Sunday, 30 March 2014

52 Ancestors #14 Sarah Guest

Sarah Guest was born on Norfolk Ireland on 1 May 1792. Her parents were convicts, George Guest and Mary Bateman. Norfolk Island was settled shortly after the British arrived in Port Jackson in 1788 in order to grow food, flax, timber for masts and other supplies urgently required in the new settlement in Sydney. Mary Bateman arrived on Norfolk Island on 7 August 1790 while George Guest had arrived on the island the previous month. They married in November 1791 when the Rev. Richard Johnson visited Norfolk Island. The convicts had been encouraged to farm their own land in order not to be dependent on government supplies and over time George acquired additional land, eventually building his holdings to 250 acres, and was successfully farming on Norfolk Island. Records show that he grew maize and raised pigs and sheep - by 1805 the flock of sheep was reported to number close to 950. This was the world in which Sarah spent her childhood. She had three younger brothers born between 1794 and 1804. Her sister, Mary, died in 1804, aged one, and was buried in what is now the Old Cemetery on Norfolk Island. Sarah, being the eldest daughter, would have been expected to help with the younger siblings and also would probably have had chores to do on the farm.

In September 1805 Sarah and her family left Norfolk Island to settle in Tasmania. She was thirteen when the family travelled by ship to what was to be their new home. They were to be given land in Tasmania equivalent to what they owned on Norfolk Island. Initially the family was granted 24 acres at Macquarie Point and her father spent the rest of his life arguing with authorities in order to build up his property interests in the state.

When she was 16 Sarah married Thomas William Birch, a surgeon who had recently arrived in the colony. They were married at St David's Church in Hobart on 12 September 1808. There is some uncertainty about the actual age of Thomas Birch but he was considerably older than his wife and possibly only a few years younger than her father. Thomas would have been in his forties, or close to 40, when he married Sarah. Between 1809 and 1820 Sarah and Thomas had seven children - Samuel (born 1809), Ann Riley Birch (born 6 October 1810 died 24 April 1811), William (born 1812), Sarah (born 1814), Eliza (born 1816), Henry (born 1818) and George (born 1820).

Hobart had only been established as a settlement in 1804, the year before Sarah and her family arrived. The initial buildings would have been wattle and daub huts. Thomas did not practise as a doctor but instead became involved in the lucrative whaling and sealing industries, timber-getting, ship building and selling ships' cargoes as they arrived in the colony. Thomas also acquired large holdings of land in Hobart and other parts of Tasmania. In 1815 Thomas had built the three storey brick house at 151 Macquarie Street, Hobart where his family lived and from where he could conduct his business.
Macquarie House - 151 Macquarie Street, Hobart
The family had  now established a comfortable life-style in the new colony. In December 1815 Thomas paid for James Kelly to explore part of the Tasmanian coast and during the expedition Sarah had an island, Sarah Island, named after her. When Governor Macquarie visited Van Diemen's land in April 1820, the Birch family moved out of the house in Macquarie Street for the three months of the Governor's visit so that their home temporarily became the residence of the Governor. No doubt they spent the time in one of their other properties.

But Sarah's life was about to change. On 1 December 1821 Thomas William Birch died and was buried on 7 December in the cemetery at St David's Church, Hobart. Sarah was a widow at 29 with six children to look after, the youngest only 1 year old. Thomas had left a will prepared shortly before he died that 'devised his real Estates to Trustees for sale'. There were complications and nothing happened until 1838 when Thomas' son-in-law, Simeon Lord jnr, questioned the validity of the will. The properties were believed to have been worth more than £40,000 - a huge sum of money. In November 1838 the properties were advertised for sale with the 100 acres in Hobart divided into 74 lots. There continued to be discussions as to how the properties were to be sold complicated by the Court declaring that proceeds from the sale should be paid to the Colonial Treasury which would keep any interest accrued and then distribute proceeds of the sale to those entitled. The sale of the lots making up the 100 acres owned by Thomas Birch in Hobart were eventually sold in March 1839, more than 18 years after his death. 

