Monday, 31 March 2014

Finding Charlotte Taylor

I began the hunt for Charlotte Taylor in the Slave Registers of Jamaica on Ancestry. There were two and a half pages of Charlotte Taylors! They were in all different parishes, all over the island. It was a very popular name for a slave and I wondered if the Honourable Simon Taylor had anything to do with this!1

The Slave Registers

Stokes Hall Today
Finding my Charlotte Taylor, the lady of James Sproule of Mellmount, looked at first as if it was going to be a daunting task. She did not appear on the Slave Registers of Stokes Hall, where James Sproule had worked, nor was she on his home plantation of Rosemount. As I was double checking these, I realised I was on the wrong track altogether.  

The Slave Registers of Jamaica in Ancestry begin with the year 1817. Charlotte was not a slave at this time. She had been a ‘free quadroon’ on the baptism record of her second child, William Taylor Sproule, in 1816. So none of these Charlotte Taylors were my Charlotte Taylor! Equally, it was also possible that Charlotte’s mother had been a free mulatto, in which case Charlotte would have been free when she was born – she may never have been a slave at any time.

In Familysearch

That left me with the Jamaican Parish Records on Familysearch. Again, there was a long list of Charlotte Taylors here, and I had so little to go on. I knew that Charlotte was a quadroon and that she had her first child in 1814. So I guessed that her age at that time would be anything from 14 to about 24. On a quick scan down the ‘Charlotte Taylors’ in Familysearch, there were surprisingly only two that were in the right age range.2 

One of these had been born in 1794, but her mother was a negro woman. My Charlotte’s mother would have been mulatto.  However, the other Charlotte Taylor fit perfectly!  She was one of 48 slaves baptised on the 17th March 1798. Charlotte was in a smaller group of four slaves that had been marked with the term ‘Quadroon’.

Charlotte Taylor Born 1795

This had to be her. I couldn’t believe that I had found her so easily!  Charlotte Taylor, the lady of James Sproule of Mellmount, had definitely been born as a slave in Jamaica. Her birth year was given as 1795, so Charlotte Taylor had been 19 at the birth of her first child, Margaret Madden Sproule. But it was when I saw where she was born that I got those prickly tingles you get when you know that a story is coming together.

Charlotte Taylor was born on Golden Grove, and Golden Grove was one of the homes of the Honourable Simon Taylor. 

But much more than this, Simon Taylor himself mentions this Charlotte Taylor, quadroon child of Golden Grove, in a document dated 1813. And I might even have a description of her!

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story


1 Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 Class: T71; Piece: 145
2 Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, Familysearch

Friday, 28 March 2014

Charlotte Taylor - Quadroon

In 1835, Charlotte Sproule was living with her family in Ireland and she was the grand lady of the Mellmount mansion in County Tyrone. However, Charlotte had been born in Jamaica as Charlotte Taylor, and Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon.  At this point in my research, I knew full well the implications of that term.

In those days of colonial Jamaica, race was important. Each Jamaican child was labelled very clearly at baptism, using terms that identified the racial mix. Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. This meant that she had been born of a mulatto mother and a white father. Charlotte's mulatto mother was mixed race - she had a negro mother and a white father. Charlotte's father had been white, and her grandfather was also white.

Race Culture in Jamaica

There were strange attitudes to race in the white culture of Jamaica at that time. Men, both married and single, felt free to have sexual relations with slaves of all colours. However, many white men went on to form a long-term relationship with a mulatto or a quadroon lady. The man would then live quite openly with this woman and her children.

"Every unmarried white man has his black or his brown mistress, with whom
he lives openly; and of so little consequence is this thought, that his white female
friends and relations think it no breach of decorum to visit his house, partake of
his hospitality, fondle his children, and converse with his housekeeper..." (James Stewart, 1813)1

But at the same time, white was white, and other colours were socially unacceptable. A quadroon lady might be recognised as his woman, but she was not accepted into society, and neither were her children. She lived in his house, but she was not its mistress, she was known as the ‘housekeeper’.

Marriage was out of the question. It was not illegal in Jamaica to marry a mulatto or a quadroon woman, but it was totally unacceptable:

“It would be considered an indeniable stain in the character of a white
man to enter into a matrimonial bondage with one of them (a woman of color); he would be despised in the community and excluded from all society on that account.” (J. B. Moreton, 1790)

 What, then, of Charlotte Taylor?

Daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor?

