Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I was doing a lot of personal research on my convicts sent to Van Diemens Land. I was a member of many mailing lists and people around the world would ask for copies of their convicts’ records held at the Tasmanian archives in Murray Street. But back then, nothing was online. It meant going to the actual archives to look at microfilm and microfiche and then making copies on a printer. Many of these copies were on A3 paper that didn’t really hold the ink very well.
The main documents were:
conduct record which included where tried, ship to Australia, offences in the colony and sometimes a description as well as other information
indent record which included place tried, sentence, description and relatives in England
description which included age, height, native place, colour of eyes, hair, tattoos etc
For those living in Australia, I only charged the cost for photocopying and the stamps to get to wherever I sent the documents. Most people would send me a five dollar set of stamps as payment. These helped when posting overseas.
One person from England asked me to look up her convict, and send her the paperwork to where she lived in Bedfordshire. I would help again at a later time to transcribe the records if the person was having trouble reading the writing and the format of the documents. But I felt half the fun of research is trying to work out what the document said by yourself first. She thanked me very much for all my help and said if ever I needed help researching in Bedfordshire then to get in contact with her.
At this time I was researching one of my convicts – Francis COLEGRAVE tried in Huntingdon Assizes in March 1832. He didn’t have an indent record, so no names of parents or siblings to work from. His conduct record did say he had a brother who had been transported too and that Francis had been in prison before. But where was Huntingdon? I had never heard of that as a town or county in England.
But to go any further back I would need to use parish records as his birth was prior to 1837. Very few of these were online at that stage. I searched A2A which was archive to archive in England, some other records from the National Archives England, but I needed help.
So my friend in Bedfordshire spent hours when she could researching the Colegrave family for me. She found prison records, parish church records, military records, tax records and finally this is where my line of Colgraves are at the moment.
daughter of Phyllis England
daughter of Hannah Davey
daughter of Martha Colgrave
daughter of Francis John Colgrave
son of the convict Francis Colgrave
son of Francis and Frances Colgrave nee Bourn in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire
son of Samuel and Sarah Colgrave nee Pain
son of Francis and Mary Colgrave nee Cooper
son of Thomas and Rebecca Colgrave nee ???
son of Thomas and Juditha Colgrave nee ???
son of Thomas and Margaret Colgrave nee Pettitt
This fabulous researcher got me back to the birth of Thomas in 1602 and his wife Margaret in 1603. This is 11 generations back from me.
Having tested my mother’s DNA, we have found proven cousins back to Samuel and Sarah Colgrave nee Pain.
Readers: How many generations back is one of your ancestors? Must be proven through records though.
Mum and Sibyle have been friends for ages through the Girl Guide movement where they were both commissioners at some stage and members of Trefoil. A few years ago they were travelling back from a meeting in Launceston via Evandale where many of my COLGRAVE and DAVEY relatives were born. Mum pointed out a house where her great aunt Ethel lived and mentioned she had brought me up there one time when I was a baby. To mum’s surprise, Sibyle said Ethel was her cousin – in fact they were first cousins once removed.
So how are mum and Sibyle related?
They both share Francis COLGRAVE and Isabella WATKINS(ON) – Sibyle through her grandfather Samuel Colgrave and mum through her great grandfather Francis John Colgrave, sibling to Samuel.
Sibyle turned 100 last year and as she is one generation older than my mum, I thought I would ask if I could get her DNA tested. She said yes, so I spent a fantastic afternoon in the nursing home, chatting to Sibyle while she worked up enough spit to put in the tube to send back to Ancestry.
Wait …wait … wait …
Two nights ago, the results came in. Now as 2C1R I was expecting to see mum and Sibyle sharing at least some DNA but when I went to shared matches for mum, Sibyle was not there. Why not? I asked on a Facebook DNA group was it unusual for 2C1R not to share DNA and had many replies but one was from Blaine Bettinger who had written a great post about just this problem.
Yesterday I uploaded Sibyle’s DNA to Genesis. This is the next version from Gedmatch. It allows people to compare others who have tested with other DNA companies not just Ancestry. Because of the algorithm used by Ancestry some smaller segments might not be included in their results, so I was hoping those smaller segments would be there in Genesis.
More waiting … but using the one to one comparison, I found mum and Sibyle did share DNA but only 18cM over two segments which should mean they relate about 5 generations back.
I then decided to compare the amount of DNA from matches shared by both mum and Sibyle. The results in the table are from Ancestry other than the one where I have Genesis.
Readers:Has anyone else had a surprise when there was no DNA when you thought there should be especially with closer relatives?
For this post, week 9 in #52ancestors, I had to decide:
Will I research a relative named Will or William?
Will I look at a will from one of my relatives?
