Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pirates' Paradise

Pirates have existed since ancient times, but the most notorious reign of piracy occurred during the 1700's in the Caribbean Sea. The phenomenon was, in some ways, inevitable. Spain, England and France had sufficiently resolved long standing conflicts over territorial rights to the newly colonized region and they downsized the numbers of fighting vessels in their navies. Sailors who had sailed on the decommissioned navy ships found themselves suddenly landlocked, with no prospects for employment.

For these men who had known only sailing as a livelihood, there was a strong lure to the sea and to piracy, as vast number of galleons and cargo ships sailed the coastal region of the Americas surrounding the Caribbean Sea, particularly the coast of South America. The straits between South Florida and the islands of the Caribbean where the Gulf Stream flows became known as the Spanish Main. Countless vessels laden with treasures of gold, silver, precious gems, spices, hardwoods, and chocolate sailed through these waters and the Caribbean became a favorite hunting ground for pirates to make their fortune.

However, the less known but also very active were pirates of the Far East. Among such pirates who flourished for a time in that area were Adam Baldridge, an English buccaneer turned pirate.

Lying 250 miles off the East Coast of Africa, the beautiful tropical isle of Madagascar is a large island (slightly smaller than the state of California).  It sits within striking distance of the Indian Ocean and--during the Golden Age of Piracy--the luxurious treasures of the Great Mogul in the Red Sea.

An old map showing Madagascar, once called St. Lawrence Island

Madagascar became the pivot point for pirates sailing the Pirate Round, the long, arduous journey from the Atlantic Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope to the Indian Ocean and the return home. The island had deep harbors, expansive beaches for careening vessels, freshwater springs, an abundance of citrus fruit for preventing scurvy and ample livestock to fatten the crew.

To the pirates' delight, British warships rarely ventured east of the Cape of Good Hope and, although the East India Company's merchant ships were well-armed, their undermanned crews offered relatively no resistance to bloodthirsty pirates.

Pirates had a system of hierarchy on board their ships determining how captured money was distributed. However, pirates were more "egalitarian" than any other area of employment at the time.  The majority of plunder was in the form of cargo and ship's equipment with medicines the most highly prized. A vessel's doctor's chest would be worth anywhere from £300 to £400, or around $470,000 in today's values. Jewels were common plunder but not popular as they were hard to sell, and pirates, unlike the public of today, had little concept of their value. There is one case recorded where a pirate was given a large diamond worth a great deal more than the value of the handful of small diamonds given his crew mates as a share. He felt cheated and had it broken up to match what they received.

Spanish pieces of eight minted in Mexico or Seville were the standard trade currency in the American colonies. However, every colony still used the monetary units of pounds, shillings and pence for bookkeeping while Spanish, German, French and Portuguese money were all standard mediums of exchange as British law prohibited the export of British silver coinage. Until the exchange rates were standardized in the late 18th century, each colony legislated its own different exchange rates. In England, 1 piece of eight was worth 4s 3d, while it was worth 8s in New York, 7s 6d in Pennsylvania and 6s 8d in Virginia. One 18th-century English shilling was worth around $58 in modern currency, so a piece of eight could be worth anywhere from $246 to $465. As such, the value of pirate plunder could vary considerably depending on who recorded it and where.

Ordinary seamen received a part of the plunder at the captain's discretion but usually a single share. On average, a pirate could expect the equivalent of a year's wages as his share from each ship captured, while the crew of the most successful pirates would often each receive a share valued at around £1,000 ($1.17 million) at least once in their career. One of the larger amounts taken from a single ship was that by Capt. Thomas Tew from an Indian merchantman in 1692. Each ordinary seaman on his ship received a share worth £3,000 ($3.5 million) with officers receiving proportionally larger amounts as per the agreed shares with Tew himself receiving 2½ shares. It is known there were actions with multiple ships captured, where a single share was worth almost double this.

Madagascar then became an especially prosperous pirate haven, following the successful exploits of Henry Every and Thomas Tew in the Red Sea. The island was so well-suited for the pirate fraternity that Adam Baldridge, a veteran buccaneer himself (1660?-after 1706), became one of the early founders of the pirate settlements in Madagascar.

Henry Every is shown selling his loot in this engraving by Howard Pyle. Every's capture of a Grand Mughal ship in 1695 stands as one of the most profitable pirate raids ever perpetrated.

