Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Land musters, stock returns and lists

Land musters, stock returns and lists of Van Diemen's Land 1803-1822. (Schaffer, Irene)Published 1991

Returns General Muster 1809 Derwent River Van Diemen's Land
Birch, Thomas Wm - Settler - Wheat 5 - Barley 2 - Acres 100 - Cattle 6 - Sheep 38 - Goats 1 - Swine 4 - Prop 1 v - Wife 1 v - Child 0 - Situation near Clarence Plains

Guest, George - Settler - Wheat 20 - Barley 0 - Acres 300 - Cattle 63 - Sheep 49 - Goats 0 - Swine 1 - Prop 1 V- Wife 1 V - Child 4 - Situation Risdon / Clarence Plains

General Muster for Free Men Hobart Town 7 September - 2 October 1818
Birch, TW - Came Free - Off Vict
Birch T W jnr - Came Free - Off Vict
Guest, George - Alexander - Gloucester - 1784 - 7 years - Off Vict
Guest, George jnr - Came Free - Off Vict

List of Free Children 1818
Birch - 3 children - off vict

List of Free Women 1818
Birch Mrs - Guest - Sarah - Spouse  - Birch, Thomas

Land Stock Muster 1819
Birch, Thomas - Wheat 90 - Barley 7 - Beans 7 - Potatoes 6 Pasture 641 - Acres 751 - Horses 24 - Cattle 365 - Sheep 3822 - Prop 1 N- Wife 1 N - Child 3N - G/S 8 N - F/S 11 - Total 24 - Place Hobart Town
There was no entry for George Guest in this listing

1822 Town Muster
Guest, George
Guest, George jnr - 1 male child

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Lady Juliana

The Lady Juliana was not officially part of the Second Fleet as the ship left England six months before the ships of the Second Fleet departed. The journey took eleven months arriving at Port Jackson a few days before the arrival of the Second Fleet ships.

Mary Bateman was born in London in 1773. On 7 May 1788 fifteen year old Mary Bateman was tried at the Old Bailey for the theft of a silver watch from James Palmer and Elizabeth Sully was tried for receiving the watch as stolen goods at her lodgings at 45 Cable Street, East London where she entertained her clients. On 12 March 1789 108 females (including Mary) were transferred from the prison to the transport ship, the Lady Juliana - a ship carrying only female prisoners. A report about the ship appeared in The Times 7 February 1889 p3 -

The ship, Lady Juliana, which is ordered by Government to carry over the convicts to Botany Bay, is a fine river-built vessel, and was the first ship that was taken by the Americans on her passage from Jamaica to London, and was afterwards retaken by a man of war, and conveyed to England.

One hundred marines are ordered by Government to be raised to go to Botany Bay in the Lady Juliana.

 The ship remained on the Thames until early July when it sailed to Portsmouth and then to Plymouth before beginning the long voyage to Australia on 29 July 1789.

A week after the departure of the ship a report about the Lady Juliana belatedly appeared in The Times 4 August 1789 -

A convict ship is now laying there which has two hundred and sixty females* on board; the youngest eleven, the oldest sixty-eight. Five of them appear to have been blessed with the favours of Providence, and a good education. - One of the latter class was about four years ago at Brighton, and in the most gay and alluring style drove her phaeton.

The crew of the ship consist of thirty, and five or six officers; each of whom is allowed to select a mate for the voyage. Government have ordered the baby cloathes for sixty - supposing the salubrity of the sea-air may, during the long voyage, produce twins to every honest woman.
The two hundred and thirty unemployed females are to remain untouched according to the law agreed to.

*This figure is a little high. Bateson in his book, The Convict Ships, (p121) states that the ship left Plymouth with 226 female convicts aboard though John Nichol in his diary gave the figure as 245.
Two hundred and thirty convicts were listed on the Colonial Office lists. Fifty-one of the women were aged 19 or younger, 116 were aged between 20 and 29, 40 were aged between 30 and 39, 15 were aged between 40 and 49 while eight were more than 50 years.

The voyage to Port Jackson took 309 days. A detailed report of the voyage is provided in the book, The Floating Brothel.

Three weeks after leaving Plymouth the ship arrived at Santa Cruz, Teneriffe. This provided the opportunity to bring fresh water aboard. For the first few days the decks of the ship resembled a laundry as the women washed clothes and bedding in fresh water as opposed to salt water available when at sea. Additional supplies including fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fresh and salted meat were sourced for the next leg of the voyage. The opportunity to earn some money was taken by some of the convicts who took the opportunity, with assistance from some crew members, to visit crewmen on neighbouring ships.

