Racial Admixture in Elizabethan London

We typically don’t think of Africans in London in the 1500s, but they were there, as proven in parish and other records.  Thankfully, they were rare enough that when there was a record pertaining to them, their ethnicity is recorded.  But by 1600, after the Queen’s legendary decades-long conflict with Spain where galley slaves from Spanish ships were “rescued” when the ships were captured, the number of Africans and other “Moorish” people were becoming problematic, at least to the Queen, and she sought to repatriate at least some of them to “Barbary.”

Recently, the BBC ran a wonderful story about this which you can find at this link:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18903391

In the haplogroup E1b1a project, it’s not uncommon for a person who knows their family to be “white” to discover their haplogroup is of African origin.  Many times, one can account for this by more fully researching the early colonial records of America, but not always.  Perhaps we need to extend the research net a bid wider to include both London and Bristol records.



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8 thoughts on “Racial Admixture in Elizabethan London

  1. My research concurs with what Roberta has said regarding Africans in the UK. Look for them in any seaport town. Merchants brought them back as household servants, During the era of the slave trade, many were kept as overseers. I’ve found them in North Devon, Bristol, London and even South Devon early on. But after slavery was abolished, (c. 1805) African origins is much more common in the UK.

  2. Fascinating snippet in relation to this story… It is possible that ‘Lawrence, servant of Sir Richard Grenville’ who is noted just a couple of entries after ‘Rawly a wynganditoian’ in Bideford’s Parish Burial Register of 1589 could have been one such African. We know that the Dodderidge’s of Barnstaple, friends of the Grenville’s, dabbled in the supply of these ‘free’ servants. How many more made it to the rural and sparsely populated corners of England remains unknown.

  3. Roberta, et al,

    Now, this little tidbit of information on racial admixture in the British Isles is really interesting as it may lead to confirmation of a suspicion which I’d developed regarding the haplogroup of the Lowry clan from Robeson County, NC. I’ll share my thinking on this and would welcome feedback from others who might be “better read” on this subject.

    Couple things we think we know, first:

    1). James Lowry (1700-1752) the patriarch of the Lowry family of NC is reported to have come from Virginia. Note: There are a few family trees that identify a father and mother of this James Lowry as named James (1660-1720) & Joan Lowry (1663-1740), but I haven’t yet had ability to view their evidence.
    2). Virginia was heavily colonized prior to the war for Independence by people from the British Isles, many of whom were “indentured servants” and who agreed to come (I’ve read this somewhere) to the colony with the promise of “working off” their servanthood and becoming free of it.
    3). The James Lowry aforementioned is reported to have been awarded a land grant of some sort and for some unknown reason.

    Recently read a book (The Slave Trade, by James Walvin) about slave trade from the “Gold Coast” of Africa. I won’t go to the trouble of getting that book out and trying to cite from it, but the bottom line on a few big impressions made on my memory is as follows:

    1). The trade in slaves from Africa began first in the “northerly” direction. Before the arrival of European ships, the traffic moved overland and North to Arab Countries.
    2). As the Portugese, followed by the Spanish and British developed their skills in navigating the oceans, it seems they first followed the coastlines, which led them South to Africa and other points and resulted in the development of ship trade along a North-South route..
    2). When the slave trade developed, they took on slaves which they sold in countries to the North (British Isles, Northern Africa, Europe, etc.).
    3). In later years the trade in slaves moved to the Caribbean Islands to Sugar Plantations and still later to the Eastern Coastal areas of South America and finally to mainland North America during the heavy colonization of the 1600s.
    Note: The very largest number of slaves went to the Caribbean and South America, which explains the large numbers of black-skinned persons living in those regions of the world today.

    Now, for my theory on the Lowry paternal ancestry:

    It is not known, as best I’ve been able to determine, from where the Lowry patriarch came, but I’m betting he, or his paternal ancestors may have been an indentured servant who came to the Virginia Colony from one of the British Isles. Further betting that his haplogroup as E1b1a resulted from an child of (intermarriage maybe) with a male from that African slave trade from the Gold Coast north to the British Isles.

    Any thoughts on this theory?

    • i had an ancestor named Mary Lowery who was married to Ed Wing in SC about 1774, She was born about 1755. I found their marriage listed in a book listing marriages by a certain minister in SC. I have no clue as to who were her parents.They were later in Gwinnett and Cobb county, Georgia. I am descended from their daughter Elizabeth Wing who married Thomas Boatright and they lived in Carroll co., Ga. where I am originally from, now living in andrews, Cherokee co., NC. Would love to find more on this ancestor.

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