James Alfred and Emily Amelia Jones

James Alfred Jones (b 1871, Surrey, England) and Emily Amelia Hayes (b 1873, Cressy, Tasmania) were my great grandparents. They married in Longford, Tasmania in 1895 and are buried at the Holy Trinity Church, Cressy, Tasmania.

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James arrived in Tasmania in 1872 as an infant with his mother Mary Ann (nee Davis) and father Alfred. Alfred migrated to work on the railway and was among many others who came to make a new life. According to his obituary, James spent his early life at Oatlands. Emily, the daughter of James and Mary Ann (Freeman) was born near Cressy on a farm called Parknook.

They had seven children: Owen James (b 1895), Rebecca (b 1898) who died an infant, Edith Evelyn (b 1898), William Leonard (b 1900), Ella Grace (b 1903), Leslie Arthur (b 1905) and my grandfather Cyril George (b 1910). I can remember Auntie Ella and Uncle Les. Auntie Ella and her husband Jack Ambrose ran one of the pubs at Deloraine for a time. Uncle Les and his wife Anne lived in Cressy and I would visit them as a child – their house was lovely, cool and dark.

In 1914, James Alfred and Emily Amelia were living at Connorville, a large farming property near Cressy, she undertaking domestic duties and he a labourer. My grandfather would have been 4 at this time. For anyone with an interest in history written about the haves rather than the have-nots, there is a section on the O’Connors and Connoville in this document on page 19 – beware it is contemporary to the time it was written and by no means politically correct by today’s standards. Still, it gives an understanding to the general feel about who was important in the early days of the colony, and specifically the Cressy and Bishopsbourne area, and who was not. My family is only notable in our absence. Interestingly Arthur O’Connor married Miss Parker, of Parknook. Parallels for James and Emily.

Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980

James and Emily were also publicans at one point, running the Ringwood Hotel in Cressy, from 1921 until James died. Cyril and his wife Kath also ran the pub later in the 1950s when my mother was a child. Some interesting facts appear in his obituary, including that there were floral tributes from the ‘Lodge’ – my grandfather was involved with the Masonic Lodge and it appears perhaps so was his father. It also tell me that my grandfather Cyril was living in Natone – he was a teacher at this time and this was his first school.

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MR. J. A. JONES, CRESSY (1945, March 10). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 4, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68916752

James’ ancestry is a bit of a mystery to me, and has been a genealogical brick wall for some time. It’s easy with convict arrivals, their every detail is recorded. Free settlers, on the other hand take some detective work.


Verifying information

Convict descendants in Tasmania to have such a rich source of information regarding our ancestors. Most records relating to the men and women transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) from the very early 1800s to the end of transportation in 1853 have been digitised and can be searched for by name and viewed here.

There are physical descriptions, information about relatives left in their Native Place, lists of crimes committed prior to transportation (or at least the crimes they admitted to), the ship on which they sailed and lists of their masters, locations and any colonial offences. As well, you can trace any applications for Permission to Marry which then usually allows you to look for primary source documents relating to the registration of marriage and any births attributed to and registered on their behalf. These primary sources have allowed me to trace information relating to trial papers in their native place as well as what happened to them while they were still in the convict system.

Then, it also shows you tantalising clues and more questions unanswered.

Mary FISHER arrived in VDL in 1845. You can read some information about her here. Within three years of arriving, there was an application for Permission to Marry which was approved, and she married a George BAKER, who is listed on this document as ‘Free’. This could mean that George arrived as a free settler, but not necessarily. It could mean that George arrived as a convict, but was no longer under sentence. George is one of the mysteries that I am trying to solve.


George Baker and Mary Fisher Application for Permission to Marry, Index to Convict Applications for Permission to Marry 1829-1857 (Tasmania), Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart,  CON52/1/2 335.

There are a number of convicts called George BAKER, and some of them could very well be my George, but none of the dates quite align – his age is not quite right for the George shown above. Knowing what I know about my family and about Mary and her behaviour, I find it difficult to believe that she would have the good fortune to marry a free settling man in the new colony, so I usually assume that George was a convict. As well, the Female Convict Research Centre database has George in her records as a convict per the Lord William Bentinck. One of my ‘to do’ items is to contact them and ask whether this information is verified, or assumed.

A competent part-time genealogist should not be sloppy with her assumptions and needs to know that all of her branches and leaves belong in her tree.


The purpose of it all

As an amateur genealogist, I have been tracing my family tree for many years on and off and early on I was excited to know that I have convict ancestors. I remember in primary school carrying on about being ‘Irish’ because my grandmother’s maiden name was Flanagan. Being Tasmanian, it can be assumed that somewhere in the tree there would be a felon or two. As I have progressed my research and have become more savvy at finding, interrogating and verifying sources it appears that I have at least ten convicts in my direct ancestral line and I suspect a few more besides. I have been collecting their records, reading about convict life and trying to piece together narratives for each of them.

This blog is intended to keep track of the information I find about them in the hope that my ‘raggle-taggle nobodies’ will re-appear from the invisible history of individual convicts. Their lives were not any more remarkable than any other, except perhaps that from their early lives in England, Scotland and Ireland they were exiled to the other side of the world, where they built new lives. The legacy they left is one that fascinates me, and perhaps others will become as enamoured with them as I am.

My writing will be a mixture of research notes, historical narrative and speculation. I am hoping to discover a real picture of what brought them here to Tasmania and how their stories relate to my own.