At the end of Part 2, we learned of Martindales who survived against the odds in Barbados.
A 1679 census shows a John Marting (an abbreviation for Martingdale, a common misspelling of our name) owning 10 acres, one slave, and no servants in the St. James Parish of Barbados. This John was the grandson of John Sr., from Part 1 of this tale, and 10 acres is the same amount of land his grandfather owned in 1638. In 40 years, the Martindales had not expanded their farm, nor sold up. It seems they had simply stayed put for three generations.
Picking up where we left off in Part 1 of this tale, upon discovering these early Barbados Martindales, I began picturing the lives of 17th century European settlers in the Caribbean, and the literature scholar in me couldn’t help but turn to Shakespeare. The Tempest was written during John Martindale Sr.’s lifetime and epitomizes a popular vision of a faraway, exotic island, uninhabited apart from strange spirits and magical creatures. Shakespeare, who probably never traveled outside of England and certainly never went to the Caribbean, used the collective imagination of his time to set the scene of a wondrous lush, green land with wild, fearful wind and waves.
Like so many retired people, my dad, Peter, has spent the past few years “doing the family tree.” He’s spent hours on genealogy websites, downloading baptism certificates and wills from archives that go back generations, looking out for matches with unusual names, coming up against wall after wall and dismantling them brick by brick, name by name.
In a sense, our family is easier than some—at least through the paternal line. Our surname, Martindale, is fairly unusual, and my dad has worked our line back to a Rowland Martindale who died in 1660 in Cumbria, in the northwest of England.
Take up residence in France and you’ll find that everyday life is infused with history. If you’re a curious person, you can’t help but absorb facts it would take years of history classes and careful concentration to learn back in the United States. Here you see and touch history, observing how its effects are felt even long after its scenes’ original actors have departed.