Some years ago, Donna Campbell Kenny, a cousin who lives in Australia, asked for information about my family—she planned to publish a book about our Jamaican branch of the Campbell family. After sending her some basic information, I began to wonder at how few members of my large and geographically dispersed family I had kept in touch with over the years. That led me to use the Internet to locate some of those with whom I had lost touch. Within only a few weeks I found several relatives, some of whom I have never met in person. And, as the months passed, my interest in my family roots grew. 

During that period, some stories I had heard about my Campbell family’s history turned out to be myths, which got me wondering about my true family origins? This question nagged at me, and over time I developed an increasing need to fill the void in my personal history. It was then only a matter of time before I launched a project to trace my ancestors. 

As I gathered names and dates, it struck me as sad that so little knowledge about people’s lives remained for only a generation or two after their deaths. I found that few of my family and acquaintances even knew the names of their great-grandparents. This seemed especially true of Jamaicans who descend from British or European families and who have, to a significant extent, immigrated to far-away places such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. 

How delighted I would have been had I uncovered diaries or other personal journals describing their trials and tribulations, their politics, their ambitions and their descriptions of everyday life. How sad that the sum of one’s life should be a few words chiselled into the face of a tombstone? I believe I owe it to my grandchildren to tell them something of their family roots.

Family history research continues to be a hobby and open project, but I thought I’d better summarize and document what I’ve collected to date and include it in what I am calling The Times of My Life, A Private Narrative project.

Let me now add a few words about truth. Truth is a relative term. And while I plan to tell my story truthfully, my truth may not match that of others. Each one of us sees the past from a unique perspective. Like the English novelist Anthony Powell said, “Memoirs can never be wholly true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened.” 

I cannot vouch one hundred percent for the chronology in the earliest parts of my story. And, although the events happened more or less as I describe them, some of their timeframes may be off a bit. Besides, while I want my story to be historically accurate (names, dates, etc.), I make no apology for my interpretation of events, some of which may very well differ from the recollection of others. 

Moreover, I came from a middle-class Jamaican family, which meant more in the Jamaica of the 1940s and 1950s than it does in the Canada of today. Colonial Jamaica did not cause me the hardship and disadvantages suffered by many less fortunate Jamaicans. As such, I was a product of my time and saw things and interpreted events from a specific perspective. 

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This narrative and the appended family trees could not have been possible without the contributions of several persons, notable my sister and brother-in-law, Diane and Vernon Vaz, and my cousins Rosie Corrigan and Jennifer Godfrey, who share my interest in family history. Fellow family researchers Cheryl Pinto, Angela duQuesnay Garcia, Dorothy Kew and Madeleine Mitchell also made valuable contributions. 

And special thanks to another cousin, Donna Campbell Kenny, for generously allowing me to use material from her book, A Journey Through Time in Jamaica: The Story of AC Campbell & His Ancestors, Markham, Ontario, Canada: Stewart Pub. & Printing, 2003. Print.; (ISBN-10: 189418341X – ISBN-13: 978-1894183413). 

I am indebted to all of you. Thank you for your generosity.

The Times of My Life, A Private Narrative

My Family Roots

by R. G. CampbellJune 8th, 2018

Collage of six generations of my family

Family Background & Paternal Line

Note 1: I have had my Y-DNA111 and Big Y tests done through Family Tree DNA under kit# N26709.

Note 2: My mother's line is mainly from the North Coast (St. Ann, Trelawny, St. James) and includes the following surnames: Reynolds, Binns, Stephenson, Nash, among others. 

Note 3: Slave ownership is a part of my Jamaican family history, with members of the family being listed in government records of the time as owners of slaves. In fact, it is not likely that a Jamaican of European descent can delve into his or her family background and not be confronted with the reality of slavery, a cruel institution by which sub-Saharan Africans lived a lifetime in harsh bondage and were too often worked to death, assuming they did not first succumb to one of the diseases that ran rampant through their communities.

