RE: [St.H.Fam.Hist.] Family of Mary Houndsworth m 28 Dec 1824 Thomas Pollard, also John Gamble
Dave, Apart from slaves on St Helena there were also numbers of people of non-European ancestry that were collectively known as ‘free-blacks’. Their origins could be African, Indian or south east Asian or a mixture of any of those and included in the mix could be some with European or even Chinese ancestry. As slaves gained or were given their freedom, the numbers of free blacks increased (in 1800 there were about 300) until by about 1820 there were equal numbers of slaves and free blacks (about 1000). A European or English name is no indicator of racial origin.
By 1827 there was a move to free slaves and this was achieved by valuing them and the EI Company providing a loan (repayable by instalment) so that they could purchase their freedom. The process was slow to start off but eventually got going on a regular basis and by 1836 all the slaves were free. Very few paid off their loans and by 1840 the British Government wrote off the remaining debts.
If you want to know more, join the Friends of St Helena (www.FOSH.org.uk) and you will get access to my article on this subject on their website. Also a list of all the slaves on the island in 1827.
Marrying a soldier did not make a woman free but is was quite often the case that in those circumstances, the soldier would buy his wife and (prior to 1818) his children’s freedom.
Mary and Thomas are my 3*G-Grandparents. Mary also had [one?] illegitimate child by "John Gamble", baptised on 31 Dec 1818.
After seeing postings on this group, nos 782, 34, 77, and 79, all having a bearing on these familes, I looked at the India Office transcripts online, and wonder if anyone out there can expand on the issue of "free" as it appears on these records. Sadly I can't contact the original posters as they don't any longer seem to have a Yahoo profile.
For example, message 79 (Alexander Schulenburg) explains that children of a slave, born after Christmas 1818 were born free, though at that time the slave mother may not be free.
The LDS records in the earlier postings seem to be more severely condensed than the India Office ones, and in the latter the baptism of Mary and John's child has parents shown as "John; Mary HOUNDSWORTH, free"
Mary's Marriage to Thomas shows "Mary HOUNDSWORTH, free", so more clearly tagging Mary with "Free".
I wonder about the following issues:
1 - Can I infer from the quoted abstracts that "Free" DOES apply to Mary? (I think that is a safe yes)
2 - by the entrenched racist standards of the day, would only women "of colour" be thus labelled, "Free" or otherwise and caucasians assumed to need no label, or was the label "free" applied to the general population whenever it applied?
3 - Is there any way, short of visiting Kew (or even then) finding out more of Thomas Pollard's origins, muster lists, etc.?
4 - and more of Mary? Was she originally a slave, or if not, i wonder what was her status (or even her age).
5- No subsequent baptisms show the word "Free", so can I assume that from some date after 1824, all were declared free, or was a woman who MARRIED a soldier or East India employee automatically free, so nothing need be recorded?