On 29 November 1823 Sarah married Edmund Irton Hodgson who had arrived in Hobart from England aboard the Castle Forbes in March the previous year. Sarah and Edmund had six children: Charles Alfred (1825-1885), Fanny (1826-1880), Ann Jane (1828-1880), Edmund Irton (1830-1874), Frederick Lampla (1831-1878) and Walter (1834-1890).

The Hobart newspapers contain many references to Sarah and especially Edmund. Edmund set himself up initially selling goods that had arrived via ship in the colony. Sarah had continued operating many of Thomas' business interests including selling merchandise and soon advertisements appeared in the paper advising that Edmund Hodgson was selling items on behalf of Mrs Birch. Once they were married he became more involved in the family business as well as operating his own business interests. These included the operation of the Cascade Tannery in the 1820s and early 1830s. Sarah and Edmund converted the house at 151 Macquarie Street into a hotel which, although they owned the buildings, other people were the licensee including Robert Stodhart and James Cox. In the 1830s Edmund became licensee. The building was sold in August 1840. Edmund had over-stretched himself financially and in order to pay his debts, in 1841, he convinced his wife to surrender part of her claim to her former husband's property. Sarah, with the assistance of her family, later took the matter to court arguing that she had been coerced into signing the legal documents. Eight years later the judge agreed with her family which halted any further payments of Edmund's debts. The Hobart Courier provides detailed descriptions of the case including descriptions provided by Clara Birch and George Birch of the conditions of their mother's marriage and how she had been distraught before signing the papers in 1841. The court proceedings made it clear that the claimants to the money were unaware of the coercion applied by Edmund Hodgson.

In 1847 Sarah and Edmund built a large house, Islington, on land he had purchased when the Birch property had been sold. They never lived in the house but used the rent as a source of income.
Islington is now a boutique hotel in Hobart
They also built Glen House near the intersection of Macquarie Street and Glen Street and this house became the family home.
Glen House, Macquarie Street, Hobart
In July 1849 Edmund and three of his sons departed Hobart aboard the William Melville for California. A paragraph in the paper the previous month noted that Edmund was planning to take nine prefabricated buildings to sell when they got there. One suspects they planned to make their fortune on the Californian goldfields but only stayed a short time before returning to Tasmania.

Sarah died on 31 March 1868 at her home, Glen House, in Hobart. Sarah, who was seventy-five when she died, had led an eventful life and seen many changes in the development of Hobart during her lifetime.

Sarah was my great (x3) grandmother.

Monday, 17 March 2014

52 Ancestors #13 Thomas Birch

Thomas William Birch is the first member of my family to voluntarily come to Australia. Thomas is thought to have been born in 1767 at Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire, England. If so, his parents may have been John Birch (born 1742) and Mary Thompson (born 1745). However I have seen articles that give his year of birth as 1774. We do know that he came from England and that he was a surgeon.

In May 1808 Thomas arrived in Hobart aboard the whaler, Dubuc. Whaling was a profitable industry operating in the south seas in the early 1800s and Hobart was well placed as a port for whaling. The whales were hunted primarily for oil. One assumes that Thomas had been ship surgeon for a number of years before the trip to Van Diemen's Land. The Dubuc was an English ship weighing 306 tons. The ship was to return to England laden with whale oil but started leaking near Kangaroo Bluff in the Derwent River and was declared unsuitable for sailing. The ship returned to Hobart where the cargo of oil was saved as months later transferred to the convict ship, Aeolus, which, in April 1809, called into Hobart on the return journey to England. Thomas decided not to return to England but instead was to make a new life in the new colony in Van Diemen's Land.

On  12 September 1808, Thomas Birch married Sarah Guest at St David's Church, Hobart. Sarah, aged 16 when she married Thomas, was the daughter of convicts George Guest and Mary Bateman. Sarah's family had transferred to Tasmania from Norfolk Island three years earlier. Thomas and Sarah had seven children - Samuel (born 1809), Ann Riley Birch (born 6 October 1810 died 24 April 1811), William (born 1812), Sarah (born 1814), Eliza (born 1816), Henry (born 1818) and George (born 1820).