In the second week of September the ship left Santa Cruz for Cape Verde Islands where additional supplies were loaded before sailing to Rio de Janeiro. As the ship ventured south temperatures and humidity increased as they approached the equator. Fish became the major source of food resulting in many of the women learning to catch fish. October was the beginning of the wet season with the ship encountering heavy rain and storms.

The Lady Juliana arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 2 November 1789 and remained in the harbour for 45 days. In this Portuguese colony repairs were made to the ship and fresh supplies were brought on board. On one part of the deck a tent had been set up for the women about to give birth. Elsewhere on the ship women entertained visiting seamen. 

The trip from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town took 50 days and the Lady Juliana arrived at Table Bay on 1 March 1790. The ship remained in Cape Town for 19 days. By now it was autumn and the ship would encounter dangerous seas as it crossed the Southern Ocean. The women would have heard tales of the ships wrecked in these waters including the fate of the Guardian which had hit an iceberg at the end of December when travelling to Port Jackson. The trip to Port Jackson took 75 days. The ship entered Sydney Harbour on 3 June but due to bad weather had to wait three days before being towed to Sydney Cove on 6 June 1790.

Although the voyage of the Lady Juliana was longer than other voyages from England to Australia only five convicts died during the trip. Bateson (p123) suggests that a number of factors could account for the low mortality rate –
     The women were issued with sufficient rations
     The ship had been kept clean and fumigated throughout the voyage
     The women had had free access to the deck during the voyage and had not been confined to below deck
     Long stays at port with access to fresh provisions

The women had also been kept busy during the voyage with daily routine established aboard the ship including cooking and cleaning. Some of the convicts spent time sewing shirts to be sold on arrival at the colony.

The trip from Plymouth to Port Jackson must have been terrifying for the women as they sailed to the unknown however the conditions aboard the ship were much better than conditions experienced by convicts travelling on the Second Fleet ships arriving several weeks later with a high mortality rate and many seriously ill convicts.

It was winter when the Lady Juliana arrived at Sydney Cove. Two and a half years after the establishment of the new settlement supplies in the colony were low and rations to the convicts had been greatly reduced. Attempts to grow crops were not as successful as had been hoped. New supplies from England were needed for the survival of the colony so when a ship carrying another two hundred convicts (even though they were women) and only limited supplies arrived it was not greeted with great enthusiasm. The supplies were unloaded first while decisions were hastily made as what to do with the new arrivals. The convicts finally were allowed ashore on 11 June to stay in the hospital building or huts or tents that formed the convict settlement. On the Sunday they would have attended the church service led by Reverend Richard Johnson. Some of the babies born on the ship were also baptised that day.

On 21 June the store ship, Justinian, arrived much to the relief of the inhabitants of the colony followed by the three convict ships comprising the Second Fleet during the following week.

  • Bateson, Charles: The convict ships 1797-1868. Sydney, Library of Australian history, 2004 (originally published 1950)
  • Flynn, Michael: The Second Fleet: Britain’s grim convict armada of 1790. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1993.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Second Fleet Voyage to Australia

Kezia Brown was born in Severn Stock, Worcester, in 1771, the daughter of Aaron and Mary Brown (nee Farley).  Around 1779 Kezia left home and headed to Gloucester where she worked as a labourer in a garden belonging to James Wheeler. When she contracted smallpox she was was allowed to stay in the house to recover. On 20th August 1789 she left the house, taking with her items of clothing possibly belonging to the family of her employer. She was tried in Gloucester and sentenced to seven years transportation to New South Wales aboard the Neptune, part of the Second Fleet.

Unfortunately the logs of the Second Fleet ships no longer exist so information about the voyage is limited to letters written by those on the ships, a few diaries and reports written about the large death toll resulting from the voyage.

The Neptune was the largest ship in the fleet at 809 tons (according to the contractors), had a crew of 83 and was built on the Thames in 1779. Flynn describes the conditions on the ship (pp 32 -33). Most of the male convicts were housed on the orlop deck  which was the third deck from the top and measured 75 feet by 35 feet and the height of the convict quarters varied from 6 feet six inches to 5 feet seven inches. There were four rows of probably open ended cabins (a row on each side of the ship with two rows in the middle).The convicts slept in bunks or hammocks in very crowded conditions. There would have been no portholes. Lights burned in the aisles until 8 pm and then all was dark.Convicts were chained by wrists, legs or ankles and in some cases a convict was chained to another convict. Six men formed a mess with one being released to collect the rations for the week and to cook meals for the mess in communal coppers below deck provided that there was no heavy weather. Consequently the convicts had to do without hot food for days at a time. Life was a little better for the 78 female convicts who lived in a section of the upper deck and were released from their chains. They were allowed on the Quarter Deck during the day while at sea. The female convicts were kept separate from the male convicts and the crew were also not meant to have access to them though, as some of the female convicts became pregnant during the voyage, this order was not always observed. Conditions were bad aboard the Neptune but they did not have to contend with additional problem on the smaller ship, Surprize, which shipped large quantities of water during heavy seas and were therefore confined in a wet as well as an unhealthy prison.

