Ebenezer Robertson

1760 - 1825


'Of Beverley in Yorkshire formerly of the Island of Jamaica.' Ebenezer Robertson was born c. 1761, possibly in Scotland. He left £100,000. His will of 1824 (there was also a codicil of 1825) make provision for the poor in Tain, Ross-shire and also mentions kin there, as well as providing for Margaret Dunbar and their children. It mentions no estates or enslaved people: Ebenezer Robertson is known to have assigned the mortgage of the Craig Mill estate in St George to Thomas Jameson in 1801, but to date no ownership of estates has been traced, although an Ebenezer Robertson appeared in the Slave Register for Kingston in 1817.

  1. Apparently born in 1760, the eldest son of Rev. Gilbert Robertson (1727-) and his wife Margaret nee Ross (d. 1775). Margaret was the daughter of Alexander Ross Esq and Margaret, daughter of Rev. Hugh Munro of Tain. His paternal grandfather Francis Robertson was minister of Clyne in Sutherland, 1719-1763 and was originally from Balconie in Kiltearn, Ross-shire.

  2. By 1787 Ebenezer Robertson had begun a long-term relationship with Margaret Dunbar in Jamaica. Their first child, Margaret, was born 13/01/1788 followed by a son, Francis William, 02/05/1789 and another daughter Mary Ann, 09/07/1790. An Act of Assembly, 10/12/1790 conferred, with certain restrictions, the privileges of whites upon the reputed kin of Nicholas Blake, deceased, planter, St Elizabeth, including Mary Blake and her descendants, who include Margaret Dunbar and her four oldest children: "Mary Blake of the Parish of Kingston a free mulatto woman and James Blake and John Blake free mulatto men, the reputed children of Nicholas Blake decd; late of the parish of St Elizabeth, Margaret Dunbar a free quadroon, daughter of the said Mary Blake and Sabena Eleanor Tierney, Margaret Robertson, Francis William Robertson and Mary Anne Robertson the infant children of the said Margaret Dunbar to all rights and privileges under certain restrictions." Between 1792 and 1802, he and Margaret Dunbar (q.v.) had a further 7 children: Gilbert (born 29/04/1792), Ebenezer (born 15/11/1793), William (born 11/02/1795), Jane (born 10/03/1797), Robert (born 11/09/1798), another Robert (born 25/10/1799) and William George (born 12/07/1801). All the children were baptised in Kingston and in each record Margaret is recorded as a free quadroon woman.

  3. Ebenezer Robertson joined the Royal Highland Society of London 05/03/1805. The convention was to state in the record when people joined from the East or West Indies and no such statement appears next to his name so possibly he had already left Jamaica by that date. He had settled in Beverley, Yorkshire by at least 1806 when his son Francis William joined the East India Company as a writer. In 1815 his eldest daughter Margaret married Edward Boghurst of the Royal Artillery in Beverley. He is recorded in Beverley as Ebenezer Robertson Esq., Keldgate, in Baines's Directory of 1823. Ebenezer died in 1825: there is a memorial to him in Beverley Minster. In his will he left £1000 sterling to Mrs Margaret Dunbar of Duke Street, Kingston, as well as legacies to his children.

  4. Ebenezer Robertson and Margaret Dunbar's son Francis William Robertson became a writer for the East India Company in Madras in 1806 (where he is "of Jamaica" and his father Ebenezer is "Esq. of Beverley, Yorks."). His career is summarised in Record of services of the Honourable East India Company's civil servants: “1806: Writer. 1807: Assistant under the Secretary to the Board of Revenue. 1808: Deputy Commerical Resident at Masulipatam Assistant under the Collector of Masulipatam. 1811: Register of the Zillah of Canara. 1812: Assistant to the Collector of Guntoor; 1814: Head Assistant to the Collector of Masulipatam. 1816: Assistant Magistrate of Maulipatam. 1819: Collector and Magistrate of Rajahmundry. 1824: Collector and Magistrate of Bellary. 1826: Principal Collector and Magistrate of Bellary. Died, 16th December 1838, at Anantapoor.” The will of Francis William Robertson, "Principal Collector and Magistrate at Bellary of Bellary, East Indies" was proved 14/01/1840.

