The Reverend James White 1715-1768

Eccl Hist edited

The above sentence comes from the preface to ‘The history of Limerick, ecclesiastical, civil and military: from the Earliest Records, to the Year 1787‘ written by John Ferrar.  It’s a wonderful book, a very enjoyable read and a useful reference if you have ancestors in Limerick.  I first found it about four years ago and I have read it several times.

This book is an update of John Ferrar’s 1767 work ‘An History of the City of Limerick: Containing Some Account of Its Antiquity &c‘.  This, also, is a good read.  What’s more, one really gains an understanding of Limerick society by noting the changes between the two editions. Changes in Limerick, and changes in perspective.

For a long time I wondered at the above sentence.  It’s not hard to detect the mood of the author in any piece of writing, and this book never came across as a laborious task for its author.  Eventually, the answer came to me.  To be strictly honest, John Ferrars told me right on the frontispiece of the 1767 edition, but I’d always skipped that page and headed for the substance.

John Ferrars Limerick

John Ferrars did not actually write the history.  He compiled it from the work of others.  This does not in any way devalue his efforts.  To locate private manuscripts, assess their accuracy, decide on a format for his book and to choose what to include and what to leave out without offending anyone of importance is a colossal undertaking.  If he hadn’t done this, those manuscripts would not be with us today.  I, for one, am very appreciative.

So who did write it?  In 1767, Ferrars makes only the briefest reference to his sources.

John Ferrar sources

There we have a reference to a man for whom I have the greatest respect.  The Reverend Mr White is not an ancestor of mine.  Since he was a Catholic Priest I expect he was nobody’s direct ancestor.  He was a man with an active mind and a gift for writing. I’ve known him for years through his writing.  I would guess that he was creative and generally enthusiastic. I’m sorry that I did not meet him.

The Reverend White did not exactly write the history either, although he created the format and it seems conducted several oral histories to fill out the detail.  He did as John Ferrars did later, and rescued manuscripts written in earlier times.  He was a great transcriber.  Still, I would credit James White with the arrangement of the history.  If flows very well.  I’ve read a lot of books from this era over the years and some are stiff and awkward, as if the author could not properly communicate without seeing how his words were being received.  The Reverend White was different.

Even though I knew this much about the Reverend White, I had no idea where he actually lived.  He produced a history of Limerick and one of Clare, and collected manuscripts from several counties.

Then came the Irish Catholic Parish Records, made publicly available last week by the National Library of Ireland. On the search for Fitzgeralds and Appleyards, my intrepid distant cousin went online, into the St Mary’s Limerick baptisms.  Here she found the records we needed.  She sent me an email, I went to see for myself – and there was the Reverend James White himself!

James White entries 1751 copy permissable under Creative Commons license 4.0

This parish register is a transcription, made probably at the end of each month, possibly each third month.  I first realised this when I noticed a few entries out of order.  A February 12th entry before a January 4th entry.  There were a few errors in name too, errors which are unlikely to occur at the time of the event.  Getting the mother’s name wrong, for instance. I don’t think it happened much, but there was an error in one of my own family records so I became aware of this.

This register is also indexed – something I have not seen with any other.  Remembering that these records have been available for one week so I’m hardly an expert on their organization. Someone – and my money’s on our Reverend White as the first – actually indexed seventy five years by first name of baptized child.  That’s what the numbers are all about at the side and the top.  Page number and each baptism individually numbered.

Indexing baptism St Mary Limerick Creative Commons 4.0

The indexing continues for half a century after the Reverend White’s death, but I do think he began it.

So what happened to the Reverend James White?  He passed away on 7th February 1768 and worked basically till the end.  Here are his final entries in the register, and since the handwriting changes permanently at this time I am pretty sure it was our Reverend White doing the writing up till now.  From here on, the Reverend Welsh seems to take over. creative commons 4.0 creative commons 4.0

Somewhere in early July 1767, Reverend Welsh takes the bulk of the work along with the continuing Reverend John Creagh, but the Reverend White remained on the payroll. He is named at the top of each page still.  He pops back in about once a month or so to perform a baptism or marriage.  He appears to be on light duties.

By today’s standards, he wasn’t even so old!  At this time he was in his early fifties. He performed his final baptism at St Mary’s Limerick on 29th December 1767.  Maybe he formally retired at the end of the year.

The 1787 edition of John Ferrars’ Limerick history contains the following brief biography:

James White was born in the city of Limerick in the year 1715; he returned from the College of Salamanca in Spain, in 1736, and was ordained a priest in 1738.  He published in 1764 a short description of the county and city of Limerick, and in 1766 a description of the county Clare, he also compiled in one folio volume, the annals of Limerick, from whence the first printed History was taken in 1767. 

