This week we found some very interesting Australian Convict records on Find My Past and here’s the fascinating story that we’ll be presenting to our client shortly:-
Paul Peers was a very unusual name, so searches produced only a few results. His birthplace, Holt, Denbighshire, is thirteen miles from Tarporley, where he married Frances Vernon, and nine miles from Chester, Cheshire, where all his children were born.
Since Paul was born in 1789 he would have been about 51 when the first detailed national census was taken in 1841, so we expected to find him on that census and possibly the next in 1851. However, there was no sign of him, but his death record couldn’t be found either. This was puzzling until we discovered a brief newspaper article, and an entry on the Prison Registers. On 31st March 1818 a Paul Peers, aged 30, was convicted of sheep stealing in Chester. He was sentenced to life in New South Wales, and transported on 12th June 1818 on a ship called Justicia, which was moored in Woolwich. This means that his wife, Fanny, would have been left alone with five children, the youngest being just two months old when Paul was convicted.
According to Australian records, Paul arrived on 18 December 1818 aboard a different ship – the Lord Melville, under the care of his Master, who was called Wetherell. It is possible that the convicts had been transferred to another ship in Capetown, South Africa, as the ships often stopped there for fresh supplies. Paul had been a sawyer in his previous life in Cheshire and the records confirm that he had been born in Denbighshire.
Upon arrival in New South Wales, Paul was sent to assist the ‘Mount Dromedary Party’. Now known as Mount Gulaga, Mount Dromedary is a mountain located in the south coast region of New South Wales, Australia, within the Gulaga National Park. The first Europeans to discover the mountain were the crew of Captain Cook’s ship, HMS Endeavour on 21 April 1770. Cook named it thus as its shape reminded him of the hump of a camel.
Later, Paul was assigned to ‘public works’ and transferred to Maria Island, off the east coast of Tasmania. Three structures from the convict era remain on the island and could have been built by Paul: the Commissariat Store built in 1825 and presently used as the park’s reception and visitor centre; the convict penitentiary, completed in 1828 and now used to accommodate visitors rather than detain them; and the convict-built dam on Bernacchis Creek, which still provides water.
On 21 June 1827, a newspaper article in the Hobart Town Gazette, tells us that a Paul Peers was found guilty of stealing pine boards from the Government House in Hobart, Tasmania. The article doesn’t say what punishment he received for this crime, however, in 1842, Paul was awarded a Ticket of Leave, which was effectively parole. Ticket-of-leave men were permitted to marry, or to bring their families from Britain, and to acquire property, but they were not permitted to carry firearms or board a ship, and they were often restricted to a specific district stipulated on the ticket.
A convict who observed the conditions of his ticket-of-leave until the completion of one half of his sentence was entitled to a conditional pardon, which removed all restrictions except the right to leave the colony. Convicts who did not observe the conditions of their ticket could be arrested without warrant, tried without recourse to the Supreme Court, and would forfeit their property. The ticket of leave had to be renewed annually, and those with one had to attend muster and church services.
A year later, in 1843, Paul remarried in Tasmania and made Jane Burrell his second wife. At the time of the marriage he was a 50-year-old widower and she a 47-year-old widow.
And, happily, in 1845 Paul did indeed receive a conditional pardon. The document reads: Cause of Indulgence:- Having behaved in a very correct manner during the last five years, nearly three years and a half of which period he has held a ticket of leave.
We have not found any record of Paul’s death but we assume he died in Tasmania.
This research was carried out by the team at Family Detective. If you would like to know more about your ancestry and would like us to research it for you, please get in touch. Our website is here.