Saturday, January 26, 2013



Thanks to Helen V. Smith for suggesting the Australia Day challenge

Helen asked us to write about the ancestors who were first to enter Australia, both male and female.... this made it comparatively easy for me, as though they didn't come together, my 5th great grandparents were the first of my known ancestors to arrive in Australia.

They were Robert Hobbs, born in Catherine Wheel Alley, London, in 1763, and Bridget Eslin/Heslin, of Dublin, born in 1766. You'd wonder what an English man and an Irish lady would have in common in that era... Perhaps the most likely commonality was their free passages to Australia. Both were convicted convicts, sentenced for 7 years and life and transported to Australia. in those times, 7 years was life for all intents and purposes as few ever returned to their homes.

The following is an extract of the proceedings at the Old Bailey which saw Robert given a free passage...

To continue... : (Anthony Jefferson)  I am sure he is the man: I saw his face as he passed by me.

I am the street-keeper of Cornhill; I took custody of the prisoner; the bundle was left at Mr. Bates's, from the Monday till the Wednesday.

(The bundle produced and deposed to.)

I saw the bundle at Guildhall; it was sealed.
Mr. Knapp. You have many pieces of the same quality? - Yes.
Have not you a great many with the same mark? - None, Sir.
You never saw them after you sold them, till you saw them at Guildhall? - No, I did not.
Prisoner. I leave it to my counsel.

Transported for seven years.
Tried by the London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

Robert Hobbs Goal sentencing...

Robert Hobbs                          (Names) William Purcell(?) aka Price  London   (? not sure of the next few words) 1790 Life

Robert Hobbs was then transported on the "Active" in 1791.

An extract from the notes shared by my cousin, Robyn McNamara and other researchers...

Nothing much is known of Robert’s early life other than his mother’s name was Mary and his father was Joseph Hobbs, who may possibly have also been a weaver and that his father’s (and Robert’s grandfather’s) name was also Joseph Hobbs from Tottenham, Middlesex, England.

He was baptized on the 17th July 1763 at St. Batolph’s Bishopgate, Middlesex, England.

There is no other record until the following entry (from information given by Marie Tattam):  "Court minutes of the Weavers' Company (Guildhall Library MS 4655/17 pt 2, to 296). 1 June 1778 "Robert Hobbs son of Joseph Hobbs of Petticoat Lane, Whitechapel Cordwainer is bound Apprentice for 7 years to Thomas Christmas, Citizen ; Weaver of London living in New Nichol Street Bethnal Green. No Cons (i.e. no premium was paid)".  Robert would have been 15 years old when or if he finished his apprenticeship, however no record of freedom could be found in the minutes 1785-6.

His first criminal record is found in November 1788, he was indicted along with Solomon Bocherah at the Old Bailey, London for "burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of J. Pinkinton about the hour of seven in the night on the x No vember last, and burglariously stealing one piece of velvet containing 39 yards, value 81.4s his property".  The evidence of Robert having taken part in the robbery was too vague and he was found "not guilty", however he was detained as following the robbery, when the prisoner Bocherah was being taken away by constables along the Houndsditch area, in a rescue attempt, an attack was made on the coach with sticks and stones and finally the track was cut so that it was impossible for the coach to proceed.  Bocherah nevertheless was still held in custody, and although one witness claimed Hobbs was part of the rescue team, the evidence must have again been too flimsy as there is no further record of punishment.  Solomon Bocherah was not so fortunate as he was found "guilty" of the robbery and sentenced to death.
On the 8th July 1789 Robert Hobbs was in trouble again when he was indicted on a misdemeanor charge at the Old Bailey again, for having obtained three kits of salmon by false pretences.  This time he was found "guilty" and imprisoned for one month and sentenced also to be whipped.  There is no actual transcription of this trial in the Old Bailey records so who brought the charges and who the witnesses were are not known.
He is before the jury at the Old Bailey for "stealing on the 20th September 1790 thirty eight pieces of calico, containing 760 yards, value ¹60 the property of Thomas Martin".  This trial changed Robert's life forever resulting in his transportation to Australia.

One researcher questioned how Robert could have run with a bundle containing 760 yards of calico that would have weighed about 285 lbs.
On 27 Oct 1790 Robert Hobbs was sentenced in the Old Bailey, London to transportation - 7 years, aboard “The Active”.  The Active departed Portsmouth on the 27th March 1791 carrying 175 convicts of which 21 were lost during the 183-day voyage and arrivedSydney Cove on the 26th September 1791.