Hobart was founded in 1804 when the initial settlement at Risdon (1803) was moved to Sullivan's Cove where there was a good supply of fresh water and the area was suitable for establishing a port, essential for supplying the needs of the new colony and for trading. Sealing and whaling were the first industries. With such dependence on the port and the distance from Sydney and the rest of the world, shipbuilding also soon became an important industry. In 1808 Thomas was one of three surgeons in Hobart Town but he seems to have left this part of his former life behind to concentrate on making the most of new opportunities.

In 1812 Thomas Birch had had built the small ship (60 tons), Henrietta Packet, which made its first trip to Sydney in April 1813. The ship carried passengers and cargo and when it was sold in 1818 it was renamed the Young Lachlan. At the same time, Thomas also acquired the brig, Sophia, (100 tons) which normally carried passengers and cargo and was was at times leased by the government. When the Sophia was sold to the Government in 1822 the ship was renamed the Duke of York. James Kelly worked for Thomas as master of these ships. In 1815 Kelly was employed by Thomas Birch to explore the Tasmanian coast in another small ship called the Elizabeth. A number of locations were named by Kelly including Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour. Birch Inlet and Sarah Island were named after Thomas and Sarah. For these endeavours Thomas Birch was given twelve months exclusive access to the area around Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour in regard to trading and also the gathering of timber from the area, especially Huon pine.

Having spent years working aboard a whaler, it is not surprising that he became involved in this industry as well as in sealing. Whale oil and seal pelts were major exports from the colony. A newspaper report in 1817 stated that the Sophia immediately required 'six fine young able bodied seamen' for a sealing voyage and in March 1818 the Sophia returned to Hobart from a sealing voyage along the New Zealand coast with 3,000 seal skins. In September 1818 it was reported that the Sophia returned with six whales caught in the river.

Ships arriving in Hobart usually had cargoes for sale and Thomas quickly established himself as a merchant selling goods from his property in Macquarie Street. Trove has digistised newspapers for Hobart from 1816 and many issues list the goods that are available from the premises of Thomas William Birch. The lists are interesting, not just for the items that Thomas purchased but as an indication of goods required by the settlers in the new colony. There were goods for the house which might include kitchen utensils, crockery, eight-day clocks, table linen, pillow and bolster covers, bed furniture, bed ticking, sheets and blankets, carpets and rugs, iron pots, frying pans, lanterns and cottage stoves. Imported foods such as capers and pickles, herrings, Gloucester cheese, tea, sugar, butter, barley, rice, Lisbon wine, sherry, brandy and Jamaica rum, old port and Madeira, as well as spices such as ginger, pepper, cloves and cinnamon were also sold. Building supplies were needed in the colony and included masons, carpenters, joiners and cooper's tools, turning lathe and tools, window glass, sheet tin and lead, locks, bolts and hinges, iron wire and paint brushes. Sail makers' tools were also available as well as canvas and rope. Farming supplies included wood and iron ploughs, axes, turnip drill harrows, winnowing machines, scythes and sickles, reaping hooks, hay forks, garden rakes, hoes, saws, spades and sieves, horse harness, best saddles and bridles, curry combs, twine, wool hooks and bagging for wool plus churns suitable for a dairy. And of course there was clothing for men women and children as well as a wide range of assorted fabrics. Other essentials included sealing wax, marble paper, quills, books, paintings and playing cards. Double and single barrel guns, powder and shot were also available for sale. Payment for goods was in money or wheat valued at 10 shillings a bushell.

Thomas and Sarah and their family lived in Macquarie Street, Hobart, first in a wattle and daub house but in 1815 a three story brick building was built for the family at 151 Macquarie Street. As well as the family home the building would have stored the goods available for sale. Parts of the building still exist and it is listed in the Australian Heritage Database and the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Thomas Birch owned a brick field between Collins Street, Hobart, and the creek and these bricks were used for the building.
View of the original building among more recent additions
The house would have stood out from the other buildings in the town and was grander than the official government buildings at the time. In 1817, when Lieutenant Governor Sorrell arrived in the colony, the Birch house was leased by the Government until repairs could be made to Government House. Three years later when Governor Macquarie revisited the colony the Birch house was once again used as his residence during the three month visit.