Fleeing from Jamaica after being charged with murder, Baldridge sailed to Madagascar.  When Baldridge arrived, he immediately became embroiled in an inter-clan war on the main island, and his participation earned the working capital of 70 cattle and a number of slaves. Realizing it had the best defensible harbor in the Madagascar island chain, Baldridge turned entrepreneur.

Building a mansion that could be seen from offshore, he built huge warehouses and a 40-cannon battery of captured French and Spanish cannon to protect against rival pirates or the warships of the East India Company. He traded with anyone and everyone.  Baldridge’s trading post was financed by an enterprising merchant in New York named Frederick Philipse, who had emigrated to New Amsterdam in the 1650’s as "Frederyck Flypsen," one of Peter Stuyvestant’s carpenters.

Under the generous surrender terms offered by the English, the Dutch-born Flypsen anglicized his name and swore a simple oath of allegiance to the crown, thereby qualifying as a loyal subject with all the rights and privileges of an English citizen. He married a wealthy widow, who had been left a fortune in ships and building lots in Manhattan, and once the English annexation of New Netherland was consummated, the entire English empire was open for trade.

Philipse built his early fortune not only by supplying English manufactured goods for the upriver Indian trade and carrying the valuable furs back downriver for shipment to England, but he was also involved in the reshipment of Virginia tobacco to England, in addition to the shipment of logwood, which came from the Yucatan.12 It is tempting to speculate on a pirate connection made from doing business with the logwood cutters of the Yucatan, most of whom were on-again/off-again pirates themselves.

English and colonial vessels had begun importing Malagasay slaves into the West Indies, Massachusetts and New York in the 1670s as a cheaper alternative to the Royal Africa Company (RAC) monopoly on the West African coast. Extremely profitable, it cost only ten shillings in goods to purchase a Malagasay slave whereas a sum of £3 to £4 was required on the west coast of Africa, where the RAC’s slave factories tightly controlled the trade in human chattel. In the 1680s and 1690s, vessels from New York, controlled by prominent merchants like Stephan Delancey and Philipse, engaged heavily in this trade.

In a remarkable display of entrepreneurship in the depressed 1690s, the New York merchants, aware--possibly because of the Yucatan connection--that pirates utilized Madagascar as a base, decided to supply them there. In return for liquor (rum, wine and beer), salt, guns, gunpowder, lime juice and clothing, the pirates would trade expensive textiles, drugs, spices, jewels, gold and hard currency.

By 1685, Baldridge had established a base of operations on Île Ste. Marie [Island of St. Mary]. By the following year, Baldridge controlled the inland waterway into Ste. Marie, having established a virtual stronghold overlooking the island harbor as well as protecting the settlements' warehouses.

In his contemporary account, Capt. Charles Johnson [1] explains how the Madagascar pirates, cognizant of native tribal enmities, overcame inferior numbers with superior firepower and forged alliances with certain local princes in order to obtain island fiefdoms for themselves. The pirates took native prisoners of war and utilized them as slaves or sold them to Baldridge, the “Pirate-King.”

It is actually impossible to write a story of the complete life of Adam Baldridge, since nothing is known of his life before the 1690s or after the early 1700s. Of his early life and his later life, we can only guess as to his activities. Adam Baldridge was probably born in England around 1660, although some have suggested that he may have been born in New York or on the island of Jamaica. Both of these locations seem unlikely, however, as the majority of the English speaking privateers and pirates operating during this period of history in the late 1600s were born in either England or Scotland.

In an historical record of New Castle, NJ, dated 1706, we find that a man named Adam Baldridge was listed as a donor for the construction of a Presbyterian church. Assuming that this is the same Adam Baldridge--which appears to be the case--his affiliation with a Presbyterian church suggests that Adam Baldridge was of Scottish descent or possibly even born in Scotland as was his contemporary, Capt. William Kidd.

It is also unknown about the nature of his upbringing in England, although the fact that he could apparently read and write suggests that he was intelligent and that he might have had some schooling. Furthermore, his personality was not that of an uncouth, swashbuckling individual who we might visualize as the typical pirate.

In fact, after his “retirement” in New York in the late 1690s, he was described by the governor of the colony as a “sober and responsible man.” This again suggests that he was not the product of the London slums and he may very well have grown up as the second or third son of a hardworking English family who felt that it was in their son’s best interest to “go off to sea.”

