The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

The 1828 Census for New South Wales

by Don Steel

This article was originally published in the July 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

British family historians may get a bit impatient with having to wait until a census is 100 years old before it is released, but the situation is much worse in Australia where all their censuses have been destroyed – and, unlike New Zealand, they are still destroying them.

But there is one exception, the 1828 Census for New South Wales, which survives because a copy was in Colonial Office records. It has been edited in indexed form by Malcolm Sainty and Keith Johnson (best known for their annual Genealogical Research Directory) and published by the Library of Australian History.

I have looked up our four surnames and their main variants and it has yielded the list opposite.

George Soles is known to us as George Sole. He came from Buntingford and was transported for stealing a horse. The others are new to me. Not all were, or had been convicts. A Sewell family of free settlers came out on the Northampton in 1815 but Eleanor was the wife of George who was transported on the Somersetshire in 1814. The F in the first column means the start of a family group and the G the end of a family group. The eldest son, George Junior, is listed separately and has acquired 120 acres in Sunderland Forest with 50 cattle, roughly half the size of the farm his father had.

Here we have a case of the wife and family going out to join the husband. All too often the family stayed in England and never saw the husband and father again. George seems to have been like Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations. Though coming out as a lifer in 1814, by 1828 he has been given a conditional pardon and had become a landholder. By Australian standards 300 acres is not as much as it sounds, but he had acquired 100 cattle so by 1828 had obviously been free for some time. “Conditional” meant conditional both on good behaviour and staying in the colony. It will be recalled that though Magwitch was a rich man, by returning to England he broke the conditions of his freedom. No doubt the fact that George’s wife and three children had come out to join him played a significant part in his being given his conditional freedom – married men were less likely to stray from the straight and narrow than rootless single men.

It is interesting that John Sewell, a blacksmith, had 60 acres and 6 cattle. Maybe in time he phased out the blacksmithing in favour of full-time farming. Like George he was at Sutton Forest but as he was born in the colony he cannot be a son of George, unless the born in the colony is an error and only his wife and daughter were.

Joseph Sewell, a shepherd, who had served his sentence, looks odd with 15 cattle and no sheep. Probably the enumerator put the sheep in the wrong column. At 21 Joseph was just starting out. Another few years and his sheep might be counted in hundreds.

The term used for convict was “government servant” but only a few on the list are still convicts. James Sewell and George Soles had only recently arrived, but Hannah Sault (probably not relevant to us, but just as George had acquired an s she could have acquired a t) surprisingly is still a convict having served 13 years of a 14 year sentence. Her crime must have been severe, possibly infanticide. She is described as “wife” but there is no husband. Maybe he was still in England but he would hardly be relevant to her occupation in Australia. More probably she was a common law wife of Joseph Rotton. He was a lifer who came out in 1808 and, like George Sewell, had been given a conditional pardon.

Convicts allocated to a master like Archibald Bell or William Cox might be lucky in their employer but many were worked to death. They were virtually slaves with little or no redress for ill treatment. The government was only too eager to pass on their problem to someone else. As long as the employer did not complain they were happy.

There was one Solley in Australia in 1828 (a lifer), but no Sauls, for I feel we can’t really count Hannah. Perhaps their biblical name made them more virtuous than our other three families!

  Surname First Name Age Free/ Bond Ship Year Sent-ence Relig Occupation /Remarks Employer Residence Ref No
  SAUL Nil                    
  SAULT Hannah 32 Govt Servt Mary Ann (1st visit) 1815 14 yrs Prot Wife Joseph Rotton York St, Sydney S0124
F SOLES George     Hindostan       Iron Gang 3     S1982
  SOLES George 31 Govt Servt Prince Regent 1827 14 yrs Prot Labourer to Archd Bell Windsor S1983
  SOLLEY John 32 Govt Servt Coromandel 1820 Life Prot Jobber to William Cox Clarendon, Windsor S1984
  SEWELL James 19 Govt Servt Marquis of Hastings 1828 7 yrs Prot Brickmaker David Hayes George St Sydney S0419
F SEWELL George 47 Conditional Pardon Somersetshire 1814 Life Prot Landholder. Total acres 300. 4 cleared, 4 cultivated. 1 horse. 100 cattle.   Sutton Forest S0420 
  SEWELL Eleanor 50 Came Free Northampton 1815   Prot       S0421
  SEWELL Jane 16 Came Free Northampton     Prot       S0422
G SEWELL Thomas 21 Came Free Northampton     Prot       S043
  SEWELL Joseph 30 Free by Servitude Lord Eldon 1817 7 yrs RC Shepherd.  15 cattle with nothing in the sheep column Thos Arkell Bathurst S0424
F SEWELL John 24 Born in  Colony       Prot Blacksmith.  60 acres and 6 cattle.   Sutton Forest S0425
  SEWELL Sarah 22 Born in  Colony       Prot       S0426
G SEWELL Jane 20 mths Born in  Colony       Prot       S0427
  SEWELL George (Junior) 23 Came Free Northampton 1815   Prot Farmer. 120 acres. 7 cleared. 4 cultivated. 50 cattle   Sunderland Forest S0428
       SAYWELL & SEWALL. Nil.



Return to The Sole Society Home Page