Martha Virco – trial record

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

The Trial of Martha VICO at the Old Bailey

457. MARTHA VICO was indicted for stealing, on the 12th of December, 1 watch,. value 1l. 5s.; 1 purse, value 6d.; and 2 shillings; the goods and monies of William Leighton, from his person.

WILLIAM LEIGHTON . I am a private in the 45th regiment of foot. I was out on furlough, and was at Edgware, on the 12th of December—I was going to Watford, to my friends—I got to Edgware about eight or nine o’clock at night—I went into the White Lion public-house, and found the prisoner there, in company with another woman—I got into conversation with them, and treated them—I paid about 2s. for what I had—I took out my purse to pay—I had 5s. or 7s. in it—I was rather under the influence of drink, but I knew what I was about—about eleven o’clock the prisoner and I went out together, and the other woman left us—I went into the fields with the prisoner, and laid down and went to sleep—I do not know whether I paid her any thing—I had a watch, fastened to a guard round my neck—the purse was in my right-hand pocket—I awoke between four and five o’clock in the morning, and she was gone—I missed my watch directly I awoke—the guard-chain was broken—I went into a public-house immediately, and then missed my purse—the prisoner was taken next evening—this is my watch—(looking at it)—I did not give either the watch or purse to her.

JOHN BLEUMAN . I am shopman to Mr. Marchant, a pawnbroker in Edgware-road. I took this watch in pawn between ten and eleven o’clock, on the morning of the 13th of December, for 12s., from a woman—I cannot positively swear to the prisoner, but I believe she is the person—I did not see her face, but I can swear to the bonnet she had on—I saw her before the Magistrate on the 19th, and believed her to be the person.

THOMAS BUTLER . I am a policeman. On the 13th of December I apprehended the prisoner, from the prosecutor’s description—she denied having the watch—I took her to the Magistrate, who remanded her for a week—on our road to Clerkenwell she became lame, and we got on a coach, with Susan Burr—she told Burr, in my presence, on the coach, that the was sorry to see her in trouble, for she had nothing to do with it, that she had taken the watch herself, and pawned it at Paddington—Burr was discharged at the next examination.

SUSAN BURR . I was in company with the prisoner and prosecutor at the public-house—I left them—I was taken up on this charge—the prisoner told me what the officer has stated, on the roof of the coach.

GUILTY .+ Aged 22.— Transported for Ten Years.


Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 13 June 2016), December 1838, trial of MARTHA VICO (t18381231-457).

Martha Virco – main story

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

Martha VICO was a housemaid; she was 5 feet 1 inch tall, and had a broad head and oval ‘visage’ with a high forehead and long chin. Her hair was brown, her eyes hazel and she had a ruddy complexion. [1]


Description, Martha VICO; TAHO, CON19-1-13, pg. 318


On 8th December 1833, Martha, nee HEARNE, married William VERCOE at the Parish church of Little Stanmore, Harrow[2];  she would have been 16 or 17 years of age.

MV, marriage cert_0

Entry of marriage of William VERCOE and Martha HEARNE; London, England,

Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921  

According to her Indent record, she had two brothers, Thomas and Henry, and a sister, Elizabeth, who lived in St Albans, Hertfordshire; the record also states that William was a blacksmith.[3] In addition, it notes that William is in Newgate Prison, and that Martha had spent ‘12 months on the Town’. This would suggest that, due to William’s imprisonment, Martha had nowhere to live and was finding it difficult to survive without his income… which was perhaps what led to her offence.


Entry for Martha VICO; TAHO, CON15-1-9, pg. 10, Hindostan 12 Sep 1839

Martha was found guilty of her crime at the Old Bailey on 31st December 1838; her sentence was transportation for ten years.[4]

MV, verdict

Entry for Martha VICO;; England & Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770-1935, Institutions & organisations, Prison registers

After sentencing, due to overcrowding in Newgate Prison, Martha was moved to Millbank[5], and then to the Hindostan; this ship left London on 6th May 1839.

MV, newspaper

Morning Advertiser, London, England, 05 February 1839

On 12th September 1839, the ship arrived at Van Diemen’s Land; the Surgeon reported that during the voyage Martha had been ‘extremely insolent’. On arrival, Martha was sent into the employ of Mr W Learmouth of Ross[6].

