrived in Jamaica in 1655 St Jago de la Vega was the Spanish capital, situated inland for easier defence against seaborn raiders. After the 1692 earthquake and a later fire largely destroyed Port Royal, Kingston rapidly grew to be the centre of mercantile activity. By the mid- eighteenth century a schism had grown up between the planter and administrative classes who favoured Spanish Town, where the Assembly met and legal cases were heard, and the merchants who wanted to move the capital to Kingston. Apart from the disruption this would have caused, planter social life centred on the times of year when they arrived from their estates to enjoy the Spanish Town entertainments and attend the races, to get married and to baptise their children. Any move of the capital would also have had a depressive effect on property values in Spanish Town which had just been ascertained in the 1754 Census.

When Sir Charles Knowles arrived in Jamaica as Governor he sided with the Kingston lobby in favour of the move, falling out with the Spanish Town inhabitants and choosing to move to Kingston rather than as was traditional living in Spanish Town. He also insisted on the supremacy of the English parliament over the Jamaican Assembly.  This direct confrontation with the Assembly came to a head when the Governor dissolved the Assembly and elections were called. There was not of course any universal franchise, only free white men who were freeholders could vote.

It appeared that the votes for the three members for Port Royal were going to be critical and the pro-Kingston lobby wanted to ensure that the vote was not supervised by the Provost Marshall Francis Delap, who was thought to favour the Spanish Town cause. Uncertain what to do for the best when told to hand over the Writs, Delap had the Writs and all his papers locked in two chests and deposited  them with Charles Price and Dr William Wynter.

The Governor had Delap arrested and ordered him to surrender the Writs for the election so that new ones could be issued, putting a Mr Johnston who he had appointed as the new Provost Marshall in charge of the election. Delap had serious doubts about the legality of this, but was unable to act beyond securing all his papers, as Governor Knowles had him committed to the Kingston jail where he was clapped in irons, deprived of the use of pen and ink and prevented from communicating with anyone.

Knowles intended to have him shipped out to England as a prisoner, but the Island Council decided instead to prosecute him for a misdemeanour and he was at last able to apply for a writ of Habeas Corpus and to obtain bail. Following a court appearance in June 1755 Delap was fined £500 and once again imprisoned.

One of Delap’s friends and supporters was Rose Fuller, who had earlier clashed with Knowles as a result of which he had resigned as Chief Justice. In the Spring of 1755 he heard that his brother John had died in England and so after two decades in Jamaica Rose Fuller returned to England, arriving in August of 1755. His presence there enabled him to coordinate support for Delap’s case in London and eventually Delap was freed. Papers held at the East Sussex Record Office at Lewes show that Fuller had raised a letter of credit on Arnold, Albert and Alexander Nesbitt of London  for £6000 for Delap’s legal support, based on a valuation of Delap’s Jamaican estate which ‘recently stocked with a great strength of able negroes and mules, is good security for £30,000’ (ESRO  SAS-RF/21/42).

The Board of Trade eventually decided in favour of Spanish Town on a technicality and Governor Knowles left Jamaica. A huge procession of carts brought the island papers back to Spanish Town and the celebrations included two huge bonfires, one topped with an effigy of Governor Knowles and the other one of his ship[1].

When Delap died over twenty years later most of his wealth was left to his siblings in Ireland, but he also made provision for the care of four mixed race children, whose mother was Mary Shippen, and for little Arthur, now the master of his own slaves.

 

 

 

 


[1] You can read a fuller account of the Spanish Town versus Kingston controversy in Gone is the Ancient Glory, Spanish Town, Jamaica 1534-2000 by James Robertson, Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston 2005; and a contemporary account of the trial of Francis Delap in An account of the trial of Francis Delap Esq upon an information for a misdemeanour: at the Supreme Court of Judicature, held in the town of Kingston, in Jamaica, on June 18, 1755. Ecco Print Editions (print on demand).

