This item of work was researched and written by expert genealogist, Patricia Brennan. 

There to be a flurry of excited in the irish genealogy people with the news that Kamala Harris had actually a great-grandmother from Jamaica named Iris Finegan. Could there be one more Irish attach here to complement Joe Biden’s ties come Mayo and also Louth? Sadly, no. A rapid dive into Jamaican records ruled the end the Finegan line. However that’s not the finish of story. The far more likely Irish attach to the American Vice-President is a 19th century slave-owner from county Antrim.

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Two year ago, Donald J Harris – economist and also professor emeritus in ~ Stanford University, California – composed a short essay licensed has been granted ‘Reflections of a Jamaican Father’. His eldest daughter had actually recently come to be a us Senator from California and also – as a increasing star in the autonomous Party – she was currently attracting a many media interest. Kamala Harris was ending up being a prize of American diversity. She is the daughter of immigrants; her mother was a scientist from India, her father an scholastic from Jamaica. His essay offers a brief family background and the intriguing possibility of an ireland connection, albeit no one the Fáilte Ireland is likely to boast about.

Donald J Harris’s parents were Beryl and Oscar Harris, known to the household as ‘Miss Beryl’ and ‘Maas Oscar’. The writes fondly that his 2 grandmothers, both formidable matriarchs who were an influential part of his life growing up in Jamaica. His head grandmother to be Christiana Brown – recognized as ‘Miss Chrishy’. His maternal grandmother to be ‘Miss Iris (nèe Iris Finegan)’. Miss out on Iris’s family tree was unknown come him; miss out on Chrishy to be a ‘descendant that Hamilton Brown that is on document as plantation and also slave owner and also founder the Brown’s Town.’ Brown’s city is in St Ann’s Parish, Middlesex County; the Harris household was based in ‘Orange Hill’, Brown’s Town. ‘Miss Iris’ ran a sugar farm in Thatch Walk, close to Aenon Town, top top the border of St Ann’s Parish and also Claredon Parish.

 From the details in the Donald Harris memoir, and also subsequent research, the household tree looks like this:


Not surprisingly, ireland genealogists first focussed top top the Finegan line. Disappointingly, records display that Finegan was no Iris’ maiden name. An ext likely, she was Iris Allen who married Patrick Finegan ~ above 1 january 1908 in St Ann’s Parish. They had at the very least four youngsters born between 1908 and also 1913: Gloria, Abraham, Noel, Bernard. In 1917 Iris Finegan ‘formerly Allen’ had a daughter Beril Magdeline. No father was mentioned, for this reason she was probably not the daughter the Patrick Finegan. Beril Allen or Finegan was most likely Donald Harris’s mother. That is probable the Iris’ husband in later on life – known to the household as ‘Mr Christie’ – was Beril’s father.


Kamala Harris v her great-grandmother ‘Miss Iris’. Picture from‘Reflections the a Jamaican Father’, by Donald J Harris.


Birth document of Beril Finegan or Allen, 9 Sept 1917

Civil registration in Jamaica started in 1878. Before that, there are minimal church records, few of which are available online. The Jamaican Church of England parish registers provide a chilling insight into the world of slavery. In January 1817, because that instance, a ‘John Whitaker belonging to Lydia Whitaker’ was baptised. As were ‘Richard Clark a servant belonging to miss Luc (illegible)’ and also ‘Mary Williams, a servant belonging to miss Williams’. ‘Ann Finlayson a human of shade belonging come Mrs Milne was baptised’, together was ‘Catherine Burke, a slave of color.’ In the same year, numerous ‘free persons of color’ were likewise baptised, indicating the complexities that Jamaica’s racial mix.


Jamaican Church of England baptisms, St Ann’s Parish, 1817,

Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1834 yet even together late as 1879 local Church the England registers consisted of a obelisk for the ‘complexion’ of the person being baptised – i.e., black, brown, coloured, sambo, white – and also whether ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate’.


Christiana Brown – ‘Miss Chrishy – at her house at Orange Hill, St Ann’s Parish, Jamaica. Photo from ‘Reflections the a Jamaican Father’, by Donald J Harris.

Kamala Harris’ great grandmother Christiana Brown to be born about 1881. According to Donald Harris she to be a descendant the the slave owner and also founder that Brown’s Town, Hamilton Brown. If there is one Irish link in Kamala Brown’s heritage, the is most most likely through Hamilton Brown, who was from county Antrim.

On Brown’s gravestone in St Mark’s Anglican Church in Brown’s Town, is the complying with inscription: ‘Sacred come the storage of Hamilton Brown, Esq’re, a aboriginal of the ar Antrim Ireland, who departed this life on the 18th Sept. 1843, in the 68th year the his age… His surname will lengthy be cherished through a grateful community who for nearly half a century proficient the benefits of his generosity mind and also warm heart.’