However, the first years that Martha was in Van Diemen’s Land did not run smoothly for her; just two weeks after her arrival, Martha was found guilty of Gross Misconduct after going into the men’s’ berths on the Government brig Tamar whilst on her way to Launceston, for which she received the sentence of 14 days Solitary Confinement on bread and water at Launceston Female Factory. [7]

In 26 December 1839, now in the employment of Mr Atkinson, Martha sentenced to two months’ hard labour in the Launceston Female Factory (having been found guilty of being ‘drunk and disorderly and in the company of a man in the back of a house in York Street’), and was back in the Female Factory again in April 1840 after being Absent without leave from her master – this time for 14 days, on bread and water.

December 1840 saw Martha with another ‘Master’ – Mr Rodgers. On the 31st, she was found guilty of Gross insolence to the Chief District Constable, and sentenced to a year’s Hard labour, again in Launceston Female Factory.

Perhaps this term of Hard labour was her ‘turning point’ which finally made Martha settle down and ‘toe the line’, as there are no further records of misdemeanours. In fact, the 1842, she applied for permission to marry John BOYD[8], with the clergyman being satisfied with the evidence:



Entry for John BOYD and Martha VICO; TAHO, CON52/1/2 Page 016; NAME_INDEXES:1267689; June 1842, RGD37/2: 1842/1739

They were married on 8th September of that year, in Ross, Avoca[9]. Obviously the fact that Martha had been married in England was ‘overlooked’, as to Martha it would have been obvious that she was never going to see William, or return to England, ever again, and she would have had to have made the best she could of her new life.

John and Martha went on to have at least seven children, born between 1842 and 1858:

Anne, born on 19th October 1842 in Evandale[10]

Susan, born on 29th May 1844 in Launceston[11]

Catherine, born on 13th September 1846 in Rogan Falls[12]

Robert, born 1st July 1848 in Mary Vale, Morven[13]

Martha, born on 18th November 1850 in Mary Vale, Morven [14]

Frederick, born on 16th December 1855 in Evandale[15]

Harriet, born on 21st June 1858 in Evandale[16]

During this time, Martha’s Ticket of Leave was granted in November 1845, and her Certificate of Freedom was issued in February 1849.[17]

John died on 9th October 1862 in the Morven district[18]; Martha died on 25th January 1880[19], again, in the Morven district.

Martha Virco references

[1] TAHO, CON19-1-13, pg. 318, Martha VICO. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[2] London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Original data: Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1921. London Metropolitan Archives, London. Retrieved on 11 June 2016

[3] TAHO, CON15-1-9, pg. 10, Hindostan 12 Sep 1839, Martha VICO

[4]; England & Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770-1935, Institutions & organisations, Prison registers. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[5]; British Newspapers; Morning Advertiser, London, England, 05 February 1839. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[6] New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

Original data: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[7] TAHO, CON40-1-10, pg. 149, Martha VICO

[8] TAHO, CON52/1/2 Page 016; NAME_INDEXES:1267689; June 1842, RGD37/2: 1842/1739, John BOYD and Martha VICO

[9] Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; John BOYD and Martha VICO

[10]  TAHO, RGD32/1/3/ Evandale 1852/1954 Anne BOYD

[11] TAHO, RGD 33/1/23 Launceston 1844/242 Susan BOYD

[12] TAHO, RGD32/1/3/ Evandale 1846/2986 Catherine BOYD

[13] TAHO, RGD33/1/27/ Morven 1848/1203 Robert Boyd

[14] TAHO, RGD33/1/27/ Morven 1850/1330 Martha BOYD

[15] TAHO, RGD33/1/33 Morven 1855/1152 Frederick BOYD

[16] TAHO, RGD33/1/36 Morven 1858/1505 Harriet BOYD

[17] TAHO, CON40-1-10, pg. 149, Martha VICO

[18] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; John BOYD

[19] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; Martha BOYD

Martha Virco – intro

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

Martha VICO was 22 years old when she was arrested for pickpocketing. She had gone to the pub – the White Lion in Edgeware, Middlesex – with her friend Susan BURR when they had met up with a soldier who was on furlough. The soldier, William LEIGHTON, got chatting to the two women and bought them drinks; at about 11o’clock, he left the pub and spent the night with Martha, sleeping in a field. When he woke up the next morning, Martha, his purse and his watch were all gone…[1]

This act of pickpocketing changed Martha’s life completely – here is the story of what happened to her.

