Our Hodgetts Family Saga – Harriet Hodgetts,1790, Sydney

In this blog, we are going to look at the third document for our Hodgetts family in Australia. It is also the first document for our Harriet Hodgetts. This was when she was a witness at the marriage of James Bird to Mary Dismon on 29 December 1790.

One could be forgiven to think in the early days of the convict colony, marriages only took place on Sundays after the obligatory service, but that was not so. The 29th December 1790 was a Wednesday.

Government House,1790,Sydney

My first reference to the above marriage was in John Cobley’s book, “Sydney Cove 1789-1790”.[1]

I followed up by finding the actual document references from the online Marriage Index on the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sydney at  https://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/ .

There were two references and I knew I needed to see both. Using these references I consulted the microfilms in the Archives Authority of New South Wales, (now State Records of New South Wales), Genealogical Kit 1988. Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1788-1855, AO Reel 5002.[2]

Although due to Copyright restrictions I could not print these out, I could make transcriptions. You will note these documents are not the same. One was from the Rev Richard Johnson’s Marriage Register, and the other the chronological list he sent to the Governor’s Office.

BIRD - DISMON,1790,Sydney,Marriage Transcription2

BIRD - DISMON,1790,Sydney,Marriage Transcription1

When researching I always go through the process of trying to answer a number of questions. In this case, I wanted to know- Why was the marriage on a Wednesday, and where was it? Who were James Bird and Mary Dismon? Who was John Hunter the other witness to the marriage? How did Harriet (Hodgetts) know these people?

After asking similar questions for the marriage of George Fry and Elena Sandwick, (See former blog Our Hodgetts Family Saga- Thomas Hodgetts,1790, Sydney), I now knew who Rev George Johnson was. I also knew that the marriage was likely to have been outside or in a tent as there was no church building. However, because it was on a weekday without the church crowd, it may have been a more private affair at or in George Johnson’s home. A wattle-and-daub hut near Government House in Sydney.

Although the banns for the marriage would have been called on three Sundays previously there was no requirement that the marriage must take place on a Sunday. Note it was high Summer and the days were long, so there was still plenty of light, late into the evening. Each of the parties would have had permission from their overseer to be out of their place of residence after sunset.

Now we look at the wedding party.

James Bird was transported on Alexander in the First Fleet. He had stolen in the company of others,1000 pounds of saltpeter from a warehouse, and was sentenced to 7 years transportation. It seems he was often in trouble with the authorities in the early years of his sentence, but I have found no mention of his name in records after his marriage. He signed the register so he could at least write his name. [3]

Mary Dismon was believed to have been born in Ireland. She was sentenced on 9 September 1789 at the Old Bailey with Mary Butler after an incident in the Convent Garden Markets. She was held in Newgate Prison until she was sent to the Neptune to be transported to NSW on the Second Fleet. It is believed she became friends with Harriet on board the ship and remained so in the colony. She signed the register with an X as her mark, so she possibly had no education.[4]

John Hunter had originally been sentenced to death at the Old Bailey in 1784 for theft. However, he was reprieved and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to the prison hulk Fortune at Portsmouth. He was placed on board the Scarborough in the Second Fleet, so it is likely that he may have been a friend of Thomas or at least known by him. He signed the register so he could at least write his name.[5]

Harriet (Hodgetts) is believed to have been born in Staffordshire in 1765 and to have arrived onboard the Neptune in the Second Fleet, as a free woman. She claimed to be the wife of the convict, Thomas Hodgetts, although we now know this was not true. There were other free women on the Neptune who claimed to be the wives of convicts too. There appears to be no document of arrival in the colony to support the claims of these women. However, there was a letter to Governor Phillip which noted that the offer of passage had been made to wives of convicts, and a few had taken up the offer. Phillip was instructed to give them the same rights to food and clothing as convict women.[6] Harriet and the other ‘wives’ claimed the ‘free’ status and the Neptune as the ship of arrival on all subsequent colonial musters.

Harriet signed the marriage register with an X as her mark, so she possibly had no education.

I found no other marriages where Harriet Hodgetts was a witness.

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

[1]Sydney Cove 1789-1790, John Cobley,1963 (Reprint 1980), Sydney, Angus and Robertson,p225

[2]Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales: Information Leaflet No 35, Attorney General and Justice- Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages: Microfilms of copies Registers of Baptisms, Burials and Marriages 1787 – 1856, Sydney,1984. p 9, Reel 5002

[3] Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, Mollie Gillen, 1989, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p 35

[4] The Second Fleet:- Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790, Michael Flynn,1993, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p244

[5] The Second Fleet:- Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790, Michael Flynn,1993, Sydney, Library of Australian History, p350

[6]Sydney Cove 1789-1790, John Cobley,1963 (Reprint 1980), Sydney, Angus and Robertson,p225.

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.


Family History Class Notes, Marriages in NSW – Transcription Agents

In our class about the Marriage Index for New South Wales Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, I solved a little problem of the place and date for the marriage for my Great-Uncle, Henry William Bell, by finding an article about this marriage in a newspaper.

Should I leave further research and be content with these two references for this marriage? Remember newspapers may not be correct for an event either.

I need more references to enter onto my datasheet of the marriage event for this individual.

In this case, I decided to seek a more solid reference for information by using a transcription agent for the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for New South Wales. If you consult the web page for this office you will see there are three such licensed agents.


I have used each of these agents from time to time and have been happy with all of their services. I used a transcription agent because  a transcription is about half the cost of obtaining a certified copy of this certificate from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages Office. All family historians know just how quickly these costs can add up when you are seeking documentation of your family tree.

This transcription is not a certified copy and cannot be used in any legal transactions. This is stated in the transcribed document supplied by the agent.


The transcription agent actually looks at the official copy of the marriage certificate held by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages and carefully extracts all the information into a transcription form. Although there is a possibility of errors in transcribing I have found none to date.

We family historians can be a generous lot when it comes to sharing information and we might be tempted to photocopy or scan one of these transcriptions and share it with family and friends.

Legally we should not do this. That document is copyright to the agent who produced it. You actually purchased the information on this transcription not the copying rights of the document.

When I want to share this information I transcribe the information onto my own marriage transcription form clearly giving full credit for where I got the information and adding any notes I wish to add. Here are my sharing documents for this marriage.

Marriage Certificate Transcription


 A pdf download of this marriage transcription document can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples Tab.


My transcription copy of the marriage report in the newspaper.

Marriage Report Transcription


A pdf download of this marriage newspaper report transcription document can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples Tab.

By doing my copying in this format there is no confusion about the source of the information and when I obtained it.

Over time when collecting information it becomes difficult to remember who gave you the actual information and when. If you get into good habits early on in your research you have fewer problems on this front.