Tag Archives: mulatto

All roads lead to Jamaica

Bamboo Avenue early coloured postcard

Bamboo Avenue, Jamaica – early coloured postcard

Well, genealogically speaking, it sometimes feels like they do !

Having finished my postgraduate studies until September I was asked to look into the origins of Dr Benjamin Bates (1737-1828) who was a member of the Hellfire Club, a friend of Erasmus Darwin and of the painter Joseph Wright of Derby, among others. Bizarrely his Wikipedia entry appears to combine the life stories of three quite different people – and if you were to believe it he was commanding a ship of the line in his eighties while simultaneously being a successful merchant in America and a physician in Buckinghamshire !

Only the last is true of the man I am looking at.

Not much was known of his origins in Nottinghamshire, but he married twice, lived to over ninety, and had one surviving daughter Lydia Bates who died unmarried in 1843. Having found her Will I was faced with the genealogist’s greatest challenge – a lovely collection of legatees but almost all female, some widowed, and some referred to as cousins but with no easy way of connecting them into the family tree.

If your cousin is the daughter of your father’s married sister who then herself married (perhaps more than once) there will have been at least two changes of surname from the main tree. Add in a few common surnames such as Smith and it’s no wonder these puzzles are often called brick walls. If your ancestors hale from Scotland you may fare better since Scottish baptism records usually name both parents and include the mother’s maiden name.

My help in this case came from a couple of unusual names and the wonderful 1851 Census, which has so often come to my rescue since, in England, it was the first time people had been asked to say exactly where they were born.

For my own family it was a huge surprise to discover Richard Lee who was born in Jamaica in the mid-eighteenth century but lived into his nineties and was present in the 1851 census – leading ultimately to the creation of this website and my book A Parcel of Ribbons.

So it was the 1851 census that came to my rescue with the Bates family connections via a man called Leigh Churchill Smyth who lived to be 83. He was born in Jamaica and baptised on the 25th June 1801 in St Catherine’s parish to Ann Eleanor Largue, recorded in the baptism records of her children as a free quadroon. There were five children, all baptised there as Smith, but with no father named. This suggests that he acknowledged the children to the extent of giving them his name, but not of having his full name recorded as their father. Jane Beazle Smith was baptised in 1790, Ann Frances in 1796, Leigh Churchill in 1801, Penelope Sophia in 1804 and Henry Shepherd in 1807.

Some time in the latter part of the eighteenth century the family went upmarket in the spelling of their name and Smith became Smyth.

Henry, who wrote his middle name as Sheppard, later recorded his place of birth as Kingston so it’s possible that Ann Eleanor took her children from there to be baptised in Spanish Town. Ann Eleanor herself was baptised there in 1775. She was the daughter of Ester Beazle or Beazley who was born in 1745 and recorded as a free mulatto when she was baptised with her son Stephen Adolphus Beazle in 1768.

Little Ann Frances Smith died of fever before her first birthday, but in the 1841 census Leigh, Penelope and Henry were all living with Matilda Eleanor Archer Smyth in London and Jane was living in Buckingham with Penelope Box (who was another widowed cousin mentioned by Lydia Bates). At first I assumed Matilda was their mother, but it seems possible she was their unmarried aunt.

Matilda had four brothers any one of whom might have been the children’s father. I can only find a record of the death of two of these brothers in England – Samuel Chester Smyth who died in Blackfriars schoolhouse in 1813, and Thomas William Anthony Smyth who killed himself on board his ship HMS Duncan in 1830.

As the Jamaican parish burial registers are not yet indexed on-line, the only way to find out if one of the two remaining brothers died there is to page through the images in the parish registers. For a name as common as Smith and a register with as many deaths as Kingston this is a lengthy task which I will undertake when I have time.

There is another possibility. Just as I was about to post this story I came across reference in an early 20th century book of pedigrees to Henry Sheppard Smyth being the son of Charles Smyth of Spanish Town and grandson of Sir Richard Smyth, a one time Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. This puts a gloss of legitimacy on his birth and pedigree which was obviously important in enhancing his social status as a ‘Gentleman at Arms’.  It also fits with the Smyth family associations with Buckingham. But I have been unable to verify it, though while searching I came across both a Leigh Smyth and a Churchill Smyth and a number of Penelope Smyths.