He was for twenty five years, the pious and exemplary priest of St. Mary’s parish in Limerick, where he died on the 7th of February 1768.

John Ferrars’ History of Limerick is now available via Google books so we don’t need the hardcover to read it.  A few later versions on Google books come with pictures. I have not posted those images here since the terms of service are not clear regarding them.

There are several Ecclesiastical histories of Irish counties, and I recommend perusing these while viewing the records.  It gives the whole process context.  Otherwise one is faced with the very dry task of trawling smudgy faded Latin text on the search for family surnames, and one set of spidery handwriting looks very much like another after a while.  To visualize the life of the parish helps a great deal and keeps the mind alert.

New Distractions – the Irish Catholic Parish Records

Sheep paddock at Sally's Gap in Wicklow, Ireland. Photograph with permission by Laura Jane.

Sheep paddock at Sally’s Gap in Wicklow, Ireland. Photograph with permission by Laura Jane.

This is a very quick post, just to explain that I am deep in the newly released Catholic parish record images via the National Library of Ireland website which went live yesterday/today (depending on where you live in the world).

I love viewing original records in a continuous format like this.  One learns so much more about a community!  The ebb and flow of life is easier to see.  Did they have a steady flow of marriages and baptisms, or were there only one or two per month?  What was the priest like?  Was he meticulous, was he busy, was he careless?

So far I have only looked at the parish of Athea in the late 1820s and beginning of the 1830’s.  I soon found surnames I recognised.

What I think I can see is a few family groups.  In one cluster we have eg Sullivan/Ryan/Houlihan/Culhane, all witnessing each others’ marriages and acting sponsor for each other’s babies.  In another we have Dillane/Woulfe/White/Ahern doing the same. There are three or four discrete groups, I’ll have to look at applotment records to see if they are geographic divisions or social ones.  Or simply family based!

With the Dillane bunch are a smattering of Sheehan, Murphy and McCarthy.  This is very interesting since those ancestor names pop up often in the DNA matches with common ancestors in the Athea region, although they never have Dillane in their tree.  The connection is here somewhere.

For my friends who are doing the same as me just now, don’t forget to check neighbouring parishes too.

Another Irish building from public-domain-image dot com.

Another Irish building from public-domain-image dot com.

A quick note as to the language:

Yes, it’s all in Latin.  The priest in Athea had very little notion of conjugation and that might be common elsewhere, but the base word is the same.  Our guy in Athea phrased a marriage in this way:


die 6 Novembris matrimonis juncti sunt Thomas Kelleher et Anna Ahern, habita super bannis dispensationis testis Thomas Ahern Maria Ryan cum alia

die 8 Novembris – Day 8 November

matrimonis juncti – (con)juncti   – joined in matrimony – Our priest has abbreviated this in an uncommon way

Thomas Kelleher et Anna Ahern – Thomas Relliher and Anna Ahern.  For this entry the names are in their original form but this is not always the case.

habita super – living here – I presume this means ‘of this parish’ as shows in English registers

bannis dispensationis by the publishing of banns

testis – witnessed by

Thomas Ahern Maria Ryan – The names of the witnesses

cum alia – apparently means ‘with the other’. It’s written at the end of all Athea marriage registrations.

clipart from Clipart Panda

clipart from Clipart Panda


26 Gulielmus filius legitimus Gulielmus Ahern et Brigida Hays patroni exant David Ahern et Margarita Ahern

26 date.  This register has the month at the top and all entries just with their date shown.

Gulielmus – William written in Latin

filius – son of.  A daughter is ‘filia’

legitimus – legitimate, meaning the parents are married. A boy born to an unmarried mother is ‘illegitimus’  Note the suffix matches that of the previous word.  A daughter would be ‘filia legitima’ or ‘filia illegitima’.

Gulielmus Ahern et Brigida Hays – William Ahern and Bridget Hays.  Names of the parents.

patroni exant – sponsors/godparents in multitude – as in more than one.

David Ahern et Margarita Ahern – David Ahern and Margaret Ahern.  The sponsor’s names.

It has been years since I looked at any Latin.  I’d forgotten how much fun that language is. I might be busy for a few days now, finding Dillane records in Athea and running the names against my DNA match’s family trees.