The dig of Hamilton Brown, 1843, Brown’s Town, Jamaica.

Hamilton Brown, an Ulster Presbyterian, cleared up in Jamaica once he was about two decades old. He became a influential plantation and also slave owner.<1> that was additionally a lawyer and also a long-standing representative in the Jamaican Assembly; the campaigned vociferously versus the abolition of slavery. Three month in Jamaica, one anti-slavery pamphlet by Henry Whiteley, was released in London in 1833. Grandfather Whiteley, recounted his experience in Jamaica having actually arrived in September 1832, searching for employment opportunities. One of the an initial people that met to be Hamilton Brown that told him the the planters the Jamaica would certainly not permit ‘the interference the the home government with your slaves.’ The slaves, he said, to be happy and enjoyed a an ext comfortable life 보다 the working poor in England. The rest of the pamphlet recorded the appalling conditions and also cruel brutality saw by a shocked grandfather Whiteley.


Three month in Jamaica by Henry Whiteley. Easily accessible on

Henry Whiteley’s pamphlet led to much comment in English newspapers consisting of reactions indigenous readers. One wrote: ‘I recognize Mr Hamilton Brown and first saw him at a sale of negros…I then believed him one ignorant, brutish and also fiend-like guy well calculate to it is in a member of the house of Assembly or any kind of house disposed come uphold slavery.’


From the Nottingham Review and also General Advertiser, 10 might 1833,

When the British government abolished enslavement in Jamaica in 1834, servant owners got financial compensation for the people who to be assessed together no much more than relinquished property. Hamiliton Brown – either together owner or lawyer – was linked with compensation cases involving more than 1000 enslaved people.<1> Surviving servant registers – accessible on ancestry – present that in most years in between 1813 and 1834 Brown registered details for around 125 enslaved people. They to be categorised as ‘African’ or ‘Creole’ and additionally by colour.

So, to be Hamilton Brown Kamala Harris’ ancestor? This is what her family believes to be the case but as yet, the link remains unproven. Records that prove familial links in between the slave-owning plantation owners and also the broader population space rare. The making it through registers the enslaved people give only an initial names and, in some cases, a maternal first name. ~ emancipation, freemen and women were supposed to have actually a surname. That is frequently assumed that they took your ex-owners’ names.<1> The obtainable church registers – also in the years after emancipation – typically record maternal surname only.

Christiana Brown (c1881-1951) is, follow to the Harris family, the attach to Hamilton Brown. Together stated, civil records in Jamaica start in 1878. The information detailed is inconsistent, particularly in the early on years that registration. Many babies to be registered without a first name listed. Numerous are in their mothers’ surname only, or have various surnames than their mothers however still no mention of the father’s name. The familial or various other status the the birth ‘informant’ is regularly not defined. Pictures of Jamaican civil records are obtainable on household Search v indexes ~ above both family members Search and Ancestry, but these are not finish nor always clear; over there sometimes shows up to it is in confusion in between middle names and surnames.

Several birth documents were discovered that can refer come Christiana Brown, but none of this is conclusive. The find centred ~ above St Ann’s parish, the big parish in the north main part of the island wherein the Harris household was based. That is also the parish to be Hamilton Brown lived.

If Christiana Brown passed away in 1951 aged 70 (as stated by Donald Harris) her birth year was around 1881. Searching 5 year +/- 1881, numerous Christiana Browns to be found, but it was not feasible to identify which, if any type of of them, to be relevant. The most exciting were the 3 born in Brown’s Town, and another registered together Chrissy. (The Harris family nickname for Christiana to be Chrishy.) With easily accessible records, it was not feasible to push any kind of of this births back to an previously generation or a possible link to Hamilton Brown.

Some of the feasible birth records for Christiana Brown space as follows:

Christiana, 30 September 1881, Bruxton, Brown’s Town, mother Frances Brown, labourer. No father listed.

Christiana, 14 July 1885, Bruxton, Brown’s Town, mom Mary woman Brown, labourer, no dad listed.

Charity Christiana, 11 April 1886, Brown’s Town, father john Brown, planter, mommy Saliago (nee Mumby).

Chrissy Adinah, 28 April 1884, stole Mount, Claremount, St Ann’s Parish, mommy Mary Anne, Brown, residential labourer. No dad listed.

As well as the Christiana Browns provided above, there were records found of numerous unnamed female children born to women named Brown in the appropriate years in both Brown’s town and an ext widely in St Ann’s parish. No surprisingly, Brown to be a an extremely common lock in and also around Brown’s Town.

