Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tyrone, Bombay and Jamaica - Family Connections

At this point, I knew that my great, great grandfather was Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, and that he had married Rebecca Mackey in the mid-1790s. I had discovered the whole story of Samuel Sproule who had gone from the same County Tyrone farm all the way to Bombay in 1797. But I was also following other strands of Sproule travellers, more clues and evidence, and I was slowly coming to an even more amazing conclusion!

Who was Young Samuel?

I was chasing down Samuel Sproule, who had been Head of the Medical Board in Bombay, when things got very confusing!  In the early 1800s there was plenty of evidence of Samuel Sproule in Bombay, and there was more of him in the 1820s, 1830s and 1840s. This was very strange indeed since Samuel Sproule had died in 1829! There had to be two Samuel Sproules!  It was tricky to sort them out because the information was almost identical. Both Samuels were in the East India Company, both were doctors and both were working in Bombay! Two Doctor Samuel Sproules, it  was too much of a coincidence!1

They overlapped slightly. Young Samuel seemed to have arrived just as the first Samuel was leaving. Who was Young Samuel? Samuel Sproule Senior had only one legitimate child, a daughter named Ann Jane. Young Samuel could not be a son of Samuel Senior. Was it possible, then, that he had come from Ireland, and that was he was a nephew or some other relative?  I went back to hunt for Young Samuel Sproule in my trusty list of Sproule births, marriages and deaths of that time. I not only found him, I found his parents!

DIED Anne Sproule 19 June 1847
On the 12th inst., at Glentimon, Anne, relict of the late Mr. William Sproule, and mother to Samuel Sproule, Esq., M.D., Surgeon of the Civil Service, Ahmeibad, Bombay 2

Young Samuel Sproule had definitely come from County Tyrone, and his parents were William and Anne Sproule. Now this was exciting! Could it be that Young Samuel was a nephew of Samuel Sproule of Tullymoan and Bombay? In that case, Young Samuel’s father, William Sproule, would be another Tullymoan brother! This would be three brothers, Andrew, William and Samuel.

The Jamaica Connection

At the other side of the world was a different strand of Sproules with a more tenuous connection to my family. One of the first pages that I had looked at in the County Tyrone Genealogy Website concerned a James Sproule of Mellmount. The page contained a full transcription of his will written in 1840. It made fascinating reading! Mellmount is near Strabane in County Tyrone, but the will of James Sproule was full of ‘reputed children’ and plantations in Jamaica!

This rang a bell for me, as we had a story in our family lore about Jamaica.  It was said that an Andrew Sproule, an uncle of ours, had gone to Jamaica and that he had made his fortune there. I thought the Jamaica connection might be worth investigating!

I began to research in Jamaica. James Sproule was recorded as a landowner from 1817, in a parish called St Thomas in the East. His property was Rose Mount, and he is recorded there right up until his death in 1840.

But James was not the only Sproule landowner in Jamaica, there were two of them.  The story almost mirrors the Bombay situation with the two overlapping Sproules. The second Sproule here was a Robert Sproule, and he seemed to be younger than James. Robert was in a different parish of Jamaica, one called St George, and he had his own plantation there from 1838. Since he was in a different plantation, I thought it unlikely that this Robert was a son of James of Mellmount. Could Robert be yet another County Tyrone Sproule, again possibly a nephew or another relative? 3

Are They the Same Family?

At this point, I began to believe that all of these adventuring Sproules were from the same family! It looked to me as if James, William, Samuel and Andrew of Tullymoan could well be brothers, and that Robert and Young Samuel could be the children of these brothers. It was an amazing conclusion to reach! Simple farmers in County Tyrone in the late 1700s, senior medical personnel in Bombay and affluent plantation owners in Jamaica – all of the same family! 

I had no firm proof as yet, but there was one piece of evidence that had led me to this ‘definite maybe’!

It came when I had learnt the identities of my great, great grandparents, and I cross checked these with the will of James of Mellmount. In his will, James names his brother Andrew, Brother Andrew’s wife Rebecca, and their son, James. The first box was ticked! My great, great grandfather was Andrew, his wife was Rebecca and their son, my great grandfather, was James!

The second box was only half ticked! In his will, James of Mellmount tells us that he did indeed have a brother named William.  Could this be the same William Sproule who was the father of Young Samuel? But disappointment here!  In James Sproule’s will, Brother William’s wife was called Mary, and I knew that Young Samuel’s mother was definitely Anne.  On the other hand, James of Mellmount was in Jamaica, a long way from Ireland. Could he simply have got his sister-in-law’s name wrong? Or was this a completely different family? 4

Brothers or not brothers? That was the question,  and it was driving me crazy!

And then I got the will of Samuel Sproule, Head of the Medical Board of Bombay. All was revealed!

1   FIBIS, Families in British India Society, Database
2   The Londonderry Sentinel 1829 – 1869
3   Jamaica Family Search, Genealogy Research Library, collection of Almanacs

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