John Wild – The Convict

I haven’t got any convicts ancestors (that I know of!), but I enjoyed researching the life of one with a name that is in my family tree way back – Wild . There are sooo many Wilds in Yorkshire where my Wilds are from, where this Convict originated. Who knows? There may be a connection that I haven’t found yet. I missed writing last weeks #52ancestors in 52 weeks story, which was “Mistakes” – we all make them. This guy, John Wild unfortunately made the same mistake too many times, and it ended up costing him everything.

John Wild was transported on the Marquis of Hastings with 177 other convicts from Great Britain, all male[1].    His crime was quite a minor one by today’s standards.  He had stolen a linen shift from a spinster called Elizabeth Storey on the 16th December 1827[2].  The shift may have been intended as a gift for his wife[3].

 It was not the only crime he had been caught and punished for.  Barely two months before (though the Sheffield Independent states it was in 1826[4]), he was convicted of stealing a large amount of cutlery from Thomas Beet[5]. This crime earnt him 2 months in prison with hard labour, therefore John had probably just left the prison when he stole the piece of linen from Ms Storey. There is also evidence to suggest that John had been accused of and committed crimes in previous years[6].

John was born near Sheffield, Yorkshire, in about 1805[7].  He was a farm labourer[8], this may have meant that he only had work at certain times of the year.

Amusingly, after hearing the news that he would be transported to Australia for seven years, John yelled out “Thank you, Sir, I’m innocent this time!”.[9]   

John was sent to the Prison Hulk ‘York’ at Portsmouth until his transfer to the Marquis of Hastings in June.[10] 

“The York” Prison Hulk
“Doncaster Sessions”, Sheffield Independent , 26 Jan 1828.

Throughout this holding period and on the journey to Australia were men who were also sentenced at Doncaster on the same day, including Henry Fowler, who stole three tame fowls, and Thomas Vickers, who had also stolen clothing.[11]

Most of the convicts were quite healthy during the journey to Australia on the Marquis of Hastings. The ship’s Surgeon, William Rae, reported that there were no deaths during the voyage, and that most were in a “remarkable state of good health”[12].    

The convict ship arrived in Australia, at Port Jackson New South Wales, on the 12th Oct 1828[13]  On his arrival, John’s details were recorded, and he was sent to the hospital[14]. There does not seem to be a mention of John Wild in Rae’s journal, so perhaps he was sick on arrival to the shore.

John Wild was described as having Light Brown hair, Hazel eyes and a fair, ruddy complexion. He would have been easy to recognize, his upper teeth were said to be ‘irregular’, he had four hairy moles on the left cheek, and 4 on the neck. He had also lost the tops of the third and fourth fingers on the left hand[15]. He had no money other than ten shillings to his name[16].

It is unclear where John was first sent to live after arrival in the colony. The Governor’s Secretary would take the Superintendents of Convicts on board the ships on arrival, selecting tradespeople for the colony and labour to send to the free settlers for working the land, or in their businesses[17]. Copious amounts of work for convicts such as building, and land clearing was needed at the time[18], therefore labourers who had no specific skill set may have been sent to be housed at the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney until they were required elsewhere.

In 1829, Wild was convicted of “absconding from his station” in Sydney[19]. For this crime, he was sent to the prison at Parramatta. The pattern of running away had started.  John was in Sydney on the 8th January 1831. He was captured after running away from the “No. 4 Iron Gang” and then sent to Portland Head[20]. He must have been extremely crafty to escape, as usually men sent to work on the roads in an iron gang were closely supervised and wearing heavy iron shackles around their legs. These were men who had committed further crimes whilst in the colony.[21]

Eventually John was sent to work for a free settler, William Cox Junior of Hobartville, approximately 72 km north west of Sydney. However, in 1833 he was again sent to Paramatta Gaol as punishment after running away[22].