Hester Wright – An Eventful Life Story – Part Two 1818-aft 1837

A very Tasmanian scene. Taken at Eaglehawk Neck July 2013

A very Tasmanian scene. Taken at Eaglehawk Neck July 2013

This post follows from Part One, which summarized my research into Hester Wright up till her arrival in Van Diemen’s Land in February 1818.  She was then aged about seventeen, single and six months pregnant.

As a convict, she probably had no minute to call her own.  She would have been shepherded to her quarters, to meals, to daily tasks.  The convicts’ health had been assessed in Sydney before transfer to the Duke of Wellington, but no doubt there was another assessment made on arrival in Hobart Town. She would be looked after, if harshly, in her last months of pregnancy.

One week after Hester’s arrival the main communication to colonists was regarding provision of stores and the “Scarcity of Grain in the Colony” (Hobart Town Gazette 28 Feb 1818).  This kind of sets the scene for Hobart Town in these early days. Whenever the residents began to combat their food problems, more mouths would arrive needing to be fed.  Those new mouths might be convicts or soldiers.  In 1828 a letter of recommendation was required by free settlers.  The colony was still closed to general immigration.

The ship ‘Duke of Wellington’, however, was bringing the sort of convicts that Hobart Town could use – tradesmen and women.  Both were in short supply, both categories had excellent prospects in the colony but would have had no idea of this. Hester was no doubt occupied with her own needs.

Advertisements such as this often preceded the arrival of female convict ships:

SETTLERS and Inhabitants who may wish to have assigned Female Servants upon the Arrival of a Vessel with Female Prisoners, are desired to send in their Applications to the Secretary’s Office next Week.

“GOVERNMENT PUBLIC NOTICE.” The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821) 28 Aug 1819: 1. Web. 5 Jul 2015 <>

Scene from Port Arthur on a summer day, but maybe Hobart Town looked a little like this too.

Scene from Port Arthur on a summer day, but maybe Hobart Town looked a little like this too.

As well as people, ships brought a variety of goods in hopes of making a profit by the journey.  Incoming ships would set up shop in a room near the wharf and displayed their goods for sale. Examining the new offerings was probably a popular pastime.  Advertisements in the Hobart Town Gazette list everything from barrels of rum to ladies’ petticoats.

Hester’s child was born on 10th May 1818 and was given the name Eliza.  My guess is that she was named after Hester’s friend Eliza Patrick.  The baby was baptised in October of the same year in the Parish of Hobart Town.

Baptism of Eliza Wright in Hobart 1818

Baptism of Eliza Wright in Hobart 1818.

By 1818, Hobart Town was only fifteen years old so the population was small. Hester can be found in the early musters but I have not had a chance to view this. She was apparently living with Joseph Eastwood who was originally a convict transported to New South Wales in 1810 then shifted on to Van Diemen’s Land in 1816.

On 10th September 1819, a daughter Mary was born to Hester Wright, once again baptised by Robert Knopwood to whom we are indebted for so many early records.  Hester was still unmarried and no father’s name is mentioned in the record.

On 20th June 1821, a daughter Ann was born to Hester Wright, baptised by Robert Knopwood.  Hester once again is unmarried.

Then, on 27th August 1821, Hester married William Watts, a fellow convict.  From this date, her children were known by the surname Watts.  Ann is generally considered to be Joseph Eastwood’s daughter, but it seems to me that she could equally be William Watts’ child.

William Watts was a fellow Bristol exile, about twelve years older than Hester. He was a horsebreaker by trade. Height 5 foot 3 1/2 inches, brown hair, grey eyes. I don’t know much about him or his time in Hobart Town.  By later records we can extrapolate possibly another child born  to William and Hester –  Fanny born between 1826 and 1831 (unless Fanny is the same as Ann or Mary?). Or should I say, we can extrapolate at least another child born to Hester and attributed to William?  One cannot be sure.

William never did settle down.  His convict record is full of absconsions and receiving of stolen property.  He received at different times 25 lashes, 50 lashes, even 100 lashes.  The man had a will to live for a long time there, but in the end his sentence was converted to ‘life’ (1828) and he absconded for good – he was executed in England in 1830.

Old houses in Tasmania

Old houses in Tasmania

In 1828, presumably coinciding with William Watts’ absconsion, Eliza Watts and Mary Watts were placed in the Orphan School in Hobart Town. Both girls were admitted on 9th September 1828.  Eliza was aged 10 and Mary was aged 8.  On each of their records is a note ‘Joseph Eastwood’.  This note is not explicit but seems to indicate that he was considered the father.

Both Eliza and Mary were there for several years. Mary was discharged to her mother in 1832 with a note ‘has been with Whiteburn’.  This presumably referred to a domestic apprenticeship but I have not yet located anyone surnamed Whiteburn in Hobart Town.