Or will I research a relative who was willing to do more than most?
My decision was to check out the wills of some of my relatives. We are very lucky here in Tasmania that the wills of many people are found online at the LINC Tasmanian names index.
What did I learn from these wills?
My grandmother Hannah ENGLAND had bequeathed 25 pound to each of her grandchildren when they attained the age of 16.
My grandfather Henry Lewis ENGLAND bequeathed his piano to me. I remember as a child learning and practicing those scales and even now, after many years of not using the piano, I can still play most of Fur Elise from memory.
It looks like my great great grandparents John and Annie DAVEY did not leave wills so the Supreme Court appointed some of their children to make an inventory and then to sell the goods and chattels and hand the money to the court to pay costs. I am not very good at reading all that legalese though so it might mean something else entirely.
My great great grandfather Francis COLGRAVE left everything to his two youngest sons, presumably as the older sons already had their own properties and the older sisters were all married with their own families.
I can’t find any more wills of my direct relatives but one of my indirect relatives (sister of my great great grandmother Caroline Chandler nee Bryant) named Esther Julia WINTER left many instructions on who was to receive what in her will.
Readers: What is the most interesting will you have read in your family or from collateral kin?
There were four men who I believe had an influence on the life of Isabella Watkins.
The first is her father of whom I know nothing other than his daughter Isabella decided she needed to steal clothing to survive in Victorian London. This thieving led to the next man of influence.
This is the judge at her trial, Baron Parke, who decided transportation for seven years was a suitable punishment for a persistent shoplifter or thief.
James Parke was a well respected judge especially working in the Court of Exchequer and was mentioned in a Harvard Law Review in 1897:
“one of the greatest of English judges; had he comprehended the principles of equity as fully as he did the principles of the common law, he might fairly be called the greatest. His mental power, his ability to grasp difficult points, to disentangle complicated facts, and to state the law clearly, have seldom been surpassed. No judgments delivered during this period are of greater service to the student of law than his”.
He was so influential in the legal world, a rule of law was named after him.
Would the sentence and punishment he gave Isabella be a positive influence in her life and cause a change in her behaviour?
Now the third man of influence, her master Mr Legge from Cullenswood near Fingal in Van Diemen’s Land, enters her life. Robert Vincent Legge arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1827 with his brother and five sisters. He was granted 1200 acres near St Mary’s. He called the property Cullenswood after a property in Ireland. He returns to Ireland and marries in 1839. Bringing his wife back to Van Diemen’s Land, he now needs servants to help run the property and look after his house and his growing family.
Isabella is still behaving badly. But she only committed one offence while under sentence. The local magistrate decided to send her to the Launceston Female House of Correction or factory. She was sentenced to one month’s hard labour which probably meant time at the washtub. Maybe it was this final punishment that helped Isabella mend her ways.
The third man with influence would be her husband. Francis Colegrave arrived in Van Dieman’s Land on theCircassian 16 February 1833, having been tried at Huntingdon Lent Assizes 7 March 1832 on two indictments: one of stealing chests of tea valued 3 pound and the other of stealing wearing apparel. He was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years transportation. He received a Ticket of Leave in March 1839 and a conditional pardon 28 October 1841. This meant he was a free man at the time his wife-to-be applied for permission to marry him. Francis had only two offences while under sentence and was either reprimanded or admonished.
I feel Francis was the steadying influence in Isabella’s life but if it were not for her father, Baron Parke and Robert Legge and their reactions to her behaviour, she would not have arrived in Van Diemen’s Land to eventually become my great great great grandmother.
It was at St Mary Newington in Surrey on Monday 7 December in 4th year of Queen Victoria (1840) when Isabella Watkins was convicted of a felony using the name Mary Johnson. This record was found while I was visiting the National Archives at Kew in 1990. The reference was HO 27/65. But using England and Wales Criminal register 1791-1892, I could find no reference to her name being Isabella Watkins. Instead it was Mary Johnson (16) who was given three months imprisonment for larceny on this date.
A little over three months later, Isabella Watkins of the parish of St Mary Lambeth was charged on 15 March 1841 of stealing two shawls valued one pound from Isaac Atkinson and Thomas Coates who owned a shop on Westminster Bridge Road. This road in Surrey has Newington on one side and Lambeth on the other.
Two weeks later, she was tried at the Surrey Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation. According to her conduct record, she had been convicted before, serving three months for stealing a dress, 21 days for stealing stockings and two months for stealing dress material called Mousseline de Laine. Isabella stated ‘I lived the last two years by thieving.’  No more references to Isabella can be found in the criminal register for stealing stockings and dress material.