On 15 October 1789 the three transport ships left Deptford where they had been fitted out in order to embark the soldiers who were to replace the marines at Port Jackson and the convicts. On 19 October the Neptune had embarked two officers, 43 men forming the New South Wales Corps and two wives. One of the soldiers was John Macarthur who sailed with his wife, Elizabeth. On 11 November four male and 27 female convicts left Newgate Gaol to board the Neptune while 61 female convicts from country gaols, including Kezia, were the next to come aboard. The next day 83 male convicts from the Justia hulk and 41 from the Censor hulk at Woolwich were brought aboard. The ship then sailed to Plymouth where, on the 28th November, 300 convicts from the Dunkirk hulk embarked. The Neptune then sailed from Plymouth to Portsmouth but on this short journey a number of the convicts died and were buried at sea. Some bodies which were apparently just thrown overboard without being weighted down, washed up along the coastline near Portsmouth. By 21 December a number of free women who had lived with male convict plus children of convicts were also aboard the ship. D'Arcy Wentworth also travelled as a passenger on the Neptune.

The departure of the Second Fleet was delayed by stormy weather. Reports on the conditions on board the ships had been circulating via government communications however they were generally ignored. The ships arrived at the Motherbank on 12 January 1790 but the storms delayed the sailing of the fleet until Sunday 17 January when the skies cleared and a westerly wind enabled sailing.

Three days after departure the ships, now in the Bay of Biscay, encountered a storm lasting all day. The rest of the 84 day journey to the Cape of Good Hope was reasonably good but the temperatures in February were often very high. The ships crossed the Equator on the 25th February and arrived at the Cape on 13 April. By this time many aboard the ships were suffering from scurvy. Consequently supplies of fresh meat and vegetables were ordered to be served on each of the sixteen days they were in port to try and counter the condition. However it was reported that on the second leg of the voyage rations on the Neptune were cut to compensate for the purchase of fresh food at the Cape. The ships left the Cape of Good Hope on the 29 April with the Surprize arriving at Sydney Cove on 26 June 1790 and the Neptune and the Scarborough arriving on the 28 June.

The length of the journey, compared with the journey of the Lady Juliana, was relatively short stopping at only one port for just over two weeks en route. However this meant that the amount of fresh food available to those on board was limited resulting in illness, particularly scurvy for a large proportion of convicts and crew. The male convicts were also kept in irons for much of the journey whereas the irons were removed after the first week unless a punishment was being imposed for the the convicts of the Lady Juliana and the Neptune.

The arrival of the ships at Port Jackson with their cargo of sick passengers and reports of the the many deaths during the voyage caused concern among many in the colony and also in some quarters when news of the voyage reached England. Although reports were written and investigated and articles written in the press, those responsible were not punished. However from 1792 conditions on the convict ships were improved. Contracts stated that an initial payment would continue to be paid for each convict embarked but an additional payment would be made for each convict arriving at the colony alive. Each ship would also have a naval surgeon to ensure that the welfare of the convicts was protected.

  • Bateson, Charles. The convict ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, 2004
  • Flynn, Michael. The Second Fleet: Britain's grim convict armada of 1790. Library of Australian History, 1993

Second Fleet ships - notes

In 1789 it was decided to send a second fleet of ships to Port Jackson. The Navy Board awarded the tender to the slave trading firm Camden, Calvert and King, possibly as a cheap solution to the problem of overcrowded gaols. The contractors were given special permission from the East India Company to return via China to collect supplies of tea.

On 27 August 1789 a contract was signed by a representative of Camden, Calvert and King agreeing to supply three ships in good condition with accommodation convicts including irons and handcuffs plus items such as cooking equipment, bedding, cutlery and lamps.

The crew for each ship was to number at least six men and one boy for each 100 tons of ship.

A qualified surgeon was also to be allocated to each ship with access to medicines, oil of tar, essence of malt, spice, barley, oatmeal sugar and wine for the sick.

Ration of provisions for each mess of six male convicts for seven days - 16 lb bread, 12 lb flour, 14 lb beef, 8 lb pork, 12 pints of pease (a mixture of split peas, oats and water), 1.5 lbs butter and 2lbs rice.
Ration of provisions for each mess of six female convicts for seven days - 20 lb bread, 12 lb flour, 7 lb beef, 6 lb pork, 12 pints of pease, 1.5 lbs butter, 2lbs rice, 1/4 lb tea and 3 lbs sugar.
Ration for each soldier for seven days - 7 lb bread, 4 lb beef, 2 pints pease, 6 oz butter, 7 galleons of beer or 3.5 pints of rum or 7 pints of wine, 2 lb pork, 3 pints oatmeal, 12 oz cheese.
Fresh food to the value of sixpence for convicts and to the value of one shilling for soldiers was to be provided for two days a week while at foreign ports.

