The “Dash” of Thomas Hodgetts, Second Fleeter

Thomas Hodgetts, born 1763, Staffordshire, England, arrived in Sydney in 1790 aboard the Second Fleet. He died in Tasmania in 1823.

He is my husband’s ancestor and I have spent many years researching his life.

My challenge is now to get his story down on paper. I have spent the last few days collecting my notes, folders and computer files together to begin this task. Like all projects the hardest part is getting started.

While the research began at his death and progressed backwards through the surviving Tasmanian, Norfolk Island and New South Wales records to Staffordshire in England, the writing of the story is better explained from his birth through his youthful years, marriage, criminal records, transportation and life in New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Tasmania. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘dash’ in a person’s life.

You know when you see “Thomas Hodgetts, 1763 – 1823”, which refers to born 1763 and died 1823. The ‘dash’ years are their life story in between those dates. In Thomas’s case it spans 60 years.

I have now broken these 60 years into his life in England and his life in Australia. He was 27 years of age when he was transported in 1790, so that gives me 27 years in England and 33 years in Australia. In England it is the Georgian and early Regency period and in Australia early Colonial times, and all that implies in law and custom.

 We can piece the story through many records, but putting it all down in the historical and social context of the times without making some ‘gaff’ is the real challenge.

MALH0023509Above: One of the Petitions for Thomas Hodgetts [ Ref: Thomas Hodgetts Petition;1789,Home Office,HO13,Correspondence and Warrents,7/23,England and Wales; Crime, Prisons & Punishment,1770-1935,Institutions & Organizations, Prison Registers retrieved from Findmypast,15 May 2017 at http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=tna%2fccc%2f2a%2fho13%2f00006070 ]This is  also one of the documents I  photographed  when at the National Archives, London in 2014.

 Although I find it all most interesting, it is going to take some real discipline to sit at it day after day as ‘work’, especially with the busy life we lead.

The reason I am doing this project is for our children and grandchildren, but I know there are many thousands of descendants of Thomas Hodgetts in Australia, who are always keen to find out more on this ancestral line. Hopefully their interest will keep me on track with the project.

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A Great Second Fleet Mystery-the Hodgetts Family

Our grandchildren are eighth generation born in Australia and are descendants of Thomas and Harriett Hodgetts, who arrived at Port Jackson on 28 June 1790 on board the Second Fleet.

I have been researching their ancestry on and off for over forty years, long before computers and the Internet, but it is only recently I have had the necessary time to devote to it again.

Originally back in the 1980’s, there was a small band of dedicated descendants of Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts, who searched the records in several libraries and archives throughout New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. We corresponded and shared the information with each other. Several of us then contributed monies to have professional research done in Staffordshire, the native county of our Hodgetts ancestors.

Later other branches of the family became involved and this led to family reunions and the publication of the book, “The Brave Old Pioneers 1788-1988-A History of the Hodgetts,” by Richard J Hodgetts.

Much has been written about the Second Fleet and the Hodgetts in Australia in books such as the above mentioned, “ The Brave Old Pioneers” and “The Second Fleet- Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790” by Michael Flynn. Several websites also tell much of the story on particular family lines.

On our Hodgetts ancestry I have collected many documents tracing the family back generation by generation in Australia, from Valerie Mary and James John Mackey (nee Hodgetts); Vernon Edward and Fedalis Hodgetts (nee Finlay); Edward and Jeanette Hodgetts (nee Wheeler); James and Mary Hodgetts (nee Fagan); John and Olivia Hodgetts (nee Lucas) to Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts. Over the last few months I checked and and reassessed all these documents.

Even though some research had been undertaken on the Hodgetts family in England many years ago, it was superficial and incomplete. I have turned my efforts to researching the family in Staffordshire, England. With the use of the Internet to search and identify documents in National and County Archives and Libraries throughout the world, and by using the facilities of the LDS to identify and order microfilms of many the parish records for Staffordshire and London, I have now been able to identify our Thomas Hodgetts. By purchasing documents and laying them out in time and context, I have been able to put together much of his life before he was transported.

Similiarly I have been able to identify his wife, Ann, and their reputed children. By tracing these forward in time, I found no evidence they emigrated to Australia at a later time. In fact they remained in their native place and some of them can be found in the census records, some sixty years later.

It has been suggested Thomas’s wife Ann, changed her name to ‘Harriet’ and came to Australia leaving the children behind. As I can now prove this was not the case, it raises the question, who was the woman who came on the Second Fleet, and later claimed to be ‘ Harriet Hodgetts’ the wife of Thomas Hodgetts?

As this woman is a direct ancestor of my husband’s family, I now need to concentrate on researching her story. A very challenging task indeed. However, I have found a woman I believe is a potential candidate and hope over the coming months with painstaking and in-depth research, I may find the documents to solve this enigma.

Meanwhile, I am writing the story of the Hodgett family in Staffordshire with references and notes to eventually share with the family, but I want to see what I can find on our ‘Harriet’ first.