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.


More On My Baxter Families of London

In my last Baxter blog, I mentioned I was investigating court cases in Chancery concerning George and Mary Baxter and the Brayne family. Although I have not solved all the mysteries concerning the court cases, I have been able to find much more on the lives of the Baxter and Brayne families in 18th London.

Over the last few months, I have been using the research facilities at the Grafton Latter Day Saints Family History Centre, for access to microfilms of English records and to the Internet subscription sites of, Findmypast, and The Genealogist. I have also spent a lot of time researching all kinds of topics on- line and at the local library, as well as in the hundreds of books in my own private library.

After many hours of meticulous research and the collection, assessing and filing of over three hundred documents I have been able to extend and record in some detail our Baxter and connected families in London. Finding burial dates and places in London has been notoriously difficult, but I have finally met with great success.

I have connected many, but not all the above-mentioned documents to our families, but I have filed them, as they may yet be useful in that the connection may be in an earlier generation, not yet investigated. Collecting all these documents has enabled me to trace the origins and lives of several interesting Baxter individuals, such as the George Baxter, who is credited with the development of colour printing, although I have not found a family connection yet. Another interesting person was Charles Baxter the noted 19th Century portrait artist, who was connected to our family.

The results of all this research in England, particularly London, has been most pleasing, but the most interesting fact I discovered, was that several family members, particularly cousins of our Thomas George Baxter, came to Australia in the early to mid 19th Century. Some as convicts, as was Thomas George Baxter, and others as free immigrants.

This was revealed when I decided to sort out several Baxter families in New South Wales, who were living in the same area at the same time and had the same Christian names running through the families. This was particularly the case with Charles, John, Thomas., George, and William, for the males and Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Sarah for the females, in the Baxter families around Goulburn. I knew from the material placed on the Internet that other researchers had drawn conclusions and made certain claims about these families, but from my own research, I knew several of these were incorrect.

Although the indexes for Civil Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are very informative, you cannot build your family tree on these indexes alone. It is necessary to purchase the full certificates to get the correct information. For many years I have used the Transcription Services of Joy Murrin and Marilyn Rowan, to obtain full copies of Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates from the office of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales. Both have websites you can Google to find full information about their services.

It was by following the Golden Rule of Genealogy, that is by moving backward from the known to the unknown, with the correct documents, that I was able to identify who these people were, where they came from, and to whom they were connected, both in Australia and in England. As I sorted, grouped and documented these families I have been also able to extend many branches down to the present, in several states of Australia.

Early next year I look forward to meeting and sharing information and photographs with many of these recently found ‘cousins,’ although the ‘connection’ may be some six or seven generations back in London in the 18th Century. That for me is the ultimate pleasure of doing Family History.