The families that sailed far, far away

Above painting of a British passenger clipper that sailed the route to Australia.

Researching not just direct ancestry, but the branches down, I come across so many stories.  The story of my own lines is usually the one of those that stayed at home.  I have previously published the story of one of my direct ancestors, David Peach, that was forced through the process of convict transportation to leave home for Tasmania in 1837.

Recent research into what happened to the descendants of ancestral siblings has revealed another new story, of those that didn't stay at home.

My mother's family board the Epaminondas 

My 4th great uncle Thomas Thacker, was born in Salhouse, Norfolk in 1825 - the older brother of my 3x great grandmother, Susannah Thacker. Thomas married Mary Ann Emerson, and at the age of 26, with his wife and two young sons John and Walter, sailed for three months on the clipper Epaminondas to Port Adelaide, Australia. They berthed on Christmas Eve 1853.

The Launceston Immigration Aid Society 1855 - 1862

A group of congregationalists and anti-transportationists in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and Victoria formed this society, with the aim of attracting respectable and hard working new settlers to Van Diemen's Land, through a bounty resettlement scheme.  My father's ancestor David Peach, was a transported convict in Van Diemen's Land at this time, serving a life sentence after being found guilty at the Lincoln Assizes, of stealing two steers.  This new scheme hoped to attract "men and women who would leaven the labouring classes and become part of a stock that would supply the ever-increasing wants of a new and fertile country".  The Society focused on the rural labouring classes of East Anglia.

The Reverend Benjamin Drake sailed from Victoria to Eastern England in order to interview and select suitable migrants for the scheme.  Drake visited South-West Norfolk.  There he encountered members of my ancestral family from father's side.

My father's family board the Whirlwind

The Riches family had moved to Great Hockham, Norfolk, from the nearby parish of Old Buckenham.  Benjamin Riches was an agricultural labourer, born at Old Buckenham in 1779.  His wife Elizabeth Riches (nee Snelling) had given birth to at least nine children at Great Hockham between 1805 and 1825.

Drake must have interviewed some of their offspring at Hockham.  He offered a bounty resettlement package to Benjamin's son, my 4th great uncle, Henry Riches, his wife Harriet Riches (nee Hubbard), and to their three young sons, George, John, and Henry Riches.  They accepted.  Not only that, but an offer was made to Henry's older sister Maria Hudson (nee Riches), and to her family.  The two families, that most likely had never seen a ship, or had travelled more than a few miles, made their way from Norfolk to Plymouth over the 1854 Christmas holidays.  There they were to board a fast clipper ship called the Whirlwind.  The clipper embarked from Plymouth on the 4th January 1855, and made a fast 86 day passsage, and arrived at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land on the 5th April.  It wasn't all plain sailing however.  Read this, it doesn't sound good:

The emigrants have passed through a fearful ordeal. An accident to the rudder compelled the commander to put into Portsmouth, where the necessary repair could have been effected in a few hours, had not the use of the empty government dock been denied by the official personage in charge who eats the salt of that nation whose funds furnished the accommodation.

Scarletina broke out: its victims were removed to an inhospitable hulk, for which the British government charged a high price, forgetful of the first duties of humanity; inclement weather aggravated the disease, which assumed a serious type, and carried off a number of victims. Twenty- three died on the passage, and although the survivors are healthy and robust, the loss of relatives and friends casts a shade of sorrow on the enterprise. We deeply sympathise with the bereaved, and the painful circumstances in which Mr. Drake has been placed must evoke the kindest feelings of his friends. His was no mercenary mission, and though he may not calculate on the gratitude of those he has sought to benefit by a removal from comparative penury to immediate plenty and ultimate affluence, he has earned their respect, and will secure the esteem of the colonists. His position has been one of great responsibility, much risk, incessant anxiety, and no profit. When years have elapsed, he may expect adequate acknowledgment from those he has served, and not till then.