Simon Taylor
According to my information, Charlotte was supposed to have been the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor.  As a quadroon, she was certainly not his legitimate child. 

When I looked up the Honourable Simon Taylor, the Google machine lit up! Simon Taylor was a very famous man. He was born in Jamaica in 1739, was a plantation owner and a member of the Jamaican Assembly. Simon Taylor was fabulously rich and when he died in 1813,  he was one of the wealthiest men in the whole of the British Empire. 

The Honourable Simon Taylor was also unmarried, and he had no legitimate children!

The Source

How did I get the idea that Charlotte Taylor was this man’s daughter? Where did this information come from? On checking my records, I found it had come from the 'horses mouth' - well almost. It came from Jack Elder.

From 1880 to 1920, Jack Elder had gathered vast quantities of information on the Sproule families of Tyrone. He left us superb hand drawn family trees of different branches of the Sproule clans. On one of these trees is the information that James Sproule, son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan, had married Charlotte Taylor, the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor.

Jack Elder was a relative of this Sproule family and he lived in the same neighbourhood in Tyrone where James Sproule had settled with Charlotte in 1835. Elder was collecting information directly from friends and family who had known James and Charlotte of Mellmount.  It had to have been James Sproule himself who had told these folk that Charlotte Taylor was the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor. 

James Sproule and Charlotte Taylor

I wondered if James had also told friends and family in Tyrone that Charlotte was his wife, or did they just assume that? For from my reading of the situation, James and his lady Charlotte Taylor could not have been married in Jamaica.

The evidence was there in the children’s Jamaican baptism records. The first child of James Sproule was identified as his ‘reputed child’, but it is the baptism of child number 5 that actually confirms the marital status of his parents. Robert Samuel Sproule was baptised in Jamaica on September 18th 1826. His parents were given as James Sproule, not married, and Charlotte Taylor, not married.3

Breaking Cultural Chains

When James Sproule brought his lady to live as his ‘wife’ in Ireland in 1835, he was breaking the social and cultural rules of both countries. Men did not take their mulatto or quadroon ladies out of Jamaica, perish the thought! Women who had been slaves could definitely not be presented to the family in England, Scotland or Ireland.

James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica was different. He had worked within the system of those times, and he had been successful. But when it came to his family, he would not allow the system to destroy what he had built. James Sproule had chosen his own path and his path was to be with his lady, Charlotte Taylor.  I was getting to know James Sproule, and he was man that I admired.

It was time, now, to get to know his lady, Charlotte Taylor.

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story

* Episode 2  - In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules

* NEXT Episode - Finding Charlotte Taylor


1 James Stewart, A View of the Past and Present State of the Island of Jamaica (Edinburgh, 1823), 173-74.
2  J. B. Moreton, Manners and Customs in the West India Islands (London, 1790), 125.
Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880,

Painting 1 - Harbour Street, Kingston. From A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica  (1825)  by James Hakewill
Painting 2 – Simon Taylor from the Group Portrait of Sir John Taylor and his family, by Daniel Gardner 1785

Monday, 24 March 2014

As One Door Closes… Another one Explodes!

It was time to tidy up my findings, and to close the book on James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica. I was preparing to enter the details in my family tree - James Sproule, his wife Charlotte, their seven children and his two reputed children. In his Will written in 1840, James had provided the names of his children:

Margaret Madden Sproule
William Taylor Sproule
Matilda Ann Sproule
Ellen Madden Sproule
Robert Samuel Sproule
Jane Nugent Sproule
Sarah Charlotte Sproule

The Children’s Names

There are some unusual names there, especially for a Sproule family. Robert, Samuel, Sarah and Charlotte are all good Sproule names.  I could also understand the ‘William Taylor’. James Sproule had married Charlotte Taylor, daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor. Their son, William Taylor Sproule, had obviously been given his grandfather’s name.

However, the eldest child’s name, Margaret Madden, was very unusual. A second child had been given the name Madden too, Ellen Madden Sproule. I knew that there were no Maddens in the family of James Sproule in Ireland. In fact, both of his parents had been Sproules.

The Parents of James Sproule

James’ father was Andrew Sproule, son of William Sproule of Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone.  James’ mother was Martha Sproule (c.1750-1820) and she came from a farm near the town of Castlederg, also in County Tyrone. Martha was the daughter of Samuel Sproule and the granddaughter of Thomas Sproule of Golan (1680-1761). There were no Maddens anywhere in this family. 

