Friday, 21 September 2012

A Family Convict - Sepia Saturday

 This post is really a work in progress inspired by Alan's convict.

 This is what I've discovered about a family black sheep.

At Cambridgeshire Lent Assizes on Wednesday 20 March 1844 before the Right Honourable James Lord Abinger

James Scarlett, First Baron Abinger (1769 -1844)
(Engraving by Henry Cousins 1837 after a painting by Sir Martin Shee, 1789-1850.)

The prisoners charged with offences committed within the Isle of Ely in the County of Cambridge were
  • Thomas Scotney, aged 20, a labourer from Stamford Lincolnshire
  • John James, aged 22, a labourer from March
"Committed November 24, 1843, by John Fryer, and John Richardson Fryer, Esqrs, charged on the oaths of James Southwell, and others, with having, on the 19th day of November inst. at the hamlet of March, feloniously assaulted him the said James Southwell and stolen from his person, one piece of  the current gold coin of the realm called a half sovereign, one other piece of the current silver coin of the realm called a sixpence, one canvas purse, and one clasp knife, his property.
The said Thomas Scotney and John James stand further committed at the same time by the same Magistrates, charged on the oaths of Wm. Everitt, and others, with having, on the 19th day of November inst, at the hamlet of March, feloniously assaulted him the said Wm. Everitt, with intent to steal his monies, goods and chattels.
The said Thomas Scotney and John James were also further committed March 2, 1844, by Lord Godolphin charged on the oath of William Thorpe, with having, on the 8th day of November last, at the parish of Elm, feloniously assaulted him the said William Thorpe, and stolen from his person seven pieces of the current coin of the realm called sovereigns, and one canvas purse of the value of threepence, his property

Thomas Scotney was convicted and sentenced to life and transportation. He became Convict Number 68445 and sailed from Woolwich on 9 July 1844 on the 669 ton barque Agincourt under Captain Hy Neatby. Agincourt arrived at Norfolk Island on 9 November 1844 and landed 224 convicts.

His record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records.

It merely says:

Thomas Scotney, one of 224 convicts transported on the Agincourt, 06 July 1844
Known aliases: none
Convicted at: Convicted at Cambridge Assizes for a term of life.
Sentence term: Life
Ship name: Agincourt
Departure date: 6th July, 1844
Place of arrival: Van Diemen's Land

Van Diemen’s Land is what we now know as Tasmania. Thomas disembarked at Norfolk Island, the small island in the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia used from 1824 as the place to send “the worst description of convicts.” The second penal settlement began to be wound down by the British government after 1847, and the last convicts were removed to Tasmania in May 1855. 

I have managed to trace Thomas on the Tasmanian Archives Online locating his conduct record.

Agincourt Record Book

His conduct record in the Agincourt book tells a sorry tale.

Conduct Record - Thomas Scotney
 Unfortunately it is very difficult to read even online. I have managed to decipher parts of the faded writing. It states his trade as Stone Mason, records his religion as Church of England and says he can read and write. He has been transported for “Highway Robbery with violence, his first conviction. It states he was tried for Highway Robbery with John James.

“Period of Labour” is given as 30 months and the “Station of Gang” as Norfolk Island. The section on “Offences and Sentences” show he was far from a model prisoner. As early as June 1846 he was punished for misconduct. He was often absent without leave when he had been moved to work with Tasmanian families in Hobart; he was guilty of larceny in 1856 for which he received 6 months hard labour. The last record for 1861 reports him to have been drunk and disorderly.

So far I have been unable to find out what happened to him, but I’m still digging in the records.
I have been unable to locate Thomas in the first UK census of 1841 but a number of Scotneys lived in Stamford at that time icluding some in my family tree. There is even another younger Thomas living in All Saints Place which must have looked far better than Norfolk Island or Tasmania to the family convict.

All Saints Church, Stamford, Lincolnshire - 1990s
 All Saints Place is behind and round the church.


JJ said...

What fabulous research! This is most interesting. Thank you.

Wendy said...

Man! They were really tough on crime in 1844. To be sent all the way from England to Norfolk Island seems extreme for a crime that sounds a bit like a common mugging by today's standards. Anyway, I welcome the company of fellow-bloggers sharing stories about our criminal ancestors.

