Friday, March 27, 2009

The two "natural born" daughters of Thomas Hughan

I would love to know who the mother of these two girls was, but I think that too long a time has passed and with no direct descendants of either daughter to pass down the knowledge, I can't even rely on family hearsay to provide a hint or two.
I have searched the Scotlandspeople records for their baptisms to no avail, as well as what baptisms are available online for Jamaica. English records also revealed nothing, although this is not surprising as I have not been able to locate any of my Presbyterian Hughan baptisms for those children that I know were definitely born in England.
Neither daughter lived to an old age, and only one married.The first mention I have found of them came in the will of their uncle, Alexander Hughan, who died in London in 1810. He mentioned Jane and Margaret Hughan, the two "natural children" of his brother, Thomas Hughan, and bequeathed to them £1,000.
The following year, Thomas Hughan himself leaves bequests to "my natural children" Jane Hughan and Margaret Hughan, and mentions that they have not yet attained the age of 21 years.This means that Jane and Margaret could not have been born prior to 1790, and there is a good chance that they were born in Jamaica during the ten or twelve year period that Thomas hughan resided there.
It appears that both sisters lived in Edinburgh, at least as young adults.Jane Hughan made her will on May 3, 1817. It was very short and simple...
"I leave, in token of my love and gratitude to the Miss Sterlings the sum of £100 which I would wish paid out of the interest of my moiety.To Jane Howarth now Mrs Reid £10. Then all I possess to my beloved sister. Should I be survivor I then leave £1000, my books, clothes to the Miss Sterlings. To my dear Aunt £1000 and the remainder of my money to Thomas Hughan. This is my will, Jane Hughan, 3 May 1817.
On 29 July 1817 administration with the will annexed of the goods chattels and credits of Jane Hughan late of York Place, Edinburgh, spinster, deceased, was granted to Margaret Hughan, spinster."
On top of the second page was the notation: "Was granted to James Spence, Esquire, the lawful husband and sole executor named in the said will of the said Margaret Spence formerly Hughan."
Margaret Hughan married the following year, on July 6, 1818.The 'Edinburgh Annual register' reported: "July 6,1819: James Spence, Esq, Broughton Place, Edinburgh, to Miss Hughan."
I have tried to discover more about James Spence, but without an approximate birth year it is difficult to distinguish him from several other candidates for his identity. It is certain that he was a "Writer" from Edinburgh- very basically, this means that he was a Writer of the Signet,a private society of Scottish solicitors dating back to 1594, making them the oldest legal profession in the world.
The Edinburgh Advertiser in 1811 and 1813 has references to James Spence, Writer, being located at 45 York Place, Edinburgh, which is the street where Jane Hughan was residing when she wrote her will in 1817. In 1816 the newspaper had him being at Broughton Place, Edinburgh, which is where his new bride Margaret Hughan resided for the short period of her marriage.
There are two possibilities for this James Spence, though neither is certain by any means. The first 'contender' is James Spence, born September 3, 1790, Edinburgh, to Writer James Spence and his wife Jean Imlach. James Spence Senior and Jean Imlach were married in Edinburgh on December 12, 1788. Jean was the daughter of the Reverend Alexander Imlach. Her marriage to James Spence was very short-lived...both the Edinburgh Advertiser and Scots magazine of 1790 reported her death:
"Mrs Jean Imlach, spouse to Mr James Spence, Writer in Edinburgh, died at his house in Wardrop's Court, on Friday the 19th current. It is hoped that her friends and relations will accept this notification of her death.November 19, 1790, Edinburgh Advertiser."
- "19th December: At Edinburgh, Mrs. Jean Imlach, spouse to Mr james Spence, Writer in Edinburgh. Scots Magazine, 1790."

If he survived, the infant James Spence would have been just two and a half months old at the time of his mother's death. I cannot find any further trace of James Spence Senior and his son as yet.