Though John had committed several crimes whilst a convict in New South Wales, he was still granted a Certificate of Freedom on the 4th April 1835. He had served his seven years. His certificate lists his appearance, which almost matches the description on his indent papers, with the addition of a lump on the throat and only two moles observed on the left cheek instead of four. The Certificate of Freedom paper stub also states that he was convicted of stealing flour, which was not the original reason he was transported; however, he may have stolen flour on another occasion in the colony. His height is listed as being five feet five and a half inches, however, the five and a half inches part has been lightly crossed out and written above: 8 in: 28 May 1844[23].  This date, written above the crossed-out words may be evidence that Wild’s convict records have been cross checked by someone within the prison system.  On the indents a note has been made stating his certificate of freedom number near his name[24].

It appears that John continued to break the law after he was given his freedom. A convict muster of 1838 shows John’s name listed with the ship’s name he arrived on and the year[25].  Not surprisingly, the 28th May 1844 as mentioned before was the date John Wild arrived back at the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney after spending a few days in the Parramatta Gaol once more, for Larceny[26].

The convict trail seems to go cold for John after 1844, with no further records being found to differentiate him from others. It is unlikely that he ever saw his wife or family again. The reality is that most convicts transported to Australia never returned to their homeland[27]. The average lifespan for a transported Convict in Australia was approximately 61 years[28]. For now, John Wild’s fate is unknown.

If you think you know where this convict ended up, please get in contact 🙂


Robert Russell, ‘Prisoner’s Barracks, Hyde Park’ 1836, Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia. The Hyde Park Barracks

Bibliography

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868, Class: HO 11; Piece: 6, Ancestry, Accessed 28 April 2018.

Convict Records, https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/wild/john/82344 , accessed 6 May 2018.

Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, Class: HO 27; Piece: 22; Page: 299; Class: HO 27; Piece: 32; Page: 323, Ancestry, Accessed 28 April 2018.

Digital Panopticon, https://www.digitalpanopticon.org

Doncaster Sessions 23 January 1828, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914, Ancestry, Accessed 15 April 2018.

Leeds Mercury

National Library of Australia  https://www.nla.gov.au/

 New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867, State Archives NSW, Ancestry, Accessed 1 April 2018

 New South Wales, Australia, Convict Savings Bank Books, 1824-1886, Ancestry, accessed 1 May 2018.

New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849, Class: HO 10; Piece: 35, Ancestry, Accessed 6 May 2018.

New South Wales Government Gazette

New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842, State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4013]; Microfiche: 670, Ancestry, Accessed 1 May 2018.

New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, State Archives NSW; Roll: 851, Ancestry, Accessed 13 April 2018.

New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, State Archives NSW; Roll: 852, Ancestry, Accessed 2 May 2018.

  Pilot Guides, ‘Transportation’www.pilotguides.com/tv-shows/short-history-of-the-world/a-short-history-of-convict-australia , Accessed 8 May 2018.

Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1902-1849, Class: HO9; Piece:9, Ancestry, Accessed 28 April 2018.   

Sheffield Independent

Slater, John, “A description of Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle, &c., settlements in New South Wales, with some account of the manners and employment of the convicts, in a letter from John Slater to his wife in Nottingham, published for the benefit of his wife and four children”, Published in Nottinghamshire 1819, pg 7, National Archives of Australia, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-425398178 Accessed 5 May 2018.

Sydney Living Museums, https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/convict-sydney/what-work-did-convicts-do, Accessed 5 May 2018.

Sydney Living Museums,  https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/who-were-hyde-park-barracks-convicts, Accessed 5 May 2018.

  The Great North Road, ‘Convict Road Gangs and Iron Gangs’http://greatnorthroad.com.au/about-the-trail/convict-life, Convict Trail Project, 2014, Accessed 1 May 2018.

The James Gammell Chronicles, http://jamesgammellchronicles.blogspot.com.au/2010/02/york-hulk.html, Accessed 1 May 2018.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser

Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914, Ancestry, Accessed 20 April 2018.

Willetts, Jen, ‘Departure’, & ‘Surgeon William Rae’, Convict Ship Marquis of Hastings, Free Settler or Felon? https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_marquis_of_hastings_1828.htm , Accessed 3 May 2018.


