Assisted Emigration

Here I am in Canberra for the 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry. For those of you also attending, particularly if you are users of Legacy Family Tree software, do stop at the VicGUM stand and say hello.

Here at the Congress I am particularly looking forward to Day 1, Session 1 Simon Fowler’s session Shovelling out paupers: researching assisted emigration in English archives.

I have a handful of ancestors who were able to come to the Australian colonies because of assistance received from the government (mostly) or privately (one or two). Each have their own stories but I view their journey mostly from the prevailing conditions in the colonies and their experiences once they got here. Not from the point of view of the government who made it possible.

The most notable emigrants were my two greats grandparents Francis Baulch and his wife Ann Bowles. They, with their families, emigrated as bounty migrants arriving in Tasmania in 1842. Francis came with his brothers Charles and Enoch Baulch. Also aboard was Charles Bartlett and his family. Francis Baulch and Charles Baulch were granted funds by the Pitney, Somerset churchwardens to help them prepare for emigration. It was the Tasmanian landowners who sent Henry Dowling to select suitable agricultural labourers. It was as agricultural labourers that they later found success around Tower Hill in south western Victoria – when the labour there left for the goldfields in the early 1850s.

It is a no brainer as to why Lazarus Watts left his employment as a young chimney sweep in Nottingham after his mother died in 1858. He came with his sister Lydia and his brother in law William Porter. Both men found work in the goldfields – William as a shoemaker and Lazarus as a sawyer.

Similarly, Thomas Wild would have found his trade of blacksmithing useful in the Victorian colonies. But less so his brother in law, and my two greats grandfather, Brian Abbey a weaver from Elland, Yorkshire. He initially found work as a colporteur.

Which leads to a question. What part did religion play in the emigration of these families? Was it mere coincidence that couples may have met as part of the Methodist Church or did the Methodist Church play a more significant part in the lives of these very poor people?

Enabling my ancestors wasn’t confined to government assistance at the time of emigration. Following the death of his father my great grandfather Charles Salter was sponsored as a pupil of Christ’s Hospital Blue Coat School. This subsequently led to his employment with Royal Insurance Co initially in England but after 1873 in Melbourne where he spent the rest of his working life still with Royal Insurance.

Charles Salter’s experience as a beneficiary of private philanthropy has me wondering about the means by which my two greats grandfather William Newman may have emigrated to Victoria to marry Ann Cathcart, an Eliza Caroline Irish orphan, in November 1852. At the time of the 1851 England Census William was a lodger at the New Model Lodging House in Westminster and his sister Emma was a pupil at the Grey Coat Hospital School nearby. Did he receive government assistance to emigrate or was he the recipient of some private emigration scheme that helped him, and his sister, following the death of their parents?

Even after all these years of doing family history research it seems that I have only looked at the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the circumstances from which my ancestors came also includes understanding how they were able to, or were encouraged to, take advantage of, in particular, government emigration schemes.

Let the Congress begin.