Eliza was discharged twice – once in 1832 with Mary, once in 1836.  The ‘Discharged To’ entry reads ‘Thomas Forster, mother’.   Does this mean she was discharged into service to Thomas Forster and only returned to her mother in 1836?  By 1836 she was eighteen years old, unusually old for the orphan school unless she was undertaking work duties there.

In the meantime, Hester was somewhere presumably with Ann and Fanny, if they were different children. Otherwise, she was somewhere with one of them only.

From this point, the story is very hazy indeed.  The final entry on Hester’s conduct record (CON40-1-9,374,227 at Tasmania’s state archives) is dated  January 24th 1837, when Hester was charged with:

‘Stealing part of the carcase of a sheep the property of Robt Patterson otherwise receiving the same well knowing’

She was held pending trial but no record of a court case has been found involving Hester. Maybe there was not enough evidence to proceed?

This newspaper report may have referred to the same incident although Hester is not mentioned:

Reese and Goudon stealing sheep

Trial of Thomas Reece and Andrew Goudon for stealing a sheep from Robert Patterson 1837

“SUPREME COURT—CRIMINAL SIDE.” Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 21 Mar 1837: 9. Web. 11 Jan 2016 <>.

If this was the same incident then Hester was in Hamilton in 1837, but no confirmation of her presence has been found.

This is all I have learned so far about Hester, posted here in the hope that other researchers will help me out and correct any misconceptions.

Hester’s family as I have it:

Hester Wright children update

I once believed I had found Hester ending her days in Wellington Street, Launceston in northern Tasmania.  However, that woman appears to be quite a different Hester Wright.  Where our own ancestor spent her final years is still a mystery.

I also wonder where Hester’s other children went.  Fanny died following childbirth with twins(?) in 1858 at age 27, suggesting she was born in 1831 which would mean she, also, was not William Watts’ child.  Eliza was living at Hollow Tree near Hamilton with her own very large family. Mary and Ann … I have no clues. Mary lived long enough to leave the Orphan School in 1832, of Ann I know nothing since her baptism unless she and Fanny are one and the same.

Research continues.

Hester Wright – An Eventful Life Story – Part One 1802-1818

Historic Sydney

Manly NSW looking historic taken 1981

Once upon a time probably in England, in about 1802, one particular baby girl was born. Her name was Hester.

We can’t really be sure of anything to do with Hester’s origins.  She might have been born in Ireland or Wales or somewhere else in Europe, but most likely she was born in England because that’s where she is first identified in the records.  She was probably born with the surname Wright, but she might have been married, or she might have taken a stepfather’s name.  She has only recently entered my ancestor radar but known descendants have spent years piecing her life together.  It’s vaguely possible that even now after so much effort, I have something to add to her life story, but I’m having trouble following the trail the previous researchers forged. It takes time and a lot of sifting through details.

Hester is a beautiful name, I think, with a timeless feel.  It’s easy for me to conceive of Hester Wright as my ancestress because of her name.  My own great grandmother was Esther (Hester) Brown born 1883 in Apsley, Tasmania, Australia so the name is already in my family.  If I am on the right trail, this Hester/Esther Wright was my Hester/Esther Brown’s great great grandmother.

It is always hard to trace women in that pre-UK census era in England, especially single poor women and I’m guessing Hester was poor and single.  We first find her at her trial in Bristol, but that’s no indication that she came from the region. Those down on their luck and surviving by their wits tended to travel widely.  If the living patterns of other ancestors are a guide, I’d guess that she came from that general area – Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire .. there was a lot of movement through those regions, you can tell by the convict records.  A whole lot of arrests in one county with a prior arrest in the next county and the family living at a native place three counties away.

Scene from The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding 1841 edition p 305

Hester undoubtedly saw the rougher side of life through her childhood.  This scene from The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding  1841 centennial edition p 305

If she was born around 1802, which is an extrapolation based on later records, then she was only around fifteen when arrested in Gloucestershire for stealing five yards of lace.  The arrest probably took place in late 1816, sometimes the accused languished in jail for many weeks waiting for the next quarter sessions.

In January 1817 she was brought to trial in Bristol, found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation.

