Monday, 21 January 2013

2013 Australia Day Challenge : My First Ancestor To Reach Australian Shores

Nothing conjures up images of Australia quite like sheilas and blokes on crowded beaches, thongs, stubbies, barbecues, cricket, Aussie Rules football, Holden Utes, Vegemite, and Banana Boat sunscreen. With Australia Day just around the corner, Helen V Smith came up with the brilliant idea of telling the story of our first Australian ancestor. In November 2011 I wrote a blog post about my more "rebellious" ancestors. One of those was my 3 x great-grand uncle Frederick Ward. Born in 1821, Fred was the first ancestor (that I know of) to reach Australian shores from his humble hometown of Bungay in county Suffolk, England.

Remains of Bungay Castle, 1819
William Buckley welcomes Batman
William Buckley meeting John Batman's party, Australia 1835

The following is taken from my previous blog (basically, because I'm feeling lazy):

"My visits to my local genealogical society over the years has seen many interactions with Australians who rather proudly announce that they each have at least one Convict ancestor in their family tree. Many boast that without them they wouldn't be here today. White Australian settlement history rests largely on the shoulders of those Convicts who sailed on Convict ships, from as early as 1788 through to the mid 1840s when criminal transportation was put to an end. The last of those Convicts were known as 'Exiles' because, basically, they were not  really wanted anywhere. There was no room for them in England. Its prisons were fit to bursting, and many were placed on Prison Hulks off the coast until there was a place for them somewhere or a final decision from officials could be arrived at.
Frederick Ward, my third great-grand uncle, was one of those 'exiles'. In December 1844 he was sentenced, at the Beccles Quarter Sessions, to be transported for 7 years, for stealing three stones weight of cows flesh from James Skippon of Bungay. Unfortunately, this was not Fred's only crime. He had been convicted on two previous occasions; in 1843 and 1844, both on accounts of larceny, and was sent to Beccles Gaol.

In December 1844 Fred Ward was sent to Millbank Prison in London. Millbank was intended to house up to 1000 transportation prisoners at any one time. The average stay was for around three months, during which time prisoners would be assessed for future placement. By the early 1840s transportation sentences were ceased but there were still many prisoners who faced the possibility of being sent away.

In 1843 Millbank was converted to house general prisoners and transportation prisoners, including Fred Ward, were moved to Prison Hulks. Finally in January 1847 Fred Ward was placed on the 'Thomas Arbuthnot' with around 288 male prisoners from Millbank, Pentonville & Parkhurst Prisons and sailed from Spithead to Port Philip Settlement (Melbourne), arriving in May 1847. The 621 ton ship began her voyage at Portsmouth, then travelled to the Isle of Wight where she took on 90 Parkhurst boys. The Times newspaper had this to report:

"The Thomas Arthbuthnot convict ship, Captain Therason, sailed from Spithead this morning for Port Philip with a superior class of delinquents, officially called "exiles". These are the first "exiles" sent to the above settlement, which the inhabitants of that respectable place are very wroth at, and have memorialised the Government on the subject..."

Little is known about Fred Ward after his arrival to Port Philip. This is still a work in progress. What is known is that people such as Richard Deeks spent his precious time researching and transcribing all transportee records of Suffolk and turned it into a book. It was this invaluable book, printed in 2000 and entitled, 'Transportees from Suffolk to Australia 1787-1867' (held at the Suffolk Record Office), which helped me to locate and further research Fred Ward."



  1. An intriguing firat ancestor story. I like the sentiment in the proverb image.

    1. Thank you Pauleen, I really appreciate your feedback. xx

  2. Always nice to know more about the start of the journey. It is often a neglected area in people's research. That sounds a very good resource book.

    1. Thank you very much for leaving a comment, and also for setting up the Challenge in the first place. xx

  3. Such a great story!


    1. Thanks very much Betty, I really appreciate your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the read. xx