Each mess of convicts was to be provided with 2 lbs soap a month.

The contractors were to be paid 17 pounds, 7 shillings and sixpence for each convict embarked. Fifteen pounds was paid before sailing and the rest when it was proved that the stores had arrived safely.

There was no provision for the safe arrival of the convicts.

When it was obvious that all the required stores could not be shipped in the three requisitioned ships a store-ship was added to the fleet.

The ships of the Second Fleet:

Nine hundred and thirty-nine male convicts and seventy-eight female convicts emarked on these Second Fleet ships but eleven men disembarked before sailing.

Convicts aboard the transports at time of sailing:
Surprize 254 male convicts
Neptune 421male & 78 female convicts
Scarborough 253 male convicts

The Justinian was loaded in the Thames with 1,400 casks of flour, 233 barrels of pork plus smaller quantities of beef, oatmeal, pease, vinegar, spirits, oil and sugar. Other items included 162 bales of clothing, coverlets, blankets and cloth and a portable military hospital which had been dismantles into 602 pieces. Quantities of flour and salt beef and pork were loaded on the other three ships for consumption during the voyage and also as supplies for the colony. Vinegar to be used as a disinfectant and mouthwash was also supplied to each ship.

The contract for the transportation of convicts required each convict to be provided with clothing.
Men - outside jacket, waistcoat, hat, worsted cap, two shirts as well as  two pairs of stockings, drawers, trousers and shoes plus a bag in which to place items not being used.
Women - striped jacket, striped petticoat, pair of stays, hat, two flannel petticoats, two shifts, two handkerchiefs and two pairs of stockings and shoes as well as a bag to hold unused items.
Many convicts had brought with them personal items but may of the boxes and other items were thrown overboard before the ships left England.

The transports left the Motherbank off the Isle of Wight on 19 January 1790 with the Surprize arriving at Port Jackson on 26 July 1790 followed two days later by the other two ships. The Justinian sailed from Cornwall on 19 January arriving at Port Jackson on 21 June.

The mortality rate aboard the ships was extremely high.
Surprize 36 male convict deaths (14%)
Neptune 147 male & 11 female convict deaths (31%)
Scarborough 73 male convict deaths (28%)
According to Reverend Johnson, a further 84 convicts, one child and one soldier died during the three weeks after arriving at Port Jackson. Watkin Tench, a marine officer reported that a total of 124 convicts died in the months after the arrival of the Second Fleet. Many other convicts were on the sick list.

Much needed supplies were delivered to the colony, particularly flour, beef and pork as well as sugar, oil, oatmeal, pease, spirits, and vinegar. Left over provisions not used during the voyage were sold to anyone who could afford to purchase them.
When the "Death Fleet" returned to England enquiries were held about the trip to Sydney Cove including the death toll. The Navy Board's report of 15 February 1792 defended the contractors.  In May Donald Trial and Chief Mate Ellerington were tried specifically for the murder of two crewmen and a convict. Members of the crew of the Neptune gave evidence on events that had occurred on the ship including sadistic beatings and floggings of crew and convicts for petty offences and also serving  the crew inadequate amounts of bad quality food with even smaller portions to the convicts  resulting in many starving to death. A report from the Reverend Johnson and others in the colony who had witnessed the conditions of the ships on arrival were also presented. The contrast was made between the landing of emaciated convicts at Sydney Cove with the large quantity of additional stores that the captain had kept back to sell at exorbitant prices to settlers. The officers had their own version to tell, that the convicts had had access to fresh air and exercise and had received sufficient rations and that  that the deaths were largely due to bad weather encountered during the voyage and an outbreak of scurvy. No effort was made to test the statements of the officers against the claims of the crew and those already in the colony.

Before the hearings in London regarding the Second Fleet took place the firm, Camden, Calvert and King, was awarded the contract to transport the convicts of the Third Fleet arriving in Sydney Cove between July and October 1791.
  • Bateson, Charles. The convict ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, 2004
  • Flynn, Michael. The Second Fleet: Britain's grim convict armada of 1790. Library of Australian History, 1993

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The First Fleet ships - notes

Eleven ships made up the First Fleet:
Lady Penrhyn
Prince of Wales



The transports were fitted out for the journey at Deptford on the Thames before travelling to Woolwich, Plymouth and / or Portsmouth to collect their cargo of prisoners.

