Convict Ship Alexander 1806

The Convict Ship Alexander 1806

by Grahame Thom

This article was published in the magazine Australian Family Tree Connection. January 2004

Family historians researching a male convict ancestor arriving in Sydney in 1806 have usually been advised that either no male convicts came on the convict ship Alexander or that there could have been male convicts on the Alexander but there is only a combined list of convicts who came on either the Alexander or Fortune. My ancestor, Thomas Anderson, came out as a convict on one of these ships, and in trying to prove which one I found separate lists in the Admiralty records and would like to share the details with readers.

Both ships left Spithead, England on 28 January 1806 as part of a fleet of seven ships under the command of Captain William Bligh who was proceeding to Sydney to take up his appointment as Governor of the Colony of New South Wales.

Charles Bateson in his very useful book, The Convict Ships 1788-1868, states that 260 male convicts came on the Fortune (4 died during the voyage) and 42 female convicts came on the Alexander (no deaths). In a footnote he states that Men were embarked both on the Fortune and Alexander, but separate figures for each ship are not available; women were embarked on the Alexander only.

On Leslie Uebel’s most useful Claim-A-Convict website all the male convicts are identified as having come on the Fortune, except for Richard and Thomas Clarkson who are listed as having sailed on the Alexander. Leslie has advised me that no male convicts came on the Alexander.

The Society of Australian Genealogist’s CD Convicts to NSW 1788-1812, lists 306 male convicts as having arrived on either the Fortune or the Alexander, and 48 female convicts on the Alexander. The main sources used to compile this CD are the convict records of the Colonial Secretary’s Office, held by the State Records Office of New South Wales and Home Office Class 11, Criminal, Convict Transportation Registers copied on the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) Microfilm Reels. In researching this matter I have been able to confirm from the Admiralty records that 48 female convicts did sail in the Alexander, assuming that Sarah Porter was taken off the ship just before leaving Spithead (see later).

What lead me to finding the separate lists was reading David T Hawkings’ excellent book Bound for Australia. David explains in his Preface that the purpose of his book is to enable the descendant of a convict to trace his ancestor.

In reading the following records it is important to appreciate that the information revealed is likely to be accurate only on the date it was recorded. In other words, the number of convicts to be transported can change right up to the date of sailing. Also please note that there are some spelling differences in both given names and surnames between the lists and later musters in New South Wales, for example most female convicts with the given name of Eliza are listed later as Elizabeth. Also I have re-arranged the lists with surnames in alphabetical order.

On page 3 Hawkings records that on 23 January 1806 Thomas Shelton lodged his account for transporting 298 convicts on the Fortune and Alexander and David also states that The Fortune’s muster of convicts appears to be mixed with that of the Alexander.

Then on page 28 David lists that the Admiralty records reveal that on 27 January, that is the day before the fleet sailed, 306 convicts were on board the two ships. But for me the most important piece of advice by Hawkings was on page 3 that the records of the Admiralty Transport Department sometimes named convicts to be transported and in particular on page 20 he refers to Admiralty Class 108, Records of the Transport Department.

I just had to search these records on the AJCP Reels and what follows is what I found:

Home Office Class 13 Piece 17 pps 118 to 120, AJCP Reel 422
Whitehall 3 December 1805
Comm for the Transport Services


It having been found necessary to make an addition of ten to the number of Female Convicts which are going to New South Wales: I am directed by Lord Hawkesbury to acquaint you herewith, and that orders have been given for the immediate removal of the whole of them (Fifty) on board the ship Alexander at Long Reach: in consequence of this arrangement it is proposed to allow only fifteen Male Convicts (nine of which number will be put on board from the Hulks in the River Thames) with their wives and children to embark in that vessel, which will make the number of Convicts and Women including the Female Convicts to be eighty as originally proposed.

I am also to acquaint you that orders will be given for embarking One Hundred and one Male Convicts on the Fortune. Transport from the hulks at Woolwich as soon as it is ascertained that the Guard which is to accompany them to New South Wales is on board that vessel and the remaining number will be removed from the hulks at Portsmouth on the arrival of this ship at that place. I enclose a list of Females who are allowed to accompany their husbands to New South Wales and I am directed by Lord Hawkesbury to desire that orders may be given for permitting them to embark for that Colony.