Augier or Hosier – name transformations

 

 

When I was transcribing the 1754 census of Spanish Town I came across three people listed as “free Mulattoes or Descendants from them admitted to the privileges of white people by Acts of the Legislature”.  Two of them I knew already – Mary Johnston Rose and her son Thomas Wynter who each lived in the house that they owned. Then there was Susanna Hosier who was recorded as a sugar planter and who owned a house worth £60 that was un-tenanted.  I was surprised that I did not know who she was and could not find any reference to her, since as a mixed race woman she seemed to be unusually wealthy.

Sometime later I was working on the family of Susanna Augier and realised that the name was sometimes written as Augier and sometimes as Hosier.  Once you pronounce Augier as ‘O-gee-er’ with a soft G you realise how it could come to be written as Hosier.  It was also occasionally mis-transcribed as Augire, Angier and Augine.   I often use dictation software when transcribing Wills and writing these blog pieces, and the software delivers ‘osier’ for ‘Augier’ !  It is the kind of name transformation that makes the work of the genealogist both frustrating and fascinating.

Having resolved the name puzzle I was able to build the story of Susanna Augier and her extended family.  She was a quite exceptional woman and well known to the Jamaican Plantocracy. Her case was used to support the argument in the construction of the 1761 act preventing “Devizes to Negroes”, limiting the inheritance of black, mixed race, and illegitimate Jamaicans to £2000. The size of her inheritance seems to have been exceptional, but it provided useful ammunition for those wanting to restrict the size of legacies.

Susanna was the daughter of John Augier, a planter who died in 1722.  He seems to have had little connection to his origins and a fondness and care for his Jamaican family.  Under his Will he freed his daughters Susanna, Mary, Jenny, Frances and Jane.  Subsequent references to his family show that there was a further daughter called Elizabeth and a son called Jacob, and probably a daughter Sarah who died young.  Susanna, who was probably born about 1707, seems to have been particularly favoured and in due course became the mother of four children with a planter called Peter Caillard or Calliard.  Mary, Peter, Frances and Susanna Caillard were born between 1725 and 1728. [But see Postscript below].

Peter Caillard died about 1728 leaving Susanna hugely wealthy. In addition to her inheritance from her father she now had a life interest in several properties in Kingston and Spanish Town and an estate including a Penn in St Catherine and a Mountain at Way Water, all valued for probate at £26,150 8s 1d, and entailed for her children Mary and Peter.  By 1753 Susanna owned 950 acres of mainly good land in the parish of St Andrew (including 40 acres under coffee, 100 acres of provision ground and 800 acres of woodland) with eighty negroes, one white servant and forty-two head of cattle. Like many other free mixed race Jamaicans Susanna owned slaves – for example John Augier ‘a negro man belonging to Susanna Augier’ was baptised in Kingston on the 4th of March 1740. Few women in eighteenth century Jamaica owned estates (most who did were planters widows), fewer still managed them themselves as Susanna appears to have done.

Peter and Susanna Caillard both died young, but in 1738 Susanna applied for the rights of whites for herself and her children Mary and Frances Caillard. A Private Act of the Jamaica Assembly dated 19th of July 1738 granted them the legal status of whites.

Mary Caillard travelled to England, perhaps to meet her father’s family in Bristol, and on the 19th of April 1748 at Henbury, Gloucestershire she married Gilbert Ford who would in due course become Jamaican Attorney General.  It was an unusual marriage for a mixed race Jamaican, even more so for a young English Lawyer.  Ford came from a well-to-do family – his brother James became Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte, Physician Extraordinary to the Westminster Lying-in hospital, and Consulting Man-Midwife to the Westminster General dispensary.  Sadly there were no children of the marriage and Mary died in May 1754 at Clifton, Bristol[1].  It seems to have been after her death that Gilbert Ford went to Jamaica where he married for a second time to Elizabeth Aikenhead.