The Macquarie Street property was part of 100 acres of land, bordered by Macquarie, Liverpool, Goulburn, Davey, D'Arcy, Adelaide and Anglesea streets, owned by Thomas in Hobart. According to Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Thomas Birch also owned land at Richmond, Hollow Tree, Jericho, Cambridge and Lovely Banks. Articles in Hobart newspapers refer to property he owned at Duck Holes near the Coal River which would have been the property at Richmond. Thomas regularly supplied meat and wheat to the Government Stores. When he died the properties were believed to have been worth more than £40,000.

In December 1819 Thomas William Birch was appointed to the Lieutenant Governor's Court of Civil Judicature. He was also Treasurer of the Auxiliary Branch Bible Society of Van Diemen's Land from its formation in May 1819.

Thomas William Birch died on 1 December 1821 and was buried at St David's cemetery on 7 December. The following day the Hobart Town Gazette & Van Diemen's Land Advertiser reported that overnight the grave had been robbed with clothing and grave goods removed. A reward was offered but no further information appears in the newspapers.

Thomas William Birch lived Hobart Town for only thirteen years but in that time greatly contributed to the development of the new settlement as well as providing for his family.The decision to remain in the new colony instead of returning to England appears to have been a good one.

Thomas William Birch was my great (x3) grandfather.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

52 Ancestors #12 Jane Williams

Jane Williams was born in Bristol, England, in 1775. We have no information about her family in England. Some records state that she came from Gloucestershire and others Somertset. Bristol is now an independent county but has belonged to both Gloucestershire and Somerset in former times. The port of Bristol is located on the Severn Estuary which leads to the Bristol Channel.

When Jane was 25 she was arrested for stealing items of clothing from Mrs Griffith. On 12 January 1801 she appeared at the Court in Bristol, was found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation. Jane returned to Newgate Gaol in Bristol until 20 May 1801 when she and other convicts were taken to Portsmouth and placed on the convict ship, Nile. The Nile set sail from Spithead, Portsmouth on 26 June 1801 to sail via Rio de Janeiro to New South Wales. The ship had been built in 1799 so was newer than many of the other ships used a convict transports. It was on 322 tons and carried a crew of 24. Ninety-six female convicts travelled on the ship and all arrived safely in New South Wales after the 176 day voyage. The Nile travelled in convoy with two other ships, the Minorca and the Canada. Passengers aboard the Minorca included William and Sarah Hancy who travelled as free settlers. Many years later two of their Australian born daughters, Sophie and Elizabeth, would marry two of Jane's Australian born sons, James and Thomas.

The Nile arrived at Port Jackson on 14 December, 1801. Shortly after arrival Jane appears to have been assigned as a housekeeper to John Pendergast assisting in the care of his baby son, John. In 1803 Jane and John's first son, James, was born followed by Thomas in 1805. Their first daughter, Sarah was born in 1806 followed by William in 1808 and Bridget in 1810. There is no record of a marriage between John and Jane but as they were Catholics and Catholic priests could not officially conduct services in the colony until 1820 (except for a few months in 1803) it is not surprising that there is no record of the formalisation of the relationship.

John acquired many properties in the Hawkesbury area and also near Campbelltown. He grew wheat and maize and raised cattle and pigs. Before he died he gave properties to his sons, James, John and William and to one of Thomas' sons. Thomas had properties of his own in the Monaro district. John did not leave a will. John died on 27 January 1833 and was buried in the cemetery of the new Catholic church at Windsor. On 5 February 1833 an advertisement appeared in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser on behalf of William Pendergast summoning Jane and other members of the family to attend a meeting to show why goods, chattels & effects of the late John Pendergast should not go to William.

Jane lived in Windsor until she died on 2 December 1838. She was buried the following day at St Mathew's Catholic Church cemetery. She was 63.