Leigh Churchill Smyth married and was a successful solicitor, perhaps with a wealthy wife, for at his death in 1884 he was worth over £36,000. His wife died a few months later worth even more, and there appear to have been no surviving children. His spinster sister Penelope who had been a governess had an estate valued at under £300 at her death. Jane was also unmarried and left what she had to her brother Leigh. Henry married late and had two children who were still very young when he died in 1866 leaving his wife less than £300. She died in 1870 leaving less than £600 and their children seem to disappear from the record.

So I wonder if there remain any descendants of Ann Eleanor Largue, and if so do they know of their Jamaican heritage?  Will they, like me, make the surprising discovery of how often British middle and upper class families had enslaved ancestors, and will they find the road to Jamaica?

 

 

 

 

 

Puritans and Planters – the Halhed family

 
 
The Cloisters at Westminster Abbey
from http://home2.btconnect.com/Crusader-Product/Westminster-Abbey.html

 

I encountered the name Halhed recently while reading about the early British Colony which settled at Providence Island, just over 100 miles off the coast of modern Nicaragua, and I remembered I had seen the name before in a Jamaican context.

Richard Halhed came from a distinguished Banbury family and indeed was apparently the last to be born in Banbury. His distant great-uncle Henry Halhed had joined a contingent of pioneers, the Providence Island Company, recruited by Lord Saye and Sele[1]. They intended to establish a colony according to puritan principles, and although Henry Halhed was already in his mid-50s he sailed with his wife Elizabeth and three of his youngest children – Patience, Grace and Samuel – in 1632.

Henry Halhed had been hit by the combined effects of a depression in the textile industry and a disastrous fire in Banbury in 1628. The colony was not a success and Halhed and three others were deported back to England on the Hopewell arriving in Bristol in early 1641. All four men were released and held to be guiltless of the charges against them, but this seems to have ended Halhed’s connection with the island, which was subsequently taken by the Spanish who deported all the English colonists.

Richard Halhed’s connection with Jamaica was very much more successful. He was born posthumously in 1685, probably apprenticed in London in 1700, and then went out to Jamaica as a planter establishing an estate called Banbury. Like many other single white colonists he fathered a number of illegitimate children of whom Richard baptised in December 1724 seems to have died young.

In 1746 Grace Hazel and her children Robert, Elizabeth, and Susannah Halhed were all granted the rights of whites by the Jamaican Assembly. The children were described as free mulattos, as was Grace Hazel, who was probably Richard’s ‘housekeeper’. Robert Halhed, later described as a surgeon of St Thomas in the Vale,  subsequently applied to the Jamaican assembly in 1752 and was granted “the same rights, liberties, franchises, and immunities as His Majesty’s liege people do now hold and enjoy”. Legally he had become white.

It appears that Richard also had a daughter called Leah, who is mentioned in Robert’s Will as his half sister, who had married Thomas Leadbeater. There is a marriage for Thomas Leadbeater and Leah Phipps on the 24th of December  1738 in the parish of St Catherine, Jamaica. It seems possible however that Leah was already a widow, since the parish register record for the baptism of Elizabeth and Susannah Halhed was written on a scrap of paper, pinned to the main register, on which were also baptism records for Leah and Rachell Ydana on the same date. The Jewish Ydana family had patented land in Jamaica from the latter part of the 17th-century. It may be that the mother of Leah and Rachell (who were older than Richard’s other children) was connected with the Ydana family. There is no indication of Leah having been granted the rights of whites so she may not have been of mixed race.

Leah’s marriage to Thomas Leadbeater, a planter in St Thomas in the East, seems to have been a good one, and the baptisms of several of their five surviving children were sponsored by prominent citizens including Jacob and Sarah Neufville. It is likely that by time of the birth of the last of these children, Sarah in 1755, Robert Halhed had already left for England – a Robt Halhed was paying land tax in the parish of St Sepulchre in 1750. His father Richard died in Jamaica in July 1755 aged seventy, a very good age for a Jamaican colonist, and he was buried in Spanish Town on the 13th of July 1755.

Richard Halhed provided generously for his children. Although I have not found his Will, his son Robert’s Will (proved in 1778) indicates not only that he was wealthy but also that provision had been made by their father for the care of his unmarried daughter Susannah. Elizabeth, who at the time of the granting of the rights of whites was already married to Thomas Peirce of London, had probably died relatively young and without leaving children. Thomas Peirce married again and there is a record of a Chancery dispute involving the Halhed and Peirce families, held at the National Archives at Kew of which I hope to get a copy shortly.