Seven hundred and fifty-nine convict (568 male and 191 female) travelled on the First Fleet. However in total there were almost 1500 people aboard the eleven ships including naval and merchant seamen and other officers and crew including cooks and carpenters who sailed the ships,  marines and some family members of crew plus children of some female convicts. The expedition to the other side of the world was to establish a convict settlement and marines were required to help establish and maintain the settlement.

Convicts aboard the transports at time of sailing:
Alexander 195 male convicts
Charlotte 88 male & 20 female convicts
Friendship 76 male & 21 female convicts
Lady Penrhyn 101 female convicts
Prince of Wales 1 male convict & 49 female convicts
Scarborough 208 male convicts

Forty convicts (36 male and 4 female) died from time of embarkation to arrival at Port Jackson.
Deaths aboard the convict ships:
Between embarkation and sailing 16 male & 1 female convicts
Between the Motherbank & Teneriffe 7 male & 1 female convict
At Teneriffe 1 male convict
Between Teneriffe & Rio de Janeiro 5 male & 1 female convicts
Between Rio de Janeiro & Port Jackson 7 male & 1 female convicts

First hand accounts of the voyage of the First Fleet have been recorded in surviving logbooks of the ships and diaries of crew on some ships.

The ships left the Motherbank on 13 May 1787 and arrived in Port Jackson on 26 January 1788.
The journey to Botany Bay took the Supply 256 days to complete, the Alexander, Friendship and Scarborough 257 days and the rest of the fleet 258 days.

  • Bateson, Charles. The convict ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, 2004
  • King, Jonathan. Australia's First Fleet: the voyage and the re-enactment 1788 / 1988. Robertsbridge & Fairfax Magazines, 1988

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

First Fleet Voyage to Australia

Two members of my family were convicts travelling to Australia on the First Fleet.

George Guest (also written in some records as Gess) was born at Prestbury, Gloucester in 1767. On 4 March 1784 at Gloucester Lenten Assizes he was sentenced to death on two counts of theft for stealing ten live pigs and a chestnut mare. The sentence was reduced to seven years transportation to America. Initially the seventeen year old was taken to the hulk Censor. At the end of February 1787 George was transferred to the Alexander to leave for New South Wales with the First Fleet.

William Roberts was born in the Cornwall region possibly in 1755. Little is known about his life in England. At Bodmin Assizes in August 1786 William Roberts was charged with stealing five pound and half weight of yarn, property of Wm Moffatt of Launceston resulting in a sentence of 7 years transportation. He was taken to the hulk, Dunkirk moored in Plymouth Harbour where he was kept with other prisoners until he was transferred initially to the convict ship Charlotte and finally to the convict ship Scarborough during March 1787.

The Alexander was the largest transport ship in the First Fleet measuring 114.3 feet in length and 31 feet wide. The barque built  ship with a quarter deck consisted of two decks without galleries or figurehead and had three masts. Two sets of figures have been provided for the weight of the ship but it was probably between 445 and 452 tons. The master of the ship was Duncan Sinclair, the surgeon was William Balmain and there were 195 male convicts aboard when the ship sailed.

The Scarborough was slightly smaller than the Alexander measuring 111 feet 6 inches in length and 30 feet 2 inches wide. The height between decks was 4 feet 5 inches. The ship consisted of two decks, had three masts and was rigged as a barque. Two sets of figures have been provided for the weight of the ship but it was probably between 411 and 418 tons. Another record provides the weight as 430 tons. The master of the ship was John Marshall, the surgeon was Denis Considen and there were 208 male convicts aboard when the ship sailed.

Most of the convicts on the Alexander embarked at Woolwich on January 6, 1867 though a few were boarded at Portsmouth. The convicts boarded the Scarborough at Portsmouth. Gales and bad weather delayed the loading of convicts and provisions on all the ships but eventually they anchored off the Motherbank near Ryde on the Isle of Wright across from Portsmouth. A plaque on the seawall at Ryde commemorates the departure of the First Fleet. Sixteen men from the Alexander died as the waited from March to May for the ship to sail. Some of the bodies of convicts who died at this time are buried at St Anne's Church on the Isle of Wight. It has been suggested that a reason for the high number of deaths was because a number of the convicts had been in poor health when they left the gaols.

The ships left England on Sunday 13 May 1787. On 20 May trouble was reported to be brewing on the Scarborough when the master of the ship was informed of a possible plot being organised by a group of convicts to take control of the ship. Two convicts were transferred to the Sirius where they each received 24 lashes before being transferred, in irons, to the Prince of Wales.  The ships then continued on the journey to Teneriffe arriving on 3 June. By this time there had been another five deaths on the Alexander and 21 prisoners were on the sicklist. The convict quarters on the ships were overcrowded and  infested with rats, cockroaches, bugs and other vermin. For the first week at sea the convicts were still in irons but once these were removed they had more freedom to move around and experience the novelty of being at sea. At Teneriffe the prisoners received the luxury of fresh food. John Powers, a convict from the Alexander, tried to escape in the jolly-boat but was recaptured the next day.