Within about a year of Caillard’s death Susanna was living with Gibson Dalzell  with whom she had two further children, Frances and Robert, and on his death in about 1755 she inherited a life interest in his estate worth £6854 1s 3d.  Dalzell made full provision for Frances and Robert who by then were living with him in London.

Robert Dalzell was sent to his father’s college, Christ Church Oxford in 1761. In 1762 aged just twenty he married Miss Jane Dodd, ‘an agreeable young lady of large fortune, and with every other accomplishment necessary to adorn the marriage state.’ [2]  There were three children of his marriage who lived into the nineteenth century and had descendants, owning the manors of Tidworth and Mackney in Berkshire.

Frances Dalzell married the Honourable George Duff, son of the first Earl of Fife, on the 7th of April 1757 and moved into the ranks of the aristocracy.  Tragically her first child was  ‘a lunatic from birth’[3] perhaps severely mentally handicapped, or born with Down’s syndrome.  Her son George and her two daughters died unmarried.

Susanna herself died in February 1757 and was buried on the 12th in Kingston.

 

All of this would be remarkable enough until you take into account the rest of Susanna Augier’s siblings.  In 1747 two Private Acts of the Jamaican Assembly were passed.  The first gave the rights of whites to Jane Augier and her children Edward James, Thomas, Peter and Dorothy.  The second on behalf of Mary Augier gave ‘the same rights and privileges with English Subjects, born of white parents’ to Mary’s children William, Elizabeth, Jane and Eleanor; to her brother and sister Jacob and Elizabeth and to Elizabeth’s son John.  Even this does not tell the whole story.

Of John Augier’s daughters it must be assumed that Jenny and Frances had probably died before 1747 and so were not included in the family’s bid to acquire full white status.  Jenny had a daughter called Sharlott, born in 1729 and dead just under two years later, whose father was the choleric Theophilus Blechynden.

Around the time of his daughter Sharlott’s death he married Florence Fulton the widow of Dean Poyntz who had left his wife an annuity of £200 a year.  Poyntz was in partnership with Mathias Philp and years later Blechynden and his wife sued the estate of Philp’s other partner William Perrin for £10,000 of back payments of her annuity.  The case dragged on for years and was only finally settled by Blechynden’s son when almost all the other parties were dead!

A not untypical example of Jamaican litigation.

Frances Augier had two sons William and John Muir, and a daughter Hannah Spencer born in 1736. Frances probably died in Kingston in February  1738.  Elizabeth whose son John was granted the rights of whites in 1747 had also had a daughter called Elizabeth who died at the age of four, both were the children of Richard Asheton.  Elizabeth was buried in Kingston on the 16th of January 1749/50. Jacob Augier also died in Kingston and was buried on the 18th of September 1751, I have found no record that he had any children.

Mary and Jane Augier both had large families.  Jane had six children with John DeCumming, of whom two died before she could apply for their rights.  It is the children of Mary who have descendants that we know the most about.  Mary had at least seven children with William Tyndall a Kingston merchant, and her daughter Elizabeth (born in 1726) had nine children with the wealthy Kingston merchant John Morse.  Morse also had a daughter called Frances, probably born before he began his relationship with Elizabeth, who was brought up by his sister Sarah Vanheelen in Holland, and who died, unmarried, in London about 1818.  Several of his children died before their father, but his three youngest daughters all married and had descendants.

John Morse had returned to London before his death – he was buried at St Mary Aldermanbury on the 2nd of April 1781. His family may have travelled with him, or may already have been educated in England. Catherine Morse married a young lawyer called Edmund Green at St Mary Aldermanbury in 1777 – the witnesses at the wedding included her uncle by marriage Joseph Royall.

Catherine had eight children, among whom her daughter Frances Ann married William Farington from the Isle of Wight who became an Admiral in the Royal Navy.  Edmund’s training as a lawyer was called into play during a lengthy Chancery suit[4] on behalf of John Morse’s children against the Morse family who were unhappy at the legacies left to his mixed race illegitimate offspring.  In this he may have had help from Robert Cooper Lee who had himself secured his children’s future via a Private Act of the Assembly passed in 1776. Frances Lee, his daughter, left legacies to her friend Catherine Green and her daughter Frances Ann Farington.

