Our Hodgetts Family Saga – Thomas Hodgetts,1790, Sydney

In my last blog I wrote about the first document I had found concerning our ancestor Thomas Hodgetts in Australia which was his entry in the Transportation Register for the Second Fleet. This time I’m writing about the second document I found for Thomas in Australia. This was the marriage of George Fry and Elena Sandwick on 7 November 1790, when Thomas was recorded as one of the witnesses.


West view of Sydney Cove taken from the Rocks, at the rear of the General Hospital 1789 [from the collections of the State Library of New South Wales[a4635001 / DG V1/14] (Dixson Galleries)

I found the above-mentioned reference years ago when I was reading books on the early settlement of Sydney for the background to put our Thomas in context. I came across a series of history books written by John Cobley. I was amazed when I looked at the index of Volume II and not only saw references to Thomas Hodgetts (Hodges) but Harriet as well. These were in connection to early marriages in Sydney where they were recorded as witnesses.[1]

At the time all I could do was note the references as I had no way of looking at the original record. Later I was able to actually look at the microfilmed record of the marriages which had been released by the Archives Authority of NSW (now State Records of NSW) as part of their Genealogical Kit in 1988.

Although you can view these records at your library you cannot make a printout as it is a condition of use of these records and is stated at the beginning of each film. The copyright belongs to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages. You can purchase a copy from their office.

At the time I was able to make a transcription and add appropriate notes of each of these marriages. There are in fact two references for each in the online index at the Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages website. You should consult both as they are different.

FRY-SANDWICH,1790,Sydney,Marriage Register Transcription1

FRY-SANDWICH,1790,Sydney,Marriage Register Transcription2

This was only the beginning, not the end of my research when I transcribed these records.

How did I use these records to further my research into the lives of our Hodgetts ancestors?

Remember our ancestors lived complex lives and their family and friends played an important part. As Sydney was a convict settlement the Government officials also played a part and greatly influenced where and how our ancestors lived.

At this stage, I already knew that Thomas had arrived by the Second Fleet in June 1790. However, I needed to know who was the Rev Richard Johnson? Where did the marriage take place? Who were George Fry and Elena Sandwich, and the other witness, William Frazer? How could Thomas Hodgetts have known them?

 Rev Richard Johnson.

He was a Church of England clergyman ordained in England in 1784. In 1786 he received a Royal Warrant appointing him chaplain to the new colony in New South Wales. Shortly afterward he married Mary Burton at Islington, London on 4 December 1786. They embarked a few months later in the Golden Grove in the First Fleet.

Soon after arrival the Rev Johnson held his first service and continued to do whenever and wherever he could. These he carried out in tents, barns, or even under trees when a building was not available. He also carried out baptism, marriage, and burial services and entered them into his private register. Later he sent a list to the Governor’s Office  of all baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Johnson was known for his care and interest in the convicts and often gave articles and food for their comfort from his own stores brought out from London in a private capacity.

Although Governor Phillip required the convicts to attend Sunday service, he was reticent to build a church as he felt all the Government building projects should be to house and feed the colony.

By 1793, Johnson was so frustrated by the lack of progress towards the building of a church that he undertook this project himself and paid for the materials and labour for the church to be built. It was a wattle and daub construction at what is now Richard Johnson Square at the intersection of Bligh and Hunter Streets. Unfortunately, this was burned down in 1798. The Governor had it replaced with a larger and more substantial building.

Johnson was also concerned about the lack of facilities for the education of colonial children and established schools in Sydney and later Parramatta. He also travelled to Norfolk Island when he could for the spiritual care of the convicts there.

Johnson and his family remained in the colony for nearly ten years before he asked to be returned home to England citing ill health. The family left by the Buffalo in September 1800.[2]

Where and when did the marriage take place?

The 7 November 1790 was a Sunday, so it is most likely to have taken place after the obligatory Sunday Service.

As Johnson had not built his church and the parish of St Phillip’s had not been established in 1790, the ceremony most likely took place outside or in a tent in the settlement of Sydney.

George Fry

George Fry had been sentenced to death on 18 March 1782 for stealing 5 yards of cloth in Exeter. He was given a reprieve to be sent to the African Colonies. However, he was later sent to a small prison in London. On 19 April 1785, he was sent onto the Censor a prison hulk in the Thames. He stayed there for nearly two years before he embarked on the Scarborough in the First Fleet.

Gathering information from later records of his life in the colony it is believed he worked as a blacksmith at the time of his marriage. [3]

Elena Sandwick

Elena Sandwick, also known as Ellen and Eleanor Sandwich was sentenced to 14 years transportation at Carlisle (Cumberland) Assizes for receiving stolen property. Her son and three others were tried for the burglary. In 1789 Eleanor was sent to London to embark on the Neptune. It is more than likely Harriet and Eleanor became friends on board and continued as such in the colony.[4]

William Frazer

William Frazer was sentenced with his wife Ellen or Eleanor Frazer to seven years transportation at the Manchester Quarter Sessions in 1787 for the theft of several pieces of cloth. The couple petitioned to be transported together and a copy of their marriage certificate – William Frazer to Ellen Redchester was appended with the petition when it was sent to Evan Nepean’s office.  The gaoler at Lancaster Castle reported he had signed the contract for the removal of Frazer with other convicts for the embarkation of the First Fleet in 1787. In several early colonial documents, he was recorded as a blacksmith.[5]

Thomas Hodgetts

Thomas Hodgetts was implicated in a robbery in 1787 in Staffordshire and was sentenced to 7 years transportation. He embarked on the Scarborough in the Second Fleet in 1790. On arrival, he is believed to have been housed with the colonial blacksmiths from the First Fleet, including George Fry and William Frazer. He became friends with the same.[6]

It is possible that Harriet was also present at the marriage, but it was the groom’s friends William Frazer and Thomas Hodgetts who stepped forward to be witnesses to the marriage.

Something unusual for this marriage was that all parties could sign their name.

Comparing the signature of Thomas Hodgetts on this marriage certificate and that of the Thomas Hodgetts who married Ann Duce in Wednesbury, Staffordshire in 1783, helps to support our claim that this is the same person.

I hope I have shown you how extending and following up some of these clues about our ancestors can not only help with your overall research but add richness to the story.

Copies of my share documents for this marriage can be found under the Resources and Examples Tab on this website. See FRY-SANDWICK, 1790, Sydney, Marriage Transcription 1, and 2.

PS-  Richard Hodgetts mentioned this marriage in his book, “The Brave Old Pioneers 1788-1988.” This book is still available from Richard. If you wish to have contact details please leave request in comment box below. This is to protect Richard’s private email address being harvested by scammers.

 [1]Sydney Cove 1789-1790, John Cobley,1963 (Reprint 1980), Sydney, Angus and Robertson,p296.
[2]Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, Mollie Gillen, 1989, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p 195.
[3] Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, Mollie Gillen, 1989, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p 137.
[4] The Second Fleet:- Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790, Michael Flynn,1993, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p518.
[5] Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, Mollie Gillen, 1989, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p 134-5.
6] The Second Fleet:- Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790, Michael Flynn,1993, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p335.