The Active was among the ships that comprised the "Third Fleet" and was a Brig of 350 ton with John Mitchinson as the Master.  Captain David Collins who had arrived with the "First Fleet" was the Judge Advocate and faithfully kept a journal of events including a description of the "Active's" arrival.

"Monday 26th September 1791.... the Active from England, and the Queen from Ireland, with convicts of that country, arrived and anchored in the cove.  On board the Active.... were one hundred and fifty four male convicts...
These ships had been unhealthy and had buried several convicts on their passage.  The sick, which they brought in, were landed immediately; and many of those who remained and were not so ill as to require medical assistance, were brought on shore in an emaciated and feeble condition, particularly the convicts from the "Active".  They in general complained of not having received the allowance intended for them; but their emaciated appearance was to be ascribed as much to confinement as to any other cause...

There is no record of what condition Robert Hobbs was in after the journey, however just three & a half months after his arrival on the 9th January 1792, he was tried for stealing a pair of shoes and a hat belonging to Edward Conroy and Thomas Regan.  Having admitted that he was guilty, he begged for mercy but received 150 lashes.  He must have been desperate for shoes as it is well documented that there was a shortage of shoes in the colony and the known temperature in January meant that he was desperate for a hat.

In 1793, Bridget was sentenced to be transported owing to a theft of calico... which had been spread on the drying greens.

196/695  Bridget Eslin, tried Dublin September, 1792;  sentence 7 years; arrived on the 'Sugar Cane' in 1793; time expired September 1799; certificate dated 6th February, 1811.

 "Some history on Bridget HESLIN/ESLIN that was discovered by Barbara Hall while researching for her books on the first five Irish convict ships.....

To start with, it is believed that the Heslin/Eslin name was German in origin. There were a large gathering of Heslins in Derrynacross in the Longford area, Leitrim, and on the borders of Westmeath and Cavan. Many did not do well in the “Rebellion of 1798”, followed by the famine, bog sickness and deportation to the west. There are many, many variations of the name and this has also lead to confusion when researching."
This information was gleaned from the “Freeman Journal” that reported their crimes – all other official records of the trial appear to have been destroyed.  

Robert married Irish born, Bridget Heslin, on 30th October,1815. He was then aged 52. Bridget was 49. they went on to have 9 children.

Robert died 23rd February,1839 and was buried 25th February,1839, in the C of E cemetery, Pitt Town.  His will was dated Feb. 6th,1834. It was appropriated by his daughter, Sarah who died on the 31st July, 1895. It was later discovered by Mrs. Mary A.M. Brown in 1897. It was delivered to J.P.Abbott for registration, but was again lost in 1897-8. It was then found supposedly by Deane& Deane in 1930, but was not registered till after April 1931.

Source... Bev Woodman who purchased Bridget's Certificate of Emancipation ....

Note for all Hobbs/Heslin descendants......some of the grandchildren's surnames are as follows............(source Hobbs group)



" Robert would have spent about five months in prison, on a hulk or onboard the Active waiting to depart Portsmouth so he was probably one of the luckier prisoners in that he didn't spend years waiting his fate.  He did though travel on the Active and on that particular trip that took 183 days, they lost 21 during the trip to the colony.  So Robert probably wasn't in a very fit condition on arrival to start with.  The ship arrived on the 26th September 1791 and then three and a half month s later on the 9th January 1792 he was charged with stealing a hat and shoes and received 150 lashes (although no record has been found of this actually being carried out and he did plead guilty and beg for mercy).  I can only imagine how he felt , he was weak from the long journey on a far from perfect trip, possibly suffering some form of illness with little food to build his resistance up. 
Sometime in 1793 he joined the NSW Corps 102nd Regiment and served ten years, more than likely in the Hawkesbury region.  He would have received a pardon by serving in the military and was allowed to choose land to farm on the Hawkesbury where he is found renting property in 1800 and farming (as well as carrying out his military duties that would have mainly been to keep law and order in the community). He then received his official grant of 60 acres on leaving the Corp in 1803.

Bridget was tried in July 1792 in Dublin Ireland and was then transported to Cork by ship to await transportation aboard the Sugar Cane.  The ship sailed on 13th April 1793 so she would have been in custody for about 9 months waiting to sail.  She was only 18 years old but at least had a friend or relative, Mary Hughes on board with her, along with Joseph Kearns who would have also been known to the family.  Bridget's brother, Patrick, was aboard another ship of that fleet, The Boddingtons, but whether Bridget knew this or not is unknown. Unlike Robert's trip, all aboard the Sugar Cane arrived on the 17th September 1793 in good health with the loss of one life (execution) on the trip.

