Convict Cousins in My Baxter Family

I have already blogged about, my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter, who arrived in Sydney as a convict on board the Roslin Castle in 1834. However, he was not the first in our Baxter family to be transported as a convict. William Shipman Baxter, his first cousin, was transported in 1829.

William Shipman Baxter, the eldest son of John Baxter and Sarah Shipman was born in London in 1806. He was baptised at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, which is the same church his first cousin, Thomas George Baxter was baptised in some nine years later.

St Botolph's, Aldersgate Street2

[St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, Google Earth, 2014]

Although they were both born and raised in London, and even baptised in the same church some years apart, due to a family quarrel, they are not likely to have met, or had knowledge of each other.

John Baxter, William’s father , inherited half the family business along with his mother,Elizabeth, when his father, James, died in 1802.

John Baxter married Sarah Shipman in 1806 at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London. They had three sons; William Shipman, 1806; Charles, 1808 and Frederick John, 1810,all of whom were baptised in the above mentioned church.

John Baxter died suddenly in January 1810, a few weeks before his youngest son was born. He was only 29 years of age and died without a Will. His mother, Elizabeth took the family business over herself, including John’s apprentices. It appears she declined to assist John’s young widow and infant family, and is said to have turned them out into the street.

Sarah Baxter with her three young sons moved to the poorer area of Shoreditch, where she worked as a laundress and charwoman.

She stated in a letter to the Home Office in 1828, that she apprenticed her sons to a trade at a young age, but I have not been able to find any apprenticeship nor guild records for these Baxter boys. As she was very poor, perhaps it was a more casual arrangement.

William Shipman Baxter was reported to have been apprenticed to a silk weaver. However, he didn’t finish his apprenticeship as the silk weaving trade fell into rapid decline and there was very little employment. He then found work on the waterfront moving cargo. Work was piecemeal and wages very low and William struggled to make a living. He was also the sole support of his mother and aged maternal grandmother.

William Shipman Baxter, known as William Baxter was tempted, along with many others, to steal goods from his employer and sell them to make ends meet. He was caught and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to NSW on board the convict transport, Waterloo, under Captain Addison, in 1829. On arrival he was assigned to the McArthur family at Camden. Later he was sent to their properties near Goulburn.

William Baxter married Ann Rankin in 1846 at Goulburn, and they had nine children, before William died from injuries after a fall from a horse in 1868.

Meanwhile his cousin, Thomas George Baxter, was not faring well either. When his father died in 1829, and his mother remarried, he was left to find his own way on the streets of London. Early in 1832 he was arrested and indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing a cap. He was sentenced to one month imprisonment in the nearby Newgate Prison.

The following year, he was again arrested and charged with picking pockets. The sitting Justices of the Peace at the Middlesex Session in September did not treat him so lightly this time, as he was considered a habitual petty thief, and was sentenced to seven years transportation. He was held in Newgate until transferred to the Euryalus prison hulk for boys, which was anchored off Chatham in the Medway River in Kent.

Thomas Baxter was in the Euryalus for eight months, when he was transferred to the Roslin Castle to be transported to New South Wales.

When we were in Kent last year I was able to visit an interesting mock-up of a ‘hulk prison ship’ at Rochester. This gave me some idea what it was like on board these vessels.

When Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney in 1834, he too was assigned to the Camden area, in the employment of George Brown.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, Thomas Baxter is listed as working for George Brown at Camden.Two years later, Thomas Baxter is recorded as receiving a Ticket of Leave, which allowed him to hire out to work for himself as long as he remained in the Camden area. His residence was shown as ‘Stonequarry,’ which is now ‘Picton’. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom in 1842 having completed his sentence.He married Harriet Mary Mather in 1850, and they had a family of nine before Thomas died in 1889.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, William Baxter is recorded as working on the McArthur property at Goulburn.

Although both cousins were in the Camden area for a time, it is very unlikely that they ever met. Even if they had, they would not have known they were related.

Some years later, these convict cousins, both had sons born within a few months of each other, whom they named “John.” When Thomas George Baxter’s son “John” (born 1860), married Mary Ann Davis at Stonequarry (Picton) in 1885, they moved to Taralga near Goulburn, where they raised their family.

Meanwhile William Baxter’s son ‘John” (born 1859), married Mary Ann McLean at Taralga in 1902.

Believe it or not the old cemetery at Taralga, where many of the Baxter families are buried is referred to as ‘Stonequarry’. Similiarly, the old cemetery (St Mark’s Churchyard) at Picton, formerly known as ‘Stonequarry’ is also the resting place of many of the our Baxter families too. These two cemeteries are about 168 kilometres or over 100 miles apart.


[Above: St Mark’s Anglican church and churchyard, Picton, Chalmers Family Private Collection, 2014]

There lay the ground work for much confusion between not only these two ‘convict cousins’ Baxter families, but several other Baxter families in and around Goulburn.

What wonderful puzzles there are in our family histories just waiting for us to sort them out.


8 thoughts on “Convict Cousins in My Baxter Family

  1. Quite a sad story and interesting that both Baxter cousins ended up in the same locality by similar fates.
    It’s easy to think that it’s these days family connections are lost through families moving away from their roots and communities but really it’s an age-old phenomenon. I know of other Newling’s who are not part of my branch of the family but who I’d think descended from cousins of my ancestors, and there are Barwicks in Tasmania descended from cousins of our original Barwick family who came out to Australia separately.
    Utilising a pool of family first names sometimes renders multiple family members with the same names and it’s looking at supporting details they can be differentiated.

  2. Thank you for your blog on the Baxter Cousins. I am the Great Great Grandson of William Shipman Baxter.
    William Shipman Baxter –> Flora Jessie Hewitt nee Baxter –> Sarah Florence Plumridge nee Hewitt –> Flora Jessie Kendall nee Plumridge –> Ian William Kendall (me)
    I have been researching my family for over 30 years but it is only since I retired that I have extended my research to include all my family lines and those of my wife. I knew a great deal about William Shipman Baxter and in 2008 I visited London and the church of his baptism and the location of the hulk to which he was sentenced. I have also on many occasions been to Taralga Cemetery (Stonequarry) and when a child slept for many nights in the original Baxter home at Gowan Brae at Wyaborough and saw the same cemetery on the property.
    I had no idea of the link to his cousin and certainly my Grandmother (who partially raised me) never spoke of a cousin of her grandfather, of whom she spoke often.
    Kind Regards
    Ian Kendall

    • Thank you Ian for getting in touch.Also delighted you had the opportunity to visit London. I’m sure none in the Baxter families, on any lines, knew they had relatives in Austalia.

  3. Hi I was just wondering if you knew how Thomas George Baxter passed? And did his family continue to live on the land in Picton?

    Kind regards

      • Hi nola,

        I live on Baxter lane and we are good friends with local Baxters Matt and Lexie. We have been told there was a death on our property where we live and his name was Tom.
        Kind regards

      • Hi Sharee,
        Sorry I cannot help with your particular enquiry. Thomas George Baxter died in Sydney and was brought back to St Mark’s, Picton for burial. Baxter’s Lane is named for Albert Baxter (Thomas Baxter’s grandson) whose farm was at the end of the lane.Thomas Baxter had no land in Picton itself.Sorry I’m not acquainted with your friends Matt & Lexie Baxter and I’m interested in how they might fit into our Baxter family lines.
        Regards, Nola

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