Until recent years, I hadn’t been aware of Scottish connections to the West Indies, Sugar Plantations and Slavery. However, when you do DNA testing it’s almost inevitable to find matches with people from across the globe, with European, Asian, Middle Eastern and African ethnicity. And when you uncover DNA connections with people of African ethnicity and West Indian / Jamaican heritage, then interesting scenarios may unfold.
By chance, I noticed a 15 cms DNA match of one of my siblings with a McKenzie – McLean descendant with Jamaican African ancestry at Ancestry.com. I’d been re-looking at McLean connections when doing a review of the McLean mtdna site during the cold winter months of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown iso era. Now a match of 15 cms might be regarded as relatively distant – but then not so distant as it could be as close as sharing 4 x great grandparents? Investigations of Ancestry and MyHeritage DNA matches revealed that my sibling and I shared a cluster of about 10 further DNA connections with African ethnicity and/or West Indian ancestry. And further – that the connections highlighted in MyHeritage, and then also found in Gedmatch, possibly linked to our paternal Elgin Morayshire Anderson Urquhart ancestral lines, rather than the maternal McLean McKenzie lines, as I had expected.
Next, I found that our other sibling shared some of these African ethnicity – Jamaican heritage connected matches with us on MyHeritage.
Most of these clustered DNA matches were in the range of 15 – 22 cms, and generally this was across only one segment of a chromosome. In the DNA world, a match of 15-22 cms across one segment of a chromosome cannot be dismissed as being merely IBC (Identical By Chance) – let alone a cluster of similar matches. It raised questions of possibly sharing ancestors in the 4th to 8th x great grandparents – arguably distant matches – but not that distant? As close as a sibling to my 3 x great grandmother Helen Tulloch nee Anderson or a sibling to one of her parents Alexander Anderson or Margaret Urquhart – or maybe a cousin? Though it seems hard to comprehend it all? Unfortunately it is often difficult to trace Scottish Birth Death Marriage Records back into the 18th Century, which was well prior to Civil Registration and also British Census records being kept, so it may never be possible to identify MRCA’s – Most Recent Common Ancestors with these DNA matches.
As for other possible McKenzie – McLean and African connections in the Americas ? Drilling down into my DNA matches in MyHeritage I found a 31.3 cms Canadian match with 46.5% African (Nigerian – Sierra Leonean) ethnicity, 34.6% Irish Scottish & Welsh, 16.4% Scandinavian and 0% English – Irish Scottish and Welsh was the only area of ethnicity that we shared in common. This Canadian African match was shared with some of my some of my known McKenzie McLean McIntosh cousins – quite possibly along McLean/Maclean ancestral lines on Chromosome 9 (see mtdna page). There are possible Scottish Irish connections to Vallay North Uist Scotland, however I have not been able to determine if he has any connection with the West Indies.
Often I have found that many of our McKenzie – McLean shared DNA matches had seemed to point to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island in Canada, as being where relatives of our Isle of Skye McKenzie McLean McIntosh ancestors seemed to have settled in centuries past. So it was interesting to discover yet another match with a Jamaican of African McLean ancestry at My Heritage. This match was more distant – t 9.2 cms and closer examination revealed that this match is in fact a triangulated DNA match with DNA matches with Sussex English Easton Paine ancestry, rather than a Scottish connection.
As noted above, I had begun to become aware of involvement of Scots in Slavery in Jamaica, eg relatives of my Newland(s) ancestors, but not of any McKenzie’s, McLean’s, Anderson’s or Urquhart’s. This Scottish involvement in Slavery has been an uncomfortable awakening for many in Scotland, and it has recently become more apparent in the Black Lives Matter – Covid-19 Pandemic eras. Apparently there have been claims that the “Welcome Home to the Scottish Diaspora” pitches to people with Scottish ancestry has been focused on the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but not so much to the Scottish descendants in the West Indies. And in the UK there had also been the Windrush scandals – Wikipedia article.
It seems hard to reconcile possible connections to Slavery when it is considered that the majority of our own ancestors who came to Australia, arrived as Convicts (13) or impoverished Assisted Immigrants (18), two came Unassisted but were not wealthy, one came as a Sailor, and the arrival of another, a some-timer Carter, originally from Albany New York State USA is unknown. They all seem far from being wealthy people with Slave-Owning backgrounds. Though some ships which had been used to transport Slaves were also used to transport Convicts, eg the infamous “Neptune” of the Second Fleet to the British Colony in New South Wales in 1790.
