Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How Black Caribbeans Got Their Last Names During Slavery

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of a continuing pancocojams series on names and naming practices in the Caribbean.

This post provides extensive excerpts from four online articles about Black Caribbeans surnames (last names) during slavery. The Addendum to this post is an excerpt from an online article about the history of Scottish and Irish people who were deported to Barbados.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

I'm quoting these articles to help preserve and disseminate this information.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

These article excerpts are given in no particular order. I've assigned numbers to these excerpts for referencing purposes only.
Excerpt #1:
..."Although slavery in the British Caribbean officially ended on 1 August 1834, most former slaves were apprenticed to their former masters for a period of four years. Only children under the age of six, and slaves in Antigua and the Bahamas (who had passed local laws abolishing apprenticeship) were freed immediately. Therefore, for most people, slavery did not officially end until 1 August 1838....

The clues in surnames

Standard genealogical research in the UK relies on three assumptions:
-People have surnames.
-The surname is passed on from the father to his children.
-Most parents get married usually before, or around the time of the first child.

For Caribbean researchers, this is not necessarily the case:
Most children were born outside marriage and therefore registered under their mother's name. To complicate matters they might have later taken on their father's name.

Women might have had children by different men, and men might have had children by different women. Some children might have been born before marriage.

Until emancipation, enslaved people did not have legal surnames. However, it is apparent, from runaway notices and manumission registers that many enslaved people used surnames before freedom even if they were not recognised by the owner or state.

It is believed that freed slaves adopted or were given the surname of their owner, but research shows that although this did happen, there were other options available to free men and women:
-Surname of an owner - this could be the last owner or a former owner.

-Surname of father - a white master or employee, a freed man, a slave from another plantation, or the name of the father's former or original owner.

-Surname of mother.

-Last forename - many captives had multiple names that were often used to differentiate between slaves who had similar first names. Many were surnames of local people and may have been kept as a surname after emancipation.

-Chosen the surname - freed men and women could choose their surname, maybe to confirm family ties, to disassociate themselves from former owners, or after influential people.

-Given by the church or state for official purposes.

Although men and women could chose their surnames on emancipation, most, if not all, chose surnames from those among the local population."

Excerpt #2:
"Slave Names & Naming in Barbados" bimjim, Dec 31, 2012
"WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY, Vol 53 (1996) pps 685-728 - "Slave Names & Naming in Barbados", by Jerome S. Handler & JoAnn Jacoby. [Extracts]

How slaves adopted or were assigned surnames is another issue.

Writing in the early nineteenth century about the growth of the freedman population (free blacks and mulattoes) in Barbados, J. W. Orderson, a white Creole, reported that most slaves who purchased their freedom were already baptized; when they were manumitted, they added "to their Christian name that of their owner's family." Illustrations of Orderson's observation can be found in the Newton plantation records.

Several manumitted or about to be manumitted slaves seem to have adopted the names of Newton owners, though the records are unclear as to whether these names were legally recognized or informally acknowledged by plantation authorities. For example, Dolly refers to herself as Dolly Newton in an 1807 letter to Thomas Lane who, with his brother John, owned Newton and Seawell, requesting that her manumission be "executed."

Elizabeth Ann, a manumitted Newton slave, appears with two surnames (Miler and Newton) in another document. Another woman is referred to as "Jenny Lane, a slave," in a document prior to her manumission and calls herself Jane Lane in a letter to John and Thomas Lane; she is referred to as "Jenny, a free black woman" in the deed by which the Lane brothers sold to Jenny her two sons, whom she hoped to manumit herself. Such examples apart, it must be emphasized that only a minute fraction of Barbadian slaves were manumitted-far below 1 percent of the total slave population-and an even smaller percentage gained freedom through self-purchase.

There was no clear tendency for slaves with surnames to bear the names of their owners or other slave masters. For example, at Newton and Seawell during 1796, some fourteen slaves had second names that may have been surnames, e.g. Banton, Knight, Spencer, Rogers, Straker, Scott, and Saer, none of which was the name of an owner or a known manager. George Saer carried his white father's names, and, although his father may have been connected to Newton, he had not been an owner; none of the other possibly surnamed slaves had the same name as any of the plantations' seventeenth- or eighteenth- century owners. Moreover, all of these slaves had been born at either Newton or Seawell. Likewise, the 1791 Seawell list contains some six slaves with possible surnames (e.g., Williams, Thomas, Sergeant), but none of these names could be associated with any of Seawell's owners or managers.

We sought data on slave surnames by sampling hundreds (out of thousands) of slave baptism registrations for five parishes from the mid-182os to 1834. The registers give the names of the stave, the mother, the plantation, and the slave-owner. Most of the slaves had single names, but double names-e.g., Sarah Kitty, John Thomas, Mary Patience, Betty Frances, Mary Ann-were not uncommon. Some of these double names were possibly or probably surnames, but rarely were these the nme of the slave's owner. Very typical examples include: Henry Barrow was owned by Samuel Ramsey, James Lewis was owned by Alice Squires, Samuel Livingston by David Hall, John Alleyne by Benjamin Hinds, and Charlotte Holder by John Higginson. Only Elizabeth Cobham bore the surname of her owner, Catherine Cobham; Hester Cadogan was baptized as an infant, and her mother's owner was Ward Cadogan. The registers undoubtedly contain more cases of this kind, but the sample indicates that slaves generally had surnames that differed from those of their owners.

