Ann Eloisa French (1787-1835)

On this day, October 13 in 1835, Ann Eloisa (or later Eliza) French, who is believed to be my 3rd great-grandmother died in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Eliza Thomasina’s Baptism, St. Catherine’s Parish Church, Spanish Town

I say ‘believed’ because although it can not (yet) be proven conclusively all indications, including the advice from a professional Jamaican genealogist, are that this is the right person who was the mother of my 2nd great-grandmother Eliza Thomasina Walsh. This Eliza was born in Spanish Town on March 3, 1808 and her mother was A.E. French.

Ethnically, Ann Eloisa was a quadroon, being of mixed race, the grand daughter of an African who was undoubtedly a slave. Her parents were Jane Charlotte Beckford, a free mulatto and George French, one time Crown Solicitor/Clerk of the Jamaica Assembly and later the High Court, Assistant Judge, Solicitor for the Crown and Clerk of the Peace in Spanish Town. Jane was George’s mistress and they had six children together.

White Church and Ellis Streets, Spanish Town

Eliza Thomasina’s father was Thomas Walsh, an Irish officer in the 56th Regiment of the British army serving in Jamaica and who acknowledged Eliza as his daughter in his 1809 will. In that will Thomas had requested that Eliza Thomasina should be returned to Ireland when four years of age. Thomas had returned to England by 1809 and he died in an accident the following year but his wishes regarding Eliza were carried out and she eventually married Henry Harrison Briscoe in Ireland in 1830. It is not known what part, if any, Ann Eloisa had in this decision or in Eliza Thomasina’s life before her return to Ireland.

The old Lodging House is now the Freemason’s Hamilton Lodge Meeting House

Jane Charlotte ran a lodging house on the corner of White Church and Ellis Streets in Spanish Town. This was later known as Miss French’s Lodgings presumably after Ann took over running of the establishment when Jane Charlotte died in 1825. The building that stands on that corner today I likely to be the same

Excerpt from Lady Nugent’s Diary, wife of Gen. George Nugent, Governor of Jamaica

Ann Eliza French (as she was then known) was the administratrix of her mother’s will and presumably also the beneficiary.

Currently no more is known about Ann’s life except that she died in 1835 and was buried in St. Catherine’s churchyard in Spanish Town.

Thomas Walsh (1777-1810)

ON THIS DAY, August 28, in 1810 my 3rd great-grandfather Lt. Col. Thomas Walsh was buried at St. Andrew’s Church, Farnham, Surrey. He was only 33 years old.

Thomas is one of my most interesting and hence favourite ancestors largely because of his family’s history but also because of the chase he led us on to discover his story.

Born of Irish stock (Walsh being about the fourth most common name in Ireland), it was surprising to discover after much searching and false clues, that Thomas was born in France and christened Francis Thomas Joseph David Walsh.

His family was exiled to France after his 2nd great-grandfather James Walsh was dispossessed of his lands in the Walsh Mountains of Kilkenny in the mid-1600s. Along with other Irish families they sought refuge in the St. Malo area of Brittany. Here they became quite prosperous providing naval services to the French, in ship-building, as privateers and even slave trading. His great-grandfather Phillip was captain of the ship that conveyed the defeated James II from Kinsale Ireland to France, after the former King’s unsuccessful bid to reclaim the throne of England. For services rendered by the family Phillip’s son Anthony Vincent Walsh was named as Earl Walsh by the titular King James III. Thomas’s father Anthony John Baptist Walsh was the second Earl Walsh who after a successful career in the service of the King of France and being honoured as Count Antoine Walsh, knight of the military order of St. Louis, retired to the West Indies where he died in 1798.

From: A Royalist Family Irish and French (1689-1789) and Prince Charles Edward, translated from the French by A.G.Murray McGregor, 1904.

Thomas was born in 1777 in St. Georges-sur-Loire, France and at the age of sixteen despite the anti-British family history, had already embarked on a career in the British army, most likely with the Walsh Regiment of the Irish Brigade in the West Indies. He was later described as displaying “early professional promise” and by 1798 he was a Lieutenant in the 88th Regiment under fellow Irishman Major General Eyre Coote, serving (against the French) in Egypt during the Napoleonic wars. In 1803 he published, the “Journal of the late campaign in Egypt: including descriptions of that country, and of Gibralta, Minorca, Malta, Marmorice and Macri”.

By 1805 he had been promoted to Lt. Col. and again served under Coote this time in the 56th Regiment in Jamaica until about 1808 or 1809. It was during this period that his liaison with A.E. French produced a daughter, Eliza Thomasina, who was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1808. Eliza’s mother was most likely Ann Eloisa (or later called Eliza) French who was a”quadroon”, or one quarter African, of slave descent. In Thomas’s will be see (below) his desire for Eliza to be raised in at home, in Ireland.

Thomas Walsh part will

Thomas returned to England as assistant adjutant general under Coote, but on August 23, 1910 he was killed by a fall from a gig near Guildford in Surrey. Family members in Ireland were deeply touched by his death and arranged for a monument to be erected at St. Andrew’s Church in Farnham. (Fuller details are set out in the Eyre Coote Papers held in the William L. Clements Library University of Michigan).

In accordance with his wishes, the young Eliza was returned to Ireland and presumably grew up with Walsh relatives at Belline in Kilkenny before marrying Henry Harrison Briscoe in 1830.

The family tree below shows that Thomas died “s.p”  ([Latin]sine prole; without offspring or died without issue) which we now know is not correct.

Thomas Walsh’s Family Tree, from A Royalist Family Irish and French (1689-1789)and Prince Charles Edward, translated from the French by A.G.Murray McGregor, 1904.