As the boom days of Jamaica were coming to an end so the focus of empire switched to India. Catherine’s sisters Ann Frances and Sarah went to India with their brother Robert and both married there in 1780. Ann Frances married Nathaniel Middleton and had ten children born variously in India and England. The Morse/Middleton fortune passed down the generations and  in 1898, at the death of Hastings Nathaniel Middleton, was worth £84,100 15s 7d.

Sarah married William Cator in Calcutta and their daughter Ann Frances became the wife of Colonel Edward Baynes who as Adjutant General to the British forces in North America was sent to negotiate the armistice with the US government in July 1812. After service in North America they settled happily to retirement in Devon, their investments managed by Robert Cooper Lee’s son Richard. Their son William Craig Baynes migrated to Canada taking charge of the extensive estates acquired while his father was serving in Quebec.

Edmund Green eventually won the Chancery case on behalf of his wife and her siblings.

By the early nineteenth century the descendants of the Augier sisters had blended seamlessly into the highest levels of British society, their Jamaican slave roots conveniently air-brushed from history.

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POSTSCRIPT : 2nd August 2012

I have been looking again at the children of Susanna Augier and I think a confusion has arisen over her children with Peter Caillard. I now think that her children with Peter Caillard were Mary, Peter and Susanna and that there is only one child called Frances – the daughter of Gibson Dalzell.

 

 

 



[1] I have a reader of this website to thank for this information. “Last week died at Clifton near Bristol, after a lingering illness, the Lady of Gilbert Ford of the Middle-Temple, Esq.” London Evening Post (London, England), May 7, 1754 – May 9, 1754

[2] ‘Parishes: Tidmarsh’, A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3 (1923), pp. 433-437. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk

[4] For more detail on the Morse sisters and the Chancery case see D.A.Livesay, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Migration from the West Indies to Britain, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Michigan, 2010 – available on-line at http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/77875

 

 

Happenstance and Villainy

 

George II shilling

One of the things I love about genealogy is tripping over a discovery while looking for something quite different.  Earlier this week I was working my way slowly through the Kingston marriage register when a name suddenly jumped out at me – nothing whatever to do with the person I was looking for.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you may remember I have previously written about Scudamore Winde who spent many years as a merchant in Kingston, dying there in 1775.  He was the son of John Winde and Mary Scudamore who had married at Kentchurch in Herefordshire in January 1728.  Their first child Mary was baptised at Kentchurch in December 1729.  The only information I had about when Scudamore went to Jamaica related to the fact that his father had committed suicide in October 1759, after which he had sold a family property at Twickenham and left for Jamaica with his younger brother Robert.  I knew nothing of any earlier connection with Jamaica.

Now suddenly there was the name Maria Scudamore Winde in the Kingston parish register five years earlier.  It is not a common name and therefore I have no doubt that this was Scudamore Winde’s sister who was three years older than him.

On the 2nd of  October 1755 at Kingston she married Gershom Williams Esquire.  To date I have no idea why she was in Kingston and whether her father had a previous connection with Jamaica, which seems likely. At twenty-six she would not have required her father’s permission to marry, but it would have been conventional and perhaps he was present. Indeed that could explain why Scudamore Winde went there after his father’s death, possibly picking up the reins of a merchant house his father had established there.

