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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Shaking the Family Tree to See Who Falls Out

It's been quite a while since I posted a blog entry, and I really have no excuse except that  I haven't had anything much to blog about. Lately, though, I've been doing some genealogical research and have been discovering things I'd like to share, so here we go again.

One of the most wonderful things about  climbing around in family trees to research ancestors is that you  discover fascinating  bits of history in the process. I’ve been researching  my mother’s side of the family off and on for  several years.  What a colorful and interesting group of  people these ancestors were!

In 1832, at the age of 35, my maternal great-great-great grandfather, John Lovell, was convicted of stealing a harness in Bedford, England. This was not the first time he had stood trial, as he had been arrested on a charge of assault seven years earlier. He had been acquitted on that charge. For the theft of the harness, though, he received an unbelievably harsh sentence: seven years labor and transport to the penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania)  Australia.  He was delivered aboard ship in March, 1832, leaving behind his wife and several children, one of whom was my great-great grandmother, Rachel, who was born in 1832, the year he was transported.  It’s quite likely that she was born after his  arrest and never knew her father. John Lovell arrived in Australia  aboard the  British convict ship, Circassian  in February 1833 after  a voyage of several months.  John was not  the first family member to  be transported to Australia.  His  brothers James and Robert had been convicted  in 1829 of  stealing a pig. Both were also  sentenced to seven years transportation to Van Dieman’s Land.

I found it interesting that in the detailed Gaol record from Bedford, John was listed as having pale skin, but as shown in the convict record  to the left, after spending several months at sea, he is he is shown as having dark skin and   being “lame of left foot” upon his arrival in Tasmania   It’s difficult to track him during and following his imprisonment.  While I found a certificate of freedom for his brother Robert, I have not yet found one for John.  The search continues. I did find  a record of  him during his  imprisonment in which he is shown as being disorderly and drunk in 1838. 

The records also contain a convict request for permission to marry dated 1846. The request lists John Lovell, a freeman, requesting permission to marry a Jane Ogden, who was also transported to Tasmania from England aboard the British ship Royal Admiral in May of 1842. She was twenty-four. Her crime, as best I can make out, was petty theft. Permission to marry was granted, and John and Jane were married in June of 1846.

While I can't be sure that the John Lovell who married Jane Ogden is my ancestor since there were several convicts with that name in the registers, it's very possible. Even if he was the same person, Jane Ogden would not have been one of my ancestors, but I find her story fascinating. Although I knew about the males being transported, I knew little about female convicts. Thus began another quest to find out how many of these women there were, what happened to them once they arrived in Australia, and what their experiences were. What I learned will be the subject of my next blog entry.

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