Robert and Bridget Sherwood of Monasterevin, County Kildare Ireland

In my last blog on my Sherwood family, who arrived Sydney on board the Premier on 2 July 1840, I wrote about newspaper records that gave me much information about the ship and voyage itself.

This blog I’m going to concentrate on government records available concerning the immigrants themselves.

In the 1840 time period for my Sherwood family there are two sets of surviving government records. The Bounty Immigrant Lists and the Certificates of Entitlement. These are found on microfilm at State Records of NSW, and various libraries and family history societies throughout Australia. These records have also become available as scanned images on Ancestry.com through a partnership arrangement with the State Records of NSW.

Be advised they are two separate sets of records for assisted immigrants. They were created by two different agencies for different purposes, and both sets of records should be consulted to get the more complete details on your immigrants.

Records for Government assisted immigrants were organised into three sections. Families, which included husband, wife and children under about sixteen years of age; and single males and single female over about sixteen years of age.

The Bounty Immigrant Lists were made by the agents representing the shipping agency contracted for the shipment and safe arrival of the Government assisted immigrants. These agencies were paid by the ‘head’. So much per male adult, female adult and a sliding scale for children. The information was collected by the agency when the immigrant presented themselves at the immigration depots to be allocated a berth on the available ship. The information given verbally, recorded name, sex, age, religion, education, occupation and where they had come from. The information was collated and application was made to the government for the ‘bounty’ per head shipped.

Now let us look at these records for my Sherwood family.

Premier, 2 July 1840

Sherwood, Robert, 39 years, Cotton-weaver, Protestant, reads and write, of County Kildare, Ireland

“ Bridget, 35 years, House Servant, Protestant, reads, of County Kildare

“ Robert, 16 years, son, Protestant, reads, of County Kildare

“ Nelson, 14 years, son, Protestant, ditto, ditto

“ Joseph, 10 years, son, Protestant, ditto, ditto

“ Emily, 6 years, daughter, Protestant, ditto, ditto

“ Margaret, 4 years, daughter, Protestant, –

William Sherwood can be found in the single males list. Alice and Emily Sherwood can be found in the single female list.

The Certificates of Entitlement were created by the agents for the Government department responsible for Colonial Immigration. To qualify for free passage and assistance each emigrant had to satisfy certain selection criteria. They were also to supply certain documents to show their good character, age, usefulness when they arrived in the colony, ie trade, capacity to work etc. The information was given verbally and by the presentation of necessary documents. The agents filled in a proscribed form and each immigrant ended up with a ‘certificate of entitlement’ to free government assistance to emigrate.

These records are organised by ship and then under family, single male and female with a separate certificate issued for each adult immigrant with the younger children appended to their parent’s certificates.

The ‘Certificate of Entitlement” for Robert Sherwood can be summarised as-

Robert Sherwood a married male immigrant

Arrived by: Premier

Brought out by: Mr Capper

Native of : County Kildare, son of John a farmer and Mary his wife

Calling: (occupation) Cottonweaver

Age on Embarkation: 40 39

Persons certifying Registry of Baptism: not certified

Character and person certifying same: good, J Smith Barry JP

James Molloy JP

State of bodily health, strength and possible usefulness: good

Religion: Protestant

Remarks: Reads and Writes

It is interesting to note Robert’s age was stated as 40 and then corrected to 39 (years). In fact his true age was well outside the age guidelines for government free passage. Note his baptism was not certified. If it had been his true age would have been discovered.

His wife, Bridget and adult children, William, Alice and Emily, all have their own certificates giving further clues to this family and their life back in Ireland. For example those certifying character are often their former employer in cases of single immigrants.

By extracting and collating all the information from these records enables me to build a profile on each of these immigrants which will ultimately assist me in my research in Ireland.

I have noted in many Sherwood Family Trees on line that there is much confusion concerning “Emily Sherwood , 17 years” and “Emily Sherwood aged 6 years”, and people have ignored one or the other of these ‘Emilys’. in their trees. As I said before the Bounty Immigrants List and the Certificates of Entitlement were created by different people for different purposes and therefore both ‘Emily’s’ belong to the family in some way. With further research in Ireland and Australia, I believe I have now resolved this problem and will explain further in a later blog on this family.

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