So I went in search of Gershom Williams and thanks to the Jamaican family search website and an abstract from Caribbeana I found a Will written in December 1759 by William Williams of the parish of St Anne Jamaica.  The Will begins in conventional fashion requesting his executors to pay all his just debts and then deals with the disposal of Flatt Point and Woodstock plantations and sugar works, together with a plantation pen and pimento walk and a Mansion house in the parish of Saint James.  These were being put in trust, with the trustees being Robert Arcedeckne and Zachary Bayly both of Jamaica, and Michael Atkins a Bristol merchant.  The money raised was to be devoted to a cause referred to as “the Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of exposed and deserted young Children in Lambs Conduit Fields London”.  This was the Foundling Hospital established by Thomas Coram about fifteen years earlier to provide for the needs of abandoned babies and children, and was indeed a worthy cause.

The Will went on to leave £500 Jamaican apiece to a niece and nephew and then –  “Item I give and bequeath to that most abandonedly Wickedly Vile detestable Rogue and Imposter who hath assumed and now does or lately did go by the name of Gershom Williams pretending to be a Son of mine one Shilling only to buy him an Halter wherewith to hang himself being what he hath for a long, long, very long while past Merited and deserved from the Law and hands of the Hangman for his great and manifold Villanies.”

What on earth had Gershom Williams done?  Was he really the son of William Williams, or a conman who had been passing himself off as his son?  In either case William Williams had thought it important to include him in his Will.  Today we sometimes refer to someone being cut off without a shilling, but the importance of leaving somebody only one shilling, or one penny, or some very small amount of money, was that it would prevent them from contesting the Will on the grounds that they should have been included.

It appears that William Williams actually made an earlier Will dated the 26th of May 1759 leaving the plantations to his son William Williams and the remainder to the trustees to sell on behalf of the Foundling Hospital, however by December of that year his son William had presumably died and the Will was revised, leaving the majority of the estate for the benefit of the foundlings.

There is a reference in the catalogue of the Beinecke Lesser Antilles Collection at Hamilton College[1] to articles of agreement between Gershom Williams of Jamaica and the governors of the Foundling Hospital, dated October 1763, by which Gershom Williams agreed to pay £4,500 to the Foundling Hospital by instalments in return for the governors assigning their interest in all the estates of William Williams to the use of Gershom Williams. Did the Foundling Hospital ever receive the money?

If Gershom Williams had pulled a fast one he did not live long to enjoy it.

Maria Scudamore Williams was buried in Kingston on the 17th of December 1763. Following the death of William Williams, and barely two months after the death of his first wife, Gershom Williams remarried and in his own Will, dated September 1765, he left most of his worldly goods to his “faithful and beloved wife Anna Williams”, formerly Anna McNeal and to his brother Job Williams.

Administration of the will of William Williams was finally granted in 1768 to John Edwards who was Zachary Bailey’s attorney.  Robert Arcedeckne was by then living in North America, and Michael Atkins had died.

And what had Gershom Williams done that so alienated his father?

I have absolutely no idea, and if anyone can tell me what his supposed or actual crimes were I would love to hear about it.



[1] University of Florida Press, 1994

What’s in a name? – Searching Jamaican Parish Registers

A rose by any other name…

Old parish registers (OPR for short) are an invaluable source of genealogical information, but sadly are often only as good as the parish clerk or vicar who wrote in them. Some are written in beautiful script and contain additional information about the father’s occupation or the street in which the family lived, others are terse to the point of being almost useless without supporting information from another source.

If you have access to Ancestry, take a look at the registers for London where you can view the images of the actual pages. For example the early eighteenth century marriage records for St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London are clearly written and give the parish of both partners, but the later records in the same volume for baptisms and burials are untidy and hastily written although they do give the date of both birth and baptism, and the location of the burial.

Accuracy can be a problem and the record of the baptism of Robert Cooper Lee, whose parcel of ribbons gave this website its title, is doubly inaccurate – for the clerk of St Michael Bassishaw wrote his mother’s name as Sarah instead of Frances and his date of birth as the 4th of September when I know from a letter of his daughter Frances that it was the 15th. These problems can be much worse when dealing with the early Jamaican registers.

You can view the images of the early Jamaican parish registers on the Family Search site, which is free. These images are also available on microfilm through local LDS family history centres, although you may have to order them in for your local centre and pay the postage.

