August is National Family History Month and Tuesday I head to the local library for an hour and a half session on resources in the Tasmanian library setup and perhaps more in just the Sorell library.
But Tuesday is an important night in Australia. It only comes once every five years. We the citizens have the chance to fill in our census form and become part of the statistics of people in Australia. We mention names and addresses, numbers in family, religion, wages and many other bits of info that will help the government plan better for education, health, transport etc in Australia.
Alex Daw has set up a challenge for Aussie family history bloggers during the month of August. Our first post is due this week and relates to a census.
As most of my English ancestors arrived in Australia pre 1851 census, I am trying to find more info about their families by using the 1841 census.
My one problem person so far is Isabella Watkins. If you have been reading my blog recently, you will know I am doing the University of Tasmania Diploma of Family History course and one unit was on a convict ancestor. I chose Isabella.
According to convict records, Isabella was tried on 29 March 1841 at Surrey Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation. She arrived in Hobart Town on 10 October 1841. My problem was when did she actually leave England?
According to one website the ship left England on 14 June 1841. Another website says 23 June 1841.
My first task was to find out when the actual census night was in England that year. Found that – 6 June 1841. So she should still be in England according to the dates when the ship supposedly sailed. So why can’t I find Isabella in the 1841 census? Why were there two different sailing dates?
If she was convicted in March and the ship sailed in June, where was she held in between those dates?
Next step was newspaper records trying to find where and when the ship docked in London. I have not been able to find her on any prison records for that time so maybe the ship was at anchor from March to June until all the female convicts were finally on board. She might have gone directly to the ship after being sentenced. The county of Surrey borders on the river Thames and the Custom’s House, where the ships would need to come in to pay customs and duties, was about a kilometre from the main Surrey Assizes.
- First record is entering outward for loading at the Customs House in London on April 12. 
- Second record is of a Dorothy Woodhead being delivered to the ship at Woolwich from her prison in Derby. This meant the ship was in Woolwich on the 2nd June or earlier. 
- Third record was vessel cleared outwards with cargo (presumably the convict women) from the Customs House on June 4. 
- Fourth record was the ship sailing from Gravesend on June 18. 
- Fifth record was arriving from the river (Thames) at Deal on June 23. 
From these reports the ship was docked in Woolwich by 2nd June with female convicts arriving at any time after April 12. So on the night of the census, Isabella was sailing down the Thames on her way to Gravesend.
More questions to find answers for:
- Would she now be considered not an English person as she had left its shores on her way to Van Diemen’s Land and Australia?
- Would they have filled in the census on the boat and delivered it at their first port of call eg Gravesend?
 The Standard (London, England), Tuesday, April 13, 1841; Issue 5247. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.
 The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, June 2, 1841; Issue 5682. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.
 The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Saturday, June 5, 1841; Issue 22317. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.
 The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Saturday, June 19, 1841; Issue 22329. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.
 The Standard (London, England), Thursday, June 24, 1841; Issue 5309. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.
6 thoughts on “Where is Isabella in the census?”
Oh Sue…I wish I had the answers for you. It is a puzzle isn’t it? But you have thought about this deeply and researched far and wide. All I can tell you is that I found my great-great-grandfather on a census taken in I think 1911 on a boat in Hong Kong harbour. Admittedly it was a Royal Navy vessel. I don’t think geography had much to do with it. If she was a British subject still, she should have been counted is my thought for what it’s worth.
Another brilliant piece of teaching. You are a Tasmanian Treasure, Sue!
Oh, the intricacies of family history. I also found one of my people had two dates of leaving England as a convict, and then research showed that they left one port and then sailed on to Plymouth and two weeks later sailed. Also my G.Grandfather didn’t show up in the 1851 Census in his home town with his family and as it was two years before he left England for Australia further research showed that he was living in Devon with some unrelated people. Only way we knew it was him was that his bapt date and birthplace and occupation were the same. Now I have the question WHY?
I only found out about the dates by searching the newspapers for shipping news otherwise it would have been a question I had for a long time.
Census: she be in the VDL 1842 census
Always more questions! But at least you have a healthy search log. Loved your deductive reasoning. I’m not sure how you find the time to do everything that you do.