Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The convict factor is raised again for Edward Atkins

Photo: The convict ship Florentia made two voyages to Sydney - in 1827 and 1830.

Following a report from the UK researcher who has been looking into Edward Atkins, we are once again considering the possibility that he first came to Australia as a convict.

This was raised some time ago when an Edward/Edwin Atkins was found in a New South Wales convict Muster and later recorded as working at Yas Plains.

Edward Atkins    1830  Florentia    (on convict muster record but not transcribed to ship record)  24 yo Gloucester
compared to
Edwin Atkins      1830  Florentia  (transcribed to ship record)  19 yo  from Yas Plains.

But Kylie's research makes it unlikely there are two people involved. She said: 

Photo: Shepherd's hut in mid 19th century.

One reason I think there is only one person here is that there are no conflicting records, no conviction for Edward Atkins, no ship record etc, and there is no Edwin Atkins in the 1837 muster.  If you check the muster record the ancestry.com year of birth is worked off the arrival date not the current year.  I think the age is the current age, 24 (and he should have been at least 25 if he was 19 in 1830), take that from 1837, not 1830 and you end up with a close enough year of birth to be the same person.  It is also possible that this is our Edward, and that he started out as Edwin.  Interestingly the comment I have for Yas Plains in 1835 is that there is only a few scoundrelly convict shepherds there.

Yas or Yass Plains is just inside the NSW/South Australian border, some 300 kilometres from Gladstone and this Edwin/Edward was not only a blacksmith but was transported for stealing a sheep. Our Edward was a blacksmith and later worked as a shepherd. 

The O'Brien brothers, Cornelius and Henry, from County Mayo, Ireland, settled this area in 1833 and employed Edwin/Edward Atkins and other 'scoundrelly' convict shepherds.

 Photo: Edward Atkins circa: 1870 with Mary (left) and Elizabeth.

The Certificate of Freedom report on Edwin/Edward Atkins says he  had dark grey eyes, sandy hair, a ruddy-freckled complexion, eyebrows meeting and he was 5ft. 71/2 inches and had a tattoo HEA on his right inside wrist. The photo of our Edward clearly shows the fair and possibly ruddy and freckled complexion and the sandy hair and dark eyes and the height looks right when compared to the height of his eldest daughter Elizabeth who is standing beside him.

All in all it is quite a good 'fit.' And then we have the report from the UK researcher: 

Here are my findings upon my recent research into your family of Atkins.  As I originally posited, and as I believe you yourself in your several blogs, the Atkins and their connections stem in all likelihood from Gloucestershire.  Please find below my initial findings after reviewing the information you have kindly supplied on your Atkins family. 

Your ancestor Edward Atkins, as you have discovered, married twice in Australia.  Firstly, to Hannah McLeod in 1843 and secondly, to Elizabeth Lewis nee Mashford in 1857.  You state that at present you state that you have found no death notice, as yet, for Hannah Atkins sometime between 1854 and 1857 – she could have perhaps have returned to Britain on a visit and if so, could have died there, although I have not been able to find a suitable death entry, or perhaps she was registered as having died say in Australia but no notice was put in the paper.  I presume that you have located her death entry in the Vital Records?

Edward Atkins death notice is intriguing and provides some clues as to possible avenues of research.  All told, from both marriages, Edward had three sons and six daughters.  The death notice states that he had one son and five daughters, so this suggests that two of his sons were dead (Joseph died as an infant in 1855), and, that one of the daughters had died by 1891.  The most interesting ‘clue’ is the final sentence ‘Gloucestershire Papers please copy’, that surely indicates that Edward has originally hailed from Gloucestershire, or at least had family living there.

You supplied a possible marriage of a Joseph Atkins and an Ann Haines in Cirencester in Gloucestershire in 1809.  I have also discovered this marriage. From the two marriage certificates of Edward, that you kindly copied to me, states that Edward’s father was called Joseph. This, and the Hai(y)nes connection makes for a strong possibility that this couple were the parents of your Edward. 

To try and prove, or disprove, this theory I have done some initial research which will have to be evidentially proved by searches in the relevant parish registers at the Gloucestershire Record Office, if you think this appropriate, or I can see if there are any printed transcripts for the relevant parishes.  My findings and suggestions for further research are stated below:

Joseph Atkins married Ann Haines in 14 August 1809 in Cirencester in the county of Gloucestershire.  By looking at online sources and indexes I have been able to trace the following children born to this couple.  As stated above, in order to prove the veracity of this information original or transcripts of the parish registers will need to be consulted, as in many cases intimation as to witnesses at marriages and occupations of bridegroom can be included in original registers where it can be missing in transcripts.
All the children were baptised in Cirencester, Gloucestershire:

