Sunday, January 23, 2011

Solving a family puzzle from 1788

With Australia Day fast approaching, our thoughts here are turning to the invitation from Twigs of Yore to post details of the earliest piece of documentation we have about an ancestor in Australia. 

We've put our thinking caps on (as my nan says) and remembered that the earliest document my family has is on our ancestor William Aldridge. He arrived in New South Wales in 1791 as a convict sentenced to transportation for seven years. My cousin, Neil Hall, discovered William's original trial document at the London Metropolitan Archives. It was sitting in a musty box in the archives' office in central London, and our guess is it hadn't been looked at for decades, maybe even a century or two. The document was dated 12 September 1788, and stated that William was tried and convicted of stealing a linen sheet "with force and arms". He spent two years on the hulk Justitia at Woolwich before being transported. 

Finding the original document was a breakthrough in our family research, as details of William's crime had eluded us for years! 


  1. Isn't it exciting when one finally locates a document that adds meat to the bones of a family tree.
    I think I need to add The London Metropolitan Archives to my list of places to visit on my next trip to the UK. Thanaks for the reminder.

  2. Our pleasure :) The London Archives have some terrific records, I hope you find some hidden gems!

  3. Imagine surviving 2 years in a hulk waiting to be transported.

  4. And then to survive the journey out as well. They were made of tough stuff weren't they.