The coverage for different parishes varies a lot, with some of the earliest records in St Andrew (from 1664), St Catherine (from 1668) and Vere (from 1694) whereas Kingston only starts in 1721. Time, mould, insect attack, hurricane and fire took their toll on the records and they were sometimes copied to preserve them, not always with a hundred percent accuracy.

Until the Family Search site completes the computerised indexing of the records, you are dependent on either paging through a particular parish and time period, or using the hand compiled indexes whose images are also available. These are not in fully alphabetical order, but are organised by letter of the alphabet with blocks of records covering a period of years. If you are lucky the one you are looking at will have an annotation in the margin telling you what period it relates to, but not always. The index will give you a volume and folio reference in the form 1/23. Because the images cover two pages of the register an entry at 1/23 might be on image 12 or somewhere either side of it. Be aware that not all records are indexed, that marriages are only indexed by the name of the man and that a child’s baptism may be indexed under the mother’s name if it is illegitimate even if it later took its father’s name.

To have a good chance of finding the records you are interested in, it helps to understand family naming conventions in the eighteenth century which often followed a quite regular pattern. Where a couple were married and their children were legitimate, the eldest son was usually named after his father or one of his grandfathers, and the eldest daughter after her mother or grandmothers. It was also common for a surname to be used as a first name and the surname of a grandparent to be used as a middle name. For example Thomas Beckford married Mary Ballard in 1703 in St Catherine, Jamaica, and their eldest son was called Ballard Beckford, as was his son. The second Ballard Beckford’s daughter was named Mary Ballard Beckford.

Don’t be surprised if you find that a couple use the same name repeatedly – high infant mortality often meant that a father would make several attempts to carry on his name – if you see the same name repeated, look for a corresponding infant burial between the two baptisms. Robert Cooper Lee’s father Joseph had two attempts at a namesake before his youngest son survived.

After the eldest son and daughter, children were then named for the siblings of their parents, or after an aunt or uncle or their godparents. Sometimes they were named in honour of a family friend. Robert Cooper Lee, whose eldest son named after his brother John died young, named one son after himself; one after his friend Richard Welch; Matthew Allen Lee after his friend John Allen and Scudamore Cooper Lee after his friend Scudamore Winde. In turn John Allen named his first son John Lee Allen. Name patterns like this can often be helpful in tracing patterns of friendship especially if backed up by bequests in Wills.

In Jamaica the records are complicated by the number of illegitimate children, many born to white fathers and slave or mixed race mothers. In the early history of Jamaica slaves were not usually baptised or married in church as it was feared that if they became Christian they might acquire the rights of Christians. However from the earliest days there were free blacks and free people of mixed race – often the product of liaisons between white planters and merchants and their slaves or housekeepers. The latter were often free women of mixed race who moved between communities having some of the privileges of the white world, and as described in the article about Mary Johnston Rose, sometimes acquiring the status of being legally white.

When it came to recording the baptisms, marriages and burials of black and mixed race Jamaicans the local vicars varied in what they recorded. Some white fathers happily acknowledged their children and their names appear alongside the name of the mother in the register. However the child’s surname may be indexed as either the father’s or the mother’s.  For example in 1748 John  Lee and Mary Lord had a child baptised as Mary Ann Lord, the name she was buried under soon after.

In the case of the children of Mary Johnston Rose her sons Thomas Wynter and William Fuller took their father’s surnames and she was generally known as Mary Rose, although her mother was Elizabeth Johnston. That she used the name Mary Johnston Rose strongly suggests that she was the acknowledged daughter of a man called Rose, albeit not legitimate. In letters she is referred to as Mrs Rose, but beware of assuming that Mrs means that a woman was married – the title Mistress was used for both married and single women, and Mrs was also sometimes a courtesy title rather like Madame in French was used for an older woman.

