African Caribbean people in Herts (1570-1830)

Evidence from parish registers and other sources

By Jill Barber

How can we find out about the lives of African Caribbean people who came to Hertfordshire before 1830?

Parish registers, especially baptism registers, often give more details about people who were born outside the parish. (This is often because of the poor law, as parishes did not want to be responsible for looking after people whose legal settlement was elsewhere).

Thanks to a team of volunteers who spent many hours searching through the baptism registers at Hertfordshire Archives, some surprising stories have been found, showing the remarkable journeys made by men, women and children.  These include Ziphares Fortune, a 10 year old boy from Barbados, baptised at North Mymms in 1700, and William Bruce, baptised in 1811 at Cheshunt, who was born at Accra ‘on the Gold Coast of Africa’. Thomas Caesar Waltz, a servant to Captian Bingham of Gaddesden Vale was born at Erranduth on the coast of Guinea about 1800.

Other records such as militia lists and estate records sometimes contain references to African servants in Hertfordshire.  A shocking reference was found in Hertford Borough Records to the sale of a child, the son of ‘Flora, the property of Elizabeth Baillie of Jamaica’, in 1768.

To find out more, you can look at the list of people identified so far. Have you got any more to add?

This page was added on 16/07/2009.

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