Leaving Teneriffe the weather was extremely hot with frequent rain squalls and little wind making progress in sailing difficult. With this leg of the trip taking longer than anticipated the daily water ration was reduced. The ships crossed the equator on July 14 with the sailors and marines paying tribute to King Neptune. The winds had improved so the water ration was increased to two quarts per person each day. The ships arrived at Rio de Janiero on 5 August where they stayed until 4 September checking the ships and replenishing supplies.

Under sail again the ships experienced storms and heavy seas resulting in the ships rolling and pitching and shipping water. The winds allowed the ships to travel quickly but the prison quarters would have been constantly wet, the convicts seasick and not allowed on deck. The conditions for the convicts must have been horrendous. Generally, though, the prisoners were well behaved except for one group who planned to escape once the ship reached the Cape of Good Hope. Three seamen helped these convicts obtain an iron crowbar and other possible weapons but the plot was revealed before the ship reached the Cape. John Powers, the ringleader of the group, was transferred to the Siruis where he spent the rest of the voyage in irons nailed to the deck and the seamen involved in the plot were also transferred to the Sirius. The informer spent the rest of the voyage aboard the Scarborough. It was not only the prisoners who were at times troublesome but the conditions and length of the voyage were also reported as affecting the tempers of the officers and crew on some of the ships. Crew members who misbehaved were severely punished with marines on the Scarborough receiving between 50 to 150 lashes for offences. The ships finally arrived at Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope, on 11 October.

The next month was once again spent obtaining supplies for the ships. Fresh food was available most days when in port which must have been a welcome change from slated and dry rations. The Dutch were not helpful in making available provisions but Captain Phillip and his officers purchased any livestock and fodder offered. The animals travelled primarily on the Sirius and the three storeships but the female convicts on the Friendship were transferred to the Lady Penrhyn, the Charlotte and the Prince of Wales to make way for sheep.

The fleet of ships left Cape Town on 13 November. Initially there were good winds but a week into the journey the ships were becalmed. This was the followed by a period of strong winds and high seas . By the 25th the weather was again moderate and the decision was made that the Supply accompanied by the Alexander, the Friendship and the Scarborough would go on ahead of the other ships. The weather grew colder as they sailed through gales and heavy seas. Once again the ships pitched and rolled and were swamped by water. The only diversion was the sighting of whales and seabirds including albatrosses, petrels, garnets and gulls. By December 6 the ships entered thick fog which must have been a frightening experience for all on board, especially for the convicts  once again confined below deck, as the ships rang their bells and fired the guns on the warship to alert each other of their position in the fog. The weather was extremely cold and the convicts must have suffered with only their normal clothes and one blanket to keep them warm. By 22 December the weather was again fine with a good sailing wind and the ships made good progress. On 5 January the coast of Van Diemen's land was sighted. Heavy seas again as the ships sailed up the Australian coast and the three transports arrived at Botany Bay on 19 January, one day after the arrival of the Supply. The remaining ships arrived the following day.

The ships on the voyage from England to Botany Bay had travelled 15,063 miles and had taken between 250 and 252 days to complete the journey. The average daily run was approximately 82 miles with an average speed slightly exceeding 3 knots per hour.

Captain Phillip decided that Sydney Cove would make a better settlement than Botany Bay so the eleven ships sailed into Port Jackson on 26 January.

  • Bateson, Charles. The convict ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, 2004

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Norfolk Island

George Guest and Mary Bateman both arrived at Norfolk Island as convicts in 1790 and left the island with their family to settle in Tasmania in 1805.

Norfolk Island is an island in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,600 km north east-east of Sydney (latitude 29 degrees South and longitude 168 degrees East). It is midway between New Zealand and New Caledonia. It is a small island - 3,455 hectares - with approximately 30 kilometres of rugged coastline. The diameter of the island is around 7 kilometres.

In 1790 when our ancestors arrived there, Norfolk Island was a small isolated island with no natural and safe anchorage for vessels. When Lieutenant Philip Gidley King arrived to start a settlement on the island in 1788 he spent a week sailing around the island in HMS Supply looking for a safe place to land. They eventually landed at the south of the island at Sydney Bay (now the town of Kingston on Slaughter Bay) but two years later the HMS Sirius was wrecked in the same bay.

