Birthea or Bethia Brice or Bryce

1790 - 29th Nov 1876

Claimant or beneficiary


Bethia Bryce (variously spelt Birthea, Barthea, Barthia, and Bathia) was the youngest of her father John Bryce's "five reputed and tenderly beloved children" by his partner Elizabeth Carter. Her siblings were Elizabeth, Martha, Sarah, and John Murray Bryce, who apparently died young, having been named after her father's friend John Murray of St Catherine. Bethia and her sisters were described as "free mustee" apart from Elizabeth, who was described as "free quadroon". DNA tests on Bethia's descendants show that she bore some East African genes.

John's last will and testament of 1795 reveals his uncle was James Wilson, gardner in Glasgow, and that he had an elder brother named James. This allows us to identify his father as William Bryce, gardener and Burgess of Glasgow (d. before 1793). His older brother William had also apparently died before John's will was written.

The will instructs his executors to sell sufficient enslaved people on his plantation called Saxham Park at George Hill, St Ann, to satisfy his debts. His former partner was to receive an annuity of £14, and was permitted to use his house and offices at Saxham Park for the rest of her life. Each daughter was to receive £200 on attaining 21 years, while his son was to receive his plantation and enslaved people.

That Elizabeth Carter died soon afterwards is suggested by a bequest from an unrelated "free brown" woman called Ann Frances Cameron (d. 1813 in St Catherine) of two enslaved people to be shared by the three youngest sisters. It could be that she had had informally adopted the girls after the death of their mother. By 1813, the eldest sibling had left home, changed her name to Eleanor Young (by which name she was baptised), and had become the partner successively of two white planters: Robert Wesbrook (1770-1812), followed by Daniel Virtue (1775-1823).

Birthea Brice was the common-law wife of James Sutherland (d. Q1 1831), a Gaelic-speaking Scottish planter probably from Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands.

James and Birthea produced four known children: Eleanor Raven Sutherland (b. 1817), Jane Richardson Sutherland (b. 1819), Elizabeth White Sutherland (b. 1821), and Daniel Virtue Sutherland (1824-1884).

James Sutherland was proprietor of the Dunrobin Plantation, Manchester, Jamaica, from around 1799 to 1831. Dunrobin was situated in what are now the north-west suburbs of Mandeville, Manchester. His ownership of the estate was disputed in 1819, when he claimed to own 138 acres "particularly the parcel marked B from his holding under a sale from John Reid". The outcome of this dispute has not been determined.

From 1823 onwards, Birthea was the proprietor of a second holding in Manchester, having 5 to 8 enslaved people, and 16 to 18 taxable head of stock. It is unclear whether James put a portion of his Dunrobin holding into her name because of the dispute, or whether he bought a second property in her name to provide some security for her on his demise. He died around 1831.

After his death, Birthea is listed as holding 61 acres at Dunrobin, though whether this was part of the original estate, or whether she renamed a smaller holding after her husband's larger plantation is not known. Birthea died 28/11/1876 and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica, where her tombstone may still be found. Dunrobin was probably sold about this time, as Birthea’s son Daniel Virtue Sutherland is recorded as overseer of Bodenhurst Plantation, Manchester, Jamaica in 1878.


We are grateful to Michael Rhodes for compiling this entry.

Will of John Bryce. Jamaica Registrar's Office, Spanish Town, Wills Vol. 61, fol. 219.

For William Bryce and James Wilson: R. Reid, Glasgow Past and Present (1884), II p. 216; J.R. Anderson, Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow, 1751-1846 (1935) p. 150.

Handwritten notes by Ida Ellen Rowe (1882-1943) privately owned by Boehner family of Kansas, Texas, U.S.A.

Dates: tombstone in churchyard of St. Mark's Anglican Church, Mandeville. Available as a download from [accessed 02/09/2014].

Race, status and children: Jamaica Church of England Transcripts 1664-1880, Manchester Baptisms, marriages and burials, 1816-1836 Vol. 1.

Proprietor information: James Robertson's map of Jamaica (published 1804, compiled 1796-1799); Jamaica Almanacs (online), Manchester Parish.

Dispute: National Library of Jamaica, Kingston, Map Call Nos. Manchester 25 and Manchester 81, A,B

Name Dunrobin applied to house near Snowdon: communication to Dr Michael Rhodes from Kathleen Aldyth Wilmot, nee Sutherland, who was born in this house in 1922 (living in New York, USA, Aug. 2014).

Daniel Virtue Sutherland at Bodenhurst, Directory of Estates, Pens and Properties in Jamaica, 1878.

Further Information

Name in compensation records
Betthia Brice
[With James Sutherland] Catherine (1814-), Eleanor Raven (1817-), Jane Richardson (1819-), Elizabeth White (1821-), Daniel Virtue (1824-1884)

Associated Claims (1)

£150 7s 6d

Associated Estates (1)

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
1832 [EA] - 1839 [LA] → Owner

Relationships (4)

Extra-marital relationships
Natural Daughter → Father