Robert seems to have settled into English society with no difficulty in spite of his mixed race. He married a wife called Elizabeth, probably in England although I have not found a record for the marriage, and had one child Robert Spencer Halhed living at the time of his death. Very sadly Robert Spencer Halhed died just over a month after his father at the age of thirteen. Elizabeth outlived her husband by more than forty years, dying in 1829.

In England Robert prospered as a merchant and was close to his father’s first cousin William (1723-86)[2] who was much the same age as he was, and who became a Director of the Bank of England. Both Robert and William are recorded as merchants at 1 Bank Street, London which implies a partnership.

Robert’s successful career and marriage, and his sister Elizabeth’s marriage to Thomas Peirce are yet another example of the integration of mixed race Jamaican children into mainstream society. For Robert and his family this was crowned by their burial in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

When Elizabeth Halhed died at the age of ninety-two in October 1829 she requested burial with her husband and son and that the stone marking the spot should be recut. Her wishes very nearly failed to be carried out when a bizarre accident overtook the Will.

William Halhed had three sons, all of whom were in their seventies by the time Elizabeth died. The eldest Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, still remembered as a linguist and compiler of one of the first Bengali grammars, was according to Elizabeth incapable by then of managing his own affairs. Robert William and John were nominated as executors and when  John heard that Elizabeth was dying he travelled down to Tunbridge Wells, writing a letter to warn his brother that Elizabeth had not long to live. The following day, after her death, her companion Frances Bonnet produced a tin box with the Will and John wrote a letter to Nathaniel’s wife Luiza, detailing the legacies and asking her to forward it to Robert in London.

When John and Frances Bonnet arrived in London, Robert had not yet received the second letter although he had the first. So that evening the two brothers sat down to make a new list of the legacies, with Robert writing on the second page torn from the letter John had written to him. It was an October evening and as John read the Will by candle light he held it too close to the flame and the Will caught fire. Although the fire was quickly extinguished some portions of the will had been lost. However, because John had written to Luiza, and because he and Robert had been producing an abstract of the Will it was possible to correlate the various documents to produce evidence of Elizabeth’s intentions.

With the agreement of the legatees whose legacies had been obliterated, Robert William and John swore an affidavit which enabled probate to be granted on the 15th of October 1829. It was one of the last acts of John Halhed who was buried on the 4th of December 1829. He was survived by eleven of his eighteen children.

You can read a transcript of Elizabeth’s Will here, and also a transcript of the Will of Robert Halhed. As Elizabeth’s Will makes no mention of Jamaica and her legacies are mostly in 3 per cent consols (safe bank investments) it is to be assumed that at some time after her husband Robert’s death she sold the property and invested the proceeds to provide a regular income. As the great days of sugar were largely over, this was a sensible move freeing her from the worries of an absentee landlord. That she was still a wealthy woman, despite her investments having to support her into great old age, is an indication of the wealth accumulated by Richard Halhed in Jamaica and consolidated by Robert in London.

 

 



[1] Providence Island 1630-1641, Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

[2] Much information about the Halhed family may be found at www.halhed.com

 

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.

 

Blocking Legacies to Negroes and Mulattoes

 

In December 1761 the Jamaican Assembly passed an Act, which was subsequently ratified in London, “to prevent the inconveniences arising from exorbitant grants and devises, made by white persons to negroes, and the issue of negroes; and to restrain and limit such grants and devises.” It is sometimes referred to as the Devises Act.

You can read the full text of the Act here.

Owing in part to the shortage of white women settlers in Jamaica, and to a more relaxed attitude to marriage than would be the case a century later, many white planters and other European migrants formed relationships with non-whites both free and enslaved.  The children resulting from these relationships were often brought up in what amounted to a stable family situation, and their education and welfare was provided for in the Wills of their white fathers.  In many cases the children were apprenticed to a trade, or sent to England for a liberal education in one of the professions.  Many had careers in the Army or Navy, as merchants, or later in the 18th century in the developing colonies of south Asia.  Where there were no legitimate offspring to inherit the wealth the father had accumulated in Jamaica, that wealth and property, including slaves, was often left to their illegitimate mixed race children.  It was this that the act of 1761 was designed to prevent or at least to limit.

