My Drover Ancestors - walking in footsteps

I've recently, through DNA matching, reinvestigated my Peach ancestors of the Maxey area of Northamptonshire.  The men of this family were usually recorded as drovers or shepherds.  Below for example, are some of my Peach drovers as they stayed for the night at an inn in Hoe, Norfolk during 1851. Young James there, walking livestock from the other side of the Fens, was the 20 year old younger brother of my 3rd great grandfather, David Peach.

The family lived for a number of generations, in the area of Stamford, Maxey, and Eye, in what was then the County of Northants, close to Peterborough.  It was the perfect base for the transportation of Welsh cattle, sheep, and other livestock, from the North and West, across the Fen droves, and down to the rich meadows, pastures, and marsh grasses of East Anglia, where livestock could be fattened, before then being driven down to markets including Smithfields in London. Before the railways, this livestock had to be transported the hard way - by foot along a number of trails and droves, that took in watering points, grazing, and were secure from gangs of rustlers.

Many drovers were young men, that later settled as shepherds and labourers.  They were travellers outside of their home areas.  Visitors to far away inns, markets, fairs, and parishes.  Maybe that was an attraction for some local girls, such as my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Ann Riches, of the South West Norfolk parish of Great Hockham.  These lads from far away, with strange accents.  Did she walk back with my 3rd great grandfather David Peach, all the way back to Northamptonshire?  They married at Holywell Lincolnshire, in 1835.  Sarah must have been heavily pregnant, because she gave birth to their daughter Ann Peach a few months later at Etton, Northants.

The livestock that these drovers were paid to walk many miles were often highly valuable, their monetary value far in excess of the personal value of a poor drover.  They had to be trusted to take care of them, and to behave with honesty.  It would be so easy to sell an animal on the journey, and to claim that it had died of natural causes.  Some drovers broke that trust.  In 1837, my 3rd great grandfather, David Peach, was convicted at Lincoln Assizes of stealing two cattle.  He was taken to a prison hulk ship moored into the Thames.  A few months later, he was transported for Life.  His convict ship stopped off at Norfolk Island, before then moving him to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) in 1838.  He was sent to the notorious hard labour Port Arthur convict settlement.  Some years later he was pardoned, but he was not granted licence to return to Britain.

Meanwhile, his young family suffered.  His wife Sarah Ann, with their young daughter, Ann Peach, returned to her family in Norfolk.  A wife of a convict, even if transported for Life, could not remarry.  She had to find means to survive and to raise Ann on her own.  She lived many years in the Norfolk market town of Attleborough, where she scraped a livelihood as a charwoman.  She had two further children.  One, she named David Wilson Peach.  Wilson, most likely the biological father - but she gave him her husband's first name.  Did she still harbour strong feelings for her far away husband?

Other male Peach's in the family continued to drove, as the above 1851 census reveals.  David was literally in another world.  Two of Sarah's siblings, Henry Riches and Maria Hudson (nee Riches), also migrated to Tasmania, albeit during the 1850s as volunteer settlers to the north of the Island.

Walking in footsteps

I had one of those time-traveller moments today.  It occurred to me, as I found a DNA match supporting my descent from these drovers, when I visited a website about them, how I on a personal level, have always been a long distance walker.  From sponsored long distance walks as a kid, until walking the Marriot's Way, and Boudicca Way in Norfolk only this year.  I absolutely love walking through the countryside.  Testing my endurance.  With a dog or two even better.  I've walked the Peddars Way twice, the Fen Rivers Way, the North Norfolk Coast Path, and the Weavers Way.  In 2016, I walked a part of the Pennine Way.  But all of those walks, some of them would have even crossed where my drover ancestors crossed.  With their dogs.  It's almost as though we have that hereditary link.  I'm the descendant of drovers and I walk.  Without knowing it, I have walked in their footsteps.

Here are some of my photos from my 2017 walks.  Perhaps some of these landscapes may not have been too dissimilar to the green lanes and landscapes that they knew (albeit without the huge open fields).

So maybe, just maybe, there is a link there.  The guy that just loves to walk through the East Anglian countryside all day, and those drovers of the Nineteenth Century.  The desire to walk and to explore.

My transported great great great grandfather

Discovery at Deptford

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Not actually the Justitia, but the Discovery Prison Hulk also at Woolwich around about the same period.

I'm using my free 14 day trial at, to see if I can pick up any new details for the family history.  Whenever I see an ancestor suddenly disappear out of the records from his wife and children, I tend to think either desertion or death.  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes there is another reason.  That is the lesson of today's story.

