Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Longtime readers of this blog might remember my astonishment on discovering, in the course of an enthusiastic rummage through the online NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages records, a pair of five-greats grandparents who were both First Fleeters -- one convict, one Marine -- and who married on Norfolk Island in 1790, had a bunch of sprogs, were given some land and lived to a ripe old age. I'd always thought that my dad's family were the serious pioneers and I was a bit sad that my mum didn't live long enough to discover that her family, via her own father, was several generations more Australian even than my dad's.

Googling around to find out as much about them as I could, I came upon the Jane Langley Descendants Association -- apparently there are something like twelve thousand such descendants -- and immediately joined, and have been getting their newsletter plus information provided by other genealogy enthusiasts ever since. Today I fished a full envelope of this stuff out of the mailbox. Usually when there are photos in it, they are baby photos of tenth-generation members, taken less than a year ago, but today I was leafing through the various family trees and came upon a Depression-era photo of four women: my second? third? cousin Eileen, my great-aunt Florence, my great-grandmother Ellen aka Granny McGuinness, and my great-great-grandmother Caroline.

I'd never seen photos of any of them before. Florence, even in a bad reproduction of an old photo, is unmistakably my Grandad's sister: same tall stature, long face, swarthy complexion and thick, curly, wild, dark hair. (My mum inherited this hair, except in her own mother's flaming red.) The transcript of Jane Langley's trial for theft at the Old Bailey in September 1785 says

(The transcript suggests that Jane wuz framed by this drunken "gentleman" trying to explain how he'd lost his money, but I would say that, wouldn't I.)

The girth of Granny McGuinness explains a lot.

Oh well.


iODyne said...

"I would know the woman if I was to see her among a thousand"

A while back The Age ran photos of Peter Costello's ancestor of 100 years ago, and he was a clone.
It was hilariously as if the Pete we know was costumed for a joke.
Possibly the only funny thing about him ever, really.

Of course a lot of Transportees were the victims of sloppy admin, corrupt policing, and inadequate defence. Are we lucky as a result, to be Australian instead of English?

Elisabeth said...

My husband's ancestor, William Hanscombe was also a convict, and came out on the Oceania in 1822, not a first fleeter but not so far off.

What joy we have had exploring and imagining his past in Bathurst and Bega, after he been tried in the Cambridge assizes in Melbourn, England for theft of one ham, several pieces of silver cutlery, and an overcoat. He was sentenced to death but the sentence was later reduced to transportation to Australia for life.

Prior to my husband's genealogical explorations, his parents and their generation it seems had been ashamed of their ancestry and kept it to themselves.
Now we are proud to have been descended from convict stock. Quite a turnaround.