Under the act the amount that a child could inherit was to be limited to £2000 which although it was a large amount of money, equivalent perhaps to £286,000 today using the retail price index, or £2,850,000 relative to average earnings[1], was a mere fraction of the total of some of the larger estates.  The act was designed to prevent the leaving of a larger legacy to “any negro whatever, or to any mulatto, or other person not being in their own issue born in lawful wedlock, and being the issue of a negro, and deemed a mulatto.”  This therefore restricted legacies, even if left to a legitimate child, where that child was mixed race and at least one eighth black.  Nor could the restriction be avoided by leaving the property in trust to a white person on behalf of such child.  The  limitation of £2000 even extended to property left by such a mixed-race person to their children.  The only exception related to those mixed race Jamaicans who had already been granted the legal status of white persons.

In the event, until this act was later repealed, it was possible for white planters and others who had made their fortune in Jamaica to apply for a private act of the Jamaican Assembly to permit them to transmit their inheritance to their children, or to remove their property from Jamaica.

Robert Cooper Lee who had four mixed-race children born illegitimate in Jamaica, and was responsible as a trustee and guardian for his illegitimate mixed-race nephews, made such an application in December, 1776, in an Act “to authorize and enable Robert Cooper Lee, late of the Island of Jamaica, but now of the kingdom of Great Britain, esquire, to settle and dispose of his estates, both real and personal in this island, by deed or will as he shall think proper, notwithstanding an Act of the Governor, Council and Assembly of this island, intituled, an Act to prevent inconveniences arising from exorbitant grants and devises made by white persons and the issue of negroes and to restrain and limit such grants and devises.”

What is in many ways most interesting, is that three members of the Assembly dissented from the act and a copy of their objections remains at the East Sussex County Record Office at Lewes as part of the Jamaica papers of Fuller family of Rosehill in Brightling – ref: ESRO SAS/RF 20/66.  A transcription of this is included at the end of the text of the 1761 Act.

The three dissenters were Norwood Witter, Edward Clarke, and William Wynter.  Witter and Clarke were both members of the assembly for Westmorland, and William Wynter served on the Assembly as a member for St Thomas in the Vale, St Thomas in the East, and St Catherine at various times.  In 1757 he became a member of the Jamaican Council. He has already been mentioned here as the father of Thomas Wynter, mixed race son of Mary Johnson Rose.

In a clearly set out document they argued that the proposed act was unconstitutional because it restricted the right of a British citizen to leave his property as he wished; that it would encourage vexatious law suits based on the mere suggestion that someone’s ancestor was of mixed race; that limiting the financial transactions that could be made by mixed race Jamaicans might encourage them to take their money out of the island and even to emigrate; and that it restricted a father from providing for his children even where they had received a liberal education and looked white.  They also regarded it as unreasonable to penalise “a quiet and peaceable people who have ever shown themselves true and faithful to the White Inhabitants” and who had shown themselves highly supportive during the recent slave uprising.  In summary, they said:

We think it unreasonable.

As we apprehend it lays the Penalty on the innocent, We deem it severe

As we apprehend it tends to depopulate the Country, it is impolitic

As we apprehend it takes away the Right of Free Born Britons, it is unconstitutional

And as it lays a restraint on the parental affection it is unnatural

And on the whole we think it equally Inconsistent with Liberty, sound Policy, and pure Religion. 

Their objections however were overruled and the bill was passed into law on the 19th of December 1761.

Between 1768 and 1790 thirteen private Acts were passed giving the right to dispose of property as the person thought fit, including the example of Robert Cooper Lee above. They included Thomas Wynter, and in some cases also listed the names of the children who were at the same time being granted the rights of white people.

Perhaps the most interesting is that of 1784 granting the right to dispose of her property to a free quadroon, Sarah Morris of Kingston. She left her estate to her natural daughter Charlotte Stirling (daughter of a wealthy Scottish planter Robert Stirling) who was also granted the rights of a white person. During that period she was the only woman to obtain such a right.

The others who obtained the rights were:

1768 William Patrick Bourne of St John

1775 George Brooks of St Elizabeth

1776 Robert Cooper Lee

1777 John Williams of St Ann

1783 Thomas Wynter,  and William Wright of Portland

1784 Sarah Morris (as above), Patrick Duncan of St Ann and Thomas Roper of Portland

1787 John Angwin of St Ann

1788 John Russell of Clarendon

1789 George Lesslie of Westmorland

1790 George Bedward



[1] Source: http://www.measuringworth.com

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!

