This post was originally made in 2008 on a different blog site. I am not moving the essence, although not quite all the information, from that blog to this one.
I went to the Sydney Records office and looked up convicts, quarter session reports, probate records, colonial minutes and old newspapers. This gave me an insight to all sorts of particulars for the past of some of my ancestors and I now even have descriptions of some of my ancestors.
The convict, William Russell, who was described in barely legible writing as
“5’4″ sallow, fair, with hazel eyes a large raised mole on his left cheek, a woman on his left arm and a man and a woman on his right arm”
had me confused for a while as it was very hard to read the description and so it took me a while to get an idea that he had a couple of tattoo’s. At first I thought maybe he had been convicted with another woman- this was going to mean a lot more research, but happily no, he was probably just a particularly uninspiring person. It always amazes me just how particularly ugly some of my ancestors are- no wonder for years members of our family were though to be Maori- we have a photo of one woman who had the perfect Maori physique, but she wasn’t she was English.
So today, as I had to put the car in for service I thought I would catch the train to the city and go through the Lands Title Office looking for documents regarding land that some of my ancestors had purchase or been granted. This is an incredibly expensive exercise as I found out as a photocopy of any one document is $12.50 regardless of it being one page or twenty pages- all of mine averaged two pages each and one of those was half empty. Anyway suffice to say a number of documents later I came away with a smaller bank balance but extremely happy with a couple of hours to spare.
Right next door to the Lands Title Office is the Hyde Park Convict Barracks- having lived in Sydney most of my adult life but not grown up here I have never visited them so while I was in the area I just popped in to have a look- it was a really lovely experience- maybe not so much for the original inmates. However I got to see all the different phases of the building, including when it was used as the female immigration centre.
It is funny really for a person who has family who have been in Australia for as long as I have my family have missed all the land mark events and places. My kids have second fleet but not first, I have convicts, but they were quite boring and as it now appears ugly and once they got here they did nothing further wrong so they just sort of slip out of the records, my female ancestors came very early on in the female migration scheme so they missed being held at the barracks but they were not on the first ship to come out either so they don’t get studied very much. Then the ones that come here move around so much that they seem to be disconnected from the history of a place, occasionally they show up as a signature on a petition, or a photo, but they didn’t stay long enough to see anything go through- or they died. I guess like most families even now they just observed and let things pass them by only participating when events pretty much came up and knocked on their front door- they seemed to have had enjoyable lives though. I guess as Ray Bean says, no one pays any attention to history when they are too busy living it.