Margaret Madden Sproule’s Baptism

I needed some dates to enter Margaret Madden Sproule into the family tree. I thought her baptism record might be in the Jamaican Parish Records on Familysearch. She popped up right away, and Familysearch also had the original page from the Parish Record:

25th February 1814 Baptised at Pleasant Hill Plantation six children of colour
Margaret Madden Sproule reputed daughter of James Sproule

What? Wait, no, that can’t be right! Margaret Madden Sproule, ‘reputed daughter’? She is not a reputed daughter, she is the legitimate daughter.

Margaret Madden Sproule

She is definitely the legitimate daughter! I know her history. Margaret Madden Sproule went to Ireland when she was 21 years old and she married her first cousin, Doctor Samuel Sproule of the East India Company. Their children became the ‘Knox Sproules’, big bankers in Indianapolis. She can’t be a reputed daughter!

But there it was, and there could only be one Margaret Madden Sproule:

Making Sense of Margaret Madden Sproule

James Sproule must have had another reputed child, and this time, he had brought the child into his family. His wife Charlotte had reared this reputed child as her own!

And then it dawned, the strange name Margaret Madden Sproule! Is it possible that a woman called Margaret Madden was the real mother of this child? Had James Sproule presented his wife Charlotte with a ‘reputed’ child, complete with the name of her birth mother? Could James really have done that?  Could anyone have done that? There were so many questions now!

The Theories

I had to find the origin of this name. I searched for ‘Margaret Madden’ in the records of St Thomas in the East, Jamaica. Very near to Stokes Hall, I found a ‘Margaret Madden, plantation owner’! Perhaps James had an affair with this Margaret Madden, plantation owner. In that case, his daughter would be white. That would explain how the adult Margaret Madden Sproule had gone on to fit so comfortably into life in Ireland, and later into high society in the Indian Raj.

But it would not explain why his wife Charlotte would accept this child into her family.

Was the daughter white? I went back to the original entry of the child’s baptism in the Jamaican Parish Records. In my shock at seeing the words ‘reputed child’, I had missed the phrase, ‘children of colour’. James’ daughter was not white. If this child had been given her mother’s name, mother had to be a negro or mulatto ‘Margaret Madden’.  There were plenty of those too! Like all plantation owners, Margaret Madden had given her own name to many of her female slaves. James Sproule could certainly have had a child by a slave named Margaret Madden.

But would wife Charlotte have accepted a slave child as her own? Surely not!

The Next Child

I was going round in circles and getting nowhere. Nothing made any sense.  I decided to leave it for a while and to research the next child, William Taylor Sproule. I was on safer ground here as he had to be the child of Charlotte Taylor Sproule.  I found William Taylor’s baptism record quite quickly, and with it, came the bombshell:

22nd January 1816 William Taylor Sproule son of Charlotte Taylor free quadroon by James Sproule 

Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. She was the ‘child of colour’. It was she  who was the mother of Margaret Madden Sproule.  

Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. Charlotte Taylor was not who she was supposed to be.

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story
* Episode 2  - In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules
* Episode 3  - The Sproule Children of Stokes Hall Jamaica
* NEXT Episode - Charlotte Taylor - Quadroon


* The Will of James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica
1 Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, Familysearch

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Sproule Children of Stokes Hall Jamaica

Their names appeared in a register created in 1817. Two Sproule children, acknowledged by James Sproule as his 'reputed' children in his will of 1840, and they were, indeed, slaves. Their names were listed in the slave register of the Stokes Hall plantation in St Thomas in the East, Jamaica. Jane was the first entry that I came across:

Jane alias Jane Sproull, Mulato, aged 10, Creole 1

This Sproule child had a negro mother and a white father, hence she was ‘mulatto’. She was also ‘creole’, indicating that she was born in Jamaica. Of course, the entry did not say that James was the father of this girl, but the profile of this Jane Sproull fitted perfectly. This was definitely my cousin Jane.

And there was further proof, for they were here together. Eleanor Sproule, the other ‘reputed’ child of James, appeared in the same list of slaves:

Eleanor alias Eleanor Sproull, Mulato, aged 4, Creole.

I wondered if there were any more 'reputed' children. I hunted for other children of James Sproule anywhere on the island of Jamaica, and found only one possibility. This child was in the same Stokes Hall plantation list of 1817, a little boy this time:

Robert alias Robert Sproull,  Mulatto, aged 7,  Creole

Robert appeared again in the next registry of slaves carried out in 1820, and it was recorded here that Robert Sproull had died.