  5. The couple's third son Ebenezer Robertson junior attended Charterhouse School and was a Carthusian 1809-1811. He gained a BA from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1828 and in 1830 married Harriet, daughter of J. Lockwood. Rev. Ebenezer Robertson was of 1 North Bar Street, Beverley, 09/01/1840 when he sold his furniture by auction. Rector of Motistone with Shorwell on the Isle of Wight from 1840 until 1854 when he "resigned being desponding in his mind that he should fall into poverty". In 1847 in St Peter's Church, Shorwell he erected a memorial to his nephew Francis Edward Robertson Boghurst, only son of his sister Margaret, who died 24/01/1847 age 29. Ebenezer junior committed suicide by jumping off the Shakespeare Cliff in Dover, 16/08/1854.

  6. Robert Robertson was still alive in 1824 when he was left a legacy of £5000 by his father. There are 3 possible matches for Margaret Dunbar's children in the compensation records: Jane Robertson, Mary Ann Robertson and Gilbert Robertson (all q.v.). However, at her marriage in Beverley in 1815, Margaret Robertson is given as the only daughter of Ebenezer Robertson so Jane and Mary Ann may have died young.

  7. The Petition to HM King George III for the establishment of Tain Royal Academy lists Ebenezer Robertson of Beverley as being a subscriber of £50 and upwards towards "defraying the expense of erecting building and endowing an Academy".

  8. A portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, commissioned by Ebenezer's brother Francis Robertson of Chilcote (1765-1852), is referred to in the letters of Francis Robertson which are now held at the Victoria and Albert Museum (the current location and ownership of the portrait are unknown). The name of the sitter is not given beyond that he was Francis's brother, but he is generally considered to be William Robertson (born 1768). Given that this William Robertson died in 1788 and the portrait was painted c. 1815, the only brother this could refer to is Ebenezer.


PROB 11/1703/162; Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880; W.D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? Vol. 1 1809-1839 (London, 2007) p. 226, reference 1825/2, citing Kenneth E. Ingram, Sources for the History of the West Indies p. 243.

  1. The genealogy of the families of Douglas of Mulderg and Robertson of Kindeace with their descdendants (Dingwall, 1895) p. 55; Hew Scott, Scotland Fasti Scotinae (1928) vol. 7 p. 80.

  2. Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880. CO/139/47 (775) via www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com; PROB 11/1703/162.

  3. John Sinclair, An Account of the Highland Society of London (London, B. McMillan, 1813) p. 57. India Office Records reference L/MIL/9/112 f.508 J/1/21 ff.164-165: http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/FullDisplay.aspx?RecordId=014-000236734 [accessed 08/04/2013]. Record of the marriage of Margaret Robertson and a sourced genealogy of her descendants at http://www.anatpro.com/index_files/Margaret_Sabina_Boghurst.htm [accessed 08/04/2013]. Baines's Directory (1823). George Oliver, The History and Antiquities of the Town and Minster of Beverley (Beverley, M. Turner, 1829) p. 326.

  4. India Office Records reference L/MIL/9/112 f.508 J/1/21 ff.164-165: http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/FullDisplay.aspx?RecordId=014-000236734 [accessed 08/04/2013]. Charles C. Prinsep, Record of services of the Honourable East India Company's civil servants in the Madras presidency, from 1741 to 1858 (London, Trubner, 1885) pp. 121-122; PROB 11/1922/14.

  5. Ancestry.com, Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900 [database online]. W.D. Parish, List of Carthusians, 1800-1879 (Lewes, Farcombe and Co., 1879) p. 198. Hull University Archives U DX/150/16/70. http://www.isle-of-wight-fhs.co.uk/mis_bis/mis_shorwell_st_peter.htm [accessed 08/04/2013].

  6. http://www.anatpro.com/index_files/Margaret_Sabina_Boghurst.htm [accessed 08/04/2013].

  7. Petition to George III for the establishment of Tain Royal Academy in 1807, facsimile of the Petition in the possession of Councillor Derek Louden.

  8. Douglas of Mulderg and Robertson of Kindeace pp. 55-56; 'Portrait of William Robertson of Chilcote 1816' in Historical Portraits Image Library, http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Page=Item&ItemID=773&Desc=William-Robertson-%7C-Sir-Thomas-Lawrence-PRA [accessed 21/03/2018].

We are grateful to Jim Brennan and Derek Louden for their assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Wealth at death

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
- 1801 [EY] → Mortgage Holder
1817 [EA] - → Owner

Legacies Summary

Cultural (1)

Tain Royal Academy...... 
notes →
The Petition to HM King George III for the establishment of Tain Royal Academy lists Ebenezer Robertson of Beverley as being a subscriber of £50 and upwards towards "defraying the expense of...

Relationships (2)

Executor → Testator
Extra-marital relationships

Addresses (1)

Beverley, Yorkshire, Yorkshire, England