It took me some time to find corroborating evidence, but the earlier researchers were right on the money.  Here she is at the Bristol Quarter sessions:

14 Years Transportation: Elizabeth Patrick and Hester Wright for stealing 5 yards of lace. (Bristol Mirror 18 Jan 1817 At the General Quarter Sessions)

There’ll be a nice story there but I might have to go to Bristol to get it.  The two women (girls?) were placed together in Bristol’s old Newgate Prison to await action.  The new Newgate Prison opened its doors in 1820.  The old one by all reports was dark, airless, damp and infested with vermin. At some point maybe, their sentence was reduced from fourteen to seven years. This was a common practice after sentencing, probably to encourage compliance as well as to maintain a threat to the general populace.

I have also found a report in an online newspaper repository of one Hester Wright in March 1817, appearing at Guildhall in Bristol on a charge of assaulting an Overseer of the Parish of Bishopsgate and being assigned one month solitary confinement.  This may or may not be our girl, the Parish of Bishopsgate looks to be in London not Bristol, although the girl appeared in court in Bristol for this offence. It looks also as if transcribing here would break my terms of service so I have not done so.

This one, however, can be transcribed:

On Friday, the under-mentioned female convicts were removed from Newgate in this city, to the transport ship ‘Friendship’, lying at Debtford; … Elizabeth Perkins, Sarah North, Eliza Patrick, Harriot Neat, Hester Wright, Sarah Ann Cox, Ann Kennicott, Lucy Meares, Sophia Richards and Sarah Hopkins.  (Bristol Sentinel 17 June 1817 Varieties)

Open Ocean

Open sea.

Reports of the Friendship leaving England are thin on the ground and we’d have nothing to go by were it not for unsavoury practices on board ship during the journey.  The ‘Friendship’, captained by Andrew Armet on this journey 1817-1818, was one of the “prostitution ships”.  This was one of those journeys which led to the legend of open prostitution on board female convict ships, and this is one time when the tales are clearly correct. An inquiry into affairs on board the ship was conducted after its arrival and were proven beyond doubt.

It is important to Hester’s story to pinpoint events with accuracy. The Colonial Secretary’s Papers in the New South Wales Archive are a wonderful source of information about this journey, albeit carefully phrased.  Details given in these papers by Andrew Armet (Reel 6047; 4/1740 pp.55-67) say that the Friendship left port in London on 3rd July 1817.

We need to pinpoint the date because Hester, upon her arrival in Australia, was heavily pregnant – with MY ancestress. Figuring out when the event occurred is crucial in determining the father.  Early researchers believed at first that she met the father in New South Wales.  Then researchers learned that the baby was born on 10th May 1818.  A baby born in May was not conceived before 3rd July, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Maybe by the end of July and then a few weeks overdue?

It’s pretty clear that Hester Wright, aged by now about sixteen years, sailed from England on the convict ship ‘Friendship’ and became pregnant while on board.

Off the coast of Victoria

Land sighted from a ship

We don’t hear much about these journeys, but any journal or ship’s log that I have seen is full of interesting detail.  There was also heat, thirst and claustrophobia, but a lot went on at sea.  Other ships passed, they saw whales and sharks and land masses, there were storms, they stopped at ports for water and supplies. Sometimes there was sickness on board, sometimes even crew members and officers suffered mental complaints.  Allegations were made that prostitution began on board the Friendship even before it left Debtford, between soldiers and the convict women. It was stated that Armet and other officers attempted to stop it but were unable.

As well as the prostitution, this trip had pirates!  They left England and as usual for convict transports, headed for the Cape of Good Hope.

Here’s a rough map:

Journey of the Friendship 1817-1818

Journey of the Friendship 1817-1818

Approximately marked in are Debtford in England, Madeira, St Helena, Capetown and Sydney.  Lots of ships went this way. I’ve been a bit vague around Australia because usually they passed south of Van Diemen’s Land and came up the east coast, but some went through the Strait and some came round the north.  I’m not sure which way the Friendship went.

What we do know is that the Friendship left Debtford, sailed down the Thames and headed south.  Before terribly long it was in the proximity of Madeira where it collected some pirates – six Spaniards and an American!

Why am I making a big deal about this?  Well, it’s a flight of fancy but I’m looking for a Spaniard in the tree and have been for at least a year now, because of our DNA ethnicity report.

I’m very aware that these things vary, but this reading has held true across both FtDNA and several different models via Gedmatch.  ‘Southern Europe’ does not necessarily equate to Spanish but we have both Mexican and Spanish distant cousin matches – purely Hispanic without any English people in their tree. One of my Spanish-speaking cousins doesn’t even speak English, I use Google Translate to communicate by email with him.  His kit was purchased for him by a relative in the United States. We haven’t found the connection but it’s on my paternal side and that’s the Hester Wright side.  Very vague but I have to keep this in mind. One follows all the leads and the red herrings and the red herrings are eventually proven incorrect, but you don’t know until you put in the time.