 

 

Mary Johnston Rose – How to become legally white

Sample of eighteenth century Indian chintz.

The Spanish Town census, featured here recently, listed three people who were described as “free Mulattoes or Descendants from them admitted to the privileges of white people by Acts of the Legislature”.

They included Mary Johnston Rose and her son Thomas Wynter. Mary was a free mulatto, the daughter of Elizabeth Johnston who died in 1753 a free negro. Mary may have been born as early as 1700 when there is the baptism of a Mary Elizabeth daughter of Elizabeth Johnston ‘a negro wench’ on 5th July 1700. If this is the right mother and daughter then Elizabeth was probably a house slave at the time and later freed. It seems probable that Mary’s father was one of the Rose family, possibly Francis Rose (1656-1720), or William Rose (d. about 1724).

There is no record of how Mary acquired her education, but that she did so at a time when most women, whatever their colour, were illiterate suggests that she had a favoured upbringing at the hands of her father.

Mary was said to be related to Rose Fuller (a plantation owner and key player in island politics; Francis Rose was his great-uncle and William Rose his cousin) and she was his housekeeper for about twenty years until he returned to England in the summer of 1755, landing at Portsmouth on the 18th August. The role of housekeeper frequently equated to that of common law wife and there was clearly a strong degree of affection between Mary and her employer who was the acknowledged father of her son William.

After Rose Fuller left Jamaica he sent her various items, including a carpet. In May 1756 she wrote that these were “such marks of your esteem for me as I shall never forget” and she forwarded a list requesting calimancoe[1] shoes, coarse linen (probably for servant or slave clothing), chintz (perhaps Indian chintz such as pictured above), tea and a white beaver hat. She sent him some boxes of sweetmeats “which will serve to remind you that you have left here a person who always thinks of you”. In a further letter in December 1756 she wrote “I most heartily thank you for all your favours which have been very great to me, but notwithstanding them, I have often known the want of your being here, since your departure. May you long enjoy your health is the sincere wish of your most affectionate honourable servant Mary Rose”.

Clearly she missed him, but knew that she would never see him again.

Mary had two sons by different fathers – Thomas Wynter who was probably the son of Dr William Wynter; and William Fuller – born on the 28th of January and baptised on the 18th of April 1735 – who was the son of Dr Rose Fuller. From a letter written by her nephew Robert Kelly to Rose Fuller in 1758 we know that William Fuller was sent to England to be educated at his father’s expense, but as nothing further is heard of him it seems he probably died young. Robert Kelly was the son of Mary’s sister Ann Rose, and his father was one of the five Kelly brothers whose Wills are on this website, most probably John Kelly who died in 1740.

Mary also had a sister Sarah Johnson, a niece called Peg whose child she took in when Peg was drowned in a storm, and nephew and niece John Schutz Johnson and Ann Rose – Sarah’s children.

Thomas Wynter, William Fuller and Robert Kelly were all classified by Jamaican society as quadroons and as such did not have the same rights as white people, although having mothers who were free meant they too were free. However in 1745 Mary applied for herself and her sons to be accorded the same rights as whites, and in 1746 the English parliament confirmed an Act of the Jamaican Assembly granting those rights.

“At the Court of St. James 17.12.1746.  Present the King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council.  Whereas the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica with the Council and Assembly of the said Island did in 1745 pass an Act which hath been transmitted in the words following viz An Act to Intitle Mary Johnston Rose of the Parish of St. Catherines in the said Island, a free mulatto woman and her sons Thomas Wynter and William Fuller begotten by white fathers to the same rights and privileges with English subjects born of white parents.  The Act was confirmed, finally enacted and ratified accordingly.”

This was not a wholly unusual event, there were a handful of such Acts each year from the early eighteenth century onwards, but the proportion of all the mixed race adults and children granted such rights was small and it does indicate that Mary had some influence over her own position, albeit presumably through the fathers of her sons, both of whom were members of the Assembly at the time.

Had her sons been born a few years later their position would have been more difficult, for in December 1761 the Jamaican Assembly, alarmed by the numbers of mixed race illegitimate children of the Plantocracy inheriting from their white fathers, passed an Act to “prevent exorbitant grants and devises to Negroes”.  William Wynter was one of three men to sign a protest against the Bill.

