Genealogy of the enslaved of St Kitts

Wingfield estate

Finding genealogical information for families enslaved in the western hemisphere is always a challenge. Information on enslaved people was sparsely recorded (if at all). Slave registers were created in British colonies like St Kitts in the early nineteenth century, after the slave trade was abolished by Great Britain in 1807. The British government sought to document the slave population to prevent the illegal importation of additional slaves, and for the purposes of accurate monetary compensation for slave owners after slavery was abolished in 1834. In these registers, an individual’s name (often only the first name, but in some cases first and last), sex, “color” (a racial designation such as black or mulatto), age, country of origin, and occupation were recorded. In addition, if a slave was added or removed from an owner’s record, the reason for the change was given, including birth, death, or sale to a new owner.

Another source that gives more detailed genealogical information for Kittitian slaves can be found in the Hamilton College Library in Clinton, NY. The Beinecke Collection contains historical documents, maps, letters, and artwork from the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. In particular, there is a body of early 19th century legal documents and letters related to the transfer of the Wingfield sugar plantation from a General Samuel Jeafferson (also spelled Jeaffreson) to the Earl of Romney in the early 18th century. At issue was whether the enslaved people who worked the plantation should have legally remained “attached” to a plantation after the land was sold or leased to a new planter. As part of the evidence accumulated for the case, lists were made of the current slaves with as much detail on family relationships as possible, because the descendants of slaves from the property could still be considered attached. A number of older local residents were interviewed for the making of the lists. There was, for instance, a Misses Douglas, described as “an elderly mulatt. woman of excellent understanding and good memory and excellent character whose mother had been a slave on the Lord Romneys estate and who had resided there many years”.

The ancestry lists provide a fair amount of detail on family relationships for the Wingfield Estate, most of whom bore the surname Jeafferson. Other last names listed included Rose, Silladay, Moss, Spencer, Romney, and Saunders. Examples of some of the Jeafferson lineage given in the lists are

  • Minah Jeafferson (dead) her daughter is Pender Jeafferson about 70 or 80
  • Pender Jeafferson has children Santie Jeafferson, Minah, Betsy Moss, and David Jeafferson all alive
  • Cotto Jeafferson was Pender’s sister, has no children
  • Minah Jeafferson has children
  • Betsy Moss has children
  • Lidy Jeafferson (has children) Hannah Jeafferson (the 2nd)
  • Sue Jeafferson
  • Hannah Jeafferson the 1st has children Beck Jeafferson and Sue Jeafferson
  • Mary Rose
  • Leah Jefferson, dead, had a son Jumah
  • Eva Jeafferson was a twin sister of Hannah and aunt to Sue

The collection also contains two lists of slaves from an estate lease from the period 1697-1712.

One interesting sideline to this story. The Samuel Jeafferson who owned Wingfield Estate may be an ancestor of president Thomas Jefferson. This connection has not been definitely proved, but there is evidence that the owner of St Kitts’ Wingfield Estate had three sons born in the Caribbean, one of whom was named Thomas. Thomas was quite possibly the Thomas Jefferson of Henrico, Virginia who was the great-grandfather of the president.

 

Sources

  1. Ancestry.com. Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1813-1834 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
  2. Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean 1817-1834, UNESCO 2009
  3. Copy of A Lease to Mr. Burrell 1697 for 15 years with an Account of the Slaves and buildings Then on the estate– The Names of the Slaves Specified– This Lease Terminated 1712, Beinecke Collection at Hamilton College Library
  4. Uncovering the Secrets of St Kitts, The Daily Beast 2014
  5. Jefferson’s Ancestry, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc.

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21 Comments

  1. Geralyn Ashhurst (Cardin/Saitch) said:

    Looking for information on Eliza Cook, a slave; and her two children, also born into slavery but all three were freed by her “lover” and their father Richard Edward Cardin.

    September 13, 2018
    Reply
    • Mark Joyce said:

      Hi Geralyn, I have information on Eliza Cook. I have been researching the connection of Richard Edward Cardin to Saitch, Cardin and Ashhurst in some detail. I am on Ancestry site as “Mark Joyce, London” and happy to help.