The Jamaican registers may or may not tell you something useful about the ethnic origin of the person. The St Catherine’s register has the marriage of Emanuel Angola and Malina Angola in 1671, which only hints at African origin through their names. In 1677 Peter Moore and Black Betty were married as ‘free negroes’, but on the same page the marriage record of a mulatto and a negro does not tell us whether they were free. There was no requirement on parish priests to follow a set form in what they recorded, and as a result the records are fragmentary, inconsistent and sometimes very hard to read!

By the middle of the eighteenth century it is becoming more common to record the status of an individual, and children are baptised using all the various categories of colour discussed in an earlier posting.  Whereas a legitimate child almost always has both parents named, the illegitimate may have none – but almost always its colour is recorded. Watch out for abbreviations such as ‘Mul.’ Or simply ‘M’ for mulatto, a letter Q (which can look like a 2) for a quadroon.  Such is the segregation of people according to their colour that some of the Kingston registers actually had separate sections for Whites and People of Colour.

Civil Registration began in Jamaica on the 1st of April 1878 but some districts did not record until up to five years later. The Family Search site has over one and a half million records for Trelawny Parish Civil Registration Births, 1878-1930, and over 280,000 other indexed records from 1752-1920.

The rejoicing will be great on the part of this user when the fully indexed records are finally available online.

So good luck with your searches, and good hunting!

 

 

William May – Vicar, moralist, a father bereft

The Chequer Inn at Ash in Kent, little changed since the time of William May

© Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

William May had rather sad life although he had a firm trust in divine Providence, and his own superior social background, which carried him through the most difficult of times. He came from Ash in Kent and studied at the University of Cambridge.  He was ordained by the Bishop of London on the 20th September 1719 and left for Jamaica on October 22nd spending thirty-two years as the vicar in charge of the parish of Kingston. It is possible that he had an uncle already in Jamaica as there is a marriage record for a William May and Margaret Rose who were married in Spanish town in 1670.

William found many of his parishioners a grave disappointment and he is probably best remembered for a much quoted letter that he wrote home to the Bishop of London soon after his arrival.

He didn’t think much of the quality of the early colonists, writing  “There is not six families who are well descended as gentlemen on the whole Island. . . And as for those Englishmen that came as mechanics hither, very young, and have now acquired good Estates in Sugar Plantations and Indigo, etc., of course they know no better than what maxims they learn in the Country. To be now short & plain, Your Lordship will see that they have no maxims of Church or State but what are absolutely anarchical.”

Church attendance did not feature much among the planter community who preferred to spend Sundays on their plantations or enjoying socialising. Even those who did attend often walked out early “any pragmatic fellow; an Officer or Justice, when he thinks fit, will go out of our churches before sermon is ended, to disturb our Congregation”.

Many colonists had relatively humble beginnings and he commented on the then Governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, who had been apprenticed to a shopkeeper in Jamaica when he first arrived there – “there are people alive now, who remember that he went barefooted, & bare leg’d, with shoos on, as was the custom for most young shop-keepers & planters in those dayes.”

Colonel Rose he said had been a cooper by trade, Jonathan Gale had earned his living as a horse catcher and several prominent men were illiterate.

Of the Beckford family he had nothing at all good to say “Mr. Beckford’s brother, Tom, Colonel too, is a Libertine, and of the country principles, & has a great Estate. He has killed his man and so has his Brother Peter, but this makes neither a bit more Religious. He was a Councillor in Colonel Heywood’s time, and his graceless son was Governor of the Fort at Port Royal, a post worth £500 at least (Libs.) per annum. And so these Estated men govern the Island at this rate.”

Altogether young William May had found his parishioners a serious disappointment and an affront to his anti-Papist soul.