Jane was my great (x 3 ) grandmother

52 Ancestors #11 John Pendergast

John Pendergast was born in Dublin about 1769. On the convict indent his occupation, when he was arrested, was listed as a labourer. 1798 was a time of political unrest in Ireland culminating with the Irish Rebellion in May 1798. The Society of United Irishmen was founded in 1791 with the aim of uniting Irishmen of all religions against the British who ruled Ireland. To complicate the situation France was at war with Britain from February 1793 and many of the United Irishmen appeared to support the French. The United Irishmen was forced to become an underground movement in 1794. In December 1796 the French plan to invade Britain via Ireland came to naught, primarily because of poor weather conditions. The British in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, became even more determined to infiltrate and remove the threat of the United Irishmen. By the Spring of 1798 many of the leaders and their supporters were in gaol. The main uprising was planned for the end of May but although rebellion did occur in some areas Dublin remained relatively quiet.

John Pendergast was obviously one of the many supporters, and probably a member, of the United Irishmen and was arrested for participating in one of the preliminary skirmishes. In Dublin in February1798 he was tried as a rebel and convicted to seven years transportation to New South Wales. Between 1800 and 1806 eight ships carried rebels from the Irish Rebellion to New South Wales. John left Cork on 24 August aboard the convict ship, Minerva. One hundred and sixty-five male convicts and twenty-six female convicts were aboard the ship. The Minerva arrived at Port Jackson on 11 January 1800.

Later that year John married a convict named Catherine. Nothing further is known about her and she possibly died shortly after giving birth to their son John, in 1801. Convict records show that in 1806 Jane Williams was housekeeper for John Pendergast and was possibly the carer of his son. John and Jane must have been living together long before that as by 1806 they a son James (born in 1803) and another son, Thomas (born 25 February 1805). Their daughter, Sarah Jane was born in 1806. They had another two children, William (born 1808) and Bridget (born 1810).

No record has been found for the marriage of John and Jane. Not all marriages were recorded and sometimes early records are missing. It is also possible that there may not have married. John was a Catholic and although many of the convicts in the colony were Catholic the first Catholic priest did not arrive until three arrived with other Irish rebels in 1800. One of the priests was granted permission to hold services in 1803 but this permission was withdrawn the following year. It was not until 1820 when two Catholic priests were allowed to travel to Australia and the foundation of St Mary's Cathedral were laid in Sydney that Catholic church services were officially allowed. Until that time Catholics were expected to attend Anglican services.

Meanwhile John was receiving small grants of land, initially in the Hawkesbury area, and establishing himself as a landholder and farmer. However, although the land was fertile, farming in the area was not always easy especially in years such as 1806 when the Hawkesbury River flooded three times.  However John pressed on and, possibly in 1808, purchased Adlams Farm, 80 acres of property on Upper Half Moon Reach on the Hawkesbury River. The land was used for growing maize and wheat and for livestock included cattle and pigs. On 12 September 1812 John was allowed to obtain cattle from Government Stores at Seven Hills. On 20 June 1816 John was granted 30 acres of land in the Airds district near Campbelltown and on 9 December 1820 received another grant of land in the Hawkesbury district. As his land holdings grew additional convicts were assigned to work on his land.
Pendergast graves at St Matthew's Catholic Church, Windsor
In 1831 the first Catholic services were held in Windsor and St Matthew's Catholic Church was built in 1832. John and his family had supported the development of the Catholic Church in the colony and in 1938 his son, James, donated a block of land in the Lower Portland area (near junction of Colo and Hawkesbury rivers) for the building of a school, but it may have been used as a chapel in 1840. The building was probably destroyed by the 1867 floods. There was also a small Catholic cemetery on James' property. When John Pendergast died on 27 January 1833 his was one of the first burials in new cemetery at St Matthew's Catholic Church on 29 January.
St Matthew's Catholoc Church, Windsor built 1832
 John Pendergast did not leave a will but he had already distributed much of his property to his sons. In 1827 he gave James two properties on the Hawkesbury and in December 1832 he gave properties to John and William and to his grandson, John (son of Thomas). Thomas already had properties in the Monaro district.