It seems that some of the Jacobite Scots from Ross Cromarty were sent to Jamaica as Indentured Servants/Slaves after the Battle of Culloden – that included McKenzie’s and their servants. Other Scots came later, possibly as many as 17,000 – and many of these were young men seeking to make their fortune in what were considered to be the lucrative Tobacco and Sugar plantations. During that period there had been concerns at the imbalances between the relatively small size of the White population compared to the number of Slaves. Consequently the government passed legislation specifying minimum ratios of the number of White people to Slaves, with fines to be imposed for noncompliance. Many plantation owners were absentees back in Great Britain, and even just paid the fines. Could some have imported Overseers from Great Britain, including from Scotland and its Highlands? Would it have provided an escape for many young Scottish men without good prospects at home ? Just as in the mid 19th Century some Scottish people, including from the Highlands, took the opportunity to leave home as Assisted Emigrants, sailing for the North Americas, Australia and New Zealand?
As for Scottish names associated with Slavery? There was no doubt about McLean and McKenzie connections with Jamaican African people at the Jamaican Family Search website, and Legacies of British Slave Ownership website. At the Ancestry.com’s All Former British Colonial Dependencies, Slave Registers, 1813 – 1834 site, over 700 Slaves named McLean or Maclean and over 700 Slaves named McKenzie or Mackenzie can also be found.
Looking at some names of our other Scottish ancestors? There are up to 200 Slaves named Newland(s) at the Ancestry.com site. Additionally there are 1169 Slaves with surname Anderson on the list, plus 27 with the surname Tulloch, and with 42 with surname Urquhart. There were over 600 named MacDonald / McDonald, and over 160 named Boyle. The surnames of so many Scottish ancestors were also the surnames of Slaves, which is not to say that all of my Scottish ancestors had connections with Slavery. Likewise in terms of English connections, there were over 400 named Paine and only 15 named Easton at the Ancestry.com site. However, there are DNA matches which would suggest that relatives of our ancestors, Scottish and/or English, arguably had connections with Jamaican African Slavery.
This seems to be an interesting aspect of our McKenzie – McLean – Newland(s) – Anderson – Urquhart clans history?
The informative Jamaica Greta Houses Slavery website has an overview of the Slavery period under the British, under whom the Sugar Plantations were established and flourished. Though it had been the Spanish who had previously introduced Slavery to the island during the 16th Century. The Spanish controlled Jamaica until 1655, when they were forced out by the British. Oliver Cromwell had despatched many “indentured servants” and prisoners to Jamaica, and this increased during the period of Stuart monarchs. Some have claimed that the “indentured servants” were in fact enslaved, as they were being bought and sold in the Americas. There was also the Piracy era in the Caribbean. It was in the 18th Century that the number of Slaves increased from 45,000 to over 300,000 – Wikipedia article. Jamaica had the largest number of Slaves in the Caribbean islands.
The Legacies of British Slave Ownership website is very comprehensive and lists people with the Scottish surnames of Newland(s), Newlands, Tulloch, Anderson and Urquhart as well as Easton and Paine, in addition to the previously mentioned Maclean, McKenzie, Mackenzie. These were the surnames of people who were compensated when Slavery ended. Many of those compensated were the Influential and Wealthy in British Society in those times, although this compensation seems to jar with contemporary perspectives in today’s world.
And then there are my husband’s own family connections to slavery in the West Indies and also in Virginia USA– along the Mathew, Byam and Dering lines.
There are many web links to Slavery in the West Indies, providing some insights into the history of Scots in the West Indies including Jamaica in the References listed below:
- Justice and Peace Scotland – In 1817 30% of slaves in Jamaica were owned by Scots.
- 2011 – Peace Concert at Emancipation Park, New Kingston
- Scotland and Jamaica – Origin of Street names in Glasgow
- Scottish Slavery
- Runaway Slaves in Jamaica in the 19th Century including some owned by Newland(s)
- Scotland and Slavery
- Black History Month 2015
- Ritchies in Edinburgh – an excellent resource
- Flag Up Scotland – The First Scots in Jamaica