Whatever around Christiana Brown’s parentage, records were discovered for seven youngsters born to her at Orange Hill, Brown’s city from 1902 to 1916. No paternal name was given, but two that these kids we re-registered together Harris part years after birth. The name of 2 others tally with well-known names that the Harris children. When and also if Christiana Brown and also Joseph Alexander Harris married is no certain, yet they plainly had a huge family together. The only fatality record discovered for a Christiana Brown approximately the right date was for a spinster Christiana Brown who passed away 11 June 1951 in Brown’s Town. She was explained as a seamstress, which was the occupation given on the birth document of one of her children.

The dad of Donald J Harris – Kamala’s grandfather – to be born come Christiana Brown top top April 5 1914 and also was registered under the name Oscar Wilde Brown. Possibly this is simply a coincidence and also not a tribute come the irish writer; in any type of case, his birth was re-registered as Oscar Joseph Harris in 1950.


Birth document of Oscar Wilde Brown 5 April 1914, re-registered as Oscar Joseph Harris 12 December 1915.

Oscar Harris’s brother were as follows:

Ethal may Brown, 6 Nov 1902;

Reginald Victor Brown, 25 might 1906, (he was Reginald Harris when he married in 1932);

Vera Eileen Brown, 16 Dec 1907, (she to be Vera E Harris as soon as she appeared as a evil on her brother’s marital relationship record in 1932);

Lysinda Brown, 15 June 1910, ‘baptismal surname Maybel ann Harris’ added to the it is registered on 10 July 1930;

Newton Alexander Brown, 15 march 1916;

Eva Doreen Brown, 9 january 1919.

Reginald Victor Harris, Newton Alexander Harris and also Oscar Joseph Harris show up in newspaper reports and were plainly involved in the family business. Donald Harris’ paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, a famous businessman in Brown’s Town, passed away suddenly top top 11 Aug 1939. A report in the regional newspaper noted the event and also funeral however did not give any family information.

An earlier newspaper report in 1934 proclaimed that a Joseph Alexander Harris had disowned duty for his wife’s debts. Her surname was Caroline Vereleta Harris. Clearly, this wife was no Christiana Brown. Whether it concerns the very same Joseph Alexander Harris, is not certain.

Working earlier from Christiana Brown has not caused a solid attach to Hamilton Brown, yet working from earlier records forward does display evidence of part familial web links from the slave-owning Brown family members to the wider Jamaican community. In both church and later civil records, the surname Hamilton Brown is no at every uncommon and also is often associated with labourers, apprentices, craftsmen.<1> it’s unlikely the all these guys descended indigenous the servant owner. Possibly numerous descended indigenous those enslaved top top Hamilton Brown plantations. But there is some evidence of closer ties. On 4 June 1839 there were three baptisms of attention in St Ann’s parish. A mar Melvina Brown was born to Hamilton Brown, Jr, described as a ‘planter’. There to be no mother’s name included. The residence given was Grier Park which was one of the Hamilton Brown properties. A Charles Brown, another planter, was named as the dad of a mary Ann Brown and also a Hamilton Brown. Again, no mother’s name was given. The resolve was Penny’s Pen, an additional holding connected with the servant holder Hamilton Brown. These 3 are an ext firmly connected to the slave-owner than other children with comparable names.

Records were discovered for 3 of mary Melvina Brown’s children: Gilbert Charles (8 April 1875) who ‘complexion’ was defined in church documents as ‘white’; Edwin (22 jan 1877) described as ‘colored’; and also Maybel (29 january 1879) likewise described as ‘colored’. Their father was mar Melvina’s husband, likewise named Hamilton Brown. Whether he was the same human as the Hamilton Brown that was baptised through her in 1839 is uncertain. Available parish and civil records provide no indication of a Christiana or any type of other boy born to this couple. This family members lived their resides in Pedro, a ar in St Ann’s parish south east of Brown’s Town where they had actually a farm, a shop and also ran a article office. This Hamilton Brown to be the registrar that civil records in Pedro and also his wife mary Melvina sometimes showed up to deputise for him as both names can be discovered as registrar and witness top top several local birth records. It is most likely that if they had had another child that would have been registered with finish parental names.

Attempts to map the mary Ann Brown born to Charles Brown, planter, in 1839 have not to be successful. No has any kind of record been found of earlier kids born to mary Melvina, though her baptism date argues it would have been feasible for her to be the grandmother quite than mother of Christiana.