The first settlers lived in tents until wooden buildings could be erected. The settlement was to be self sufficient so a small area of land was cleared to grow English crops - potatoes, onions, turnips, spinach, cabbage, barley and wheat - but strong winds destroyed many of the plants and plagues of grubs and native rats enjoyed the wheat and barley. Fish became a major part of the convicts' diet. In 1790 there was a severe shortage of food but fortunately migratory flocks of petrels arrived on the island providing meat and eggs for the settlers alleviating the situation for a time.

Norfolk Island had been chosen for settlement as it was thought that the pine trees growing on the island would be suitable for masts and other timber projects. It was soon discovered that the wood was too knotty and brittle for ship building however it was fine for buildings required on the island. A saw pit was quickly constructed, double handed two metre saws were used to cut the timber and cradles at each end of the pit held the timber in place. It was also thought that a flax industry could be established on the island. However the local flax grown on the island was different to the European varieties the settlers were used to and although flax was produced it was a slow process. Flax was also used as thatch for the roofs of the first wooden buildings constructed on the island. The convicts were given land to cultivate for their own use at weekends. Grants of land were also given to pardoned convicts. George Guest acquired several properties on the island with a combined total of more than 200 acres of land used primarily for grazing sheep.

Keeping in touch with the mainland was difficult with the settlement having to rely on news from ships that occasionally called in to the island. Boat building on the island was not allowed as it was feared that convicts may try to escape. An exception was made in 1797 when Captain Townson ordered the building of a 25 ton longboat named the Norfolk. When the boat arrived in Sydney it was commandeered by Governor Hunter to be used by Bass and Flinders to circumnavigate Tasmania. This did not resolve the problems of communication and regular supplies of stores between Sydney and Norfolk Island.

Although the settlers were encouraged to be self sufficient and not dependant on government stores those who were still convicts often faced severe punishments for crimes committed when on the island. George Guest was punished by flogging for telling Major Ross a lie, neglect of duty and later for employing two convicts without permission. The settlers were not allowed to forget that this was a convict settlement.

A number of books have been written about Norfolk Island often providing a pictorial study of the island as well as recounting its history which included two convict settlements - the second being from 1825 to 1856 - and the arrival of the descendants of the mutineers on the ship the Bounty who left Pitcain Island for Norfolk Island in 1856. The island is now a tourist destination. Two titles are:
  • Loukakis, Angelo. Norfolk Island: an island and its people. Rigby 1984
  • Edgecombe, Jean. Norfolk Island - South Pacific: island of history and many delights. 1991
Histories of Norfolk Island include:
  • Hazzard, Margaret. Punishment short of death: a history of the Penal Settlement of Norfolk Island. Highland House, 1984
  • Hoare, Melville. Norfolk Island: a revised and enlarged history 1774-1998. 5th ed. Central Queensland University Press, 1999

Friday, 11 November 2011

Samuel Birch (1809-1878)

Family history research can also provide information about the history of a local area, state or country.

Samuel Birch was the eldest son of Thomas William Birch and Sarah Guest. He was born in Hobart on the 23rd of July and died in Hobart on the 15th of February 1878. An obituary that appeared in The Mercury newspaper, February 16 1878) described Samuel as having "long been associated with various philanthropic societies in Hobart Town, and although, by some, deemed to be ecentric, had much sympathy for young people, and was for many years associated with the Bethseda Church of England Sunday School; besides being distinguished for his efforts in the promotion of temperance among the young." In his will he donated 50 pounds each to three Hobart churches.

A search in Trove - - under the name of Samuel Birch also shows his interest in political processes. From 1861 to 1872 his name regularly appears on electoral material in the newspapers supporting candidates for forthcoming elections.

Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) became a separate colony in 1825. In 1850 the Australian Colonies Government Act was passed in the British Parliament allowing for representative government in the colony. The Legislative Council was increased to 24 members - eight of whom were appointed by the Governor and for the first time sixteen representatives elected by men who owned land or paid rent. This new Council first met in 1852. In 1854 the Legislative Council passed the Constitution Act enabling the creation of two houses of Parliament. Royal Assent to these changes was provided in 1855. In 1856 the name of the colony was changed to Tasmania and elections were held for the new parliament.

The newspapers around the time of elections provided much space for candidates and their supporters to put their case. Some examples are provided.

'At a meeting held at the Alliance Rooms on Friday evening, the 17th instant, for the appointment of a Committee to secure the return of Mr. H S Barrett as Member for the City, the following gentlemen were unanimously appointed, with power to add to their number'. A list of the names of 31 gentlemen followed including Samuel Birch. The item was signed by R A McLean, Election Agent. (The Mercury Monday 20 May 1861 p3)

The Mercury 21 May 1861 p1 contained an advertisement advising that 'Mr HS Barrett would meet the electors of Hobart Town at Bethseda School House, upper end of Davey Street, on Tuesday evening next at half past seven for the purpose of addressing the electors, and answering any questions that may be put to him.'