The newspaper report of her trial mentions she was a respectable looking young woman; maybe this was why she stole clothing, especially fancy dress material. But she was also a vocal individual. Baron Parke, the judge at her trial, was known to be a very straight speaking man and I noticed in other trials he presided over that repeat offenders were usually transported. He was looking after the tradespeople who had to be protected from others like Isabella.
Apparently Isabella and her soon to be husband Francis Colgrave were like minded in the way they treated the judge when he pronounced sentence upon them at court.
The convict transport Garland Grove had docked at the London Customs House at Woolwich in early April. Where had Isabella been held between her trial date and 12 April? The gaol report on her conduct record mentions she was bad but having searched records for many gaols in the area of London and Surrey, nothing has been found telling us where she was incarcerated. Isabella is also missing on the census taken on 6 June 1841; I now realise she would have been travelling down the Thames on the evening it was taken.
It was on 5 June 1841 when Isabella departed London, heading first to Gravesend then to the town of Deal near the area of the North Sea known as The Downs. This is where many ships would anchor until fair weather allowed them to sail out into the English Channel.
The barque Garland Grove, which was built in 1820, arrived in Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land on 10 October 1841. The master for this trip was William Forward and the surgeon superintendent was Robert Dobie. The trip took 109 days. Isabella must have had an uneventful voyage as she was not mentioned in the surgeon superintendent’s medical journal as having been in sick bay at all. But the surgeon’s report on her conduct record mentions she was bad. This must relate to her behaviour on board rather than her health. Despatches and newspapers dated up to 24 June were sent onboard from England; many related to the Corn Laws being discussed in Parliament at that time.
Upon arrival in Van Diemen’s Land, Isabella was probably one of the 80 convicts from the Garland Grove who were sent to Launceston as less than 4 months later she had committed her one and only offence noted on her conduct record below.
It was on 10 February 1842 when she was given one month hard labour at the Launceston House of Correction or Female Factory. This was for disobedience of orders and insolence while working for Mr Legge (most probably Robert Vincent Legge at Cullenswood near Fingal in north eastern Tasmania.) A decision was made by the Lieutenant Governor on 18 February 1842. The magistrate was probably William Franks who was based at Fingal and it was requested that Isabella be returned to Government service after she had finished her time in the factory.
The next piece of paper we find on her trail is that of her permission to marry. Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land had to apply to the Convict Department for permission to marry if they had not finished their sentence.
Permission to marry for Isabella Watkins, CON 52/1/2, p027 TAHO
Like many female convicts at that time, they were encouraged to marry about a year after arriving in VDL and so it was on 14 November 1842 that Isabella married Francis Coldgrave (Colgrave) from Evandale. They were married at the newly built St Thomas Anglican Church at Avoca.
Marriage certificate for Isabella Watkins, RGD 37/1/3 No 85/1842, District of Avoca, TAHO
St Thomas Anglican Church, Avoca taken by Sue Wyatt in May 2016
Over the next few years, the only times Isabella was mentioned in the newspapers was when gaining her ticket of leave in 1845, being recommended for her conditional pardon in 1846 and receiving that pardon in 1847.
In her 48 years of marriage to Francis, they raised a family of nine children (two daughters and seven sons). They remained in the district of Evandale where at one stage they ran a boarding house and mention was made in the local paper of a murder on the night of 17 February 1861.
They must have had a very loving and close relationship as Francis died on 24 October 1890 aged 85 and just over a week later Isabella died on 3 November aged 67.
But the questions still are:
Is she Isabella Watkins or Mary Johnson? Is she from Yorkshire or Surrey?
Maybe we will never know the answers but Isabella Watkins, either convict or free woman, raised a fine family, with hundreds of descendants still living in Tasmania today especially around Evandale.
 England and Wales Criminal register 1791-1892: Class: HO 27; Piece: 62; Page: 243 , 1840 Mary Johnsonviewed 17 May 2016
 The National Archives, ASSI 94/2329, Isabella Watkins, viewed June 1990
 TAHO, CON 40/1/10, p228, Conduct record Isabella Watkins
 British Newspapers 1600-1900, The Morning Post (London, England), Sunday, 31 March 1841, p 7 issue 21905, viewed 18 May 2016
 British Newspapers 1600-1900, The Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser, for Lancashire, Westmorland, &c. (Lancaster, England), Saturday, 24 March 1832, p 1 issue 1606, viewed 18 May 2016
 British Newspapers 1600-1900, The Morning Post, Tuesday 13 April 1841, Issue 21916, viewed 18 May 2016
 British Newspapers 1600-1900, The Morning Chronicle, Saturday 5 June 1841, Issue 22317; The Morning Chronicle, Saturday 19 June 1841, Issue 22329; The Standard, Thursday 24 June 1841, Issue 5309, all viewed 18 May 2016