I’m thrilled to have another fascinating post from my favourite guest blogger, Debra Watkins aka @Debs_Dwelling. This story links in perfectly with my earlier post on transportation and gives an interesting perspective from the other side of the ‘convict’ issue.
My family emigrated to Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, some of us going on to give birth to “second-generation white Australian” children. We were all of us pretty proud of our non-convict origins. Twelve years ago, when I became a volunteer at my local genealogy society, a passionate conversation broke out one afternoon about convict heritage and that all of us, every single one of us white Australians, could boast at least one convict in our family tree. “Not I” came my overconfident response, my family didn’t come out to Australia until the 1970s. One lady piped up with the assured retort, “You just wait and see”.
That lady, I hasten to say, would turn out to be absolutely correct. I did have a convict in my very own family tree. On my father’s side of the family tree (which was a bit of a shock to the system) there was a young chap who had been eluding me in the 1851 census returns. After much searching I discovered that my third great granduncle, Frederick Ward, was a very naughty boy and the reason I couldn’t find him anywhere in England in 1851 was because he was in Australia!
Fred Ward was born in 1821 in the market town of Bungay in county Suffolk. He was one of six illegitimate children born to my 4xgreat-grandmother Mary Ward. Three of those six children died in infancy but the remaining three survived. Fred was the youngest of the brood and obviously a little reckless and bored, having no father figure to steer him along the right path in life.
Fred’s first conviction of larceny was in 1837, when he was at the tender age of 16. He must have reformed for a lengthy period and gained employment as a labourer until in 1844 when he was convicted of “stealing a fixture”. The following year Fred went all out, “stealing three stone weight of cows flesh from James Skippon of Bungay”. Because of his previous convictions, Fred had reached his three strikes, and he was out and sentenced to seven years transportation.
Tracking down various online sources from both England and Australia, including the Australian Convict Transportation Registers online, I eventually pieced together that Fred Ward was sent to Millbank Prison in 1845 until January 1847 when he left England for the Port Phillip Settlement in Victoria, Australia. I am still yet to determine what happened to him thereafter.
I have to acknowledge the indispensable work of Gary & Richard Deeks, without whom I would not have known about Fred Ward’s troubled life. Richard Deeks, now deceased, compiled a list of everyone who was transported from Suffolk to Australia and gives quite a lot of detail about them as well. It was in the book “Transportees from Suffolk to Australia 1787 – 1867”, written by Richard’s son Gary, that I found the entry for Fred Ward. The book, published in 2000 by Seven Sparrows Publishing, is believed to be out of print today but is still available for viewing at the Suffolk Record Office.
For further information please see here:
Huge thanks to Debra for another excellent post. (I’m intrigued by the idea of stealing ‘cows’ flesh’…)
If you have a ‘skeleton’ story to share from your family tree, please do let me know as I’d love to publish it.