Our relevant Ethnicity DNA reading

So since I’m looking for a father for Hester Wright’s child, and I know the month in which that child was conceived, and I know that in that month she was incarcerated on a ship out at sea … and now I know that in that very window of opportunity six Spanish pirates were picked up by the ship … well, it’s a delightfully romantic tale from this distance.  Who wouldn’t want a Spanish pirate in their tree?

I’m working with my DNA matches to see if we can find their common ancestor.  It might lead somewhere, it might not.

From The Sydney Gazette 18 January 1818

… South-west of Madeira 50 leagues, Capt. A. fell in at sea with an open boat, wretchedly unequipped, and traversing under a sail fabricated of the shirts of her exhausted crew, six Spaniards and one American, who had for six days subsisted on a little turtle with which accident threw in their way, and which they were compelled to eat raw, and without a drop of water but – here must we let fall the curtain ! Humanity dictated to the feeling which saved these people from a miserable destiny, and they were cherished and  restored. They were kept on board seven days, and on the 4th of August turned over to an American ship,whose Commander charitably undertook to set them down at Bonavista, in Newfoundland, where they hoped to find employment on board other vessels.

“Sydney.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 17 Jan 1818: 3. Web. 3 Jul 2015 <>.

Unfortunately I have so far failed to find names for the Spanish pirates, other than their apparent origin being Buenos Aires, but this coming from a British editor who heard it from a sea captain who heard it from an American prisoner of said pirates … who knows?

So back to the facts:

After this encounter, the Friendship sailed on to St Helena where they were reportedly sighted and briefly mentioned in the shipping report of the Bombay Merchant (via the Public Ledger 17 December 1817 via Google Books).

The Friendship, convict ship, arrived at St Helena and sailed for New South Wales about the 18th of October;

This is corroborated by Armet’s account to the Sydney Gazette:

The Friendship passed the Gold Coast, and afterwards touched at St. Helena … 

That’s all there is, but it adds a further detail. Hester would have been just beginning to suspect that she was pregnant, if she knew enough about it.  She might have been unaware for a further few months.

To add to that endless oceans feel .. imagine several months at sea

To add to that endless oceans feel .. imagine several months at sea

Near Cape Town came the other well known event of this journey, the suicide of convict Jane Brown after being forced to wear a collar in public as an arbitrary and perhaps unjust punishment.  The close confines were probably getting to them all.  Jane and another convict had had a fight, tensions were high. Rather than face a second day of the collar, Jane threw herself overboard and was drowned.

Hester may have witnessed the event. If not, she would have heard about it. There seem to have been plenty of witnesses. By the time this occurred her pregnancy would be well into the morning sickness stage, maybe heading through it.

There is not much detail about the Capetown to New South Wales stage, and the Sydney Gazette announced on 17th January 1818:

On Tuesday arrived the ship Friendship from England, Capt. Armet, with 97 female prisoners, under the medical superintendence of Dr. Cosgreave, of the R. N. Three women died on the passage, which was unfortunately very long, being from the 3d of July, the day of her quitting England, to the 13th of January, the day of her arrival here. The name of the women who died were Ann Beal, Sarah Blower, and Martha Thatcher. To this number we are sorry to add Jane Brown, who from a sudden irritability of temper threw herself overboard and was drowned.

“Ship News.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 17 Jan 1818: 3. Web. 3 Jul 2015 <>.

A sudden irritability of temper.  That was an interesting description.

They sat off shore for weeks, pending quarantine clearance and going through the paperwork.  This was not uncommon but no doubt the convicts themselves were not informed of the reasons for the delay. Finally they could see land, but still they remained on the ship. Finally on the 30th January came disembarkation:

Yesterday morning, 28 of the female prisoners arrived in the Friendship were landed; 16 of whom having husbands in the colony were allowed to join them, and the remaining 12 went as servants into various families.

Thirteen others who were afflicted with scorbutic diseases, were sent to the General Hospital; and 56 were transhipped from the Friendship to the Duke of Wellington, to be conveyed to Hobart Town, together with 28 artificers and mechanics, sent from this settlement to be employed on the Government works there.

“Sydney.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 31 Jan 1818: 2. Web. 3 Jul 2015 <>.

Tasmania from the north

Tasmania from the north

On this day, 30th January, it seems that Hester Wright and her friend Eliza Patrick were separated.  Elizabeth Patrick remained in New South Wales and married Charles Ellis.  By 1824 she was in the Female Factory in Parramatta, for reasons I have not yet learned.