Charles Atkins bp. 1 July 1810
Henry Edwin Atkins bp. 23 February 1812
Joseph Lewis Atkins b. 18 January 1814, bp. 13 February 1814, bur. 3 April 1814
James Webb Atkins b. 14 August 1816, bp. 5 October 1816
Susannah b. 30 November 1817, bp. 3 January 1819
David Atkins b. 31 March 1822, bp. 19 May 1822
Thomas Haines Atkins b. 20 June 1825, bp. 24 July 1825, d. 30 October 1825
Mary Ann Haines Atkins b. 10 January 1827, bp. 4 February 1827

Upon searching the 1841 census for England, I located the following sibling:
James W. Atkins and his wife Jane, and son George aged 1 were living in Cheltenham.
Figure 1 - James Atkins, 1841 Census of St Mary, Cheltenham

There was no sign of Joseph and Ann, the parents, nor any other of the children.
I have however found possible deaths for Joseph in Cheltenham in 1860 and Ann in Cheltenham in 1865, both aged 74, which would give a year of birth c. 1791 which is not too far from their suggested birth dates of 1788 and 1789 respectively.

In Slater’s Directory of 1850, under Cirencester, I found one entry that may be of interest – Payne & Atkins, of Castle Street, who were listed as milliners and straw bonnet makers.  This may be a female enterprise, perhaps one of the sisters listed above in partnership with another person?

Subsequent censuses revealed George Atkins and David Atkins with their spouses, but not ‘Edward’ Atkins at all, which seems to suggest that he was elsewhere.

Figure 2 - David Atkins, 1851 Census of Cheltenham
Figure 3 - George Atkins, 1861 Census of Lutterworth, Leicestershire
Figure 4 - David Atkins, 1861 Census of Stroud, Gloucestershire
Figure 5 - David Atkins, 1871 Census, Stroud, Gloucestershire
I have found that a David Atkins married a Hannah Holder in Cheltenham, during the September quarter of 1842, which seems to tally with the above.

I would like to suggest that the Henry Edwin Atkins listed above is in fact your Edward Atkins.  The reasons being that from the information that you have supplied, and by looking at various lists of people travelling to and from Britain and Australia, I believe that your ancestor first set foot in Australia as a nineteen year old convict, Edwin Atkins, sentenced to 7 years, this being in 1830. 

Convict Registers
Edwin Atkins              Gloucester Assizes      7 April 1830    7 years                        
Convict & Passenger Records
Edwin Atkins    19      Florentia          1830    7 yrs  Protestant          Hy O’Brien  ‘Yes Plains’
NSW Muster Rolls
Edward Atkins           20        Florentia          1830                Gloucester

Therefore, by his first marriage in 1843, on a return to Australia, he would have served his sentence and returned to England c. 1837/40.  The economic climate at home may have prompted a move back to Australia and its possibilities for settlement and employment.  This is of course only a theory that will need to be substantiated one way or another.  To this end I have located an entry in the Convict Registers for an Edwin Atkins (see fig. 1) sentenced as mentioned above, for 7 years transportation.  I feel it would be beneficial to see if the case is entered in the Gloucester Assize Records as the birth date and county of origin tally with the man who was born in Cirencester.  On his return to Australia, ‘Edward’ Atkins may well have felt a slight change to his name was advisable?  It is interesting to note that his eldest son was called Henry, his second Joseph and the third has the Haynes name included.

Further research in the Cirencester family also found possible further siblings for Joseph Atkins, who was baptised 22 June 1788 in Cirencester:
Mary Ann Atkins b. 26 June 1795
Thomas Howell Atkins bp. 26 June 1796, d. 28 August 1797
Thomas Atkins bp. 1 July 1798

All born in Cirencester, whose father was stated as being a Thomas Atkins.
I have also found a marriage between a Thomas Atkins and a Grace Boulton on 3 June 1778 in Cirencester who could well prove to be the parents of these children.  As before, a search in the parish registers would be beneficial.

Please let me know if you would like me to put in hand the further research suggested.  A search in the local newspapers in the Gloucestershire area may  prove beneficial as would a systematic search in the parish registers of Cirencester and Cheltenham as well as a search in the judicial records to prove that Edward / Edwin Atkins who was sent to Australia is the same chap who was baptised in Cirencester in 1812.

If our Edward is Henry Edwin Atkins it would also make sense why his first-born son was called Henry Edward. His second son with Hannah got the name of Joseph, his father's name and his third son, with Elizabeth was called James which was the name of H.E. Atkins's brother.

Two of his siblings also carry the name Haines(Haynes) as does Edward's third son and perhaps by this time he was prepared to give the name Haynes to one of his children - or, given that we don't have a middle name for Joseph, it was a name already bequeathed without our knowing.

The next step in the process is for the UK researcher to do the work required to prove that this Henry Edwin Atkins is the convict who came to Australia on the Forentia in 1830 at the age of nineteen. If it is then it is highly likely he is also our Edward because he would have had enough time to return to England in 1837 before re-appearing in South Australia in 1840 on the same ship with Hannah McLeod.

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