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|
|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||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.|
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