But slavery was a fact of life and has influenced too much of Jamaican demographics and that island’s history and culture to be easily ignored. Mercifully, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in Jamaica and the rest of the British Empire on 1 Aug. 1834. Bondage lingered on in Jamaica in the form of “apprenticeship,” which too came to an end on 1 Aug. 1838.

Over the years I have delved extensively into the subject and found informative accounts that were written before emancipation and so were without the influence of modern values, novels and movies. I hope, as part of this project, to document some of my research with my own thoughts and interpretations.

Note 4: "Campbell" is the fourth most common surname in Jamaica.

I spent my first 15 years on the West In­dian is­land of Ja­maica. Those were the years 1940 through 1955. My time there ended just about 300 years af­ter the is­land had come un­der British rule and about seven years be­fore Ja­maica achieved full in­de­pen­dence from the United King­dom. 

My fam­ily roots go deep into Ja­maica’s past, with the res­i­dency of one branch pos­si­bly pre­dat­ing the Eng­lish con­quest in 1655—that be­ing the Jew­ish line of my pa­ter­nal great-grand­mother, Ida Julia Brandon. 

When I be­gan to trace my roots, I de­cided to con­cen­trate on iden­ti­fy­ing as many sec­ond cousins as I could. So this gave me eight core Ja­maican fam­ily names on which to con­cen­trate: Camp­bell, Bran­don, Ram­sey, Bogle, Reynolds, Binns, Stephen­son and Nash. These, of course, are the sur­names of my great-grand­par­ents. 

I’ll have more to say about these fam­i­lies as we go along, but first I’ll be­gin with a sum­mary of my dad’s fam­ily to start us on our jour­ney. 

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, fam­ily re­search pre­dom­i­nantly fol­lows male lines as these are more eas­ily tracked through gov­ern­ment records and are the names that usu­ally sur­vive through­out a per­son’s life­time. For me, that meant find­ing my ear­li­est Camp­bell an­ces­tor. He turned out to be Alexan­der Camp­bell of Scot­land and Ja­maica. He was my Great, Great, Great Grandfather. My Great, Great, Great Grandmother was Marie Louise Sabate who was born in St. Do­minique (Haiti).

My Campbell line to the present day

I descend from Donald Binnie Campbell (b. 1825 d. 1855), the youngest of Alexander’s and Maria’s children. 

1. Alexander Campbell (abt. 1770-1826) and Maria Louisa Sabate, Jamaica, W.I. A

2. Donald Binnie Campbell (1825-1855) and Elizabeth Matilda Kellerman, Jamaica, W.I. 

3. Alexander James Campbell (1848-1917) and Ida Julia Brandon, Jamaica, W.I. 

4. Donald Harcourt Campbell (1883-1974) and Albertha Ambrosine Ramsey, Jamaica, W.I. 

5. Clinton Garth Campbell (1913-1999) and Florence Agnes Reynolds, Jamaica, W.I. 

6. Russell Garth Campbell (1940- ) and Denise Ann Bewley, Birmingham, England, UK.

Alexander Campbell & Marie Louise Sabate

Alexan­der Campbell was likely from the Greenock/Glas­gow area of Scot­land. His mother was Agnes McKin­lay who lived at Glas­gow at the time of Alexan­der’s death in 1826. He died at sea on the ship Glas­gow while re­turn­ing home to Ja­maica, to which he had im­mi­grated sev­eral years ear­lier. Though not of­fi­cially doc­u­mented, I be­lieve Alexan­der was closely re­lated to May/Mar­jory who may have mar­ried Thomas Craw­ford (his 2nd marriage). May and Thomas lived at Col­lan­der and Greenock in Scot­land and had four chil­dren: Mary, Ag­new, Ara­bella and May—these names are men­tioned in Alexan­der’s will. 

