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Humphrey and Umphrey in Barbados

PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:22 pm
by Genny
My great great grandfather James William Humphreys (spellings varied) was born in Barbados circa 1823 and migrated to South Australia in 1853.

His father was James Pilgrim Umphrey, son of Edward Downes Umphrey, both slave owners. The names of Edward and Downes Umphrey trace back to the 1600s in Barbados.

I would be grateful for any information on the Umphrey/ Humphreys family


Re: Humphrey and Umphrey in Barbados

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:11 am
by bimjim
A bakery existed in Barbados for many years on Dayrells Road in Christ Church, very near to Wanderer's cricket ground, called either Humphries Bakery or Humphrey's Bakery. I once understood they were Jewish.

The bakery was well known across the island for it's excellence in both quality and range - they also made pies and sweet breads - and many families paid it a visit on Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon to pick up some special treat to take home for dessert or the coming week.

I have not lived in Barbados since 1980, so I don't know if the bakery is still there or if it is still under the same name.

Re: Humphrey and Umphrey in Barbados

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:45 am
by Genny
It is quite possibly the same family line. My great-great grandfather, James William Humphreys (originally Umphrey) was born in either 1823 according to his naval records or 1826 according to his death certificate. His father was James Pilgrim Umphrey who is listed in returns of slave owners. His mother is unknown but she was coloured. His father's legal wife was Sarah Elizabeth Oliver and James William Humphreys said his step mother was Jewish.

The Umphrey/Humpherys line were amongst the early settlers of Barbados and are recorded in the Anglican registers. However, it is quite probable that if Sarah Elizabeth Oliver was Jewish, her children may have followed her religion.

James William Humphreys joined the navy in 1841 and left Barbados eventually settling in Australia. His family believed he had been born in England - I spent 20 years searching records in England - and it was only through the article below, which led to his naval records that we found out he was from Barbados. It was an extraordinary life. The family in Australia have dark complexions and thick curly hair but had no idea at all that this came from an ancestor of slave background.

He had three half sisters in Barbados, Elizabeth Ann Umphrey, who married Richard Russell and Margaret, who married Richard after her sister died, Mary Jane who married Richard Thorne and a half brother Edward Downes Umphrey, perhaps associated with the bakery.


The Adelaide Advertiser 1 February 1910
"I shall be unable to go and see Lord Kitchener. I could not get up those steps in Adelaide, and then again you know I do not like to stand in the sun, for I'm 83 years of age." Thus spoke Mr. J. W. Humphreys when questioned on Monday afternoon by a representative of "The Advertiser," who had asked the old gentleman if he were going to attend for inspection by the Field Marshal. Mr. Humphreys was a member of the Reedbeds Cavalry in 1862 under Captain Fergusson
His memory now is not so good as it was a few years back. He said:-"I do not know how long I was connected with the volunteers, but I know it was only a short time, for I left them when I went to Yankalilla to live. When I joined them I was living at Port Adelaide. I came to South Australia in 1852. I came out as third officer and chief storekeeper of the ship William Stewart and five weeks after I landed I got married and entered upon my trade as a saddler in North Adelaide.

The William Stewart had 370 passengers. The vessel would have been lost but for me on the iron-bound coast of Kangaroo Island. The boatswain was supposed to be on watch, when one morning I went on deck and there saw the coast close to us. I called the boatswain's attention to it, and the captain came on deck. The vessel was very quick in stays. She was rounded in a trice. I twice saved that vessel. On another occasion the second mate got to one of the rum casks amongst the stores, got drunk, and set fire to the cabin. I happened to notice the fire, and with assistance had it extinguished."

You served under the flag before your arrival in South Australia, Mr Humphreys? "Yes. But if you want my history you must give me time to think. My memory is not now so clear and retentive as it was. I served my time as a saddler in the West Indies. When 16 or 17 years old I left the trade and went to sea in the yacht Cygnet. She was engaged by an old gentleman-I'm sorry I can't think of his name-for the purpose of cruising about the islands to pick out suitable spots at which to establish coal depots. We were going from Nassau, New Providence (one of the Bahama group), to Turk's Island, when the Cygnet ran on the coral reef near Conception Island. We remained stranded there until we were taken to St. Thomas Island by the captain. Subsequently I joined the Royal Navy. I shipped on the sloop Gleaner and remained a while in her at the West Indies.
Going to England, I went to the west coast of Africa in the Wilberforce, and was transferred from her to the Pantaloon brig. We went right down the west coast in her, cutting down slavers. She was in charge of Commander Lapidge. Lieutenant Bawden-Smith was second in command. He subsequently became an admiral. I was transferred from the Pantaloon to the frigate Madagascar, under Commander Foote. Going back to England I joined H.M.S. Hekla, which had been ordered to proceed to Acre. I there expected to get my active service medal, but we never fired a shot. We had to leave with dispatches. Subsequently I was engaged on the Volage with Captain Graves, in survey work in the Mediterranean. Afterwards I served in the P. & 0. Company and the Royal West India Company, and then I came to South Australia."

Re: Humphrey and Umphrey in Barbados

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:57 pm
by bimjim
The (Jewish?) Humphrey family I spoke of in Barbados were all Caucasian. Sorry if I led you to make a false assumption.

Re: Humphrey and Umphrey in Barbados

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:11 pm
by Genny
Except for my great grandfather who was of mixed ancestry and an illegitimate child, the rest of the family were caucasian