First Arrivals: Elizabeth Hemming

The first of my ancestors to arrive in Australia was my 5 x great-grandmother Elizabeth Hemming.  At this time Elizabeth’s origins have not been confirmed.

On 25 April 1801 at the Gloucester Assizes, Elizabeth was sentenced to transportation to Australia for 7 years for stealing linen and other clothing belonging to a woman named Mary Chappell of Stratton[1].

According to the witness statement of William Truston, Labourer of Stratton, on 24 March 1801 (the day before the Assizes commenced!) his daughter saw a woman who was unknown to her with a gown belonging to Mary Chappell.  He pursued and seized the woman with a bundle of clothing, took her to his house and sent for Mark Chappell to identify the items.  He also stated he had since been told the woman was Elizabeth Hemming of Charlton Kings[1].

In his own witness statement, Mark Chappell, Labourer of Stratton, testified that he was informed by Catharine Truston that a person had been taken into custody on suspicion of having stolen a gown and other things belonging to his wife.  He then went to the house of William Truston where he identified the items as his property[1].

A contemporary newspaper report on the Assizes referred to Elizabeth as “an old offender”, suggesting that this was not her first brush with the law[2].

On 12 August 1802 Elizabeth boarded the HMS Glatton at Chatham.  It was rare for a Royal Navy warship to be used for convict transportation as this task was normally undertaken by private ships under contract.  According to Admiralty records the HMS Glatton was also commissioned to bring timber suitable for ship building back to England from the colony. The HMS Glatton departed from Portsmouth on 23 September 1802 and arrived in Port Jackson, New South Wales on 12 March 1803[3].

Sydney Cove ca 1803

A view of Sydney from the western side of the Cove, circa 1803,
possibly showing the HMS Glatton at anchor [a]

On arrival Elizabeth went to work for Thomas Carter, a convict who had arrived earlier in 1800 on the Royal Admiral[4].  In 1803 Ensign George Bond of the New South Wales Corps published an account of his experiences at Port Jackson that gave details of the treatment of female convicts.  According to Ensign Bond there was a pecking order for selecting female convicts as servants: commissioned officers first, followed by non-commissioned officers, then privates and lastly established convicts who had acquired property and were able to gain the Governor’s permission to acquire a servant.  Those not chosen were assigned huts to live in[5].

On 12 July 1803 (exactly 4 months after arriving in Port Jackson) Elizabeth gave birth to her daughter Hannah, although the surname for the birth and for Hannah’s baptism on 29 July 1804 was registered as “Emmins”.  Hannah’s father was named on the baptism record as James Goldsmith[6].  Hannah was my 4 x great-grandmother and I will explore her parentage further in my next post.

At some stage the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas must have become more personal as they had three sons born in New South Wales: Thomas in 1806; William in 1810; and, John (named as Joseph in his father’s will[7]) in 1813.  There appears to be no official record of Elizabeth and Thomas ever being married[6].

Based on the date of her conviction Elizabeth would have become free by servitude on 25 March 1808.  Thomas had been sentenced to 14 years in the Surrey Assizes on 20 March 1797 and would have become free by servitude on 20 March 1811. I have not seen any evidence that either of them was pardoned earlier[4].

In 1814 Elizabeth and her family traveled to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) aboard the Active arriving on the 9 March where Thomas served as a Constable[7].  In the early days of the Port Jackson and Van Diemen’s Land colonies it was not unusual for former convicts to become police constables and there were even serving “convict constables” employed on a substantially lower salary than free men[8].  A fourth son Henry was born there in 1818.  Thomas’ new career was short-lived as he died on 10 April 1828.  His age at death was recorded as 58[7].


Headstone of Thomas Carter and William Carter,
St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania[b]

On 20 April 1829 Elizabeth using the surname Carter married a convict named Jonathan Griffiths who had been sentenced to transportation for life at the Monmouth Assizes on 6 August 1825 and transported on the Chapman in 1826.  Jonathan was listed as a bachelor but interestingly Elizabeth’s marital status was left blank. On the 1830 Convict Muster Jonathan is listed as a Constable. Jonathan appears to have died on 12 April 1842 or 1843[7].