Alexan­der was inter alia the owner of Robin’s Hall, in Man­ches­ter, Ja­maica and Turns­bull Pen, in St Cather­ine, Ja­maica, es­tates which he left in trust to Marie Louise Sabate (later Dar­ling) as guardian of their children, including their infant son Donald Binnie Campbell (1825-1855), my 2nd great-grandfather. Alexander never met this son of his since baby Donald was born during Alexander’s last trip overseas. He also left legacies to his other surviving children.

Though most of his es­tate was left to Marie Louise Sabate and his chil­dren in Ja­maica, Alexan­der also left lega­cies to Misses Ara­bella and Mar­ion Craw­ford, both of whom lived in Scot­land. Their brother Ag­new Craw­ford was named as one of the ex­ecu­tors of Alexan­der’s will. Alexan­der’s will gave no in­di­ca­tion as to the na­ture of his re­la­tion­ship with the Craw­fords, but they prob­a­bly were close rel­a­tives for their mother’s maiden name was Camp­bell and, from a Cana­dian source, I heard spec­u­la­tion—based on an 1814 let­ter from a George Camp­bell to Ag­new Craw­ford—that George Camp­bell was Ag­new’s cousin. 

And that’s about all I know of my Scot­tish con­nec­tion, at least as far as tra­di­tional ge­neal­ogy goes. I have, though, had my DNA tested and used to con­nect to deeper roots in that coun­try. The re­sults are in­trigu­ing, but more about that at an­other time.

François-Auguste Biard (1799–1882), Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies, 27 April 1848 (1849), oil on canvas, 261 × 391 cm, Château de Versailles, Versailles, France. Wikimedia Commons.

Maria Louise Darling née Sabate was a refugee of war from the island now known as Haiti. She was born abt. 1780 at St. Do­minique and, ap­par­ently, im­mi­grated to Ja­maica as a refugee. By all in­di­ca­tions, she was an ed­u­cated and cul­tured woman who spoke both French and Eng­lish. She was, ap­par­ently, Alexan­der’s “house­keeper” as com­mon-law wives in Ja­maica were of­ten called in those days. 

Marie Louise bore 11 children to four partners, including 5 with Alexander: Agnes, Alexan­der, John, Jane and Don­ald. They all had the sur­name, Camp­bell. She, apparently, became a person of some personal wealth.

She married for the 1st time her last known partner, Robert Darling, on 8 Sep. 1836 when she was 52 years old. We believe she died in 1851 as a woman of sub­stan­tial prop­erty, leav­ing in her will jew­ellery, chaise and car­riage, live­stock, fur­ni­ture and other house­hold items. Maria Louise also owned or had an in­ter­est in a tav­ern called the Ferry Inn, which is men­tioned in her will. (I have a copy of her will, but it is dif­fi­cult to read due to age, ink “bleed­ing”, etc.)

Robert Dar­ling was a mag­is­trate in St Cather­ine, Ja­maica and the pro­pri­etor of sev­eral prop­er­ties. At the time of Robert’s death in 1854, he lived at Mal­ton Plan­ta­tion, Man­ches­ter, Ja­maica.

Marie Louise and Darling had at one time in 1838 several properties and over 500 apprentices working for them on two properties. Darling had several other business interests including banking and providing meat to the navy.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ja­maica Al­manac (1833), Marie Louise Sabate had been listed as pro­pri­etor of Turn­bull es­tate in St Cather­ine, with 35 en­slaved per­sons and 101 stock. She was also listed as a ben­e­fi­ciary of com­pen­sa­tion for en­slaved per­sons on Robin’s Hall es­tate, Man­ches­ter, Ja­maica, and Turns­bull Pen, St Cather­ine, Ja­maica, as guardian of her son Alexan­der Camp­bell, jr when slav­ery ended. (About 4,000 British slave own­ers were com­pen­sated by the British gov­ern­ment in 1833 for the eman­ci­pa­tion of their slaves.)

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