As I’ve written about from time to time, my Bowie line descends from one James Bowie (c. 1795-1832), a so-called “free man of color” who resided in Louisiana. My cousin Steve Bowie has set out the history and genealogy of the James Bowie FMC descendants at his excellent site, http://www.jamesbowiefmc.com/.
We don’t know where James Bowie was born nor who his parents were. Those issues have been subject of much speculation and much investigation, but no clear answers have emerged. Last week, however, the research took a curious turn. Steve was perusing the newly released British Colonial Slave Registers on Ancestry.com when he discovered a slave in Jamaica named James Bowie, born about 1797. To further stoke our interest, the register listed this James Bowie as being a Creole of African descent. This was on the 1817 register. Slaveowners involved include Thomas Thomson, William Rankin, and Eliza Bowie. The name of the plantation appears to be Newfield.
The registers on Ancestry include documents after 1817 up to 1834. This particular James Bowie does not appear in any register after 1817. That fact fits with the documented evidence that first places James Bowie FMC in Louisiana in 1822.
Needless to say, these tidbits have sparked a lively conversation among the Bowie cousins and spurred us on to further research. That research took me to a new-to-me site called Jamaican Family Search, where I learned quite a bit that I did not know about Jamaica. There were a considerable number of Scots in Jamaica, and a large community of Sephardic Jews. After slavery was abolished there by the British in 1837, large numbers of Chinese workers were brought in. Jamaica was and is a very diverse place.
So is this the answer to our James Bowie FMC questions? We can’t say yet. It certainly raises possibilities, yet it also raises more questions. I’ll let you know what we find out.
By the way, the British Colonial Slave Registers are an excellent database. Kudos to Ancestry.com for adding it! And I can also recommend the Jamaica Family Search site (not affiliated with FamilySearch of Utah). It has lots of free pages, excellent subscription databases, and a very affordable subscription rate – $8.00 per month for as little as one month!
January 12, 2009 Monday at 10:02 pm