Working on the Court of Quarter Sessions, Registers of Cases has revealed some very interesting characters and information about the Court systems especially when it comes to sentencing. Trying to decipher and read the names of the prisoners has taken us into a range of resources and situations and this has been especially so with a register from 1843. The sentencing has plunged us back into the world of convicts, penal settlements and transportation and the opening up of the police records and histories of thirty four men just in box 2919.

In this register we found thirty four men all receiving sentences of transportation beyond the seas. Their condition prior to their conviction can usually be found in the gaol admissions registers, recorded as CF [Came Free], Bond or FS [Free by Servitude]. Only seven of the thirty four had arrived in New South Wales as free immigrants and in their cases, this would have been their first experience of transportation. For the Twenty seven other transportees this was usually their second transportation sentence; however for six in this group, it was their third or fourth transportation sentence. Many of the prisoners went on to further trials and often received numerous transportation sentences, each time moving to another penal settlement.

The Offences were largely larceny and possessing firearms. The possession of firearms often brought transportation for life and offences of larceny, burglary, housebreaking and sheep stealing received seven to 15 years transportation with 7 years being the most common. If the convict was already under sentence the new sentence was added to the old. If the convicts were moved eventually to Tasmania as their expected final destination, they would usually be granted a certificate of freedom or conditional pardon in Tasmania at the end of their accumulated sentences.

A convict named John Buchan Buchanan arrived in Tasmania in 1846 and was granted a Certificate of Freedom in New South Wales in 1843 at the completion of his original 14 year sentence. Across the certificate it is written: “Certificate was issued in error; 24 November 1834, 2 years at Morton Bay; Maitland Quarter Sessions again transported 1843 to Van Diemen's Land” (New South Wales State Archives and Records Authority, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Series: Butts of Certificates of Freedom: Number: NRS 12210, Microfilm Reel: 1013: Certificate of Freedom Number: 43/573). He did eventually receive a Freedom Certificate in Tasmania in 1850 but reoffended and tried at Hobart Quarter Sessions in 1855. He was transported once again for life and removed “across the seas” to serve two years’ probation at Port Arthur.

Following the transportees across the various seas to their new penal settlements has revealed a very active and extensive recordkeeping of convict criminal and personal histories. Four of the prisoners’ sentences specified Van Diemen's Land, with rest generalising to a Penal Settlement (PS). The direct Van Diemen's Land group were taken to Hobart soon after their trials in late 1843 & early 1844. The Penal Settlement group usually spent time on Cockatoo Island or the hulk Phoenix in Sydney Harbour then transferred to Norfolk Island in 1844 and Tasmania in 1846 to complete their sentence.

John Buchan Buchanan’s records certainly reveals the extent of the recordkeeping and the extent of the sharing between different agencies and penal settlements at the time. Looking for John Buchanan’s history, I first went to his Tasmanian convict records digitised on the site of the Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office. He has three Convict Conduct Records, which document his time under sentence in Tasmania. What I found is really interesting for anyone who is looking for records and information about New South Wales and Norfolk Island convicts transported on to Tasmania. At the beginning of John’s Convict Conduct Record is the heading “Extracts from Sydney Records” The extract includes his original trial and transportation dates, further trial details and sentences, any offences he committed whilst under sentence and the sentences. The rest of the record goes onto document his time in Tasmania including where, when and to whom he was assigned for work; any offences, trials and sentence; his levels of freedom such as Tickets of leave, Probation Passes and Freedom Certificates. If the convict had been on Norfolk Island  and moved to Tasmania, their Convict Conduct Record would also have a heading “Extracts from Norfolk Island Records” documenting briefly their time at the penal settlement. From looking at a number of these extracts I was taken by the number of lashes metred out as punishment for committing “Colonial Offences”, especially in New South Wales.

John Buchanan’s history is quite complex and he certainly travelled between the penal settlements to serve a number of transportation sentences. I could follow his journey through many documents found through The National Archives of Scotland, New South Wales State Archives and Records, Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office and Queensland State Archives. Each document revealed both his criminal and personal history.

A brief summary: John Buchan Buchanan, a smith and engineer, was tried at the Glasgow Court of Justiciary in 1828, convicted of burglary and sentenced to 14 year’s transportation. He arrived in Van Diemen's Land in December 1828 per the convict ship Roslyn Castle.

In February 1834 he was tried in Launceston, Tasmania, convicted of bushranging with three others and sentenced to Death. The others were all executed but because the wrong name had been entered onto Buchanan’s death warrant his execution was held over. The Court decided to commute the death sentence to 14 year’s transportation. He was transported to New South Wales per the Moffatt in May 1834, placed on the Phoenix hulk and then discharged to Hyde Park Barracks awaiting assignment.

In November 1834 he was tried at Maitland Quarter Sessions, New South Wales on the charge of assault and attempting to commit a rape, convicted and sentenced to 2 year’s transportation. He was placed in Newcastle Gaol, sent to Sydney per the Isabella, placed on the hulk Phoenix and eventually in January 1835 transported to Morton Bay Penal Settlement.

