- Convict per Bengal Merchant,1828 -
My Great x 3 Grandfather
There were over 250 convict men named William Smith transported to Tasmania alone so my
task in researching William has not been an easy one. Although convict records themselves are
very comprehensive, once a man obtained a certificate or freedom or a conditional pardon it was
easy for him to become lost in the records when he had such a common name.
William Smith was baptised on 28th April, 1805 in Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset, son of
Henry Smith and Ann Maynard
First Marriage: William married his first wife Susan [Susannah] Roberts in the neighbouring
parish of Cattistock on 10th June 1827. Both signed with an X. Witnesses were John Nobbs
and Ann Russell. It is interesting to note that the following entry appears in the Baptismal
register dated 26th April, 1829: "William Henry, son of William and Susan Smith; father
(shepherd) transported to Botany Bay; mother resident in Sydling". Unless this child was at
least nine months old at the time then, he could not be William's as he had been
incarcerated since October 1827, a period of 18 months. Susan went on to have three more
children. Click HERE for more details.
Prior to his transportation, William worked as a shepherd looking after 800 sheep for Mr
Hugh S? in Godmanstone which is 4km south of Sydling. He states he had been a shepherd
for 13 years. William had a previous conviction of six weeks gaol in Dorset for running away
from his master, Mr [James] Devenish, a farmer. In 1827 William was found guilty of stealing
The following report appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, dated Monday,
13th August 1827:
At Dorchester Assizes, John Wilkins was convicted of stealing a gelding, the property of
Robert Davy, of Topsham, and ordered to be executed on Saturday the 18th instant.- Robert
Channing, charged with stealing a horse, the property of William Bartlett, of Thurlbear, was
acquitted; but standing charged with horse stealing in Somerset, was ordered to be removed
by habeas corpus to the jail of that county.- Sentence of death was passed on Clement
Nicholas, for assaulting Jonathan Hawes and John Read; and on Wm. Smith, for stealing
three lambs, the property of Mr. James Devenish; but they were both reprieved.
Dorchester gaol records show the following:
31st August 1827 William Smith aged 22 of Sydling a shepherd, married, 5ft 7 3/4 inches
tall, brown hair, hazel eyes, three cuts on back of right hand near joint of the forefinger,
above the wrist is the marks slightly of a fig tree rather bushy. He was found guilty and
sentenced to death but later reprieved and pardoned on condition of being transported for
the term of his natural life. He was discharged from the gaol on 31st October 1827 and put
on board the prison hulk 'Captivity' in Devonport Harbour
William was transported to Tasmania aboard the Bengal Merchant, which departed
London/Plymouth on 24/25th March, 1828 and arrived in Hobart on 10th August, 1828. On
board were 170 male convicts of which 166 landed. The master of the ship was Alex Duthie.
The surgeon was James Skeoch. The voyage took 138 days. William's name does not appear
in the surgeons journal.
Physical Description: [from Description List] Name: William Smith of Sydling, Number
91,,Trade: Shepherd, farmer and ploughman, Height without shoes: 5' 7 3/4" Complexion:
Fresh Head: Small round, high crown, Hair: Dark Brow,n
Whiskers: Bushy, Visage: Broad, oval. Forehead: Low, Eyebrows: Arched and Dark, Eyes:
Brown, Nose: Straight and sharp, wide nostril, Mouth: Medium, thick lips, Chin: Broad,
fleshy, Remarks: Small scar centre forehead, long scar outer corner left eye, natural mark
inside right arm, scar on first knuckle of left hand, slight impediment in speech.
It is stated that William could read and it is likely that he could write as he appears to have
signed his name on his second marriage certificate and all but one of the birth registrations
of his children.
Dorchester Gaol Report: Bad character: Hulk Report: Indifferent
On arrival in Tasmania, William was assigned to Lt William Gunn
14th December 1829: Neglect of duty generally in losing sheep. Six months number 1 chain
gang, one week in each month to labour in tread wheel.
6th May 1830: Repeated insolence and neglect of duty. Fifty lashes.