Martha VICO – a Convict’s Story

[1] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 13 June 2016), December 1838, trial of MARTHA VICO (t18381231-457).

My other convicts

During the convict ancestors course, I offered some of my other convicts for people to research. Two students took up the offer and they have agreed to have their research published on my blog.

Peter Gray researched John Boyd and Wendy Westgate researched his wife Martha Virco. Here are their stories.

John Boyd – intro, main story, breakout 1, breakout 2

Martha Virco – intro, main story, breakoutstrial record

Update on Martha

So what have we learnt about Martha from using just four documents?

Permission to marry

Her husband to be was John Boyd who was free. They applied for permission about June 1842 and permission was given by the Secretary after August 1842. Martha had arrived on the ship Hindostan and was given a police number of 18.

Source: TAHO, CON52/1/2 p16 marriage permission Martha Virco

Marriage certificate

John and Martha married on 6 September 1842 at St John’s Church in Ross (District of Avoca), Tasmania by the rites of the United Church of England and Ireland. The minister was William Bedford Junior.  John was aged 28 and Martha 24. He was a bachelor and carpenter by trade while she was a spinster. The witnesses to the marriage were William Stolley and Mary Ann Brown.

Source: TAHO,  RGD37/1/2 no 1739/1842 District of Avoca, marriage Boyd, Vircoe

Description list

Some basic information was available first such as she left London, England on 9 May 1839 and arrived in Hobart on 12 September 1839. It was the first voyage of the ship Hindostan.

Martha was described as being a house maid, aged 23 and 5″1′ without shoes. She had a ruddy complexion, a round head and brown hair. Her visage was oval in shape with a high forehead. She had black eyebrows and hazel eyes. Her nose and mouth were small but her chin was long. She had no scars or tattoos.

Source: TAHO, CON19/1/13 p301 description list Martha Vircoe


Police number 18 Martha Vico – 5″1′ age 23 – a house maid also work with needle – tried at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on 31 December 1838 – sentenced to 10 years – native place Edgeware – married but no children – was Protestant and could read – her husband William a blacksmith at Native place – 2 brothers Thomas and Henry one sister Elizabeth at St Albans – 12 months on the town – stealing a watch from a person – prosecutor at ? at Canterbury

Source: TAHO, CON15/1/9, indent list for Martha Vico

WOW! We now have information that can lead us back to her trial at the Old Bailey  and to her husband and family back in England. But that is for later. My next question is –

Did she commit any offences while a convict here in VDL?

To find out the answer to this I will need to look at her conduct record.


Why was Martha sent to VDL?

So I have now used records to prove Martha was a convict sent to VDL in 1839. I also know what she looks like and that she was 23 when she arrived here. But what could a young 23 year old woman have done to be transported to VDL?

Looks like the Indent list might give me some answers. Back to the Tasmanian Names index, put in Vircoe, Martha, click on the image in front of convicts and now click on indent list remembering to jot down that reference for the source.

TAHO, CON15/1/9, indent list for Martha Vircoe

Time again for my readers to give me some help: Can you transcribe her indent list record? I have included the link further up the post if you want to go to the record online to get more help.

vico15 vico16

What does Martha look like?

My next question in my research plan is:

  1. What did Martha look like?

So where can I find the answer to this question?

Looking back at my previous post, I noticed when using the Tasmanian Names Index there was a result with her name and the word convicts – maybe these are her convict records I can look at.  I also know from previous reading that there are three main records:

  1. Conduct record – shows information about the offence and trial date as well as offences she did while here in VDL and shows who she worked for during her convict sentence.
  2. Description list – just as it says a description of the convict including scars and tattoos, often mentions native place.
  3. Indent list – the basics of where tried, the sentence but often includes parents and siblings.

OK so looks like I need to look up the description list to find the answer to my question.

I go back to the Tasmanian Names Index – type in Vircoe, Martha then click on the image in front of the one labelled convicts.


I now have the following appear on the screen.


So what information can I find by looking at just this part of the screen?

Martha’s surname is spelled two different ways – remember to use variants when checking birth, death, children births etc.

