Susan Agnes Bernard's story begins, strangely enough, at Dirty Pit, near Spanish Town; it sounds better if we call it Bernard Lodge, but that had only been its name for a few years when she was born there in August, 1836. Her parents, Thomas James and Theodora Foulkes Bernard, had moved out of Spanish Town to the property at Dirty Pit sometime around 1830, and most of their seven children were born and grew up there; two baby daughters died in 1834, so Susan Agnes, the last child, was the one daughter alongside four brothers. Information on her ancestors is in decidedly short supply. There were numerous Bernards in Jamaica, probably from the late 17th century, and they may have been Huguenots originally coming from France via England; by the early 19th century they seem to have been mostly in the NW of the island, and Thomas J's connections with them are not clear. The ancestors of her mother, Theodora née Hewitt, were almost equally elusive; her father, William Hewitt, owned property in St Elizabeth, and a link is suggested to an Alexander Mackenzie, who settled in that parish, after surviving the collapse of the disastrous Darien Expedition which had attempted a settlement in Panama at the end of the 17th century. Thomas Bernard owned several properties, some in the West of the island, and held a number of important offices, such as member of the Governor's Council, and assistant judge of the Supreme Court; none of which indicated a secure financial position. In 1840 the family moved back into Spanish Town, possibly to the house which was later remodelled as the Rio Cobre Hotel at the time of the 1891 Exhibition. The Bernard boys were sent to school in England, while Susan Agnes had lessons with her mother, and then at a school in Spanish Town. The end of Apprenticeship in 1838 and the British Government's removal of a system of preferential duties for sugar in the 1840s changed the economic situation in Jamaica fundamentally, and the Bernards like many others saw their circumstances change for the worse. Along with all their fellow Jamaicans they also suffered from the ravages of the cholera epidemic of the early 1850s; Thomas Bernard died from the disease in 1850, and Hewitt Bernard, his eldest son and a young lawyer in Spanish Town, had to help his mother decide what was best for the family's future. Hewitt was eager to seek new opportunities in Canada, where he and his brother Richard soon settled; Philip and Walter stayed in Jamaica, though Philip later went to Mexico. Susan Agnes moved with her mother into Kingston, and then in August 1851 they sailed for England, on the s.s. Great Western, to live with relatives there.