Nevertheless the Act was made law and so in 1783 Mary’s son Thomas was forced to petition for the rights of his own mixed race children William Rose Wynter and Mary Mede.  The baptism record for William Rose Wynter lists him as a mulatto so it is possible his mother was black.

Although Thomas Wynter was listed as a Millwright in the 1754 census, by the time of his death in 1789 he was able to leave £1000 to his daughter Mrs Mead, and an annuity to Mrs Hemming the mother of his two children, and to direct that Hampshire Plantation and Prospect Penn and all his other real estate and slaves in Jamaica should be sold by his Executors for the benefit of his children. His estate was valued at £65,820 and the money from the sale was put in trust invested in securities in England.

After a career in the Army, William Rose Wynter ended his days in England dying in Devon in 1846, and his sister married an English vicar and also left Jamaica for England. The descendants of William Rose Wynter through his son Thomas Rose Wynter can be tracked down through the nineteenth century, also in the Indian Army and later in Cornwall. The descendants of Mary Elizabeth Wynter Mead nee Hemmings can be tracked into the late twentieth century.

When Rose Fuller died in 1777 he left his house in Spanish Town to the lifetime use of Mary Johnson (sic) Rose “to whose care and attention under God I conceive my life has been more than once preserved in several dangerous illnesses I had in Jamaica”. He left her an annuity of £100 Jamaican currency (worth a bit over £70 sterling) annually for her lifetime, which was the continuance of a similar annuity he was already paying her. She was also left the lifetime use of the contents of the house except for what might be needed for the use of his attorneys managing his property from the Grange, and he requested, but did not require, that she might live at the Grange Pen to assist the attorneys when necessary. Mary was also left the use of six female slaves with any children they might have, again for her lifetime; and mention is made of her chaise and horse. Clearly she was left well provided for, but she later supplemented her annuity by letting out lodgings and she was able to buy her house in Spanish Town. She died a relatively wealthy woman.

On the 19th of March 1783 the parish register for St Catherine recorded the burial of “Mary Rose mulatto Old Age”. She had reached the age of over seventy and possibly as much as eighty three, a very good age in Jamaica, after a full life which had seen her and her sons become legally white.

 

If you would like to know more about women and the African Diaspora, and about Mary Rose, you can find it in Gendering the African Diaspora, Indiana University Press 2010, which contains a paper by Linda L. Sturtz entitled Mary Rose: “White” African Jamaican Woman? Race and Gender in Eighteenth Century Jamaica.

The letters written by Mary Rose and others referring to her are in the collection of the Fuller papers held at the East Sussex County Record Office at Lewes, England.



[1] Calimancoe was a dense, and expensive fabric used for shoes, stiffened petticoats and waistcoats. It was a shiny fabric with a striped or chequered pattern made of wool with silk or mohair.

 

Spanish Town Census 1754

 

Reproduced by kind permission of the East Sussex County Record Office ref: ESRO SAS/RF 20/7

 

Held at the East Sussex County Record Office at Lewes as part of the Jamaica papers of Fuller family of Rosehill in Brightling, is a copy of a census of Spanish Town, otherwise known by its Spanish name of St Jago de la Vega; its reference is ESRO SAS/RF 20/7.

In July and August 1754 Charles White undertook the task of surveying the whole of St Jago de la Vega in order to create a census of all the white population and the free Negroes and Mulattoes. The only persons excluded were those gentlemen who were occasional residents during the sitting of the Assembly and the law courts. White attested that he had taken

Particular Account of the Houses and the Annual Rents or Estimate of Rents of the said Houses in and belonging to the said Town and Suburbs of St Jago de la Vega and of the Number of people of free Condition in each Family by going thro the different Streets Lanes Allies and Places thereof and by calling at or enquiring concerning each respective and Distinct Tenement and concerning the Number of People in each Family and that the annexed Account is the most exact he could with his utmost diligence procure of the Number of houses and the Rents of them and of the Number of persons of free Condition that were in the said Town att the time he took the said Account, exclusive of Gentlemen who appear by the said Account to have Houses therein and who come there occasionally to attend the Service of the Country as Members of the Council and Assembly and Judges of the Suprem(sic) Court of Judicature.

In total he recorded 866 white people and 405 free Negroes and Mulattoes. Slaves were of course not included. He also recorded the rental value of each property, the names of the owner and the occupier and the occupation of the latter. Additional notes give us information about the owners, for example that they were normally resident in Kingston or owned a plantation in some other parish than St Catherine.