Postcardy said...

Great research. Whoever wrote his name at the top of the page in the book had beautiful handwriting.

Peter said...

I envy you for having a convict in the family! A very good read, thank you.

Michael J. McCann said...

Abinger looks like he would have been a formidable figure for a 20-year-old to be dragged before. Highway robbery was a very serious offense, but it's a shame a young man had that kind of start to adulthood. Fascinating post. Thanks!

Kristin said...

Very interesting. A highway man. The poem immediately came to mind although the live of Thomas was hardly the romantic image in the poem.

Titania said...

Bob, a fantastic research, all the way to Tasmania. Norfolk Island must have been the worst place for a prisoner. No wonder he was disorderly. It would be faboulous if you could find out what happend after he served his sentence.

Alan Burnett said...

Sometimes family history is interesting because it is your family and in a way it is about you. But sometimes family history is fascinating even if it isn't your family because it is part detective novel and part social history lesson. This is what makes programmes like "Who Do You think You Are" so successful and this is what makes your post so fascinating.

Howard said...

Truly fascinating, I do hope you can find out more about him.

aw said...

A fascinating story, Bob. We never know what we might uncover when we start to resaerch our ancestors and often the documents just don't seem to be avaiable. Good luck with taking this further. Good detective work.

ScotSue said...

I would love to have such a black sheep in my family. It makes for such a good leeson in research techniques, in varied source material, and finally a fascinating story. A great detective hunt along the ancestral trail.

Christine H. said...

What an incredible story. I think this call for a research trip to Tasmania, don't you?

Kathy Morales said...

I admire what you have discovered so far in your research. A sad tale. Everything taken from him and no hope for the future it seems.

barbara and nancy said...

That is such a sad story. The punishment certainly didn't fit the crime in his case.
But his sentence seemed to have affected him for the worse. Unless he was just naturally incorrigible.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - amazing that you've managed to trace Thomas ... fascinating search - and then letting us read 'all about it' ... I hope you can find more and trace ancestors and relatives in Australia ...

At least Scotney is a good name when doing research ...

Fascinating read ... and I've answered your BBC questions on my blog ...

Cheers Hilary


The judicial system has certainly changed over time as such offenses are now looked at as almost minor offences... Now they have gym, cable, internet, conjugal visits, etc...
and during their trial, they are set as the victims!! Honestly!!!
I would gladly ship some to far away places for some true hardship.
But as far as your post goes,
this was really entertaining!!

Little Nell said...

Alan took the words right out of my ....mind. As I was reading your account of your highwayman ancestor, I thought about the 'Who Do You Think You Ae?' link too. Witnessing how celebrites are brought up short when they find these skeletons in the cupboard always amuses me, but I do feel sympthy too. I hope it wasn't too much of a shock!

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

Tasmanian devil came to mind as I read this. I think the USA is going to have to find an island to ship our criminals to as it is said the prisons are over flowing and these are for deadly crimes. I enjoyed this muchly.

Tattered and Lost said...

Geez, he wasn't even given three strikes. Amazing how judicial punishment has been handed out over time. I know of a fellow who committed a heinous crime who only served 4 years and 3 months in prison. My feeling is he should have spent the rest of his life in prison, but the judge took a liking to him. Your poor relative obviously did not impress the judge.

Jana Last said...

Wow! This is quite a story! And quite a sad tale indeed. Hope you are able to find out just whatever became of him. That would make for an interesting follow-up post.

Mike Brubaker said...

Such a change from your usual post, Bob and as I read about your research I recognized that I already knew this story. I am halfway through "The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes which describes these same early voyages of British felons to Australia. The author makes great use of first hand quotes and it's one of best histories I read. Those first transported colonists were literally being sent to the moon, as no one had a clue about the reality of Australia. Very different from the history of criminals sent to America. I hope you can discover more on Thomas, as his story sounds like it deserves to be told.

Christine Nicholds said...

I have a transcribed the Agincourt's Surgeon's Journal if you are interested and I'm am quite happy to send you a copy. My convict on board was Joseph Castelow.