Hester, however, was one of those 56 women trans-shipped to the Duke of Wellington to be sent on to Van Diemen’s Land. This is lucky for us, since she came to the land of good convict records.

Their arrival is mentioned by the Hobart Town Gazette:

SHIP NEWS. – Yesterday arrived from Port Jackson, the ship Duke of Wellington, Captain JOHN HOWARD, with 30 male and 60 female prisoners; a part of the latter we understand are destined for Port Dalrymple.

“SITTING MAGISIRATE—, Esq.” The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821) 21 Feb 1818: 2 Supplement: Supplement to the Hobart Town Gazette. Web. 3 Jul 2015 <>.

So finally, aged maybe seventeen years old, single and six months pregnant, Hester Wright arrived in the colony where she would live the rest of her life, and contribute substantially to the future population of that land.

The Opening of the New Country – Beyond the Clyde in 1830s Van Diemen’s Land

Untouched land in Tasmania. What new settlers undoubtedly found when they first moved to their grants and purchases.

Untouched land in Tasmania. What new settlers undoubtedly found when they first moved to their grants and purchases.

The land beyond Lower Clyde in the 1820’s was an untamed but beautiful and lush wilderness, not an easy place to live but a region of great promise. However with public resources thrown into its development the 1830s saw great change.


… The new line of road to the Lower Clyde at the ‘Deep Gully’ is completed as to the cutting down, and will be metaled before the ensuing winter. This road is of the highest important to a great extent of fine country, and when the traveller hears that such a work was performed by a ‘chain gang’ well may he exclaim ‘out of evil comes good’. — It was a gigantic undertaking, and for so young a colony, altogether astonishing …

“BRIEF VIEW OF THE ROADS, BRIDGES, AND OTHER PUBLIC BUILDINGS.” Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846) 17 Jan 1831: 24. Web. 28 Jun 2015

Civilisation was beginning to come to this region.

THE GAZETTE April 1831

WHEREAS, by the Act or Ordinance, instituted ” An Act to regulate the impounding of Animals for trespass, and for other  purposes relating thereto,” .. it shall be lawful for the Lieutenant Governor to erect and establish public pounds for the impounding of animals therein for trespass .. the persons respectively hereinafter mentioned .. are hereby appointed keepers of such pounds .. 

The River Ouse: Police District. Bothwell, Thomas Triffitt.

“Classified Advertising.” The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839) 30 Apr 1831: 2. Web. 28 Jun 2015

Thomas Triffitt must be the best known Poundkeeper in Tasmania.  I have no idea why, but anyone who researches him learns this fact first.  The man was very diligent.

Old house near Melton Mowbray.

Old house near Melton Mowbray, Tasmania, Australia

Local produce in 1832

We have been favoured with the sight of a pair of mittens, spun and knit by Mrs. M’Kenzie, of the Lower Clyde, from the fur of the Opossum- In texture and appearance they very much resemble the best sort of Angola mittens, but to us they appeared of superior quality.

“HOBART TOWN EXTRACTS.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 3 Nov 1832: 3. Web. 28 Jun 2015

All eyes were on the Hamilton region in the 1830s as an investment and place of settlement. After the success of Richmond, Oatlands and New Norfolk, not to mention Launceston and Longford in the north of the state, a settler might do very well if he bought early and established crops and houses before the prospective rush.

Here’s the map, just to get it all clear.  The River Clyde, the River Ouse, the River Dee and the River Nive are almost parallel in Region 12. Expansion was heading west. By 1830 settlement was all near the Clyde. Into 1835 the River Ouse was the target.  By the end of this decade the River Dee became the new frontier and newly-surveyed land was about to become available towards the River Nive.

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

The letter below explains a matter under discussion at the time very nicely.  There was talk of making Hamilton the new capital due to its central position.  As this writer says, roads could be made from Hamilton going north to Circular Head (Stanley), south to Macquarie Harbour, west to Port Sorell and east to Hobart. This would make the town a centre for trade and egress.  It was a very nice idea, but in the end the need for a seaport won out.

The other sentiment expressed in the letter is also worthy of note – while we create the new trade capital, we can keep those disreputable convicts usefully employed and out of sight and mind.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR. 1834 (Edited to remove repetitions and double/triple/quadruple negatives)

The probability exists, that at no distant day some new and considerable portion of this territory may be thrown open to fresh settlers, and I will suppose this new country beyond the river Dee to be the portion selected for the purpose. 

 .. what course of measures would best advance the true interests of the colony on such an occasion, it may be asked? Can anyone doubt that a considerable increase in the quantity of our staple export -wool – would add to the stability of this colony?