“Tavern-Keepers, Taylors, Carpenters, Joyners, are infallibly Colonels, Justices of Peace, as soon as they purchase Plantations, & our Printer, in his papers, styles them every man Esqrs, & Lt.-Collols, Honourable, prints Elegies on men who never were communicants with the Church in any part of her communion, & who liv’d & dyed keeping variety of women, as James, a sailor by breeding, but dy’d a rich merchant.
N.B.-The Papists everywhere are caressed, and those who are true Lovers of our Constitution dare not own it, or they must expect no honey in this country, but instead of it gall.”

You can read the full transcription of the letter in Caribbeana Volume 3 page 5.

William’s personal life was full of sadness.  He married the unusually named Smart Pennant, herself already a widow,  not long after his arrival, but she was killed on the 28th of August 1722 when a hurricane destroyed the house where she was in Kingston.

His second wife was Bathshua Vassall.  I love the name Bathshua which I had not heard of until I came across several of them in Jamaica at around this time.  It is a variation on the name Bathsheba and means ‘daughter of abundance’.  Bathshua Vassall fulfilled the promise of her name and with William May had eight children. Sadly five of them died young and two older sons died on sea voyages while travelling to America in the hope of recovering from illness. Only one son Rose Herring May lived to grow up and have children of his own.

Bathshua died in July 1746, but William lived to what was a good age for white colonists in Jamaica, dying in January 1754 at the age of 58. His health had been poor for some time and in 1748 he had petitioned his Bishop for the assistance of a curate as he was suffering from both gout and asthma.  Some years earlier William had hoped to return to England with his children for the sake of their education as he considered, probably with some truth, that there were no good schools in Jamaica.  He was offered a living in England in 1740 by Robert Hamilton but by the following year this had fallen through and he became resigned to remaining in Jamaica. He did however send his youngest son Rose to school at Eton which is where he was when William died.

The family monument in Kingston Cathedral is one of the more informative to have survived, and this transcription is taken from Monumental Inscriptions of the British West Indies compiled by J.H.  Lawrence-Archer and published in 1875.

HERE LIES INTERR’D YE BODY OF THE REVD. MR. WILLIAM MAY, BORN IN THE PARISH OF ASH IN KENT, YE 29th OF AUGUST, 1695. EDUCATED AT ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE, IN CAMBRIDGE, COMMISSARY OF JAMAICA, AND 32 YEARS MINISTER OF THIS PARISH. HIS FIRST WIFE WAS SMART, YE DAUGHTER OF EDWARD AND ELIZTH. PENNANT, OF YE PARISH OF CLARENDON; HIS SECOND WIFE WAS BATHUSA,YE DAUGHTER OF FLORENTIUS AND ANN VASSALL, OF YE PARISH OF ST. ELIZABETH, WHO WAS BURIED IN SPANISH TOWN CHURCH BY YE GRAVE OF HER MOTHER ON YE 22 DAY OF JULY, 1746, BY WHOM HE HAD ISSUE SIX SONS AND TWO DAUGHTERS, FIVE OF WHICH ARE ENTERRED UNDER THIS STONE, VIZ. PETER,WILLIAM, ELIZABETH, GEORGE, AND ITHAMAR. TWO DIED AT SEA GOING TO BOSTON FOR YE RECOVERY OF THEIR HEALTH, VIZ. RICHARD, ON YE 28’th OF AUGUST, 1745, IN YE 21st YEAR OF HIS AGE, AND FLORENTIUS, YE 4th OF JUNE,1747, IN YE l6th YEAR OF HIS AGE. HIS SON, ROSE HERRING MAY, IS THE ONLY CHILD THAT SURVIVED HIM, WHO IT IS HOPED WILL INHERIT HIS FATHER’S VIRTUES, AS WELL AS HIS FORTUNE.

I’m not clear how large a fortune William left to his son Rose, but he did own property in Kingston and had a pen, or stock ranch, in the parish of Clarendon remembered today as the town of May Pen. Under his Will he freed his slaves James and Elizabeth and left them pensions of five pounds a year. It is likely that he also owned other slaves who worked on the pen.

Most of the clergy had yet to discover a conscience in relation to slavery.