Stokes Hall Plantation

Sugar Plantation in Jamaica
The Stokes Hall plantation was next to the smaller Rosemount Plantation owned by James Sproule. Stokes Hall was recorded as belonging to 'Alexander Donaldson deceased'.  I was never able to find any information on Alexander Donaldson, as he seemed to have always been deceased! This was quite common in the plantations of Jamaica. Some owners died, others left to return to their homes, usually in England or Scotland. The financial aspects of their plantation was then run by an agent in Jamaica, usually a lawyer or a law firm.  The agent appointed a manager to run the day-to-day activities of producing the sugar cane.

James Sproule in Stokes Hall

Stokes Hall was a plantation of about 800 acres and it had roughly 180 slaves. James Sproule's name appears on the records of  Stokes Hall in the 1820s and 1830s, first as a joint manager, and later as part owner.1  James obviously worked here at Stokes Hall, and judging by the ages of his reputed children, he had probably worked here since he came to Jamaica in 1801.  As his career progressed, he bought his own small plantation, Rosemount, and set up his home there. However, I found that Stokes Hall was not the only estate that James had managed.

In 1834 slavery was abolished in Jamaica, and the arrangement was that the plantation owners would be compensated. The compensation was allocated in 1838, and in these records we find that James Sproule had interests in nine different plantations! He has become a very affluent man at this stage. 

Compensations Awarded to James Sproull 1838

The Family of Jane Sproule

The slave registers give us some more information about the two Sproule children of Stokes Hall. Jane, the older reputed daughter, was born in 1807, just six years after James arrived in Jamaica. In the register of 1817, Jane’s mother is named beside her. She is Phillis, alias Misa Cargill. 

Each slave had an official ‘registered’ name, and also had a name that was used on an every-day basis - hence the 'alias'. Misa Cargill, the mother of Jane, was known as Phillis and she has her own separate entry in the same register.  Here we find that she is a 26 year old creole negro. Her mother, the grandmother of Jane Sproull, is named as Helen alias Lucy Cargill. 

Grandmother Helen is still living on the same plantation, she is 55 years old and she is African. When she was young, Jane Sproull's grandmother had a different name. She was living in a village in West Africa. She was captured, kept in a holding pen with hundreds of other frightened folk, and then transported in chains to Jamaica.

Now called Helen alias Lucy Cargill, she is registered as having died in the 1820 register of slaves of Stokes Hall, Jamaica.

The Family of Eleanor Sproule

Eleanor, the second daughter of James, had a different mother. She was called Deborah alias Elizabeth Bryan and she was a 26 year old creole negro.  Deborah's mother is named simply as Esther. Esther, grandmother of Eleanor Sproule, had four other children living on the Stokes Hall estate in 1817. All were negro, and all had different surnames.  


In 1826, we see that life has changed for the two girls. James Sproule himself signed the register of slaves for Stokes Hall that year. By this time, it was not a full list of slaves, James was only required to list changes to the slaves on the plantation - new births, deaths, bought etc. James registered changes concerning both of his daughters. They appear together:

Jane Sproull Mulatto 19 Creole   - by sold
Eleanor Sproull Mulatto 13 Creole  - by sold

There is another detail on the entry that is vitally important, ‘sold for manumission’. James Sproule had bought both of his girls, and James had paid to have them freed.

The Girls Freed

We know only a little of the girls following their manumission. James provided for Eleanor in his Will of 1840, and it looks as if she may be living with the family in Ireland at that time:

“To my reputed Daughter Eleanor Sproule three hundred pounds sterling or fifteen pounds annually as interest until paid as my executors and executrix may think proper and at their convenience to pay the legacy or should she wish to remain with the family to get her board gratis and five pounds annually for nothing in lieu of interest and should my estate turn out well she is to get something more as my executors may decide.” 

James also tells us that his other 'reputed' daughter, Jane, has a son, James Sproull Wilson and is living in Bath, Jamaica. Little James Sproull Wilson was born on 25th April 1830 and his father was James Wilson of Bath.4  In his Will, James left his Rosemount estate to Jane and her son;

“To my reputed Daughter Jane Sproule of Bath Jamaica I bequeath the remaining part of my freehold of land in Jamaica named Rose Mount now partly occupied by my late negroes for her sole use & her son James Sproule Wilson but in case both dying without lawful issue then it is to fall into my wife and children and to be sold on their account that they get the proceeds thereof.”