Back in the pre-Internet days when I carried out much of my genealogical research, I came across a bit of a puzzle on my grandmother Doris Brooker's (nee Smith) side of the family.  According to a marriage register and a 19th Century census, my great great grandmother Ann Smith was born circa 1835 in Lincolnshire, as Ann Peach.  That was as far as I got back in the days of traditional paper based genealogy.  In recent months, with my return to Genealogy within the Age of the Internet, I made a break through.  She was actually born 27th July 1835 at Etton, near to Peterborough, to a David and Sarah Peach.  Her mother Sarah, had been born as Sarah Riches at Hockham back in Norfolk.  Later, Sarah returned to Norfolk without David.  She and her daughter Ann appeared as servants in Attleborough, Norfolk, where young Ann met my great great grandfather Robert Smith.  Sarah worked in Attleborough as a char lady or washer woman for many years after.  She never appeared to marry again, but did go on to give birth to a few more children, that went on to carry the Peach surname.

So where did her husband David Peach go?  They were actually married four months before the birth of Ann, at Holywell in Lincolnshire.  How Sarah ended up there remains a mystery.  Few of my ancestors moved as far at that time.  I have not so far been able to trace his roots.  I was trying to do so, when I just browsed on the records at, that answered the question, where did my great great great grandfather David Peach go to?

The sources of the answer?  The UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books 1802-1849, and England & Wales, Criminal Registers 1791-1892.  David Peach had been convicted of cattle stealing in an assize court, on the 15th  July 1837.  He was found guilty. His punishment for the crime was Life Transportation.  In this case, it appears that he was first sent to serve as a prisoner, on a prison hulk ship, moored at Woolwich, London.  The ship that was to serve as his temporary prison, was the Justitia.  The prison hulk registers of the Justitia, record that he was 30 years old, was married, had stolen two steers, was literate, and was a shepherd by trade.  He had been incarcerated on the 27th September 1837, shortly after his trial in Lincoln.  Prisoners on the Justitia faced hard labour there, while awaiting transportation.  The prison hulk had been originally launched many years earlier as an East Indiaman named the Admiral Rainier.  It had been converted into a gun ship, an gun store ship, then finally, the old hulk was moored at the Woolwich Warren, and used to hold convicts in preparation for their transportation.

David was not held in the Justitia for long though.  On the 4th October 1837, he boarded the Neptune for transportation to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).  This was a 644 ton merchant ship built in 1815.  According to her Wikipedia entry: "On her first convict voyage, under the command of William Ferris and surgeon Joseph Steret, she departed Sheerness on the 7 October 1837 and arrived in Hobart on 18 January 1838.[3] She transported 200 male convicts, three of whom died en route.

So that is where he went!

Hobart town in 1841.  From the Tasmanian Archive on FlickrNo known copyright restrictions.

Did my transported ancestor survive the voyage?  Yes he did.  In 1841, he was recorded in the New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 list, as police number 1404, a convict from the Neptune, who was employed in service at the Port Arthur Convict Settlement in Tasmania.  According to the Wikipedia entry for Port Arthur: "From 1833, until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment. In addition Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.".

[Public domain] A convict team ploughing at Port Arthur.  Wikimedia commons

On the 18th July 1851.  David, residing at Longford, Northern Tasmania, was issued a conditional discharge.  He survived his transportation, forced labour, and life in a harsh convict settlement.  Did he manage to return to England?  I see no sign of him with Sarah.  My guess is that like many, he settled as a free man in Tasmania and died there.  I see no record of a ticket for leave.

Meanwhile back in England, his wife Sarah Peach nee Riches, and young daughter Ann Peach, returned to Sarah's family, who had moved from Hockham to the nearby market town of Attleborough in Norfolk.  Sarah had to survive and rear their daughter Ann with no husband.  She worked hard over the years as a servant, washer woman, and char woman in Attleborough.  She gave birth to at least two more children that carried the surname Peach.  One she christened as David, giving him his biological father's surname (Wilson) as a middle name.  She appears on the records as a hard working, strong, and independent woman.

Their daughter Ann went on to meet and wed local Attleborough boy Robert Smith.  For many years, they jointly ran a beerhouse in Attleborough named the Grapes.  Robert also worked as a bricklayer, and ran a builder supply yard from behind the Attleborough inn.

One of their children was Frederick Smith.  As a wheelwright, he moved to Norwich.  There he met a servant from South Norfolk called Emily Barber.  They married, and reared a family.  The youngest child was a Doris Emily Winifred Smith.  Her father would take her on business to East Dereham, where she met a young Reginald John Brooker.  End of this story.