She departed London, UK on 9 May 1839 and arrived in Hobart (assumed as in Tasmanian records) on 12 September 1839. The ship was called the Hindostan and it was its first voyage. Not sure what the other numbers relate to. Maybe it was the 160th voyage of a convict ship to VDL. I reckon the last two must relate to numbering in the archives setup.

I also have this on the screen.


All right – now I am getting somewhere.

Let’s click on the photo for the description list – but first jot down those reference numbers underneath. Maybe when I save the image I find I could add them as a tag so it is there for future reference.

TAHO, CON19/1/13 p301 description list Martha Vircoe

wrongimageOh dear something is wrong, my Martha is not on this page – I checked image 301 but notice other numbers in the top right corner of the images. Maybe those are the pages I need to go to rather than an image number. Are the lists alphabetical by name so Vircoe would be near the end or are the names in groups by ship?

Go to the first couple of images by using the dropdown arrow near image and find a list for this convict book.


Right so this book is grouped by ship and my Hindostan is 4th out of 8 in the list so would be somewhere near the middle of all the images. There are 570 images so let’s start at 250 and go back or forward by groups of 10 until I find a page saying which ship these records are for.

Image 250 surname beginning D, 240 beginning B, 230 beginning A, getting close go back by 5 this time, 225 beginning W so this must be the previous ship. Go forward now 1 at a time till I find the name of the ship. There on image 229 I can see the name Hindostan so I have now found the right ship records. Now I need to keep moving forward till I find Martha in the V section.

Image 290 are M, 310 is S, 320 is W, so going back now 1 at a time.

I found her on image 319. But I needed to change the size so it would fit the screen otherwise it was too small to read.


Now I need my readers help: Can you please transcribe this record and leave your answers in the comments? I wonder which words will be hardest to read?

Is she a convict?

For this very long post I am going to you walk you through how I researched one of my convict women. I will look at certain documents and if she is a convict will write further posts about her convict records.

I am going to try finding out information about Martha VIRCOE who married John BOYD in 1842. I have already proven this in my family history research. They are my great great great grandparents.

Why do I think Martha is a convict? She has signed her marriage certificate with an x – her mark meaning she was not a very literate person and could not sign her own name.

UPDATE – Having spoken to Dianne Snowden while at the female factory Open Day last Sunday, she mentioned that many people in VDL would have been illiterate and used a mark so it is not necessarily a sign of a convict. Finding a marriage permission record definitely is though.

Source: TAHO RGD37/1/2 no 1739/1842 District of Avoca, marriage Boyd, Vircoe

boyd vico marr 1842

My next step is to use the Tasmanian names index to find out more records about Martha.

So I put in the surname only of Vircoe and up come the following possibilities



I can see the first three relate to my Martha – Virgoe for the next three – could this be a different spelling? – maybe a brother also out as a convict? Don’t check it out now but put it on the to do list for later on.

I can see she was a convict from the second result on the image. I know if a person married while still serving a sentence as a convict, they needed permission to do this. So where is the marriage permission page? Maybe it is a spelling variation – maybe look up Boyd instead and see if I can find it there.

As you can see from the image I started by using just Boyd within all the results of the Tasmanian name index, then I used the filters on the left to find just marriage permissions then I filtered again to the years 1840-1843. There she is with the surname Vico.


By clicking on the image to the left of her name, the following appears. I have used the snipping tool to make the two separate images. One is the header of the page, the other is the actual marriage permission for Martha.



So reading the information on these two snips, the marriage permission for Martha Virco (new spelling), police number 18 on the ship Hindostan was sent to the Muster Master on June 15 1842, then sent on to the Secretary on 15 August 1842. The decision made was approved provided the clergyman is satisfied with evidence added??

Her husband-to-be John Boyd was a free man with no police number. Maybe he was also a convict but had served his sentence and now considered free. But that will be something to follow up on later.

Source: TAHO, CON52/1/2 p16 marriage permission Martha Virco

So question 1 of my research plan is now answered – Yes Martha VIRCOE (VIRCO) (VICO) was a convict.

Next step to look at her convict records to fill out more information about her life as a convict.

How will I record all this information?

I have created a convict profile from looking at Susan Hood’s book about transcribing Tasmanian convict records. I will be able to use this profile for each separate convict in my tree.