The captain, too, has had his trials: his crew have been in a state of insubordination in consequence of the proper and rigidly enforced rules that excluded the seamen from intercourse with the emigrants, and the sailors have, at the conclusion of the voyage, struck. The misguided men will soon learn that here their misconduct will not be countenanced—that punishment will visit the refractory—that extravagant pay no longer prevails, and that the gold-diggers, on the average, do not make ordinary wages.

We trust the hopes of the emigrants have not been unduly elated, and that they will be prepared to accommodate themselves, as thousands more affluent have done before them, to the exigencies of a new country. The farm labourer and mechanic will not be carried off by force at any wage they may demand: the unmarried females will not be surrounded by sighing lovers, solicitous to make then brides. Australia is a land where privations must be endured, and hard work encountered. At the end of the vista, which is not long, there is settlement and independence to the industrious, the economical, and sober. Every young woman will find a husband in process of time, but before she obtain a good one she must show by her behaviour she deserves him. Everything will be new to the emigrants; they must be surprised at nothing, and become quickly reconciled to the condition of the colony. If they display those qualifications of temper and aptitude which make people uselul they will be appreciated, and experience consideration and kindness from their employers, who will in general promote their welfare to the utmost. We repeat, hard work, frugality, and sobriety for a time will inevitably lead to independence; but those who seek the latter by the shortest line must be prepared to "rough it" for a season.

LAUNCESTON EXAMINER, Tuesday, April 3, 1855.

What intrigues me is that they had a relative already in Tasmania.  They must have known about him.  He was David Peach, Henry and Maria's brother-in-law.  David was married to their sister Sarah Peach (nee Riches).  He may have been on the other side of the island.  He had been transported to Holbart, then moved to Port Arthur, some 17 years earlier.  Did they ever meet?  He had been pardoned four years before the Riches arrived, but not granted Leave.  It was a Life sentence.  Did he manage to communicate with his wife, and daughter that he had left behind?  Did they get word of him back to their sister Sarah?

Two years after her husband was transported away, my 3rd great grandmother Sarah, now living in Attleborough, Norfolk, gave birth to a son.  She named him David Wilson Peach.  I'd hazard to guess that a Mr Wilson was the biological father.  However, she named him after her husband - David Peach.  She was trapped.  She could not remarry (although ironically the transported convicts could).  She worked hard the remainder of her life as a washer woman in Attleborough.

My mother's family board the Solway

Several years after the Whirlwind sailed from Plymouth, more of my family entered another ship under the same scheme.  My mother's family mainly lived at this time in the area of East Norfolk.  However, somehow, two sisters ended up working in service in South West Norfolk.  A family friend?  A trade fair?  They were both born to Thomas and Mary Ann Jarmy, who were parents-in-law of a fourth uncle of mine.  The Jarmy family lived for a while in Salhouse, Norfolk.  Although located in the Norfolk Broads, to the north east of the City of Norwich, two daughters gained employment in service in households in South West Norfolk.  In 1861, Mary Jarmy was a 25 year old cook at the local vicarage in Hockham.  Her younger sister Emily Jarmy, lived a few miles away, working as a 15 year old house servant in the household a butcher in East Harling, called Fred Jolly.

In 1861, settlers from local labouring families were selected, although Drake himself was not involved this time.  However, Hockham had clearly become known to the Society, as one of their East Anglian recruiting spots.  Mary, working in the vicarage was in the perfect place, at the right time.  My guess is that she messaged her little sister in nearby East Harling.  The recruiters wanted settlers that were "respectable and really useful persons - as far as it is possible to judge".  I believe that the father of the two sisters, Thomas Jarmy, a shepherd born 1812 in Salhouse, Norfolk, may have been imprisoned twice for larcony.  If this was the case, I'd guess that the sisters were careful to hide this past.

The Solway sailed the two sisters into Melbourne harbour on the 7th March 1862, and then they quickly boarded The Black Swan, which arrived at Launceston, Tasmania, a few days later.  En route, it appears that Mary had a friendship with Robert Mickleborough from Old Buckenham, Norfolk.  They were to marry in 1862.

Links / Sources

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.