I don’t know how the little family of Jane Sproull managed after James' death.  I found no record of Jane after this, and there were too many people named James Wilson to accurately pinpoint the son.

James Sproule in a New Light

At this point, I was feeling more positive about my great, great granduncle James Sproule. He had been a slave owner and he had fathered children with women who had no choice, they were held in slavery. But James had gone to great lengths to look after his two girls. Not many men at that time, and in that culture, would have done the same. Furthermore, from my research, James had no other ‘reputed’ children after he met his future wife Charlotte Taylor, daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor. Maybe James Sproule was not such a bad person after all!

That pleasant thought lasted for a full 24 hours -  and then I found the bombshell!

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story


1 Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 
2 Legacies of British Slave-ownership University College London 
Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules

There were two ‘reputed’ children named in the Will of James Sproule of Jamaica and Mellmount in 1840, and I was determined to track them down.*  I was hunting for possible ‘Sproule’ slaves in Jamaica and it proved to be more productive than I had anticipated!

The Arrival in Jamaica

I learnt that the young James Sproule had arrived in Jamaica in 1801. The journey from Urney, County Tyrone, would have taken two months or more, and for James, this meant he arrived just a little too late.

James had been invited to join his rich and successful cousin, Andrew Sproule of Arnotto Bay in Jamaica. Unfortunately, while James was actually making the journey, Cousin Andrew had died.1  Andrew Sproule was obviously not aware that James was en route when he wrote his Will in August 1801, as he had  left £50 a year  to James 'should he come' to Jamaica. The bulk of Andrew’s  wealth and property was supposed to be sold within three weeks of his death and the money distributed  to friends and family in Ireland. However, this did not happen, as Andrew’s  friends and Executors in Jamaica were quick to confiscate most of the money.

James Sproule arrived in 1801 to the news of Andrew’s death,  and he found that he had no claim to his cousin's fortune.

Jamaica 1820s

Slaves in Jamaica – From Ireland and Africa

James was now in a Jamaica run by rich and powerful landowners who made their money from producing sugar cane. Working with sugar cane was heavy labour, made more so by the the hot, humid conditions in Jamaica. The solution for these landowners was slaves, cheaply acquired labour run at minimum cost. I was surprised to find that the first slaves had come from Ireland – men, woman and children shipped by Cromwell’s forces to Cromwell’s captured islands in the Caribbean.

The slaves from Africa came later, and by 1800 there were over 250,000 slaves of African origin working in Jamaica. A bit like the Nazis, the landowners kept meticulous records, tracking each slave as he or she was bought, sold or died.  Amazingly, many slaves were also baptized. There are records of mass baptisms of 50 or 60 slaves at a time in each plantation, and again the names were recorded.  

James Sproule's Plantation

Was it possible, then, to find the ‘reputed’ children of James Sproule that had been named in his Will of 1840? James was a plantation owner in the Parish of St Thomas in the East. I found him recorded in the annual Jamaican Almanac every year from 1816 until his death in 1840. For example,  in 1816 James Sproule is recorded as having 23 slaves and five stock, indicating that his property, Rosemount, was quite small. (I was to find later that James was involved in other plantations.)

Parishes of Jamaica 1800

In 1817 there was a ‘registering’ of the slaves in St Thomas in the East. The land owner could actually get a bounty for each slave so every slave’s name in every plantation was recorded. This gave me the names of James’ slaves in his Rosemount Plantation.4  Were there any ‘Sproule’ names among the 23 slaves of James Sproule? Oh, yes, indeed there were!

There was Robert Sproule, John Sproule, James Sproule, Thomas Sproule and William Sproule, and that was just the men! There was also Rebecca Sproule and 'Amelia alias Eleanor Sproule'! Surely these slaves could not all be the children of James Sproule!

The Slaves Named Sproule

I looked at the original documents. All of the slaves with Sproule names on his plantation were aged between 25 and 35 years old, too old to be the children of James. Equally, they were recorded as ‘negro, African’. This meant the poor folk had come directly from Africa, as opposed to ‘creole’ which was the term at the time for those born in Jamaica. These were not the children of James Sproule. They were recently acquired slaves from Africa and James was giving  them new names. He used names that were familiar to him, like Sproule, Caldwell and Sinclair.