It is possible if not likely, that as a teenager young Adam Baldridge joined the crew of a merchant ship or possibly a privateer. Whatever the case, the fact that by 1685 Adam Baldridge was in Jamaica strongly suggests that at some point, his career had turned to that of a privateer, pirate or slave trader.

We also cannot help but note that he got into the business of trading with privateers, pirates, slave traders and wealthy New York merchants at precisely the right time and he got out of the business at an equally opportune time. Furthermore, despite the questionable nature of his business, he retired a wealthy man and he was never incarcerated nor hanged for the crime of piracy as were so many of his contemporaries including Capt. Kidd.

Baldridge was the first of a number of factors sent by Philipse to Île Ste. Marie in order to stimulate colonial trade in the depressed 1690s. In Philipse’s own words, slaving was the key, “For negroes in these times will fetch thirty pounds and upwards in the head...It is by negroes that I finde my cheivest Proffitt. All other trade I look upon as by the by.”

The trade with pirates, however, was likewise extremely profitable, and offered unique opportunities for the  pineapples, bananas, coconuts, yams, oranges and lemons), rice, taro, honey, chicken, turtle, fish and beef (in the form of cattle, a pirate culinary lineage that can be traced to the Caribbean boucaniers of the early part of the century); bays and inlets for concealment from hostile shipping and long sloping beaches to careen their wooden ships, where the mariners cleared them of weeds and barnacles, repaired leaks and replaced timbers riddled by the Toredo worm.

Though endowed with the natural bounty of the land and sea, the pirates who utilized Ste. Marie as a base lacked other vital necessities, most notably rum and beer, as well as manufactured goods. Philipse sent a random assortment of original cargo with Baldridge [2] and continued to regularly send supplies which were sold at premium prices, in return for Malagasy slaves, gold, diamonds, jewels, spices, silks, ivory and “pieces of eight,” the Spanish coins ubiquitous in pirate lore that were regularly circulating in the Indian Ocean trade networks.

Baldridge was an astute businessman and he quickly saw the value in a partnership with Frederick Philipse, an international trader from New York. Philipse, a member of the governor’s council in New York, carried on a lucrative trade with pirates.  He was Baldridge’s chief supplier of goods.  Pirates and colonial privateers flocked to Ste. Marie to buy and sell. Pirates had to depend on Baldridge for supplies and provisions.

Trading with pirates, particularly in North America, proved highly profitable for all parties, especially merchants, because of the many trade restrictions Britain imposed on its colonies.  Colonists had to buy goods manufactured in England.  They were forbidden from manufacturing them because that would have meant competition for the English providers of those goods.  These Navigation Acts in essence forced reputable merchants to deal with Madagascar pirates, whom they referred to as the "Red Sea Men," in order to supply the colonists with the goods and luxuries denied them by the government. 

The public seemed to support the pirates, even though they broke the law because the pirates robbed heathens.  Others, both merchants and colonists alike, publicly decried piracy, claiming it to be a cancer on the body politic, but in secret they either fenced or bought the pirates’ ill-gotten gains.  When the first cargo arrived in New York, the plunder quickly disappeared and merchants made a considerable profit compared to their original cost for the goods.

In his island fortress on Île Forbans [Forbidden Island] in the middle of the bay, Baldridge exchanged silver, silks and slaves for food, drink and women. It cost them dearly, but they paid. A bottle of rum--its normal price was 1 shilling--sold on the island for 3 pounds sterling (81 shillings). There was a constant stream of ships and men along the island's harbor and towns. Île St. Marie, like Hispaniola [Haiti] before her, would soon become the new base to outfit a ship "going on the account," to turn pirate.

Capt. William Kidd visited Baldridge's island paradise in 1698. 

The busiest years at the Baldridge’s “Pirates' Paradise” were 1694 through 1697, where sometimes as many as one-half dozen ships were moored in the inlet harbor or resting on the sandy beaches being careened by their crews. Some historians write that as many as 1,500 pirates lived full time on the island at one point, although this figure is probably greatly exaggerated.