Scores of runaway ads in several newspapers during the late 1700s and early 1800s yield similar results. Most of the slaves mentioned were known only by a single Christian or Anglo-European name and less often by a double name, and rarely is the second of these double names identifiable as a surname; in such cases, the name is always different from that of the owner who is advertising for the runaway. Thus, as with the parish registers, the newspaper ads offer no evidence that surnames were taken from the names of the masters who owned the slaves in question.

The adoption of surnames increased toward the end of the slave period and accelerated after emancipation, when the ex-slaves required surnames for such legal purposes as land titles, marriages, and death certificates. Ex-slaves took the Anglo-European names available on the island, including those of slave-owners, plantation overseers, or other whites. We have no systematically collected data to establish the frequency of this practice or the criteria employed in selecting surnames. In all, there seems to have been no marked tendency for Barbadian slaves to bear their owners' surnames, but the criteria used in adopting or assigning surnames remain beyond the ability of our data to resolve.

Footnote: It is possible that slaves sometimes adopted the names of poor or other classes of whites, such as plantation militia tenants, hucksters, tradesmen, town dwellers, or even British military or naval officers or men with whom they were in contact. Females may have adopted the names of white men with whom they had continuing sexual relations-a practice not uncommon on plantations with lower-echelon whites as well as the slave masters themselves and in the towns. Rachael Pringle-Polgreen, a legendary late 18th-century tavern owner who had been born a slave, rejected the name of her biological white father, who her when she was a child and who mistreated her, and took the last names of two white benefactors-lovers, one of whom had been a British naval officer."
No names were given in this article. A warning about possible virus came up when I clicked on the website which is cited in this article.

Excerpt #3
"The diversity of Jamaica's people and their surnames is reflected in the island's Motto, "Out of Many One People." The inhabitants of Jamaica came from many different countries.

In 1655 the English, under the command of William Penn and Robert Venables, captured Jamaica from the Spanish who had had possession of the island from the time of its discovery by Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) in 1494. Some of those who sailed with Penn and Venables remained in Jamaica (see the list at Penn and Venables). To encourage settlers to go to Jamaica to populate and develop the island, land grants and incentives were given. Gradually the population of white inhabitants increased, as others purchased land, and some established estates and plantations. Emigrants went to the island to work on the estates as overseers or bookkeepers. British soldiers were stationed on the island to protect it from invaders, and some of the soldiers remained as residents. Governors and other officials, and workers in the Government Service were sent to the island. Merchants, sailors, clergy and people in other professions immigrated to the island. Some were sent to the island as indentured servants. Others were prisoners who were sentenced to transportation to the island. The British surnames of all these people represent the bulk of the surnames found in Jamaica."...

Excerpt #4:
From "Early Common Last Names in Jamaica" Copyright Sharon Tomlin 2007
"Family names of Jamaican people have been passed on through a mixture of enforced slavery, early European settlers, new immigrants to the island post 1834 Emancipation from slavery that consisted of indentured such groups of people would include people of African, Chinese, Indian ( East Indian), Jewish and European ancestry.

This section aims to illustrate the main families that settled in Jamaica after the capture of Jamaica from the Spanish during the 17th century. Registration of baptisms, marriages and burials began during the late – 17th century. During the early stages of settlement of primarily European and enslaved African people, records for vital events were held by the Church of England.

This section is subdivided into parishes that lists the most commonly occurring last names of early settlers to Jamaica before 1800. Most of the names are of European extract with hardly any presence of African sounding names recorded in the index. The names of African Jamaicans were recorded as part of the enslaved people.

Note on spelling. The names are documented as appears in the records. Spelling variations do occur that requires attention. Reasons for spelling variations range from written errors made on the part of Rector/Registrar, the family being unaware of the correct spelling and pronunciations that tends to lead to names being spelt phonetically.

It will be continually updated as more records become available. Please feel free to submit names that are omitted from a particular parish.
The list of surnames are found by clicking the tab for parish names on the far right of that page. Those lists just cite the last names with no differentiation between White or non-White person having those names. Also, those names aren't given in any numerical order.

Here's a hyperlink for one page:

From "Barbado'ed and The Redlegs"
Post by bimjim, Nov 03, 2010 2:14 pm [link no longer active]

The fascinating story of the descendents of Scotland's sugar slaves how they came to be and the nature of their existence as but poor whites eking out a subsistence existence.

Known as the Redlegs, they are the direct descendants of the Scots transported to Barbados by Cromwell after the Civil War. Scottish author and broadcaster Chris Dolan went to meet them to discover why they are still here 350 years later, what they know about their roots, and what their prospects are today when they are the poorest community on the island.

Chris speaks to leading historians in Barbados and Scotland about how their ancestors were treated when they first arrived. Was their plight as severe as that of the black slaves from Africa? Nearly two centuries after emancipation, this Redleg community has yet to find a role on the island, where it is damned by association with the days of slavery, even though many of its forbears were victims themselves. In recent years, it has begun to come out of its racial isolation; could there yet be a hopeful future for this lost Scottish tribe?

The Redlegs
When Cromwell transported fifty thousand Irish slaves to Barbados during an unprecedented act of ethnic cleansing they disappeared from the history books. In a one hour documentary we uncover the facts of the “Barbadosed” Irish and discover whether the island’s Redlegs, a small reclusive community made pallid and weak from 300 years of inbreeding, strong rum and insufficient food is the living legacy of those white slaves.

In a one hour documentary in Irish we explore this neglected episode in Irish history and unravel the mystery of these forgotten people by reconstructing the conditions which greeted the Irish when they arrived in Barbados, the horrific labour they had to perform in the sugar fields, the branding irons with which they were labeled like chattels, and how they had to build their own shelters or perish."

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