[1] Jen Willetts, ‘Departure’, Convict Ship Marquis of Hastings, Free Settler or Felon? https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_marquis_of_hastings_1828.htm , Accessed 3 May 2018.

[2] Ancestry, John Wild’s Indictment, Doncaster Sessions 23 January 1828, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914 Accessed 15 April 2018.

[3] Ancestry, John Wild Indents, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842, State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4013]; Microfiche: 670, accessed 1 May 2018 (states that he is married).

[4] “Doncaster Sessions” Sheffield Independent, 26 January 1828, p3.

[5] Ancestry, John Wild Indictment, 19 Oct 1827, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914, Accessed 20 April 2018.

[6] i) Ancestry, Criminal records for John Wild, England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, Class: HO 27; Piece: 22; Page: 299; Class: HO 27; Piece: 32; Page: 323, Accessed 28 April 2018, ii) Ancestry, John Wild Indents, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842.

[7] Ancestry, Certificate of Freedom for John Wild, no.28/1843, New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867, State Archives and Records NSW, No.35/280, 4 April 1835, Prisoner’s no. 35/280, Accessed 10 April 2018.

[8] i)Ancestry, John Wild, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records ii) New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842.

[9] Doncaster Sessions” Sheffield Independent, 26 January 1828, p3.

[10] i) Ancestry, John Wild, UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1902-1849, Class: HO9; Piece:9, accessed 28 April 2018.    ii) Ancestry, John Wild, Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships. 

[11]   if) ‘Doncaster General Quarter sessions’, Leeds Mercury, 26 January 1828, ii) Ancestry, John Wild, UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, iii) Ancestry, John Wild, Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships.

[12]   Jen Willetts, ‘Surgeon William Rae’, Convict Ship Marquis of Hastings, Free Settler or Felon?  

[13] Jen Willetts, ‘Arrival’, Convict Ship Marquis of Hastings, Free Settler or Felon?

[14] Ancestry, John Wild Indents, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842.

[15] i) Ancestry, John Wild Certificate of Freedom, New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867, State Archives NSW, Accessed 1 April 2018;

ii) Ancestry, John Wild Indents, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842.

[16] Ancestry, John Wild Convict banking record, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Savings Bank Books, 1824-1886, accessed 1 May 2018.

[17] John Slater, “A description of Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle, &c., settlements in New South Wales, with some account of the manners and employment of the convicts, in a letter from John Slater to his wife in Nottingham, published for the benefit of his wife and four children”, Published in Nottinghamshire 1819, pg 7, National Archives of Australia, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-425398178 Accessed 5 May 2018.

[18] Sydney Living Museums, https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/convict-sydney/what-work-did-convicts-do, Accessed 5 May 2018.

[19] Ancestry, John Wild Convict Record, 16 Jan 1929, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, State Archives NSW; Roll: 851, Accessed 13 April 2018.

[20] Ancestry, John Wild Convict Record, 8 Jan 1831, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, State Archives NSW; Roll: 851, Accessed 12 April 2018.

[21]Convict Road Gangs and Iron Gangs’, The Great North Road, http://greatnorthroad.com.au/about-the-trail/convict-life, Convict Trail Project, 2014, accessed 1 May 2018.

[22] i) Ancestry, John Wild Convict Record, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, State Archives NSW; Roll: 852, Accessed 2 May 2018; ii) “Classified Advertising” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842) 17 January 1833:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2210389, 23 Apr 2018.

[23]  Ancestry, John Wild Certificate of Freedom.

[24] Ancestry, John Wild Convict Indents.

[25] Ancestry, John Wild Convict Muster, New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849, Class: HO 10; Piece: 35, Accessed 6 May 2018.

[26] New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930

[27] Pilot Guides, ‘Transportation’,  www.pilotguides.com/tv-shows/short-history-of-the-world/a-short-history-of-convict-australia , Accessed 8 May 2018.

[28] Convict Records, Average Life Span according to contributions to website (28,475) https://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/wild/john/82344 , accessed 6 May 2018.

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