The Hunt Continues

I needed to find ‘creole’ Sproules, those born in Jamaica. They also needed to be mixed race,  to be ‘mulatto’ or ‘quadroon’ rather than ‘negro’ . I had not found my cousins Jane and Eleanor Sproule, reputed children of James Sproule, on his Rosemount plantation.  In fact, there were only African slaves on Rosemount, no mixed race children at all.

But I did find them in the plantation next door.

* Episode 1 of this story The Beginning of the BIG Story
* NEXT Episode -  The Sproule Children of Stokes Hall Jamaica


1 From a letter written 12th October 1802 by Samuel Sproule of Bridgehill to Robert Sproule his Uncle who was in in Newbury South Carolina at that time. Thanks again Tim Hayes!
2 From the document ‘Charitable donations and bequests, Andrew Sproule’ , Public Record Office for Northern Ireland FIN/18/2/356
3 Almanacs of Jamaica,
4  Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 Class: T71; Piece: 145

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Beginning of the BIG Story

The story of James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica is the BIG story that I found in my family history. It's a good story, with scandal, tragedy, romance and a twist at the end! Over the next few posts I will attempt to piece it together.

The Will

I was at a very early stage in my genealogical research when I first came across the last Will and Testament of James Sproule of Mellmount. It was up on the Tyrone Genealogy Website and it captured my attention straight away with its intriguing insight into a very different world.

James Sproule had written his Will in 1840 in his home called Mellmount, on the outskirts of Strabane, County Tyrone. The Will begins gently enough with a brief legacy to Brother Andrew, and then another equally brief mention of the wife of his late Brother William and their children. Then, without any preamble, he goes straight into more detailed legacies:

“To my reputed Daughter Eleanor Sproule three hundred pounds sterling or fifteen pounds annually...”  

Followed by:

"To my reputed Daughter Jane Sproule of Bath Jamaica I bequeath the remaining part of my freehold of land in Jamaica named Rose Mount now partly occupied by my late negroes for her sole use & her son James Sproule Wilson ..."

Charlotte Sproule 

My first thought was, of course, of his wife Charlotte. Her husband had died in a shipwreck off Morant Bay in Jamaica in December 1840. Charlotte and the seven children were at home in Ireland. I imagined her sitting in a big drawing room in her mansion, with her seven grieving children gathered round. Then she hears the Will - not one, but two ‘reputed’ daughters, and one of them is to get a plantation in Jamaica! What kind of man was this James Sproule to do that to his family?

My Uncle!

After some months I made the rather shocking discovery that yes, this same James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica was my great, great granduncle! He was one of five brothers born on the Tullymoan farm in Urney, County Tyrone in the 1760s. Now I had to go back to the Will to find out more about this degenerate relative! How did he get from Urney farmer to father of ‘reputed’ children in Jamaica?

When I re-read the will, now with more interested eyes, it actually got worse! From my reading of it, ‘reputed’ daughter Eleanor is currently living with them in Mellmount:

“...should she wish to remain with the family to get her board gratis and five pounds annually for nothing in lieu of interest”

Is this possible? James had brought an illegitimate child into the family under the roof of poor Charlotte, his wife! When did she arrive? James had lived in Jamaica since the early 1800s. He seems to have returned to Ireland with his family in the late 1830s. Did James arrive with wife Charlotte, seven children and reputed daughter Eleanor?

The Penny Drops

It didn't take long before the next thought penetrated. James Sproule owned plantations in Jamaica, and those plantations had slaves. Was the mother, or perhaps mothers, of the two reputed children actually slaves?

I now had a mission. I wanted to trace my two cousins, Eleanor Sproule and Jane Sproule, both born in Jamaica, and both possibly the children of slaves.

* Episode 2 of this story In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules

For More Information:

  1. The will of   James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica  
  2. James Sproule and his four brothers - The Amazing Journeys of The Adventuring Sproules
  3. Brother of James Sproule - Samuel Sproule, President of the Medical Board of Bombay

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Lost Sproule Boys

I had a blog block. It wasn't a roadblock, of the genealogy type, where I came to a dead end. My block was a conflict. It was the inability to resolve conflicting information about one generation of the family.  It stopped this blog dead.  Somehow it became very important that I resolve this before moving on. And now at last I have the missing piece of evidence, that will allow me to complete this stepping stone and move on to the next.

