Abstracts of Jamaica Wills : 1625 - 1792.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .S6V4W5
Category: Family
Creator: Smith, Vernona I. C., Comp.
Description: 1 microfilm textual records () ; 35 mm
Background:
            In the later decades of the nineteenth century, Mrs. Vernona I.C. Smith (Mrs.Sidney Smith) of Barnes, Middlesex, England, found a large number of probate records for Jamaica in the Principal Probate Registry at Somerset House in London. From these records she abstracted 312 wills of English colonists and property holders in Jamaica during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She then copied the wills into a folio volume along with miscellaneous genealogical notes. The volume is dated 1888. In 1892, the British Museum purchased the volume from Mrs. Smith. 
            
Contents:
            The collection contains 32 abstracts of wills of English colonists or property owners in Jamaica during the 17th and 18th centuries. Not a cross section of society, it records the large planters and merchants, only half of whom lived in Jamaica while the rest resided in London. Although a small set, the abstracts provide a glimpse into Jamaican society during the years when the sugar industry grew and flourished. Also contains records copied from the registers of three parishes on the island of Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts), 1721-1730, pp 412-418. These include baptisms and burials from the parishes of St. John Capisterre and St. Mary Cayon. Subjects include social history, family history, women, black history, chattel slavery, and race relations.

A few of the names included are as follows: Beeston, Bernard, Beckford, Heming, James, Lloyd, Long, Lynch, Modyford, Molesworth, Price, Rose, Sutton, Swymmer, Smith, Turner, Whitebone, and the Loyalist Vassall family, whose records are  included in The Loyalist Collection. An abstract contains the date of will, name of the testator/testatrix, his/her residence and occupation, beneficiaries, executors, and witnesses. The disposition of each estate is summarized. Family relationships are noted, including illegitimate children, both Black and white. The introduction to the material indicates the abstracts "reveal a high degree of inter-marriage among the leading island families, a large number of absentee planters, a high mortality rate among the islanders (many widows and few surviving children) and a good many illegitimate children."


Arrangement

The will abstracts are in Vernona's handwriting and have been microfilmed in neither alphabetical or chronological order, but there is an index. The page numbers referenced are found on the left page on the top left of the page. The pages are counted consecutively but are only written on the left pages.
            
Originals: The original records were originally stored at the British Museum and later passed to the British Library
Archival Ref. No.: British Library (formerly British Museum). Additional Manuscripts (ADD. MS.) 34181.
Finding Aids:
            

Electronic: Index of testator and testatrix names available; see Electric Finding Aid section.

Online: Registered copies of some or all of the wills can be searched and found on The National Archives (London) website in their record group PROB 11 - Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers.

A finding aid is located at the beginning of the reel and includes an introduction, table of contents, and a bibliography which was prepared by Richard Dunn, University of Pennsylvania. The index to the wills is located at the end of the reel.

Electronic Finding Aid Record: Will Index.pdf
Notes: The Abstracts of Jamaica Wills: 1625-1792, is one of several titles in the series, British Records Relating to America in Microform, which are published under the auspices of the British Association for American Studies by Microform Limited.

The background material provided by the author of the Introduction has been a source of much useful information in the preparation of this Inventory description.

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