We research our family history backward – that is we start at the end and then move back generation by generation with documentation. However, most of us find when it comes to writing the family story we find it easier to write from the earliest ancestor we can find and then move forward with the story.
So with our Thomas Hodgetts I began with his burial and moved backward, finally arriving at the document I believe to be his baptism in Staffordshire.
Having said that, I am going to share with you a series of blogs about our Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts from what many people might consider the middle of the Hodgett story. That is their arrival in Sydney on the Second Fleet. For me, this is for convenience, but it is also the beginning of their life together.
The first document for this couple in Australia was Thomas Hodgett’s entry in the Convict Transportation Register. This was the first time this document was used. For the First Fleet in 1788 only a list of convicts on board each transport was supplied to Governor Phillip. However, the lack of any other information caused a major problem for Phillip.
Obviously, each of those “transported” were convicts, but soon after arrival, Phillip found convicts approaching his officers saying that they had completed their term of ‘sentence’ and asked the Governor to arrange their passage home to England, so they could resume their lives as free persons. Or, because of good conduct, they might ask for the indulgence of a shortened sentence with the same accompanying request for passage to England. However, Phillip had no documentation which showed when their sentence expired or would expire.
In England, convicts who had served their sentences were free to return home when their term was proven to be completed. In the transported convicts mind that should also happen in the New South Wales colony. As the Government had transported them there, they should return them home. Note, ‘exile’ for life was not part of their sentence. There were cases that mentioned this as a condition of sentence, and of course, those convicts could not have expected to go home.
However, it was not the intention of the Home Office that convicts and indeed soldiers should return home, but to remain after the completion of their sentence or service in the colony as ‘free settlers’.
To overcome this dilemma, Phillip in his early correspondence to the Home Office, requested that each convict’s place and date of conviction, and the term of the sentence be listed with their name.
Adhering to Phillip’s request the ‘Transportation Register’ was included for the Second Fleet showing this information.
Now let us look at the entry for Thomas Hodgetts. [Note- It was usual to use contractions to shorten the paper work].
From Ancestry.com.au, Australian Records Collection, Index of Convict Transportation Register, from State Records of NSW, Convict Transportation Register 1789-1790 (Second Fleet) p 64.
[NB:- Although all these men were sentenced in the same place and often the same day, they were not all sentenced for the same crime nor length of sentence.]
However, it soon became apparent even this extra piece of information was not enough to identify the right person. Particularly when there was more than one person of the same name, even on the same ship.
This led to the document we know as the “Convict Indent”, which gave a whole lot of information about each convict including age, religion, education, crime and sentence, and even who they were assigned to on arrival. This helped not only at their arrival, but it could help track them in the colony right to the end of their sentence. These documents now in the State Records of New South Wales, help us to identify our ancestors among the many thousands of convicts when we are tracing our family tree.
The above is an explanation of why we only have a ‘Transportation Register’ entry for our Thomas Hodgetts and not a ‘Convict Indent’, which I know many people are looking for.
My above share document can be found under The Resources and Examples Tab on this website as Thomas Hodgett’s Transportation Register Transcription.
Good Ancestor hunting everyone.