I am
J King (official in the Home Office)

Wives of Convicts to be permitted to accompany their husbands to New South Wales
Anderson, Sarah alias Andrews, 2 children, wife of Thomas Andrews [Woolwich] Bentley, 2 children, wife of William Bentley [Portsmouth]
Clarkson, Catherine 2 children, wife of Thomas Clarkson [Woolwich]
Clarkson, Lucy 1 child, wife of Richard Clarkson [Woolwich]
Hall,3 children, wife of John Hall [Woolwich]
Henshall, Mary 3 children, wife of William Henshall [Woolwich]
Kemp, Ann 2 children, wife of John Kemp [Portsmouth]
Lacey, wife of Thomas Lacey [Portsmouth]
Mander, wife of Robert Mander [Woolwich]
Newsham, wife of Thomas Newsham [Woolwich]
Robertson, wife of David Roberston [Woolwich]
Smith, Ann wife of William Smith [Portsmouth]
Tibbs, 2 children, wife of John Tibbs [Portsmouth]
Watson, wife of William Watson [Woolwich]

On 21 December 1805 in a letter to John King from the Transport Board there are lists of the names of 49 female and nine male convicts with five of their wives and children embarked on the Alexander. Also the writer asked for directions concerning convict Sarah Porter as she was in a bad state of health (reference Admiralty Class 108, Piece 20, page 262, AJCP Reel 4400). I have not included these lists as the following (ibid, Piece 21, page 1) is dated closer to the sailing date:

TO 23 January 1806
John King Esq

I am directed by the Board to index for the information of the Right Honorable Lord Hawkesbury, a list of the Convicts, Convicts’ Wives and Children, and Ship’s Company, embarked on board the Alexander for New South Wales.

I am at the same time to acquaint you that the name of the Convict who died on the 19th instant on board the Fortune, at Spithead, is William Swaine, from Lincoln.

I have the honor to be, Sir
(signature illegible)

Male Convicts (15) from Woolwich
Thomas Andrews, William Bentley, Richard Clarkson, Thomas Clarkson, John Hall, John Kemp, William Kenshall, Robert Mander, Thomas Newsham, David Robertson, John Smith alias Lacey, William Smith, John Tibb, William Watson, (ditto from Langstone) Soloman Wiseman

Female Convicts ( 49 )

lsabella Barnes, Mary Bellas, Mary Berry, Ann Brazier, Sarah Briant, Eliza Brooks, Eliza Buffy, Ann Bulmer, Mary Burkett, Eliza Carter, Mary Carty, Sarah Chidley, Mary Childs, Mary Clarke, Jane Curtis, Eliza Dunn, Catherine Grady, Mary Hammett, Martha Hogden, Mary Johnson, Margaret Johnston, Mary Ann Jones, Catherine Kelly, Grace Knight, Sarah Lee alias Lea, Eliza Longden, Martha Luke, Mary Marney, Esther Merryman, Catherine Miles, Mary Miller, Sarah Moss, Ann Parsons, Eliza Peterson, Mary Poor and 1 child, Diana Porter, Sarah Porter, Rebecca Reason, Eliza Rich, Eliza Riches, Jane Scott, Sarah Sibury, Sarah Slater, Mary Sowden, Sarah Sullivan, Eliza Symons, Ann Taylor, Eliza Taylor, Ann Webb

Passengers (8 wives, 10 children)
Sarah Anderson, (Thomas 1 year, James 3 years), Sarah Bentley (Mary 9 years, William 5 years, James 4 years), Jane Hall, (John 8 years, Jane 3 years), Maria Lacey, Eliza Newsham, Susan Tibbs (Louisa 5 years, John 2 years), Eliza Watson, Jane Wiseman (William 5 years).

From this it would appear that not all wives decided to sail with their convict husbands.

Next I examined the NSW Musters from 1811 to 1825, the 1828 Census and the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriage Indexes in order to see if they could support the evidence that 15 male convicts and eight wives and children came to Sydney on board the Alexander.

Of the 15 male convicts eleven are recorded in the musters. The BDM Index reveals that males named William Smith, William Bentley, John Smith and Thomas Andrews (my ancestor) died between arrival in 1806 and the first muster after arrival in 1811. All the relevant muster entries state that the particular convict had been transported in the Alexander. But more importantly none had the Fortune against their name.

Of the eight wives and children it would appear that William Bentley’s wife Sarah decided not to accompany her husband as I found no record of Sarah or their children in NSW. On the other hand it would appear that one of the wives listed on 3 December 1805 and not listed on 23 January 1806 later decided to embark with her husband, for Catherine Clarkson and children are recorded in the musters and census as having arrived in 1806 on the Alexander. Also I found entries in the musters, census and BDM indexes relating to at least 46 of the female convicts. In summary I am satisfied that the Alexander transported 48 female convicts, 15 male convicts, eight wives and nine children to Sydney in 1806.

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