Another example of the elctoral process is provided in a letter and reply that appeared in The Mercury Saturday 25 May 1861 p1. 'To William Tarleton Esq. Sir, We the undersigned Electors of the District of Queensboro', hereby request that you will allow yourself to be placed in nomination as a Candidate for this District. The present depressed state of every interest in the Colony demands from the sons of Tasmania the most energetic measures to retrieve her position.
Your well-known habits and abilities, your extensive official experience, the interest you have at stake, and your long residence among us, in our opinion justify us that in anticipating that in our country's hour of need your participation will not be found wanting.' The letter was signed by thirteen gentlemen including Samuel Birch. Beneath the letter a reply from Mr. Tarleton was also published. Similar letters were published for other potential candidates.

An advertisement in the same issue of the paper advised that Mr. Tarleton would meet with the Electors of Queensborough at The Travellers Rest on Tuesday 28 May at 7 o'clock and at the Cascade Inn on Friday 31st May.

However on Thursday 30 May The Mercury on page 2 contained another series of letters with the electors of Queensborough requesting Robert Walker Esq to be their candidate as Mr Tarleton had withdrawn from the contest. Robert Wlaker accepted.

In The Mercury 10 June 1861 p4 the candidates for the election for the House of Assembly for the Queensborough Electoral District to be held on Tuesday 11 June at Kingston, Sandy Bay and Cascade Road. There were seven candidates including Robert Walker.

In October it was announced that the elected member for Hobart Town had resigned so another election for the seat would be held on 28 October. This time Charles meredith was the proposed candidate. (The Mercury 25 October 1861 p4). On 4 November 1861 a bye-election was held for the Queensborough electorate as the winning candidate had died. Robert Walker was again a candidate proposed by Samuel Birch and the other members of election committee. (The Mercury 1 November 1861 p4).

The electoral processes could be said to have kept Samuel Birch and other Hobart gentlemen occupied for much of 1861.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Henry Birch 1818 - 1865

Henry Birch, the son of Sarah Guest and Thomas William Birch, was born in Hobart in 23 September 1818. He died at his home in Macquarie Street in Hobart on Saturday 1 July 1865 after a long and painful illness(Death notices in newspapers including The Mercury, Hobart, 4 July 1865 p1).
When checking the newspapers in Trove to see if there were any further references to Henry (obituaries or will information) marriage notices were located from The Mercury and the Launceston Examiner relating to the marriage of Charles Edward Walch, second surviving son of the late Major James William Henry Walch, HM 54th Regiment, to Fanny Eugenia Clara, youngest daughter of the late Mr Henry Birch.
The search was then to determine any family for Henry.

Ancestry provided three possible marriages for Henry Birch
  • Clara Reed 5 April 1841 Avoca
  • Ann Wright 1851 Launceston
  • Lucy Banister 1854 Launceston
As Fanny was a younger child married in 1865 the dates for last two entries eliminated them as possibilities as Fanny's mother. Having Clara as part of Fanny's name also made it likely that  Clara Reed was Fanny's mother.

The search for the death of Clara Birch located a death notice in The Mercury 23 November 1894 p1 -
BIRCH - On November 22 at Cananore Davey Street, Clara Rich, relict of the late Mr Henry Birch in her 84th year.
Back to Ancestry where a marriage for Henry and Clara was found - 5 April 1841 at Avoca.
A search for births with Henry and Clara as parents provided information for three children
  • Louisa Clara Birch 2 September 1841
  • George Birch 17 May 1843
  • Fanny Eugenia Clara Birch 14 July 1844
This search demonstrated variations of names particularly for Clara (Reed, Read and Rich). Fanny's original name may have been Frances which is used in some records. The birth record in Ancestry uses only the first initial.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In the beginning

Family history research is an addictive, time consuming passion. As a child I was told that there was a convict in the family who had travelled to Australia on the Third Fleet and had become an influential businessman in Sydney and owned a number of properties in New South Wales. The name of this convict was Simeon Lord. One of the teachers at the primary school that I attended remembered the family's connection with Simeon Lord and contacted my parents when he was preparing a paper for the AIGS. Did this mean that having a convict in the family was important? Some years later we were contacted by a television station working on a program that included Simeon and my parents were asked for their consent which was readily given. Other members of the family were not so happy about it being known that they were related to a convict. Times have certainly changed from the 1960s. Studying Australian history at school, and later at university, I kept finding references to Simeon in Australian history books. When I was a teenager my grandmother told me stories about members of her family who had lived in India during the nineteenth century. One member of the family had been killed in the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Unfortunately at the time I was not that interested however the outline of the stories remained in my memory. At the age of 17 I decided that I wanted to find out all I could about the history of my family. Many years later I am still searching.