Our Hodgetts Family Saga-Mary Maria Hodgetts,1795,Sydney

The eighth document for our Hodgetts family in Australia was the baptism entry of Mary Maria Hodgetts, the second daughter of Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts.

There is no mention of this record in John Cobley’s,  Sydney Cove 1793-1795 Vol IV.

I then checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/

HODGETS, MARY M       358/1795 V1795358 4      THOMAS   and HARRIET

From <https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search/result?5>

There was only one, the baptism register of the Rev Richard Johnson. Using this reference I was able to search for this entry in the Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) Genealogical Kit (1988) for baptisms 1788-1855.

HODGETS,Mary Maria,1795,Sydney,BaptismTranscription 1

The early colonial baptism, marriage, and burial records of some 164 volumes cover the time before civil registration in New South Wales. This includes Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed and released to the public in the Archives Authority of New South Wales Genealogical Kit in 1988. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Hodgetts research, I found Volume 4 was in the above-mentioned records and I was able to view a microfilm copy of the original record on AO Reel 5002. This was Rev Richard Johnson’s original baptism register. I also made a page by page search of Vol 1 1795 for the entry of the chronological list the Rev Johnson sent to the Governor’s Office, as I believed there was every indication this record had been created and most likely survived. I found the entry for this baptism on Reel 5001 – Vol 1 1795 entry 465. Somehow it had escaped the on-line index at the website for the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for NSW.

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.  I was able to make transcriptions and add appropriate notes.

HODGETS,Mary Maria,1795,Sydney,BaptismTranscription 2

You will note this birth took place a few days before the burial of their eldest daughter Mary. This would give a reason this daughter was also called Mary. The baptism took place in Sydney in September and was recorded as taking place in the parish of St Phillip’s Sydney, so we know that Thomas and Harriet were still residing in Sydney. We also know by this date that the Rev Richard Johnson had completed his church, so this baptism took place in the church.

From earlier research we know that Thomas Hodgetts was sentenced in March 1788 to seven years transportation and he came on the Second Fleet, arriving in June 1790. So doing the calculations, by March 1795 Thomas had served his sentence and was, at last, a free man. In theory at least, as it would have taken some time for the Governor’s Office to confirm his status.

How did this new status change his life?

In a later blog, I will show you how you can take these documents and use them as a timeline to research the mass of colonial documents to build a possible  life story for our ancestors.

My share documents for this baptism can be found under the  Resources and Examples Tab on this website under-

HODGETTS, Mary Maria,1795, Sydney, Baptism Transcription 1

HODGETTS, Mary Maria,1795, Sydney, Baptism Transcription 2

Sydney Cove c1794-96

View of Sydney Cove / painted by Thomas Watling1794-1796?
From <https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/view-sydney-cove-painted-thomas-watling>

My Bell Family Ancestors – George Bell (1817-1894) – Sorting Red Herrings

I have blogged about my ancestor George Bell before, and mentioned that he was born in 1817 at East Farleigh, Kent, England.

He married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest in 1844 and settled in Picton, (NSW),where they raised a family of five sons and three daughters.

My next challenge was to find when and how he had arrived in Australia. Where would I find clues?

I had his full death certificate (1894) which stated he had been in the colonies 56 years. This would give me a time period of approximately 1837-1838.The informant was his eldest son, George.

On his marriage entry in All Saints, Church of England, Sutton Forest, (NSW) in 1844 he was a “bachelor, Free by Servitude” and his wife Sarah was a “spinster, Free Immigrant.” So, it looked like he may have been a convict!

When I had been researching his life at Picton I had come across a subscription publication, “Aldine’s History of NSW “(1888) in which there were biographical details of the pioneers, aledgedly submitted by themselves. There was an entry for George Bell in which states:-

In 1837 he left England to try his fortune in the colonies, and landed in the same year in Sydney.”

Amoungst other material I have been able to find on the family was a copy of an article published in the journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. James Bell, the second son of George and Sarah Bell, who was born in 1847, and had spent his whole life in Picton, was asked to give a lecture to the Royal Historical Society on the history of Picton. In it he states:- “My father, George Bell, who was a native of East Furley (Farleigh), near Maidstone, in Kent, England, arrived in Sydney in 1838, a freeman, having joined the crew of the convict ship Asia (adopting the name of Freeman) to obtain a passage to Sydney”.

I had been able to confirm through parish records, that George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent in 1817, the son of Thomas and Mary Bell.

The immigration records for most government assisted immigrants have survived and are now held by the State Records of New South Wales, formerly known as the Archives Authority of NSW. These had been indexed by the staff and volunteers at the Mitchell Library, ( a part of the State Library of NSW), in the early part of the 20th Century. I started my ‘research’ into my Bell ancestors in 1973 and made a visit to the State Archives.

[Where as in the 1970’s it was only accessable by visiting the library and searching an in- house card index; by the 1980’s and 1990’s the Archives Authority made them available through several printed books based on the card indexes. They are now searchable on-line by logging onto the State Records of NSW website. These searches are free. ]

I was not able to find George Bell amoungst the free immigrants to Sydney in 1837 or 1838.

A search of convict shipping records at the Archives Authority of NSW (now State Records)confirmed the convict ship ‘Asia’ did make a voyage to Sydney in 1837.

A check of the ‘Convict Indents’ at State Records for the 1837, Asia voyage also confirmed there was on board a convict named “George Bell, alias Ball. He was aged 20 years (born 1817), could read and write, was a Protestant, single and a native of Woolwich (Kent). He had been tried in the Central Court, London on 27th February (1837) for stealing hats and had been sentenced to seven years transportation.”

Great excitement, a convict in the family!I kept it quiet, as it was not fashionable to have convict forebears in the early 1970’s. Only after 1988!.

It looked as if there had been a family cover-up and I had found my ancestor coming as a convict.

Evidence:                           a. His marriage certificate in 1844 had stated that he was ‘free by servitude’.

          1. He was born in the right year , 1817.

          2. He was born in Kent, England. Woolwich is only a few kilometres from Maidstone.

          3. He arrived in Sydney in 1837.

          4. The convict ship ‘Asia’ had made a voyage to Sydney in 1837.

BUT,was this my ancestor, George Bell? Or were there two people with the same name on the same ship? More research was needed.

In my next blog I will explain some of the detailed research that helped to prove that this George Bell was not my ancestor. It is all too easy to trace the wrong family tree, if you are not careful.