Never-the-less Bridget was only 18, her father had been executed, her mother and another brother (John) had been transported elsewhere and she and Patrick were now in a new colony just over five years after it had been first settled.  Things would have looked so alien, I can only feel that she felt scared and frightened at what lay ahead of her.  At this stage we can only guess that she was either sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta or to the farms at Toongabbie, however sometime possibly in in late 1795 she met Robert Hobbs and their first of nine children was born (registered Sydney) on the 19th September 1796.  All other children after that were born in the Hawkesbury area, most of them at Pitt Town.

What is known after that is that she lived the rest of her life with Robert, raised nine children, lived and laboured at Pitt Town on their own land and died in on the 25th October, 1843, four and a half years after Robert who died on the 23rd Feb ruary 1839.  They are both buried together in Pitt Town Cemetery although there is no mention of Bridget on Robert's well preserved head stone. We should all feel very proud of what this couple endured and that they fought hard to survive and rais e a family in the harshest of times in a strange land, far from their birth families.

In summary: “Known gang members were Patrick Haslin (father), executed, his wife involved but her name not given, their known children were Patrick (transported to NSW per Boddingtons 1793), Bridget (transported to NSW per Sugar Cane 1793), John (involved in the gang also and possibly transported), Joseph Kearns alias Dungan (transported to NSW per Boddingtons), Mary Hughes (transported to NSW per Sugar Cane), Michael Dooley probably executed, Thomas Hughes (fate unknown).

The Muster of 1802 shows Robert Hobbs of the "Active", free, and was shown as having 25 acres, 20 cleared, 6.5 acres under wheat & maize, 1 hog and one person "off: the Government Stores”.
The first formal grant to Robert, and the site of the subsequent home for he and Bridget and their growing family was "Grant No. 1139 of the 20th August 1803" granted by Governor Phillip King – a grant of sixty acres in the district of Mulgrave Place.  Rent 2 shillings per year commencing after 5 years.  It was somewhere near the Hawkesbury Lagoon and (according to the book "Early Days of Windsor" by James Steele) when Governor Macquarie laid out five towns in the Hawkesbury area in 1810 , he had to resume portion of Robert's grant for the Town of Pitt Town.  Robert must have had a lean year in 1804, as a notice in the Sydney Gazette of 20 January, 1805 advises that the Provost Marshall will sell by Public Auction the effects of various persons unless the Claims due from them are settled promptly.  There were 36 settlers listed from Parramatta and along the Hawkesbury, and Robert Hobbs was one of them.

The 1806 Muster shows Robert Hobbs, settler, at the Lagoon on 60 acres.   In this same year Robert Hobbs was among 244 settlers of the Hawkesbury who sent an address to Governor Bligh.

Robert's land is marked with an can click on the image to enlarge. 

In January 1807 his signature appears on correspondence to the Rev. Samuel Marsden.  Amongst the crosses of so many other settlers it is noted that Robert can sign his name in a manner of someone who is used to writing.

In June 1809 it is recorded that Robert obtained his wheat seed from HM Stores.  The region suffered a major flood that same year in August where the river rose 48 feet and 8 lives were lost, so Robert probably lost his crop
The Muster of 1811 lists Robert Hobbs with Bridget Eslin with Bridget receiving her Certificate of Freedom in September that same year.

In the Muster of 1814 the family is recorded as Robert Hobbs (invalid on Government Stores), Bridget Eslin (wife), Robert Jnr, Elizabeth Hobbs (single) and five other children independent of Government Stores.  There is also a John Randall, convict to Robert Hobbs living with them."

# Acknowledgements to Robyn McNamara, and Bev Woodman... cousins and member and founder of the Hobbs Reunion Group. Thanks also go to all the descendants who have so willingly shared information.

A while back it was discovered that there remained in the care of the Public Trustee's Office, the seals as pictured below which had formed part of Robert's estate. They are now on permanent loan to the Hawkesbury Library and can be viewed by appointment.  The unsolved mysteries refers to the missing Hobbs millions... another post for another time.

(c) seals photos Bev Woodman

Love a good mystery? What did happen to the Hobbs Millions?

Marriage Certificate transcription for Robert Hobbs and Bridget Eslin...


Headstone for Robert Hobbs and it is thought that Bridget Eslin rests with him. Pitt Town Cemetery. NSW

Recognition of Robert Hobbs and Bridget Eslin on the Welcome Wall, Sydney, Australia

(c) Welcome Wall photos Robyn McNamara


  1. I love all this history. I would love to start on my family but sadly some parts are missing.
    Great Post!

  2. Thank you, Eunice... I'm glad you enjoyed it. Don't dwell on what's missing, rather start with what you know and work back. Whatever is missing now, may appear when you least expect it. We all have missing links or brick walls, some of mine are higher than the walls of Jericho, but even they came tumbling down.