The second possibility is James Spence who was born on August 29, 1787, in Edinburgh, the son of Alexander Spence, jeweller of Edinburgh, and his wife Robina Wallace.This James also had a sister, Jane Hatiburton Spence, who was born on March 28, 1789, in Edinburgh.
James Spence, son of Alexander, was a Writer to the Signet, and lived in Edinburgh during the same period as "our" James Spence. He married Jemima Grace Hall on September 21, 1834, in Edinburgh, aged about 47 years. Jemima had been born on April 5, 1811, in Ayr, to parents James Hall and Grace Rankin, so she was 23 at the time of her marriage. I favour this James as being the one that married Margaret Hughan in 1818, but there was no mention on the marriage entry of James and Jemima of James being a widower.I'm not sure if this would have been mentioned, however.
James and Jemima had just one child, a daughter named Robina Wallace Jane. The entry in the parish register read:
"SPENCE: Edinburgh, 14th April,1836. James Spence, writer to the Signet, residing at Number 24 Pitt Street, Saint Stephen's parish, and Jemima Grace Hall, his spouse, had a lawful daughter born on the 23rd day of March eighteen hundred and thirty six named Robina Wallace Jane."
I can't find any of the family in Ancestry's 1841 census, but when they show up in the 1851 census for Scotland James is a widower.The family is living at 24 Pitt Street, Edinburgh, and consists of 63 year old James Spence, writer to the signet, his 61 year old sister Jane H. Spence, a spinster living on the interest of money, and James's 15 year old daughter Robina, a scholar. Also living in the house were two female servants.
James Spence died suddenly aged 69 while visiting in Argyllshire,at 8:30 P.M. on September 15, 1856.There was no medical certificate issued, and cause of death was "supposed enlargement of the heart".His parents were stated as being Alexander Spence, jeweller in Edinburgh, deceased, and Robina Spence maiden name Wallace deceased.
James died intestate, but administration of his small estate was given to his only living family member, his daughter Robina. Robina married at the age of 20 Robert Rubens Jefferys (or Jefferiss/Jeffress), on January 21, 1857, at Glasgow.
The 1861 census shows Robina and her family living at Garden House, Back Street, Dalkeith, Edinburgh. Her 39 year old husband is a medical doctor and surgeon, and was born c. 1822 in London. He must have been a widower at the time of his marriage to Robina, because living with them is his 14 year old son, "W.R.S Jeffress, born c. 1847, Dalkeith", before Robina's marriage. Robina had given Robert a son in 1858- a son named James.Also living with them at the time of the census was Robina's 70 year old aunt, Jane Spence, who was described as a shareholder.
The family was still there at the time of the 1871 census, and had grown with the addition of sons Frederick,aged 9; William aged 7; and Henry aged 6.Their father Robert's occupation was 'general practitioner'.
I stopped looking for this family fun as the chase was, I have no evidence that this family is even connected to the James Spence who married Margaret Hughan.

It is sad but interesting to note that neither of Thomas Hughan's daughters lived beyond their twenties and died within two years of eachother. While we don't know their birth years, the fact that they were not yet 21 when their father died in 1811 means that they had to have been born AFTER 1790. This means that at the times of their deaths in 1817 and 1819, Jane and Margaret Hughan would have only been in their twenties.
I wonder who raised the two girls? The "Misses Stirling/Sterling" are made mention of in several Hughan wills, and may provide a clue as to who Jane and Margaret Hughan lived with. I will discuss the "Sisters Sterling" and their relationship with the Hughans in my next blog.


  1. Baptism records for Kingston Jamaica for Jane and Margaret are online with mother listed as Margaret Hook, a free mulatto woman eg

  2. There is a son Thomas born 3 Oct 1795 as well

  3. Jane is at


Margaret Hook, mother of Thomas Hughan's two daughters

At last... after years of pondering the mystery of who was the mother of Thomas Hughan's two natural daughters, Jane and Margaret, the a...