One of the quainter ways the G.O. expresses his appreciation of me is the by the reassuring accolade “you’re a good missus”… However, I’m not even remotely in the league of one of his great-great-great-great grandmothers, Harriet Hodgetts.
While the convicts of the Second Fleet were waiting to depart England the Home Secretary, William Grenville sent a letter to Lieutenant John Shapcote aboard the Neptune advising due to vacant berths there was some capacity for prisoners wives to have passage to the colony. Ordinarily not allowed, however Thomas Hodgetts and his wife listed as Harriet Hodgetts were beneficiaries of this circumstance. Harriet was one of six free women allowed to travel in this instance as convict spouses to New South Wales.
Her husband Thomas Hodgetts was convicted of theft in 1788 and sentenced to death, the sentence being commuted to seven years imprisonment and transportation to New South Wales. Thomas and Harriett Hodgetts arrived at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia in June 1790 on ships of the Second Fleet. Thomas as a convict on board the “Scarborough” and Harriet as a free woman on board the “Neptune”.
If the times and life Thomas and Harriett left behind in England were harsh, their journey to the other side of the world was more so, with the mortality rate of the Second Fleet the highest in the history of transportation to Australia. The ships were contracted to private businesses who kept the convicts in awful conditions, treating them brutally. Of the 1026 convicts due to disembark in NSW 267 died. Of those who managed to complete the journey 486 were described as lean and emaciated many needing medical attention, with 124 dying shortly after.
Thomas and Harriet are described in the book The Brave Old Pioneers. A History of the Hodgetts Family In Australia.
“Convict Thomas Hodgetts & his wife Harriet, who was one of the first free women to come to Australia, survived the notorious Second Fleet to become respectable citizens and pioneers in a strange and challenging land.”
Such was the beginning of Thomas & Harriet’s new life together. They remained in Sydney until Thomas’ sentence expired in March 1795, thereafter he was free to work and apply for land grants. In July 1800 they moved to Norfolk Island, returned to Sydney in July 1805, in 1810 moved to Pitt Town on the Hawkesbury River, and finally to Tasmania in 1819 where they remained. During this time Thomas and Harriet had 10 children.
Thomas died suddenly in 1823, age 62 leaving his wife, eight children and fourteen grandchildren. Harriet stayed on at the farm at Longford where she died at 85 years of age in 1850.
The life Thomas and Harriet began anew was up summed by Tom Keneally in his book The Commonwealth of Thieves.
“Male convicts were suddenly told that they could bring their wives on the voyage, if they chose, but only three women and three children turned up at Portsmouth by 21 December. Three of four other women embarked in the following days, interesting volunteers, lovers of various convicts, willing to take the step, on the eve of Christmas, into the void.
Amongst them was Harriet Hodgetts, wife of a 24-year-old blacksmith-cum-burglar from Staffordshire, Thomas Hodgetts. She had followed her husband down from Staffordshire to London, where she lived with their three small children in acute squalor in Whitechapel. It seems that the church wardens and overseers of the parish of St Mary’s Whitechapel took an interest in her case and were anxious to get Harriet aboard, since she had no other prospects at all.
That made her fit for New South Wales. Her revenge was to live till 1850 and to give birth to nine colonial children.”
With grandchildren of his own the G.O.’s family has 8 generations born in Australia descended from Thomas & Harriet.
Generation 1: Thomas & Harriet’s eldest living daughter Mary Maria (1795-1844) married Thomas Graham (1794-1862), son of the G.O.’s other 2 convict ancestors Eupham (sometimes referred to as Elizabeth) Graham and Matthias (often referred to as Matthew) Lock and who were described in one bit of research as “Australian Royalty“.
Generation 2: Frederick Albert Graham, son of Thomas Graham and Mary Maria Hodgetts was born at Wilberforce in 1841. He married Annie Maria Organ (1842-1905) in 1862 at Bukkulla. They had 12 children. Frederick died in 1924, age 82 and is buried at Inverell, as is Annie Maria.
Generation 3: Ernest Richmond Graham, son of Frederick Albert Graham and Annie Maria Organ was born at Inverell in 1885. In 1906 Ernest married Amanda Maria (sometimes recorded as Marie) Kachel (1886-1968) of German free settlers, who the G.O. remembers and refers to as Old Mummy. They also had 12 children most of them known to the G.O. Ernest died in 1960 age 75 and is buried at Urunga with Old Mummy.
Generation 4: Thelma May Graham (1906-1992), is the G.O.’s grandmother. May is buried at Coffs Harbour with the G.O.’s grandfather, Vincent who died in 1963 age 59 years.
There is some mystery attached to this story. One of the crimes Thomas was convicted of was reported as stealing a cotton gown valued at ten shillings, being the property of William and Ann Duce at Wednsbury in Staffordshire, purportedly his in-laws as there are suggestions that Thomas may have been married to a woman named Ann Duce at the time of his conviction, and had 3 children, who did not accompany them on the voyage. Harriet’s name has been recorded variously as “Duce”, Henrietta Ann (Harriet) Luce and Harriet Henrietta. Her headstone records her name as Henaretta Hodgetts.
In A Great Second Fleet Mystery-the Hodgetts Family Nola Mackey, a Historian whose husband’s family is also descended from Thomas and Harriett Hodgetts writes:
“Similarly I have been able to identify his wife, Ann, and their reputed children. By tracing these forward in time, I found no evidence they emigrated to Australia at a later time. In fact they remained in their native place and some of them can be found in the census records, some sixty years later.
It has been suggested Thomas’s wife Ann, changed her name to ‘Harriet’ and came to Australia leaving the children behind. As I can now prove this was not the case, it raises the question, who was the woman who came on the Second Fleet, and later claimed to be ‘Harriet Hodgetts’ the wife of Thomas Hodgetts?”
With the advent of the internet and various ancestry and genealogy websites, depending on the depth of research you want to undertake, web searches can offer up information previously only obtainable via considerable effort, research and cost. It was during a period of Google-based family history research on my mother’s family which morphed into the G.O.’s paternal grandmother May’s ancestry that I stumbled across what many Australians consider family history gold – convicts. Should you endeavour to undertake this type of research be prepared to get side tracked and spend endless time clicking on links and sources leading you to snippets of various information which do not necessarily exactly correlate necessitating the approximation and cobbling together of a story. With more material coming to light be prepared for revisions, updates and sometimes conflicting & varying information and versions.