John was my great (x3) grandfather

Sunday, 2 March 2014

52 Ancestors #10 Richard Holland

Richard Holland was born in England on 8 May 1783. He may have been born at Holborn in Middlesex but that is supposition at this point. A Richard Holland was baptised at St Andrews, Holborn, on 13 July 1783. If this is the right Richard Holland his parents were Cornelius and Elizabeth Holland and he had three brothers, Cornelius, Henry and Thomas, and a sister, Mary.

What we do know about Richard was that on 24 May 1806 he was arrested for stealing a promissory note valued at £10, a promissory note valued at £5, a yard of canvas valued at 1 shilling and 20 yards of woollen cloth valued at £10 from the back of a truck belonging to John Burr in Holborn.

Apparently John Royce was driving a cart loaded with goods to be delivered. He stopped at the White Hart and William Baker got off the cart to deliver a parcel. John Royce drove the cart to make another delivery at 10 Red Lion Street and discovered that the parcel was missing. Turning back he saw that Mr Speering had apprehended Richard. Mr Speering told the court that he had seen the cart pass his premises and that a man was following the cart and removed a parcel. Mr Speering took Richard to the watch-house and then called the constable.

At his trial at the Old Bailey 2 July 1806 Richard said nothing in his defence. He found guilty and was sentenced to seven years transportation.

Richard was 23 when he was arrested. At the trial Mr Speering said that Richard did not resist when he was apprehended and that he appeared to be in distress. He said that he had never done anything like that before. From the conversation we also learn that Richard had a wife and a new baby. One can only speculate why Richard might commit what appears to be a senseless crime - stealing an article from a cart in daylight when there is every likelihood of being caught. Perhaps he wanted a new start. Not knowing what employment he had and the conditions in which he lived it is not possible to tell. We do know that he had had some education as unlike many of the convicts he was able to sign his name.

On 2 January 1807 many of the convicts were transferred from Newgate Gaol to the hulk, Captivity, at Portsmouth. The chaplain who performed services aboard the hulks described how the convicts were treated while waiting to leave for Australia. Those who were healthy worked on the dock-yards during the day for which they received a dock allowance of one biscuit, a pint of small beer and a half-penny worth of tobacco a day. The convicts wore a uniform, each being issued with a jacket, waistcoat, breeches and handkerchief once a year plus stockings and coarse linen shirt four times a year. They had clean linen once a week and shaved twice a week. The provisions were considered adequate and although vegetables were scarce, on days when they had meat it was boiled with cabbage. The convicts were then transferred to the convict ship, Duke of Portland, which left England on 19 February 1807.

One hundred and ninety-two male convicts were transported on the Duke of Portland and three died during the five month voyage. The ship arrived at Port Jackson on 27 July 1807.

The next that we hear of Richard Holland was when he married Mary Roberts, the eldest daughter of William Roberts and Kezia Brown, at St Matthews Anglican Church, Windsor. As Richard was already married when he was arrested he had to wait seven years before he could marry again.

On 16 January 1816 Richard received a grant of land, probably in the Windsor area. In subsequent musters his residence is given as Windsor or Cornwallis which is near Windsor. His occupation is listed at different times as land holder, shop keeper, baker and butcher. The 1828 census of New South Wales lists Richard as a farmer at Cornwallis holding 30 acres of land which is cleared and cultivated plus 18 head of cattle. It would appear that he also had a shop in Windsor which at different times had been a bakery or a butchers shop.

Richard and Mary had nine children - William (1813-1897), Richard (1815-1881), John (1817-1897), Sarah (1820-1891), Thomas (1822-1824), Thomas (1825-1913), Henry (1828-1828), Henry Edward (1830-1906) and Ann Maria (1836-1905). Two of the boys, Thomas and Henry died as infants.

Mary Holland died in Windsor on 22 July 1863 aged 70. Richard Holland died on 10 May 1867 aged 84.

Richard Holland was my great (x3) grandfather.