The Conflict

I had gathered evidence of six children in the family of my great, great grandfather, Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan. Four of those six children had died in the 1830s as young adults, and I written of this in a previous blog post.1

However, Jack Elder, in his hand-written tree of this family drawn up in the 1890s, had recorded eight children, not six. Elder had said that there were two older boys. The eldest, Andrew, had died young in Jamaica, and the second, Samuel, had also died young but this time in Bombay.2

Jamaica 1820
I trust Elder enough to know that there was a good chance he was right. Also, it would make sense for these boys to go overseas as they had Uncles in both Jamaica and Bombay at that time. Andrew and Samuel would have been born round 1800, and, presumably, would have been in their early twenties when they left home. I hunted for any trace of my two Sproule boys - in India, Jamaica, England and Ireland.

There is an awful lot of information on-line now, including the recently added East India records. I still could not find them, no records and no deaths of either Andrew or Samuel, sons of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan.

The Block

I needed to put up this family on my blog to complete this generation and to move on to the next. It somehow seemed irreverent to put up Andrew and Rebecca’s family without the two oldest boys, but I wasn’t going to put the names up there if I could not validate Elder’s information. What if Elder was wrong and they didn't exist at all? Or, worse still, perhaps they belonged to a completely different family. And equally, I couldn’t just skip them, and move on to other generation's trees. I know it's only a blog, but somehow putting the entire family group up together had become very important.

The Letter From America

This week, through the magic of genealogy web contacts, I got a wonderful present. It was a series of letters written between 1800 and 1840 from Sproules in Tyrone to the family of Robert Sproule of Ohio. Members of the Bridgehill Sproules wrote the letters from their home just south of Castlederg, County Tyrone, to their cousins in America, and the Tullymoan Sproules are also cousins of both families.

In a letter written on 28th March 1827, Robert Sproule of Bridgehill gives his Uncle in America news of the Tullymoan Sproules:

The Tullymoan family have been in low spirits of late, having heard of the death of Andy, the eldest son. He died in November last at his Uncles in Jamaica. Sam, the next, is preparing for a surgeon by his uncle who has lately returned from India and is living in the neighbourhood of London with his wife and one child, a girl”

Elder was quite correct, the two oldest boys did, indeed, exist!

This was proof positive of Andrew, the eldest son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan. Andy died in November 1826 at the home of his uncle James Sproule in the Rosemount Plantation in Jamaica. Sam, the second son, was alive at the time this letter was written in 1827 and he was studying to be a surgeon with his Uncle Samuel Sproule in Cheltenham in England.3 But just one year later, when his Uncle Samuel was writing his will, young Sam, son of Andrew of Tullymoan, was no more.

The Family of Andrew and Rebecca of Tullymoan

The family is complete at last! But this also now proves that Andrew and Rebecca, the parents of this generation, had indeed  suffered great tragedy in their lives. In 1826 they had 8 healthy adult children, and twelve years later, there were only two remaining alive.  Of the six who had died as young adults, only one had lived to marry and have children. William John, who became a Doctor in Dunfanaghy, managed to father two babies before his death in 1838. Happily, one of these, Andrew of Fernhill, lived to have many children and a descendant was in touch just this week!

Of the two children who lived to rear families:
1.       Jane Sproule, the eldest girl, was born in 1802 and lived to 1864. She married another Sproule,  Andrew Sproule of Glenfin, and they bought the Broomfield house, in Donegal,  from her Uncle Robert Sproule. The Broomfield Sproules had at least four children:
·         Andrew Sproule of St Louis who married Florinda Jane Spoule d. 1865
·         Samuel Sproule who died in St Louis 1866
·         Elizabeth Sproule
·         Rebecca Sproule
·         Charlotte Sproule

2.       James Sproule of Tullymoan, my great grandfather, married Mary McGlinchy. He was the youngest child of the family, born in 1816, but with the death of the other three boys, James inherited the Tullymoan farm. James and Mary had nine children, and his descendants are there to this day.4 

Now I can move on!

The completed Family Tree - Andrew Sproule and Rebecca MacKay of Tullymoan.


1 Other Children in this family -  The Mystery of the Children
2 Elder’s Tree of The Nabob Sproules
3 The story of Uncle Samuel - Samuel Sproule of the Medical Board in Bombay
4 James Sproule and Mary McGlinchy    The Family TreeMatriarch of Tullymoan

Thanks to Tim Hayes for providing the Spoule of Ohio Letters.