Tuesday, January 01, 2019

52 Ancestors - First

FIRST - a new year and another attempt at recording some of my family history via the 52 Ancestors prompts!

This week, the prompt is "First" and I'm delving deeper into my first Ancestor to arrive in Australia - Samuel Freeman. He was my 4th Greatfather and his offspring eventually led to my maternal Grandmother and my Dad.

I think he was born about 1799 in Hertfordshire, England, but I have no definitive records of that (more research to do - Freeman is a very common name!).

At age 21, he was working as a millwright (a high-precision craftsman or tradesman who installs, dismantles, repairs, reassembles and moves machinery in corn mills). At about 5pm on 10 October 1799, he was caught stealing out of the chamber room of Thomas Bigg of Kimpton Mill. He stole a "scarlet printed Kersymere waistcoat (worth 10 shillings) and one pair of dark-coloured breeches (worth 15 shillings). He also stole from the sleeping room of Joseph Bigg one Bank of England note of 20 pounds and 40 and one-half guineas.

He was found not guilty of breaking and entering, but was nevertheless sentenced to death by hanging at Hertfordshire on 3 March 1800 (Public Records Office Chancery Lane, London; ref; ASSI 35/240). The sentence was commuted to life.

He travelled to Australia as a convict on the Earl Cornwallis in August1800 with 296 convicts (average sentence - 8 years; 77 convicts with life sentences). He arrived at the colony of New South Wales on 12 June 1801.

He would have arrived into Sydney Cove (the picture below shows Sydney in 1802). There were government buildings and convict huts located at what is now known as "The Rocks", but there were no prisoner barracks - the sea and bush were considered adequate prison walls.

According to the Sydney Living Museum, the convict's days would have looked something like this:

"At sunrise each day the men went out to begin work at 7am in their government gangs, working outdoors or in lumberyard workshops or serving private masters. At 8am, they took a break and continued their work from 9am, cutting trees, sawing timber, pulling carts, splitting shingles, making bricks, tools and nails, making wheels, doors, windows and furniture, making rope, forging tools and leg-irons, tailoring and shoemaking, quarrying sandstone and building."

In the convict muster of 1806, Samuel Freeman was listed as working for the Government at Castle Hill:

At some stage, he ended up at Windsor, the Hawkesbury Valley. In September 1809, he was discharged from the Hawkesbury Stores:

On 28 February 1811, he was given permission to marry convict Elizabeth Smith, who had come out on the Canada in 1810, aged about 18 and who had been in the colony for about six months.

They were married on 4 March 1811, at St Mathews Church in Windsor.

They had their first child, William, in 1812, followed by John in either 1813 or 1815.

In 1813, after Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson had found a route across the Blue Mountains, which was surveyed by George Evans. William Cox had volunteered to construct a road along that route and on 14 July 1814, Cox received a letter from Governer Macquarie, accepting his offer to superintend the making of the road from a ford on the Nepean River, near Emu Plains to a centrical part of Bathurst Plains. He was given 30 labourers and a guard of eight soldiers. The 30 men included 13 convicts who were "skilled artisans" and Samuel Freeman is listed as a "rough carpenter". The men were selected as being accustomed to field labour and supposed to be best calculated to undergo the fatigue of hard work and sleeping on the ground.

As rough carpenter, Freeman would have been responsible for the team that built dozens of bridges in the 6 months covering the 160 miles.

Work was begun on 18 July 1814 and it was finished on 14 January 1815 (27 weeks). Cox kept a diary and Samuel Freeman was referred in it several times, mostly because he was sick! The conditions sounded really tough:

August 2.
The workmen go on with much cheerfulness and do their work well. Gave them a quantity of cabbage as a present.

September 8.
Men at work as yesterday. The wind has been very high and cold from the west since Sunday last, and last night it blew a perfect hurricane. Saw a few flying showers yesterday, but we got scarcely any rain, and it appears the wind will carry it away. The country about here very barren. No kangaroos to be seen. Shot one pheasant, with tail complete; shot two others without tail, It appears to be too early in the season for them, as their tails are just shooting, and others not at full length. Scarcely any small birds to be seen.

September 25 (Sunday).
Went up the mountain; examined it, and fixed on the way to make a winding road up. This is the highest mountain on the whole range we cross. From it Windsor houses, etc., are distinctly visible, as are the wheatfields, farmhouses, etc. There is a river running to the east about a mile south of this, the banks of which are so high and steep it is not possible to get down. This river empties itself into the Nepean about four miles higher up than Emu Plains.