To the benefit of the pirate colony on Ste. Marie, a major earthquake on the island of Jamaica in 1693 destroyed the city of Port Royal. Previously to that point, Port Royal had been the main rendezvous location for pirates in the Atlantic Ocean and its destruction as well as the general demise of the piracy business in the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans encouraged pirates to look to the Indian Ocean for more lucrative targets. Madagascar and Île Ste. Marie off its west coast were ideally suited to capture the new business.

By the late 1690s, Baldridge's settlement had become a popular haven among pirates of the Mediterranean, with Baldridge supplying pirates in exchange for high fees. It is a matter of speculation whether he had a family while living on Ste. Marie, although he reportedly lived a luxurious and extravagant life on the island, which included his own harem of island girls, until 1697. 

Île Forbans [Forbidden Island], Baldridge's headquarters

Previously in 1697, England and France had signed a treaty of peace ending years of war. With the war over, England was no longer in need of privateers who had been commissioned to attack the enemy ships. As we mentioned earlier, the British governor of the colony of New York had been handing out commissions to privateers who he must have known were using their ships to attack all vessels regardless of the nationality of the ship. This was piracy. The governor, Benjamin Fletcher, was paid for issuing the commissions and he grew wealthy by simply looking the other way and ignoring the illegal trading.

With the ending of the war however, the British government turned their attention to stopping piracy and the illegal trading of goods with the Americas in violation of the Navigation Acts. Gov. Fletcher was recalled to England and a new governor was sent to replace him. Shortly after the arrival of the new governor, Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, a major investigation of piracy began. At the same time, the wealthy merchant and slave trader, Frederick Philipse, was removed from the Board of Trade.

Some historians believe that Adam Baldridge left Île St. Marie and his trading empire intentionally but disagree over whether he intended to return there. Some have suggested that Baldridge got greedy or that he made a colossal mistake in dealing with the natives.  A more likely scenario was that he realized the immense and immediate profit he stood to gain by selling the natives into slavery.  This was in his best long-term interest, especially if he foresaw the possibility that the pirate trade might be in its decline. 

With the ending of the war however, the British government turned their attention to stopping piracy and the illegal trading of goods with the Americas in violation of the Navigation Acts. Gov. Fletcher was recalled to England and a new governor was sent to replace him. Shortly after the arrival of the new governor, Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, a major investigation of piracy began. In a master stroke of irony, Capt. William Kidd was commissioned by Gov. Coote to "capture pirates."  At the same time, the wealthy merchant and slave trader, Frederick Philipse, was removed from the Board of Trade.

Nevertheless, Baldridge's decisions in July of 1697 also suggest a man prepared to depart.  His first action was to purchase a major interest in the brigantine ship Swift that had stopped at Ste. Marie for trading and careening.

His second action was the most controversial, as he then tricked many of the local natives on the island--men, women, and children--by inviting them to come out to the Swift, which was moored in the harbor and to join him in a celebration party. His crew then proceeded once the natives were on board, to haul the natives below deck, slip shackles on their wrists and chain them to the walls. They were being sold into slavery. Baldridge and the crew of the Swift immediately departed from the island.

In other colonial records, we learn that his ship, the Swift, was reported to have run aground in March 1698, off the coast of North Carolina near the village of Currituck. When the ship was finally located by the colonial authorities, it was found abandoned but undamaged and “all provisions and stores robbed.”  It is far more likely that the ship had not been robbed but, following the grounding of the ship, the pirate crew had scattered, taking with them everything on board. Whether or not Adam Baldridge was onboard when the Swift made its unintentional landing is unknown, although it would seem likely.

The ship once recovered was seized by the authorities, hauled back into the sea and sailed back to the port of New York. Adam Baldridge--sometime in the middle of 1698--learned that his ship had been seized. His name is mentioned several times in the Colonial records, including in one dated 26 Nov. 1699 wherein he appealed to the Court for the return of the Swift.

Unfortunately, it is unknown whether Baldridge ever recovered the Swift, although it appears unlikely. There was ample evidence that the vessel had been engaged in the act of piracy. What is strange however is that the colonial authorities maintained the right to hold the ship, but they were never able to arrest and convict Adam Baldridge of piracy.

But the fact that, upon returning to New York, Baldridge tried to convince the new governor to establish Île Ste. Marie as a new colony--thereby effectively circumventing the Navigation Act--strongly suggests that he did not intentionally leave his island paradise.

In March 1699, the Council of Trade and Plantations ordered the Colonial Governor, Lord Bellomont, to prosecute Adam Baldridge for piracy. It was after all a well known fact that he had operated the pirate trading post at Ste. Marie in Madagascar. Almost comically, however, Lord Bellomont reported back to the Council two months later that he was unable to prosecute Baldridge for want of a “good judge.”

Apparently, all of the good judges had been or could easily be bribed and Baldridge obviously had the means to do so. In return for not being prosecuted, Adam Baldridge agreed to give his 15 May 1699 deposition and in doing so he implicated others as being guilty of piracy.  According to his deposition, he learned later that the island natives in retaliation for his trickery (not his words, for he never acknowledged what he had done) killed 30 of the white men who remained on the island and burned the settlement to the ground.  Although many sources indicate that Baldridge was still on the island and narrowly escaped with his life at the time of this raid, we only know that per his deposition, he had already left the Madagascar area in October 1697.

There is some evidence that, once Adam Baldridge returned to America and discharged his problems with the New York authorities, he did not entirely give up his career as a privateer or pirate. In the Colonial Records of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia dated 12 Nov. 1703, there is recorded a discussion as to whether or not to return to New Jersey the five French prisoners captured by “Ball and Baldridge Privateer,” who had landed and discharged their prisoners in Egg Harbour, NJ. The Council decided to return the prisoners. Nothing was mentioned about the other items pirated from the French ship by “Ball and Baldridge Privateers” that were not returned.

Another interesting observation that might suggest that Adam Baldridge, merchant, continued as a privateer/pirate was his purchase on 27 July 1699 of a 500-acre island, then named Melcum Island, located in the middle of the Delaware River off the western border of New Jersey near the village of Salem. Was Adam Baldridge trying to recreate another Île Ste. Marie for the purpose of trading his captured goods?

We can only guess as to his motives. There is no documentation that he ever occupied the island or used it to store trading goods. What we do know is that on 28 April 1702, he sold the island which at that point had been renamed Adams Forest Island. Perhaps he had realized that his business plan was flawed. There is also a record of an Adam Baldridge purchasing a house and land in Salem, NJ, on 3 Oct. 1701 and in this record Adam is referred to as a “Salem Merchant.”

There are obviously a lot of things about Adam Baldridge’s behavior that are unsavory. Two issues that have been discussed were his trickery of the island natives when he lured them to a party on board his ship the Swift and then bound them in chains and sold them into slavery and then, several years later, he informed on his compatriots in his deposition to save himself from prosecution.

"Adam Baldridge’s first and only known marriage was to Elizabeth Buckmaster, the wife of Edward Buckmaster. Their marriage ceremony was held at the Fort of New York sometime between 7 Sept. and 8 Oct. 1699," writes C. A. Baker, family researcher.  "Edward Buckmaster, who like Adam Baldridge was a pirate, was arrested as such in New York City in June of 1699. Colonial records indicate that on 25 Aug. 1699, Buckmaster escaped from prison and was not heard from again. Apparently, his wife Elizabeth thought that with her husband now out of the picture, it was reasonable for her to remarry, even if she was not officially divorced or widowed. Prior to this marriage, there is another record showing that on 2 Dec. 1684 an Edward Buckmaster married a Margaret Mathews.

"Assuming that this is the same Edward Buckmaster, it suggests that Margaret must have died and Edward remarried to his second wife Elizabeth. We know from other records that Edward Buckmaster had a least three children born between the years 1685 and 1687. We know this because after Edward’s departure (escape), his wife Elizabeth placed all three of Edward’s children into indentureship." The first child was indentured on 7 Sept. 1699 and she signed the papers under her name Elizabeth Buckmaster. When the other two children were indentured on 9 Oct. 1699, she signed her name as Elizabeth Baldridge and, in one case, Adam Baldridge signed as a witness.

Clearly, according to Baker, the newlywed Elizabeth Baldridge wanted to begin her marriage without the burden of taking care of the children of her former husband. It is believed that the marriage of Elizabeth and Adam Baldridge produced at least two children, then we must assume that Elizabeth was probably younger than both her first and second husbands, who were both near 40 years of age in 1699.

"Placing young children into indentureship was not particularly common in early America. Many of the early immigrants to America arrived from England as indentured servants and their indentureship was the manner in which they paid for their passage. I suspect that parents in America who placed their children into indentureship were poor and could not afford to pay for their care. In the case of Adam and Elizabeth Baldridge, however, they were not poor--quite the opposite--and Elizabeth, probably a flighty girl in her late twenties, just did not want to care for Richard, Hannah, and Mary Buckmaster, who were all under the age of 14. Adam Baldridge, not a man of high character as we have seen, either went along with his new wife or encouraged her decision to give up the children," says Baker.

There are two other mentions of Adam Baldridge in the Colonial records worth noting one of which is actually a positive suggesting that perhaps as Adam got older he had mellowed. The first is a mention of Adam and Elizabeth in the will of Griffith Jones of Kent County, Delaware dated 2 May 1703. It lists in the will that his beneficiaries were “Wife: Elizabeth. Sons: Griffith and Thomas. Daughter: Elizabeth. To: Elizabeth, daughter of Adam Baldridge . . .”. It goes on to list Adam Baldridge as one of the executors of the will. Griffith Jones’ will provides us with two pieces of information. First, Adam Baldridge’s wife appears to be the daughter of Griffith and Elizabeth Jones and secondly, Adam and Elizabeth had a daughter who they named Elizabeth who was born sometime between October of 1699 and May of 1793.

Another intriguing but unsolved mystery is who was John Jones, the man who purchased from Adam Baldridge the 500-acre island in the Delaware River. It is too much of a coincidence not to believe that he was a relative of Elizabeth Jones Baldridge. John Jones is listed as being from New Castle, DE. The latest historical document that I could locate naming Adam Baldridge was dated 1706 and it lists him in New Castle, DE, as one of the donors to a fund for the construction of a new Presbyterian Church. Hopefully by this point in his life, Adam Baldridge had settled down with his wife and children and mostly abandoned his unsavory life.

History records the names of only two of the possible children of Adam and Elizabeth Jones Baldridge. That Elizabeth Baldridge was their daughter is pretty well documented, per the will of Griffith Jones previously mentioned. Their other child was probably a son whom they named Adam Jr. Baldridge. Unfortunately the son’s name appears only once in the Colonial records and that is in a copy of his will that was prepared on 1 Oct. 1777 in New Utrecht, Kings County, Long Island. There are no known documents that support the belief that these two men were father and son, although obviously the commonality of their names and the fact that Adam Jr. Baldridge was born in the early 1700s about the time Adam and Elizabeth Baldridge were having children suggests a relationship.

The will of Adam Baldridge, the possible son, that was probated after his death in 1780 does provide us with the intriguing suggestion that one of Adam Jr’s sisters, possibly Elizabeth Baldridge, married a man named Abraham Collins. It appears that both men, Baldridge and Collins, lived in the western end of Long Island at some point in their lives and they must have known one another. They were also about the same age as Abraham Collins was born around 1698 and Adam Jr. Baldridge was born about 1704. What is really intriguing however was that Adam Jr. Baldridge left the bulk of his estate to the three daughters of Abraham Collins, an action that strongly suggested that there was a family relationship and not just a friendship that bound the two men together. Furthermore, the relationship between Adam Baldridge and the Collins family was long lasting, since Abraham Collins had moved to Blooming Grove in Orange Co., NY, by the 1730s and he died there in 1756.

Additionally, the will of Adam Jr. Baldridge lists each of the Collins daughters by their married names, “I leave to Sarah Coleman, Jemina Seata [Seeley], and Elizabeth, formerly the wife of David Cameron...all of my estate," which indicates he obviously had stayed in touch with the girls after their father’s death--again suggesting that they were his nieces.

There is one more circumstantial but compelling piece of evidence that supports the belief that Abraham Collins married a daughter of Adam (the pirate) and Elizabeth Baldridge. It has to be more than a coincidence that Abraham Collins and his wife named their first son Adam and their second daughter Elizabeth, after their grandparents. Incidentally, Adam Collins was not mentioned in Adam Jr. Baldridge’s will because he had died in 1770, seven years prior to the preparation of the will. It was a very common practice in this period of history to name children after their grandparents.

