Our Hodgetts Family Saga- Henrietta Hodgetts,1820, Tasmania-Part 1

There have always been questions concerning the paternity of ‘Henrietta’ Hodgetts, the daughter of Sarah Hodgetts. Sarah was the third daughter and fourth child of Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts.

Sarah was born in Sydney on 1 September 1797 and was baptized at St Phillip’s on 24 December 1797, by Rev Richard Johnson.

See Our Hodgetts Family Saga- Sarah Hodgetts,1797, Sydney-posted 10 August 2020.

Sarah Hodgetts went to Norfolk Island with her parents in 1800 and returned with them to Sydney in 1805. After some time in Sydney, where Thomas was employed in Government business the family went to the Hawkesbury River and settled at Pitt Town.

In early 1819 Thomas and Harriet Hodgetts decided to follow their eldest son, John, and his family to northern Tasmania. The family set sail on the ‘Sinbad’ in February 1819.

See Harriet Hodgetts Journey’s by Sea- part 4 posted 27 February 2019

On 30 May 1820, Sarah Hodgetts had a daughter. She was named Henrietta and baptized on 1 March 1821 by Rev John Youle of St John’s, Launceston.[1]

In this baptism entry, Sarah claimed Henrietta’s father to be a ‘John Piper of Port Jackson’. Over the years several family historians have claimed this to be ‘Captain John Piper of Point Piper.’ Perhaps, convinced by the fact his home at Point Piper was called  “Henrietta Villa”.

However, for various reasons, I believe it is not possible for Captain John Piper of Point Piper to be Henrietta’s father. There is no doubt that Captain Piper would have known the Hodgetts family when he and they were on Norfolk Island. Nor is there any doubt that Captain Piper is known to have had children with women other than his wife. The fact remains Henrietta Hodgetts was conceived in northern Tasmania between late August and early October 1819, and Captain Piper’s movements in Sydney on Government and private business are well documented for that small window of time.

At the beginning of 1819 when the Hodgetts family sailed for Port Dalrymple in northern Tasmania, Captain John Piper was one of the busiest and richest men in the colony.

As Naval Officer [2] for Governor Macquarie, he was responsible for the collection of customs duties, excise on spirits, harbour dues, control of lighthouses, and crime on water. At 5% commission, this was a very remunerative position and he became the highest-paid official in the colony.

In 1816 John Piper married Mary Ann Shears, a daughter of convicts, with whom he already had several children. He moved his family to “Burwood Villa”, Burwood, which was leased from Alexander Riley.

He also acquired a large parcel of land at Eliza Bay, which is on the western side of Rose Bay, where he proceeded to build his new home.[3]

This was known as Piper’s Naval Pavillion of Eliza Point. Although it was begun in 1816, it was several years before it was completed at a cost of £10,000. A staggering amount of money for the time.

It was later to be officially named “Elizabeth Henrietta Villa”, shortened to “Henrietta Villa”, in honour of Governor Macquarie’s second wife, Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell, whom he married in 1807. The house was demolished in the 1850s and Woollahra House was later built on the site.[4]

Elizabeth Heneretta [i.e. Henrietta] Villa c 1820. Mitchell Library, Macquarie Street, Sydney

 Now we move to the middle of 1819, shortly before Henrietta’s conception. Let us look at the life of Captain John Piper of Point Piper at this time.

The New South Wales Government Gazette of 10 July, recorded that ” His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to nominate and appoint John Piper…to be a Justice of the Peace and Magistrate in the Town of Sydney…“. He was required to sit with other Justices of the Peace as a judge in the Courts of Petty Sessions.[5]

On 7 August, along with other officials, he was listed as a benefactor to the Benevolent Society with a gift of two cows.[6]

The Government Gazette of 18 September, announced his appointment as a member of the Committees of the Female Orphan, Male Orphan, and Public School Institutions. [7]Then a few days later as a member of the board of Native Institutions.[8]

On 26 September Commissioner John Thomas Bigge arrived in the colony on the John Barry. He had been appointed by Lord Bathurst, head of the Colonial Office in England to examine the effectiveness of transportation as a deterrent to crime and to hold an investigation into Governor Macquarie’s civil administration of the colony.[9]

As Naval Officer, John Piper had major responsibilities in the ceremonial welcome and other harbour duties.

The arrival of Commissioner Bigge began a round of balls, parties, and other official functions for the elite of Sydney’s society, including Captain John Piper and his wife.