You can find the full transcription of the census here, but in the meantime here is a quick breakdown.

 

The occupations of the white residents are recorded as follows:

11 Attorneys, 5 Barristers and one councillor at law

2 Bakers, 2 Barbers, 2 Blacksmiths (one who was also a provision planter)

1 Bookbinder and 3 Bookkeepers

2 Bricklayers (one of whom was also a provision planter)

9 Carpenters, of whom one combined his work with being Coroner, farmer and provision planter

13 Clerks working in offices, for merchants or the courts and two of whom were also planters

1 Deputy Marshall, a Deputy Clerk of the Peace and a Dancing Master

2 Factors, a Fisherman and a Gardener

5 Gentlemen (one a planter and Justice of the Peace)

1 Housekeeper

20 Hucksters (who would have sold their wares on the street or from booths), one also a carpenter

2 Iron Mongers

1 Jew Butcher

8 keeping Lodgings

2 Mantua Makers

6 Merchants (one combining it with being a planter and farmer)

2 Midwives

2 Millwrights (one combining with being a provision and ginger planter)

1 Music Master and Organist (who had died between Charles White taking the census and writing it up)

John Venn the Parish priest who was also a planter

1 Penkeeper and a Peruke Maker

3 Physicians who were also planters; 4 physicians who were also surgeons (2 being provision planters); and 2 Surgeons

85 Planters, of whom one was Island Secretary, one a Member of the Assembly, one combined it with being butcher, one was clerk of the vestry and one a shopkeeper.

2 Provision Traders, a Retailer and a Riding Master

3 Sadlers

4 School Mistresses and 3 School Masters (one also a planter)

3 Seamstresses

3 Shoemakers, one a provision planter

23 shopkeepers, one resident in Kingston, one with a provision mountain and one a provision planter

1 reader to the Synagogue

3 Silver Smiths and a Surveyor

5 Tavernkeepers who variously combined it with being a silversmith, shoemaker, planter and pen keeper

4 Tailors (two of whom were also planters)

1 Upholder (i.e. upholsterer)

3 Watchmakers and a Wheelwright

11 households were made up of Orphans and there were 18 Widows

One man was Blind and 27 Properties were untenanted.

Three people in the survey of whites were recorded as being “free Mulattoes or Descendants from them admitted to the privileges of white people by Acts of the Legislature”. They were Mary Rose, her son Thomas Wynter, and Susan Hosier.

 

Of the free Negro and Mulatto inhabitants their occupations included:

4 Bricklayers

17 Carpenters (including 4 planters and one who was also a cooper), 1 cooper, 1 Sawyer,

1 Coachman, 1 Fisherman, 1 Hawker and 1 keeping Lodgings

2 Doctors, 1 Midwife, 1 Nurse (who was also a provision planter)

1 Cook and 3 Pastry cooks

1 Planter

4 Poulterers,

1 Mantua Maker, 29 Seamstresses and 9 Tailors

1 Schoolmistress, 1 Servant

4 Washers

2 Wheelwrights

4 Widows, 2 Orphans , and 19 persons for whom no occupation is recorded.

64 of the total proprietors in this group are women and 50 are men, but a few appear to be duplicates, with the same or a very similar name owning more than one property. This may reduce the total to 60 women and 45 men.

 

 


Black, White and In Between – Categories of Colour

The Kneeling Slave – ‘Am I not a Man & a Brother’ (oil on canvas) English School (18th century)

© Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: English / out of copyright

 

It is only a generation since the ending of apartheid, and not much longer since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus that December day in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. In my lifetime rental properties in the UK displayed signs saying “No Irish, Blacks or dogs”, and forty years ago I sat with a friend in a rental agency in London as the woman who had just shown us details of several properties turned away a black couple telling them she had nothing on her books. Such is the legacy of slavery and imperialism.

To understand older Jamaican records it can be helpful to know the categories into which people were put for legal and social purposes.

Not all black people, referred to as negroes in old documents, were slaves. Indeed not all white people were free, as a substantial number of indentured servants from Britain sold their labour for a fixed period of years hoping for a better life at the end of it, when if they survived they did become completely free.

There were already free negroes in Jamaica when the British arrived. For example, Peter Moore and Black Betty, free negroes, were married at St Catherine on the 8th November 1677; and Isabella Husee the daughter of Domingo and Maria, free negroes, was baptised at St Catherine on 13th July 1679.