      March 27, 2019
      Reply
  2. dreamer said:

    Did these people live in St Kitts? Do you know what years, and in which parish? Those details might help with looking for them in old birth, death, and marriage registers from St Kitts.

    September 14, 2018
    Reply
  3. Christine Ferguson said:

    Hi, I’m looking for info about Louis LaPlace, Elodie LaPlace Kinsley (Louis’ daughter), Catherine Jane Nicholls (Elodie’s mom) and John Kinsley (Elodie’s husband) PLEASE. I have been unable to find info about these people. Thanks so much.

    September 23, 2019
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Possibly… I will email you.

      September 23, 2019
      Reply
  4. I would appreciate it any information on the Barnes of St. Kitts W.I. Henrietta, Theophelus, Florence, Sarah., Elizabeth and Lucretia. Thank you so much.

    October 24, 2019
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Approximately what years – are you going back to the 1700s, 1800s, or more recently? I have seen a Sarah Barnes who married William Nichols in the late 1700s in Basseterre.

      October 26, 2019
      Reply
  5. Cee said:

    Any information on Samuel Phillip or Phillips I heard he was a cop , and he was mulatto, probably born in the early 1900’s , mystery for years!

    February 13, 2020
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      No, but I’ll keep an eye out for him!

      February 18, 2020
      Reply
  6. Wingfield said:

    How did the plantation get its name?

    February 18, 2020
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      That’s a really good question! I couldn’t find an obvious answer, but looking at the documents at Hamilton College in the Beinecke Collection, I found one from St Kitts from 1685 that referenced the “plantation or parcel of land in ye Island of St Christophers commonly called Wingfeild Manner”, so certainly by that early date it was called Wingfield. One possible source of the name I found was the first president of the Virginia colony in Jamestown, Virginia, who was an Englishman named Edward Maria Wingfield. He was in Jamestown in 1607 but was apparently stripped of his office and sent back to England (based on some fairly flimsy charges). He continued to raise funds and send supplies to the Virginia colony through the time that John Jeffreason was in Jamestown (Jeffreason left Virginia in 1624 for St Kitts). Could John Jeffreason have named the estate after Edward Wingfield?

      February 18, 2020
      Reply
  7. Edwin A Swanston said:

    Looking for information on Abraham Swanston married to Rebecca Hobson, Abraham born circa 1830, interested in parents and siblings

    June 6, 2020
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Do you know what part of the island Abraham and Rebecca lived in? I’ve seen the surname Swanston in St Ann parish.

      June 8, 2020
      Reply
  8. Edwin A Swanston said:

    I know he was born in Nevis. Further, from the info sent by to me by my cousin he had eight children and was a Preacher in the Methodist Church in Gingerland which I believe is in Stonyhill Nevis. He worked as an estate manager.

    June 8, 2020
    Reply
  9. jerry crawford said:

    Hi any information for the crawfords st kitts

    June 29, 2020
    Reply
  10. jerry crawford said:

    Hi do you have any info about a Robert Langley. if the story is right his mother was from Madera who went back with her daughter/sister and i believe his father was a headmaster from Montserrat who settled in St Kitts. there is an Iona Langley somewhere in the mix.Thanks

    June 29, 2020
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Do you have any approximate dates (or decades) for Robert or Iona? Any surname for the mother from Madera? I can do some hunting with a little more to go on.

      June 29, 2020
      Reply
  11. Leslie Caines said:

    I would like some information on samuel nathan my mother’s father apparently started first trades union in sk

    August 16, 2020
    Reply
  12. Sarah Webb said:

    I’m trying to find out information on what part of Africa did the first slaves of St Kitts and Nevis come from I read from Senegal and I’m trying to find out the Douglas and Gould family History

    September 6, 2020
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Hi Sarah –
      A DNA test is a good way to get information on specific African countries of origin. You could also play around with this tool on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade website :
      https://slavevoyages.org/assessment/estimates
      There’s lots of information there – you can drill down to only ships that disembark in the British Caribbean, under the “regions” choice.
      I think my husband may have a Gould connection through his Cannonier ancestors – there was an Ann Marie Gould who married Thomas Tobias Cannonier, who was a planter on the Pogsons Estate in St John Capiesterre parish – she died in 1871.

      September 6, 2020
      Reply

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