Can anyone doubt that fixing a hardy, laborious, honest race of mountaineer yeomanry and peasantry, in the heart of the island would have these effects ? Can any one doubt that a communication open from the Dee to Circular Head, from the Dee to Macquarie Harbour, from the Dee to the coast westward of Port Sorell, would have these blessed effects?

Lastly, can any one doubt that the worst or,worst but one class of offenders transported here would be more advantageously placed than by being apart from the more settled districts, and employed at the same time in opening out the beginnings of those effects? ..

“SITUATIONS FOR UNEMPLOYED MECHANICS.” The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839) 28 Mar 1834: 4. Web. 28 Jun 2015 //

Southern Tasmania

Southern Tasmania

The colony’s administration was certainly in favour of further settlement. Van Diemen’s Land was beginning to show signs of civilisation and even comfortable living. It also contained a whole lot of troubled and unsocialised convicts who had no good reason to trust authority or to behave themselves.  As more and more of those convicts were freed and failed to become the exemplary servants that England had hoped they would be, other options were considered. Basically, push the recalcitrant freed convicts to the country and bring in more civilised and respectable people.

Respectable people like to live somewhere respectable.  Hobart had to be made respectable in order to encourage them out.  A difference of opinion between moneyed residents and the administration was making itself known.

In the meantime, life near Ouse went on as usual:


Cow, although not actually at Ouse. 

1836George lves, Darby Burns and John Gain stood charged with feloniously receiving three cows, the property of Richard Chilton, of the High Plains” .. and just about every resident of the area was called in to the trial. Cattle theft was far more serious than manslaughter or concealing the birth of a child.

1836 The beautiful splendid Entire Horse ‘Black Rover’, was got by Atlas, out of one of the best draught Mares in Van Diemen’s Land .. Persons desirous of obtaining his services will please to send their Mares to the Green hills, where there are good paddocks of great extent .. 

1837 We are informed that Captain Langdon, of the Lower Clyde, has let his Estates for £1,300 per annum. ‘ .. A very decent sum and one guaranteed to stimulate interest in the area.

1838 We learn from private sources, that the late wet and stormy weather has been productive of some heavy floods in the interior. In the district of New Norfolk, and the country beyond, the flood is stated to have been higher than ever before remembered; and the rivers Ouse, Styx, Derwent, Plenty, and Jones’s River, have been swelled to a most unusual extent.  All the punts have been carried away,and.bridges, haystacks, fences, and considerable quantities of timber floated down. The bridge over the Plenty has been swept away, and the water rose twelve feet above the bridge over the Ouse.

Mt Wellington from near Brighton

Mt Wellington from near Brighton

Finally the land was surveyed, sectioned and identified.  This included the land around River Dee. The colony administration were very well practiced at land distribution by now.  They moved quickly.


Notice is hereby given, that the following claims for Grants, will be ready for examination by the Commissioners appointed for that purpose, upon, or immediately after the 4th October next, on or before which day any caveat or counter claim must be entered  …   Mr Jamieson was the only recipient near Ouse



WHEREAS certain regulations were published in the Hobart Town Gazette, bearing date the 16th day of February,1832, relative to the sale of Crown Lands: And whereas the necessary arrangements therein referred to have been completed, and plans of the parishes hereunder mentioned are now ready for inspection at the Office of the Surveyor General. I do therefore .. notify and proclaim, that the several lots of landhereinafter described will, after the expiration of three calendar months, become disposable.

County of Cumberland, Christian Marshes, River Shannon, lot 461, 640 acres.- This lot comprises one mile frontage on the River Shannon ; price 5s. per acre.

River Dee, lot 482, 610 acres.- price 5s. per acre.

County of Lincoln, River Nive, lot 385, 936 acres-bounded on the west by a north line of 80 chains commencing at the north west angle of the reservation forthe Township of Marlborough

County of Lincoln, River Nive, Lot 386, 640 acres-bounded on the east by the west boundary of lot 385 ..

“SALE OF CROWN LANDS.” The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen’s Land Gazette (Tas. : 1839 – 1840) 22 Nov 1839: 1 Supplement: Supplement to the Hobart Town Courier.Web. 28 Jun 2015

This is just a sample of the offerings. Lots of land from the River Dee to the River Nive, a matter of great interest to those at the current edge of the ‘new country’.

The neighbourhood was expected to change.

Ancestor home outside  the rural township National Park Tasmania

An ancestor’s home not far from Hamilton showing the conditions in which these pioneers lived and travelled without roads.