In 1836 he was returned to Sydney per the boat “Betty”, placed on the Phoenix and into Hyde Park Barracks once again for assignment. In 1842 he was moved from Hyde Park Barracks to Pinchgut Island as a second class prisoner.

August 1843 we find him once again in Sydney Quarter Sessions convicted of larceny and transported, again, for seven years. He arrived in Hobart, Tasmania in September 1843 per the Sir John Byng. His Tasmanian Convict Conduct Record 33/1/91, Image 38, details his assignments, offences and punishments. In March 1849 he was once again convicted of an assault on a girl under ten years old. His transportation sentence was extended by two years and he was “To be forwarded to Norfolk Island & placed under the most rigid & separate treatment until his transportation sentence expires. Vide Lieut Govrs Decisn [See Lieutenant Governor's Decision] Colonial Office 29/1/49” (TAHO: Conduct Registers of Male Convicts arriving under Assignment System on Non-Convict Ships and on Strength in November 1844, CON35/1/1, Image 85).Back in Tasmania he was granted a Free Certificate in 1850 and married Sarah Emma Pendergrass Bell in 1853. They had two children, lived at Battery Point, Hobart and John worked as a smith and engineer.

In May 1855, he was once again before Hobart Town Quarter Sessions, this time charged with breaking and entering a dwelling house and stealing therein, two counts. He received a life sentence and sent for a probation period of six years to Port Arthur. Once out of Port Arthur in 1863, on assignment, he continued to commit larceny but in September 1865 he was granted a Colonial Conditional Pardon on the condition: “To be granted CCP [Colonial Conditional Pardon] if he leaves the Colony 29.8.65…. Produced receipt for passage to Sydney” (TAHO: Convict Conduct Record 37/1/8, Image 283 (1855-1865)). He travelled to New South Wales per the Waratah.

In the 1870s Buchanan was convicted twice before the Central Police Court both times for larceny and received sentences of imprisonment. On both occasions he spent his sentences in Darlinghurst Gaol and was described at release as an elderly man.

In 1882 he was admitted to Liverpool Asylum as infirmed, destitute, aged 78 years and an engineer. He remained there until he died aged 80 years in December 1885.

An interesting journey can be found if you keep thinking laterally. It is well worth digging out as many government documents as you can find as each reveals more to the history of these people.

 

References:

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Sydney Quarter Sessions: NRS 847, [5-2919], Reel 3631

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: The Phoenix Hulk Entrance Books: 1833-1837, Volumes 4/6286 and 4/4535

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: The Phoenix Hulk Weekly Transportation Entrance Books: 1834-1837, Volume 4/4535

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: The Phoenix Hulk Official Returns: 1836, Volume 4/7026

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: The Phoenix Hulk Official Returns: 1836, Volume 4/7026

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Gaol Descriptions and Entrance Books: 1818-1830, NRS 2519; Item 4/6442; Reel 854

State Archives & Records of New South Wales: Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930: NRS 2134; Item 1905; Reel 270

State Archives & Records of New South Wales: Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930: NRS 2134; Item 1912; Reel 272

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Butts of Certificates of Freedom, NRS 2519; Item 43/573; Reel 1013

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Convicts Transported for Colonial Offences 1832-1853, NRS 2372, Volume 4/4523

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Convicts Transported for Colonial Offences 1818-1930, NRS 2372, Volume 2/2020, Reel 137

State Archives and Records of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Convicts Transported for Colonial Offences 1818-1930, NRS 2372, Volume 2/2020, Reel 137

State Archives & Records of New South Wales: Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Surgeon Superintendent Weekly Report: 1877-1883: NRS 4946; Reel 1398

State Archives & Records of New South Wales: Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia: Surgeon Superintendent Weekly Report: 1877-1883: NRS 4951; Reel 1399

The National Library of Australia: TROVE: The Sydney Morning Herald 02/03/1875, page 2

The National Library of Australia: TROVE: The Evening News 08/07/1878, page 2

The National Library of Australia: TROVE: The Colonist and Van Diemen's Land Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser: 18/3/1834, page 3

Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Convict Conduct Records 33/1/91, Image 38

Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Conduct Registers of Male Convicts arriving under Assignment System on Non-Convict Ships and on Strength in November 1844, CON35/1/1, Image 85

Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Convict Conduct Record 37/1/8, Images 176 and 283

Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Marriages in the District of Hobart: 1853: RGD37/1/12, number 632

Tasmania Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Births in the District of Hobart: 1854: RGD33/1/5, number 1167

The National Archives UK: Kew, Surrey, England: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania: List of Convicts: Class HO 10, Piece 47, 1830

The National Archives UK: Kew, Surrey, England: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania: List of Convicts: Class HO 10, Piece 48, 1832

Queensland State Archives: Queensland Prison and Reformatory Indexes 1824-1936: Register of Prisoners, part 1: Item 869689, page 89, QSA Reference: SRS5653/1/1, Microfilm Number: Z7857

 

 

 

 

 


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].