A few weeks later Uranie the French survey and discovery ship, sailed into Port Jackson under Captain de Freycinet. His wife accompanied him. A ball on the ship continued the festivities.[10]

On 2 December, John Piper himself hosted a huge garden party at his mansion on Eliza Point. At this lavish event, he formally changed the name of the locality from ‘Eliza Point’ to ‘Elizabeth Henrietta Point’ in honour of the wife of Governor Macquarie, his benefactor. [11]

Now we know the house was named “Henrietta Villa” several months after the Hodgetts family left for Tasmania.

A careful search of all the Musters of Masters, Crew, and Passengers leaving and entering Port Jackson between January 1817 to January 1820 proved that Captain John Piper did not arrive on board or leave Sydney on any ship in that time period. [12]

 It should be noted that Captain John Piper acknowledged all the children he fathered. However, he did not acknowledge Henrietta Hodgetts as one of them.

If Captain Piper could not be Henrietta’s father, who could the ‘John Piper of Port Jackson’ be?

 It has been the lore of the sea for mariners, whether in a navy or in other forms of maritime service, to be identified by a particular ship they are known to be serving on at the time, or by their home port. In this case, ‘Port Jackson’ is John Piper’s home port.

Is there any way we can identify who this John Piper may be?

I will continue the story in the next blog.

A list of my references is available to family members and interested researchers on application. Please leave a request in the comments box below indicating your interest.


Agnes Willis Cairns and the 4X Great-Granddaughters’ Gift


This year we have three granddaughters who are in Fourth Grade at school. This is the year they are introduced to early European Settlement in Australia, the First Fleet, and the ‘convict era’. They were all given research projects along the way.

They are well aware of their grandmother’s passion, so it was not long before they contacted me for help.

I could tell them they were descended from First Fleeters, Second Fleeters, and various other convicts. In fact, they have at least fifteen ancestors, who came to Australia as convicts.

Once I could show them where they all slotted into our large ‘family tree’ they were ready to research these convict ancestors.

All are very proficient in the use of ‘Google’ and the Internet, so were quickly able to bring to light a lot of information on their convict ancestors, which was a lot of fun for us all.

As part of learning about the convict experience, the girls have been reading fiction stories written about convict children of nine to twelve years of age. Most were convicted of stealing and sentenced to transportation. The stories may be fiction, but they are based on facts and give good details, so the children can understand and relate to the lives of the convict children of the early 19th Century.

We do not have any ‘child’ convicts in our family history, but I was able to tell the girls their 4X Great Grandmother, Agnes Cairns had arrived in Tasmania in 1829 at 10 years of age. That is the same age as the granddaughters are this year. Agnes was a  free person but had traveled half-way around the world on a convict ship, to the small colonial outpost of Hobart. She accompanied her mother, Elizabeth Merry, who was a convict.



from Google Images- 30 August 2018


The granddaughters were keen to put Agnes’s name into Google and convict websites. They were so disappointed, as found no records with her name on them, although they did find her mother.

As I could show all the pertinent records from the girls own birth certificates, back through the generations to their 4X Great-Grandmother Agnes Cairns, they could understand where Agnes and her mother Elizabeth fitted into the family tree. They were at a loss of how they could find out about this ancestor. I suggested they write her a letter asking the questions they wanted to know about.

This is the letter.

Dear 4X Great-Grandma Agnes,

We have been learning about children in the early 19th Century.

Our grandmother has told us you came to Tasmania when you were ten years old. The same age as we are now. She said your mother was a convict.

Can you please write and tell us where you lived in Scotland?

Did you have any brothers or sisters?

How did you come to Australia?

What was it like living in Hobart when you first arrived?

Where did you and your mother live and what did you eat?

When and where did you marry?

Where did you live with your sixteen children? You must have had a very large house.

Lots of love

From your 4X Great-Granddaughters……Mary, Jane, and Ann (not their real names)


From Google Images – 30 August 2018


Now that will be an interesting history project for one devoted grandmother.

My plan is to write Agnes’s story in about fifty pages, answering in some detail the questions about where and how she lived, from her birth in Kilmarnock, Scotland to her death in Victoria, Australia, aged 89 years. There are no known pictures of Agnes, but I will add appropriate illustrations where I can.

Yes, the girls do know that their 4X Great-Grandmother is dead, and they know it will be their own grandmother, who will research and write the story. But, can you imagine how exciting it will be for these girls to get a ‘personal’ reply from an ancestor? Wouldn’t we all love and treasure such a gift, no matter how old we are? Wouldn’t it be a possession we would keep and pass down to our children and then down the line, keeping our Family History alive for the generations to come?