24th June, 1835: Neglect of duty and gambling. Reprimanded. By this time Mr Parker was
30th May 1845: Judged not guilty [offence unknown]
1830 Muster records William as being assigned to Mr Parker
1832, 1833 Muster records William as doing Government work
Ticket of Leave granted November 1835 [1836?] This meant William was free to earn wages
and choose his own employer but could not move out of the district.
Conditional Pardon granted February, 1841. The record states: "???? three charges of
misconduct pre?????? against him since his arrival and ???? one in ten years ??? refusals -
testimonials of character highly favourable."
This meant William was free to go anywhere in Australia or New Zealand but could not return
to England. William was ineligible for a Certificate of Freedom because he was serving a life
Second Marriage: William applied to marry fellow convict Ellen Donovan on 1st September,
1838. Ellen also worked for Mr Parker. Permission was granted provided that the Clergyman
was satisfied that William's first wife was dead. Census records for 1841 reveal that Susan
Smith was alive and still living in Sydling with her children. On 14th November 1838 William
and Ellen were married according to the rites of the Church of England, in the Parish Church
at Longford. R.R.Davis was the presiding minister. The witnesses were Joseph Berry and R
Harrison. William signed his name [below] Ellen made her mark.
The Children of William Smith and Ellen Donovan:
There is a gap of 5 years between William's and Ellen's marriage in 1838 and their first
recorded child, Mary Ann in 1843. As Mary Ann's birth only appears in the Longford
baptismal registers it is possible that more children were born in the intervening years.
Subsequent births are recorded in the Tasmania BDM records.
Their children found so far are:
Smith, Mary Ann, born 12th February 1843, Longford; Baptised 2nd April, 1843, Longford,
Tasmania. The family's abode is given as Little Hampton. [b] Married George Burgess jnr.
Smith, Henry, born 19th June, 1845 Little Hampton, Longford District [reg600 RGD33]
Williams occupation is shown as 'farmer'. He appears to have signed this registration with an
X [h] Henry married Helen Imrie in 1870 at Launceston.
Smith, Ellen, born 15th July, 1847, Little Hampton, Longford District.[reg838 RGD33].
William's occupation is shown as 'farmer' [h] Died 23rd July, 1847 Longford, of convulsions.
Informant, William Smith, father, farmer Little Hampton [mother not stated] [a]
Smith, Nancy, born 17th September 1850, Little Hampton Longford.[reg 1167 RGD33] [h]
Mother's name is difficult to read and has been incorrectly transcribed as 'Dawson'. William's
occupation is shown as 'farmer' Marriage [age 22] to Ambrose Picket [aged 33], farmer, 17th
September, 1872, Chudleigh [a] [Deloraine [Reg 54 RGD37]
Smith, Harriet, born 30th September, 1852, Bishopsbourne, Longford District [reg328
RGD33] William's occupation is shown as 'farmer' [h] Married John King, 1873, Deloraine.
Smith, Selina, born 2nd March, 1855 Woodlands, Westbury District [reg 1539 RGD33] [h]
William's occupation is shown as 'farmer'. Married Patrick McVeigh, Sydney NSW 1882.
Known Addresses: By 1843, William gives his place of abode as Little Hampton,and his
occupation as 'farmer'. He resided there until between 1852 and 1855 when he gives his
place of residence as Woodlands, Westbury.
The Launceston Examiner dated 8th April 1856 gives a list of people eligible to be placed on
the Electoral Roll and shows William Smith a leaseholder at Woodlands. The lessor is P Keane
Death: A probable death is William Smith, farmer, aged 45 died on 17th September 1856 at
Westbury District reference 314. Cause of death was disease of the heart.
After William's death Ellen married John Speight
a: Tasmanian Pioneers Index 1803-1899 CD Rom b: Baptismal Certificate Mary Ann Smith c Colonial Tasmanian Families Links Website d: IGI e:
1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses, England f: Marriage Certificate William Smith and Ellen Donovan
g: Marriage Cert George Burgess and Mary Ann Smith h: Birth Registrations, Archives of Tasmania i: Information supplied by David - a descendant of