As you may have seen in the last few posts, I am exploring my slave owning ancestors. It’s not quite the ‘Blood Legacy: ‘reckoning with a family’s story of slavery’ by Alex Renton that has been recommended to me, but that’s one I will check out (not least because its reckoning theme is part of what I am trying to do with this series of posts).
Most of my ancestors involved with the slave trade owned plantations on the Island of Nevis in the West Indies, and through marriage not only were they connected to most of the other plantation owners there but also across the Leeward Islands. What’s been difficult is to find out more about the family history of some these ancestors before they appear on these islands because what is publicly available is patchy.
From what I have been told that patchiness is the result of various fires, invasions and earthquakes that over the centuries have destroyed a lot of the original documents. For example, during the French invasion of Nevis in 1706 records were “burned in the street” hence the earliest record that the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) are working on being from 1705.
In my recent post on the Russell Family, I explain 3 of 4 siblings identified so far were early settlers of St. Kitts and Nevis. I can’t find anything about their ancestry including where they hailed from, but am pretty clear that ancestor Lt. Col. Randal (or Randolph) Russell, arrived in about 1637 based on a deposition he made that is cited in The history of the island of Antigua, one of the Leeward Caribbees in the West Indies, from the first settlement in 1635 to the present time (1894) by Oliver, Vere Langford. And some idea of the later legacies relating to the plantations and slaves he and his brother James owned, as well as how that wealth was consolidated through marriages with related and other famlies in subsequent generations (see posts on Madan and Nisbet families). What has been less clear is how and when his broher James and sister Anne came to be there. In her case, the how is linked to her appearing to be the 3rd wife of Sir Thomas Warner who is noted for settling on Saint Kitts and establishing it in 1624 as the first English colony in the Caribbean (see wiki entry). What I don’t know is when she married Sir Thomas and if that was before or after her 2 brothers had settled there. I’ve found a few more clues about her brother James though in Colonising Expeditions to the West Indies and Guiana, 1623-1667 (2017) by V.T. Harlow
Following my previous Skeletons in the closet post, this is the first of a new series that looks at ancestor families with links to the slave trade. This one looks at the Madan family, but I think I may have got in a muddle about them. `I’ve now worked out that it was Martin Madan (1700 – 1756) who was the Colonel and MP, not his father who was also called Martin (1653 – 1704). The younger one married the English Poet Judith Cowper and they both have wiki entries (see his and hers):
Martin Madan the MP also has a biography on History of Parliament site, which explains that he was the 1st son of Martin Madan of Nevis, West Indies by Penelope, daughter of Col. Sir James Russell (member of the council of Nevis). The biography also explains that Martin Madan (the father) was from an old Waterford family, emigrated from Ireland to the West Indies about 1682 and acquired plantations in Nevis and St. Kitts.
Every new ancestor I discover means there are two more to find. I found my 7 x great grandmother Judith Cowper mentioned in The history of the island of Antiguaone of the Leeward Caribbees in the West Indies, from the first settlement in 1635 to the present time (1894) by Vere Langford Oliver. She’s included in the pedigree of the Russell Family: