Join the Hunt

To piece the story of Eliza Fenwick’s life together we need your help. Through the innovative method of “crowd-research” we hope to fill in the missing pieces of Eliza’s incredible journey. The list below contains details about Eliza’s life that are waiting to be found and brought forward. Let the hunt begin!


    • Elizabeth Hawksworth: Information about Eliza’s mother. I know that Eliza’s father, Peter Jaco, met her in about 1761 and married her in 1763. Was she a widow? Does her name come up in any records of early Methodist women? She was apparently a “class leader” at the Bristol New Rooms around 1760.
    • Eliza’s Birth Records: A formal record of her birth, a baptismal certificate, perhaps. Existing evidence suggests that she was born on February 1766, but I can’t find a record. Her father, Peter Jaco, was stationed in Lancaster at the time.
    • Eliza’s Siblings: Evidence of other children of Peter Jaco and Elizabeth Hawksworth. Eliza says that she was the only survivor of 16, but I could find evidence of only one other child, born perhaps in 1764, but there is no evidence that she survived much beyond infancy. And no record of her death.
    • Army Record: for John Fenwick. It’s tricky, as there are records of men called “John Fenwick” but the dates won’t work.
    • Marriage Certificate: of John and Eliza Fenwick. Or other evidence possibly around 1788 and possibly in France.
    • The Castle of Indolence: A manuscript of her unpublished second novel, 1808.
    • Letters to Friends: Does Eliza turn up in letters of her friends, especially her female friends and/or publishers? Amelia Opie? Dorothy Wordsworth? Eliza Bishop? Elizabeth Benger?
    • Eliza’s Authorship: Evidence of any of books, stories or reviews Eliza may have written but published anonymously. There are hints that she wrote for publication both while in England and later in Barbados and in North America, but no solid evidence linking her clearly to texts other than the ones to which she can be identified as the author.
    • Eliza’s piece on Bussa’s Rebellion: about the 1816 slave uprising in Barbados. Her son-in-law made a copy of the account, but I can’t find either version.
    • Eliza’s Grandsons, William (1813-1834) and Thomas (1815-1834) Rutherford: It looks as if one or both had a form of epilepsy. They may have inherited the tendencies of their father and grandfathers towards alcoholism, but the evidence is slim. Why does Eliza say that their tragedy is “ended” when they drown in Lake Ontario in April 1834?
    • Image of Eliza: In the late 19th century, long after Eliza’s death, her great-grandson writes to his elderly mother (Eliza’s granddaughter, Bessie), asking what happened to the portrait of her grandmother that had been there while they were growing up (possibly in Pass Christian, Mississippi). There was no answer and I don’t know if it was a portrait of Eliza as a young, middle-aged or elderly woman, and I don’t know if it was an oil-painting or a water-colour of a sketch, and I don’t know who the artist might have been.
    • Any material pertaining to the life and work of Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840), her husband John Fenwick (1757-1823), their children, Eliza Ann, later Rutherford (1789-1827), Orlando (1798-1816). The surviving children of Eliza Ann and William Rutherford were Elizabeth (Bessie) Rutherford Savage (1817-1899), and Orlando (Roland) Rutherford (1818-1881).


Any contributions to this crowd sourcing website on Eliza Fenwick will be acknowledged in my upcoming biography, Hunting for Mrs. Fenwick (1766-1840): A Biographical Adventure, to be published by The University of Toronto Press. My research is supported by Brock University and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.