    Make a note as you do your research as to what is missing but in the meantime, add to what you do know by researching as to what was happening at that time in history. Find out about siblings, cousins, neighbours of folk you do know and you might be surprised as to what else could turn up. If not all of that is possible, then just work on those you know now, that way your descendants will have somewhere to start.

    Best of luck.

  3. Just have to say Chris that this is great advice to Eunice. Must be somewhat daunting when "newcomers" read our stories which often have only come about after many of doing exactly what you advise. Take heart Eunice... it's great advice, indeed and looking forward to reading your family stories not too far "down the track".
    I did chuckle Chris over the term "burglariously breaking and entering" and love that you describe these Ancestors as having "free passage to Australia"... Sadly no convicts in my Ancestry, only boring old "assisted passengers". Makes me wonder if they were SO enfeebled that they re-quired "assistance" up the gangplank. Only JOSHING!!!... of course :-)
    Seriously... brilliant research and wonderful family stories which I can't begin "take in" at one reading and will come back to time and again. It's a feast which needs to be enjoyed, and digested, over time... Many thanks, Catherine

  4. Thanks, Catherine... I remember how hard it was to start and was helped by some wonderful people along the way. This post is a great example of what we can achieve by working together...

    Eunice, if you need some guidance, just ask... there are so many willing to help you on to the right track, as it were...

    Catherine, I love the old terms and just had to include that beauty... enjoy the re readings, Catherine. We, the descendants of Robert and Bridget, are fortunate in that there are so many records available for settlers in the Hawkesbury area... not that all 'jump out' to be found.

  5. A fascinating post Chris tracking down your convict ancestors. Your advice to Eunice was very apt. Many of us start out knowing very little, and it's only by persevering through the records that the stories start to come together. Catherine's right that many of probably sound like we were born knowing all this stuff, rather than having laboured away on those brick walls for decades.

    You asked what an Englishman and an Irish woman had in common -surely it's obvious....calico! Robert was pretty determined to get himself into trouble it seems and Bridget and her family were pretty good too. How amazing about those seals!

  6. I thought it was quite ironic that both were convicted for stealing calico... but what fascinates me, is that they became respectable citizens and contributed to the founding of our country. We don't have a lot more on Bridget's family, but they really were a strange lot...

    The seals look beautiful, I've only seen photos so far, but will go to see them when next down that way.

    My second name is Bridget, named after my Irish grandmother... little did I know when I set out to research, that Bridget was a common name through my maternal grandfather's side also, going back to the above mentioned Bridget at least. Initially, we had no idea that my Pa had some Irish blood also. He wasn't all that fond of the Irish and used to say he married one of the few good ones. Wish I could share our research with him.

  7. I have just come across your Blob Chris ... a wonderful dedication to our relatives. My nickname growing up was Bridget ... I never gave it any thought as I didn't know who my convict ancestors were at the time ... now I feel quite honoured to have been given this name of endearment knowing that my GGG grandmother was Bridget Eslin/Heslin ... I am very proud of my ancestry, they were tough and survived allowing me to be here today to do them proud.

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Bev... I have several Bridgets in my ancestry, each one special for different reasons... it is great to know so much about them. Thank you for all you have contributed and shared...

  9. I found this one of the most amazing genealogical experiences and searches I have ever undertaken. I had no idea what would come from those 2 gold seals and a gold locket held togerther by a ring of gold....

    1. Thanks, Ross... it has been amazing. We have our second Hobbs Family Reunion coming up on October Richmond School of Arts...
      I will post the invite on this blog shortly.



  10. Such a great blog post Chris - I have only scanned it briefly but will pass on to Jim, my father, who will be fascinated I am sure. What particularly interests me is the supposed German origin of the name Heslin/Eslin because some German origins did show up in my DNA test and I wondered where they were from. But now I think about it - that DNA test was for my matrilineal line and the Eslins are on my father's side so now I have German ancestry on both sides!

  11. The more we learn, the less we know.. or so it seems, Alex. Simply because each fact we learn, leads us to more of the unknown. I've lost track of the number of cousins researching, what I find to be totally intriguing, the lives of Bridget Heslin/Eslin and Robert Hobbs.
    I hope your Dad enjoys it. There is so much more...
    Thanks for your comments.

    Here are some other links..


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