The Spanish conquerors of the island had owned many African slaves whom they freed, or who escaped into the Jamaican interior when the British arrived, becoming the independent and much feared Maroons (probably from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning wild or untamed). There were also still some of the original Arawak or Taino Indians, and occasionally you will come across a reference in the old parish registers to someone as an ‘Indian’. Charles Benoist and Uańah ‘an Indian Woman’ were married in the parish of St Andrew on the 30th May 1675.

Both the church registers and the slave registers categorised people by their colour, but different vicars varied in the extent to which they entered the racial mix of the person being baptised and whether they were illegitimate.  Of course many slaves were not baptised at all and their lives have gone unrecorded unless in slave registers on the plantations they were sold to.

The following explains the categories used throughout the colonial period.

Negro – a black person with two black parents of African origin, but who might have been born in Jamaica and hence might be referred to as a creole.

Creole – any person, whether black, white or mixed race born in a British colony, although over time this has tended to be thought of as referring to someone of mixed race.

Mulatto – a person with one negro and one white parent.

Sambo –  a person with one parent a negro and the other mulatto i.e one quarter white.

Quadroon – the child of a white person and a mulatto i.e. one quarter black, with one grandparent of African origin.

Mustee, Mestee or Octaroon – a person who is one-eighth black i.e. with one black great grandparent.

Mesteefeena – a rarely used term for the child of a white parent and a mestee. One-sixteenth black, they were legally regarded as white and free.

You will often come across references in Wills to legacies left for a white man’s ‘housekeeper’. In the Jamaican context this almost always means a woman living with a man effectively as his wife, but not married to him, and who was the mother of his ‘reputed children’.  In the case of better-off white men, often they lived with a free mulatto or quadroon woman who might have property of her own including slaves. Another time I will tell some of the stories of their children.

In the mid eighteenth century the Jamaican Plantocracy and Merchants became concerned at the amounts of money being left to the non-white offspring of wealthy whites. Consequently in October 1761 they passed an Act of the Assembly “to prevent the inconveniences arising from exorbitant grants and devises made by white persons to negroes, and the issue of negroes, and to restrain and limit such grants and devises”.  This limited the amount that could be inherited by a non-white to £2000. However many white planters wished to leave their wealth to their ‘reputed’ children and consequently took out private Acts in the Jamaican Assembly, which had to be ratified in the London parliament, to enable them to dispose of their property as they wished.

An earlier and more unusual and interesting case is that of Mary Johnston Rose who was ‘housekeeper’ to Dr Rose Fuller and mother of two sons – Thomas Wynter and William Fuller. William was the son of Rose Fuller born on the 28th January 1734/35 and his paternity was acknowledged at his baptism the following April. I suspect Thomas Wynter was the son of Dr William Wynter and born about 1730. I have not yet found a baptism for him but William Wynter left him £50 for mourning in his Will, which left the bulk of his estate to his legitimate son Edward Hampson Wynter.

Mary, who was a free mulatto, applied to have her sons given full legal rights equivalent to white men. In the 1754 census of Spanish Town she is recorded as being legally white and the owner of a house worth £30 a year.

“At the Court of St. James 17.12.1746.  Present the King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council.  Whereas the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica with the Council and Assembly of the said Island did in 1745 pass an Act which hath been transmitted in the words following viz An Act to Intitle Mary Johnston Rose of the Parish of St. Catherines in the said Island, a free mulatto woman and her sons Thomas Wynter and William Fuller begotten by white fathers to the same rights and privileges with English subjects born of white parents.  The Act was confirmed, finally enacted and ratified accordingly.”

There is no mention of William Fuller in his father’s Will and it is likely that he died before him, as Rose Fuller made generous provision for Mary Rose.

Thomas Wynter became a successful and wealthy man, but in spite of his earlier recognition still had to apply for the rights of his (presumably mixed race) illegitimate children William Rose Wynter and Mary Mede.

Thomas Wynter to settle his estate as he shall think fit notwithstanding the Act to “prevent exorbitant grants and devises to Negroes”.

The Act was eventually repealed, but the categorisation of the inhabitants of Jamaica according to their colour and racial mix continued beyond the ending of slavery, made even more complex by the arrival of thousands of Indian ‘coolies’ imported to provide cheap labour after emancipation.