October 24.
Set all hands to work road-making, including blacksmith, carpenter, stonemasons, etc;, being extremely anxious to get forward and ascertain if we can descend the mountain to the south before we get to the end of the ridge. Tuesday and Wednesday the men continued the same work, and getting on extremely well. Wrote to the Governor for a further supply of gunpowder, to enable us to blow up the rocks in our way; as also rope and blocks, to expedite us in building bridge and getting off the mountain.

November 8.
Employed the same hands in the same manner. Light rain as before. The men very wet and uncomfortable, their clothes and bedding being also wet.

November 11.
Rain commenced before daylight, and continued the whole day. Wind S. and very cold. Sent T. Raddock to Windsor, being very ill. S. Freeman, the carpenter, laid up with a cold and swollen face.

14 November 1814 - Sick list: S. Freeman, cold and swelled face; 
The extreme wet weather we had for a fortnight before we arrived here has given most of the men colds, but as they are now dry lodged, and, in addition to their large ration, have fresh kangaroo at least three times a week, it is to be hoped they will soon recover. So many men sick, and chiefly very useful ones, breaks in on our working party much, and the continuous rain also prevents so much work being done as I could wish.

December 28.
Cloudy, unsettled morning; Wind east-south-east, and cold. Sent two soldiers to mark some trees across the river on a ridge to the west that I saw yesterday. The two carpenters came forward this morning, having finished the last bridge on the road from the mountain to this place (10 in number). Lewis reports the men getting on well at the road, but that they will not complete it to this place before Saturday.

The diary abruptly ends on 7 January 1815, but work was completed a week later on 14 January. In April, Governor Macquarie drove his carriage on the road from Sydney to Bathurst. 

All the men who worked on the road were given pardons. Samuel Freeman was emancipated with a convict pardon on 5 June 1815. Listing his height as 5 foot 7 inches, his complexion as fair and ruddy, light brown hair, hazel eyes and "good looking"!

On 15 July 1815 at Eastern Creek stockyards, he was given 15 head of horned cattle for his work on the mountain road.

The 1822 Convict Muster listed him as a landowner at Richmond and the 1825 Muster as having 5 acres there. In the 1826 Census, he was listed as being aged 42 with a Conditional Pardon and working as a millright.

By the 1828 Census, Elizabeth has left him and was living with a William Wilmott at Concord with William 17, John 15, Sophia 8, Elizabeth 5 and Sarah 2. John 13, Emmanuel (George) 12 (my 3rd Great Grandfather), Samuel 10 and James 8 were listed as staying with Samuel.

In 1841, he is listed as living at the Parish of St Mathews, County Cumberland, which is Richmond.

Samuel Freeman lived an amazing life. He died on 18 August 1855, as noted by his memorial at Round Swamp Cemetery on the Mudgee Road near Capertee, next to his son Samuel. The Round Swamp property was initially owned by John Freeman, who was a farmer and son of Samuel. While Samuel isn't buried in the Round Swamp Cemetery, his son John erected a memorial to him. It is not known where he died as there is no record of his death.

Samuel Freeman is also remembered in the street name Freeman Road in Agnes Banks, where he worked as a millwright.

Family legend has it that Freeman's Reach, near Wiseman's Ferry on the Hawkesbury River was also named after our Freemans, but alas, this turns out to be false:

I have to say, I didn't expect to find this much detail on my "First" ancestor! I just had a browse through my direct ancestors and found which one came to Australia first. I'm so glad I'm able to uncover a relative who was so important to Australia's history!


  1. Great start! Where did the children live after Samuel and Elizabeth married? Did the convicts live in barracks? Or were Samuel and Elizabeth allowed to have a home to care for their children? Were all of Elizabeth's children fathered by Samuel? Elizabeth was only living with William Wilmott?

    1. Hi Carey! As far as I can ascertain, there were no convict barracks in Sydney during those times and the convicts were able to build themselves their own cottages. So I can only imagine that Elizabeth and the children were living in a cottage - I can't imagine it would have been fancy, though. I think all of Elizabeth's children were fathered by Samuel, but you never know! I think she moved out with William Wilmot (no marriage record) and took half the kids with her, and the rest stayed with Samuel. I imagine him being away would have been quite difficult.

  2. How interesting. It’s so satisfying to be able to track your ancestors and learn of their accomplishments & contributions. it’s love learning about early white settlement in Australia. Good luck with your further investigations.


Bloggers LOVE comments! We are pretty needy that way, so go on, leave some love :-)

52 Ancestors - Unusual Name

In this week's post, we have been asked to look behind an "unusual name" and I've chosen my great-aunt's husband, Fred...