"There is unfortunately one unsolved mystery before we can announce unequivocally that Adam Baldridge, the pirate, is the grandfather of the children of Abraham Collins, including Jemina Collins," Baker states. "On 11 Aug. 1728, the marriage of Abraham Collins to Ann Major was written into the records of the Grace Church in Jamaica, Queens County, Long Island. If this Abraham Collins is the father of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Jemina Collins, all of whom are mentioned in the 1777 will of Adam Jr. Baldridge, then we have to question the Abraham Collins’ supposed marriage to the daughter of Adam Baldridge.

"Almost all the family trees on Ancestry.com that list Jemina Collins (1736-1770) and her sisters and brother, show that their mother was the daughter of the notorious pirate Adam Baldridge. There is a question as to whether or not the mother’s name was Sarah or Elizabeth, but no one seems to question that their father’s name was Abraham Collins and their maternal grandfather was the pirate Adam Baldridge....Jemina Collins was my 5th great grandmother and the great, great grandmother of my great grandmother Helen Rappleye Baker. Jemina Collins married Nathaniel Seeley (1732-1770) in 1752."

Since the first daughter of Abraham Collins, Sarah Collins, is believed to have been born around 1728 close to the date of Abraham’s marriage to Ann Major, it hard to imagine that Ann Major died and Abraham Collins’ remarried all in the span of a year or less. Nevertheless, historians and genealogists in order to justify their belief that the Collins’ girls were descended from Adam Baldridge have assumed that Ann Major must have died young and Abraham remarried before any of his children were born.

Baker writes, "Unfortunately, I could not find any records containing either a death date for an Ann Major Collins or a marriage date for an Abraham Collins marrying a woman named Baldridge. All of this clouds the issue of whether the Collins girls were descended from the pirate Baldridge which, in turns, spoils my ability to brag that I am the 7th great grandson of a 17th century Pirate. On the other hand, no one can prove that I am not descended from a pirate, so we will just leave it at that."


  1. For a long time, the true identity of Capt. Johnson was believed to have been Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton among others (General History of the Pirates is still indexed under “Defoe” by most libraries). Given the strong stylistic similarities and literary content, this is unsurprising, though inaccurate. Johnson’s account is now generally accepted as historical, though there is no way of verifying the veracity of the dialogue.

  2. 44 pairs of shoes and pumps, “6 dozen of worsted and threed stockens”, carpenter tools, 5 barrels of rum, four casks of Madeira wine, 10 cases of spirits, 2 old stills full of holes, 1 worme, 2 grindstones, 2 cross saws, 1 whip saw, 3 jars of oil, 2 iron pots, 3 barrels of cannon powder, books, catechisms, bibles, garden seeds, and 3 doz. hoes.



Baker Family Tree: Chapter 30: The Pirate Adam Baldridge. http://bakerfamilytree.blogspot.com/2012/01/chapter-30-pirate-adam-baldridge.html

Deposition of Adam Baldridge, Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period: Illustrative Documents.

Johnson, Charles, (1724-1736) A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. (intro. by David Cordingly), New York: Conway Maritime Press, 1998.

Judd, Jacob, “Frederick Philipse and the Madagascar Trade,” NYHS Quarterly, Vol. LV, No. 4 (October 1971).

McDonald, Kevin, ‘A Man of Courage and Activity’: Thomas Tew, Anglo-American Piracy, and the Manhattan to Madagascar Trade Network, 1690-1720. http://cwh.ucsc.edu/SocialBiog.MacDonald.pdf; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

Philipse to Baldridge, 25 February, 1695, cited in Judd, p. 358.

Platt, Virginia Bever, “The East India Company and the Madagascar Slave Trade”, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 26, Issue 4 (Oct., 1969), 548-577.

Platt, op cit., p. 550-551; Ritchie, p. 37-38; Jameson, p. 153-257; and Judd, p. 363.

"Pirate Island." The History Channel. 21 Oct. 2012.

Ritchie, Robert C., Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1986.

The Comparative Value of Money between Britain and the Colonies. retrieved 21 Oct. 2012. http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyIntros/IntroValue.html

Vallar, Cindy, Notorious Pirate Havens, Part 6: In League with Pirates. http://www.cindyvallar.com/havens6.html; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

-----, Pirate Treasure, http://www.cindyvallar.com/treasure.html; accessed 21 Oct. 2012.

Wilczynski, Krzysztof, Golden Age Piracy. http://www.piratesinfo.com/cpi_Golden_Age_Piracy_513.asp; accessed 21 Oct. 2012

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