As enslavement in Jamaica was ending, it became evident that there is no wage-free labour plenty of plantations would certainly not it is in viable. Because that Hamilton Brown this to be an possibility to buy increase distressed properties. Jamaican almanacs indigenous 1832 onward show boost in Hamilton Brown properties. In 1833, the had 5 plantations in St Ann’s parish and owned 573 slaves.<1> conscious that after ~ emancipation, that would require a stable supply of brand-new workers, the turned to his native country.<2> In December 1835 the ‘James Ray’, a ship owned by Hamilton Brown, collection off indigenous Belfast because that Jamaica v 121 Irishmen indigenous Ballymoney and their families. The new workers were sent out to Hamilton Brown properties on the island. There was an additional such emigrant delivery in 1836 bringing 185 Irish human being to the parish the St Ann. In 1840, 130 emigrants from Kildare were recruited. The brand-new emigrants were carried in under one apprentice system that assumed lock would job-related where they were put for a set number of years prior to being complimentary to go elsewhere.<3>

In Ireland, the concern of emigration to Jamaica to be by then beginning to cause controversy with insurance claims that desperately bad people to be enticed v false promises of good wages and also a far better life. Newspapers throughout Ireland take it up this reason warning that, for north Europeans, the Jamaican climate was among pestilence and disease and that the Irish, working on plantations, would end up being the ‘new slaves’. In advancement of the pending exit of the ‘Robert Kerr’ emigrant ship from Limerick, one editorial in the Freeman’s Journal, on 4 December 1840, suggested that Ireland was in risk of coming to be a new slave market, luring ‘our wretched, deluded countrymen who are induced to walk out with their wives and also families come the pestilential shores of Jamaica, there to it is in indentured in the manner of the black apprentices to the old servant owners because that a hatchet of years…What care those who engage in this new species of slave trade, whether our well sturdy peasants sink right into an untimely grave in three months or in six months after they have actually laboured under the burning sunlight of Jamaica.’

" alt="irish-family-history" width="222" height="357" srcset=" 249w, 93w, 187w, 274w" sizes="(max-width: 222px) 100vw, 222px" />Not everyone felt the same. On 5 might 1841, the Limerick Chronicle published a letter from a thomas Daly who had recently arrived in Jamaica through his family. He was happy with his new employment, his health was excellent and also he uncovered the climate delightful. However his letter was written in springtime. In the summer that 1841 part who had actually recently took trip from Ireland passed away from yellow fever. Countless emigrants found the conditions in Jamaica intolerable and absconded from the estates they were sent out to. There were reports that death, disease, drunkenness and also despair. Some – who uncovered the method – returned to Ireland or travelled on to the joined States. <1>

The most typical surnames in contemporary Jamaica are Shaw, Brown and also Williams in that order. However there is a sprinkling of much more distinctly ireland names through many historical records. Because that instance, a perform of white settlers from 1749 come 1752 consists of the name Brennan, Collins, Daly, Fitzgerald, Kennedy, Quinn.<2> Hamilton Brown was among several irish slave-owners, including John Browne, the Earl of Sligo. No doubt, amongst the hundreds who travelled from Ireland indigenous 1835-1841, there were plenty of who settled successfully and whose descendants have become component of Jamaica’s varied population.

Specific proof of enslaved youngsters fathered by slave-owners is rare. Periodically it is discovered in wills, fairly than baptismal or birth records, as slave-owners sought to carry out for your mixed-race, typically extra-marital families. In her publication Ireland: Slavery and Anti-Slavery 1612-1865, historian Nini Rodgers recounts the story the Garret Forde, indigenous a Roscommon family, who died in blame on his street plantation in Jamaica in the 18th century, leaving behind a mixed-race family. His child – viewed as no much more than a financial legacy – was marketed as part of the estate. His daughters were just left ~ above the remote plantation in a disk house. They to be ‘discovered’ through their irish cousins some decades later.<3>

George Daly, the boy of Athlone-man James Daly, was born to sarah Hart, ‘a free mulatto’. Her father was a white guy named James Hart who had actually bequeathed property to her and her three sisters. When slavery ended, George Daly obtained compensation native the British federal government for his 2 slaves. <4>

The stories of plenty of mixed-race families in Jamaica is no doubt complicated. But, provided the power slave owners exercised over the enslaved, sexual exploitation and rape room a huge part the the story. No doubt many human being in Jamaica have a slave-owner in their family trees. Ireland slave-owners – Hamilton Brown among them – are part of this history.


 Ancestry,, (Select births and baptisms; Jamaica; servant Registers)

‘Emigrants of 1840: Irish slaves for Jamaica’ by Carl H Senior, Jamaica Journal no 42, 1978, pp 104-116, available at

Family Search,, (Jamaican polite Registration; Jamaican Church that England Parish Registers)

Find a Grave,

Find mine Past,, newspaper collection, including The Gleaner, Jamaica.

Harris, Donald J, ‘Reflections of a Jamaican Father’, obtainable on

Jamaican family members Search family tree Research,

See more: Does Meg Ryan Have A Daughter Now, 403 Forbidden

Irish Newspaper Archive,

Legacies that British servant ownership, university College London,

Rodgers, Nini, Ireland: Slavery and Anti-Slavery 1612-1865, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.