An inquest into the death of Elizabeth found she died on 4 October 1847 at the home of her son Henry Carter.  Henry’s wife Ann (formerly Head) was a witness at the inquest and testified that she had found Elizabeth’s body.  There do not appear to have been any suspicious circumstances and it may be that an inquest was standard practice at the time. Elizabeth’s age at death was given as 70, giving her an approximate birth year of 1777[7].

Possible Origins

The death records for any person are usually considered to be a less reliable source of personal information as they depend on the knowledge or memory of someone other than the deceased.  However, sometimes the information on death records is all you have.

There a number of family trees on Ancestry that show the Elizabeth Hemming that was transported to Australia as having parents named Richard and Sarah and being baptised on 4 November 1777 in Winchcomb, Gloucestershire[9]. From other research it would appear that the Elizabeth Heming baptised in Winchomb in 1777 is the same one who marries David Paddick there in 1802 and therefore not the Elizabeth Hemming transported to Australia[10]. There are number of freely available records for the baptisms of people named Elizabeth Hemming in Gloucestershire between 1770 and 1780, but none of these are recorded as being in the Parish of Charlton Kings where Elizabeth was from according to the witness statement of William Truston[1]. The absence of additional identifying information such as parents’ names or a stated birthplace make it difficult to confirm if any of these records are the right one.


I am always happy to discuss family history. If you are descended from Elizabeth Hemming as well then please get in touch.


1. UK National Archives – Copy of trial records purchased from Beyond The Seas.

2. Gloucester Journal, 6 April 1801 – British Newspaper Archive

3. UK National Archives – HMS Glatton research kindly provided by Brian Swann.

4. Australian Convict Collection –

5. Bond, G. (1803) – A brief account of the colony of Port-Jackson – National Library of Australia

6. Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages – New South Wales Government

7. Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office Collection – LINC Tasmania

8. Petrow, S. (1999) – After Arthur : policing in Van Diemen’s Land 1837-1846 – Australian Institute of Criminology

9. England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 –

10. “Winchcomb 1802 marriage Paddick/Heming” – RootsChat genealogy forum


a. Sydney from the western side of the Cove, ca 1803, attributed to G.W. Evans (1780-1852), courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

A large three-masted ship flying what appears to be a Royal Navy White Ensign can be seen on the left-hand side of this painting. This ship is possibly the HMS Glatton which arrived in Sydney Cove in March 1803 and departed in September 1803. This identification of the HMS Glatton is supported by the appearance on the right-hand side of the painting of a small possibly wooden bridge across the mouth of Tank Stream which fed into Sydney Cove. Research by Matt Stone published on his blog Random Genealogy blog reveals that a stone bridge across Tank Stream was constructed in late May to early June 1803. Another painting showing the view from an almost identical vantage point titled View of Sydney Port Jackson, New South Wales, taken from the Rocks on the western side of the Cove, ca. 1803 by John William Lancashire clearly shows this larger stone bridge.

b. Headstone of Thomas Carter and William Carter, Memorial Wall, St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania – Author’s personal photograph, March 2015.

St David’s Park was the site of Hobart’s first cemetery which operated from 1804 until 1872. Today it is a public park and many of the original headstones are mounted on a memorial wall. Although the date of death on this headstone for Thomas Carter (15 April 1827) differs from the official record (10 April 1828) it appears likely that the Thomas Carter named is the partner of Elizabeth Hemming as there does not appear to be any other suitable candidate on record and that the William Carter named is their son.

This entry was posted in Convicts, First Arrivals. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to First Arrivals: Elizabeth Hemming

  1. Jenny Coates says:

    Congratulations on your first post Craig! Very interesting tale. Looking forward to hearing more about Elizabeth.


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