Skip to main content

Kinship Ties, Consanguinity and Property

 

St. Elizabeth was far away from other main economically productive parishes, but the inhabitants kept close relationships in neighbouring Manchester and Westmoreland, which helped to close ranks and cement the types of kinship relationships and friendships that developed in the parish. Socially, economically, politically and spiritually, the inhabitants lived by the teachings of the society, social groups and ancestors. This applied whether they were white or black, or whether those teachings were morally acceptable or not.

The women of colour underplayed their black heritage and stressed the white, in order to survive the slavery system of the period.3 Family ties and links were important to people of colour, as, in some cases, they had no known ancestors. They ‘created a far ranging and complex network of interrelated, highly visible families, increasingly linked through inheritance and marriage’. 4
developing their own kinship smorgasbord of family and friends in inheritance, business and family relationships.

An examination of the birth, death and marriage records of St. Elizabeth highlight a considerable number of people of colour who married each other or lived in concubinage relationships with large numbers of children, which is contrary to planter historian Edward Long and other anthropologists’ beliefs of them being incapable of reproducing satisfactorily.

 

 
 
 
Dorothy Witter woman of colour who owned property and enslaved people although blind
 
 
 
A letter attached to Dorothy Witter's compensation claim which gives information a genealogist would find important for family history. It gives details of her disability, 'been blind for the past 45 years' , she is aged, and her brother William Witter transacted all her business - he had power of attorney. The date is important - 1835 and W.B Newman who wrote the letter, was a surgeon and medical man to the family. William Beard Newman (along with Hyman Cohen) were the trustee to William Samuel Witter's children, James Witter, Benjamin Powell Witter and Diana Witter, who in 1836 at the claim for compensation were minor's. This relates to claims No. 83 and 84.
 

3 Lucille Mathurin Mair, A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica 1655-1844. p86.

4 Trevor Burnard, 'A Tangled Cousinry? Associational Networks of the Maryland Elite 1691-1776', (44) p1.