First Fleeters in your family history?

First FleetMany genealogists must have ancestors who made up the first fleet. For those who aren’t familiar with the term First Fleeter let me explain …….. The First Fleeter is the name given to the group of eleven ships which sailed to Australia in 1787. The purpose of the fleet was to establish a penal colony so that Britain could transport those who had fallen foul of the law, often the offences were minor, but that didn’t make any difference to the outcome.

The fleet consisted of two Royal Navy ships, three store vessels and six convict transporters. It is disputed exactly how many passengers were aboard the ships, but it is generally thought that about 1,500 people arrived in Australia after a long voyage. Along with the convicts there were also paying passengers who were keen to seek their fortunes on distant shores.

First Fleet database

TFirst Fleet Search resultshis University of Wollongong website offers a searchable database of the people who were part of the First Fleet. Also there are numerous links to other sites concerning these brave souls who were present at the birth of modern Australia. The search form has several options alongside the obvious surname and first name there is ship, crime, place of trial, age, sentence etc.

A good website that will enable those who know that their ancestor was a first fleeter to learn more, but will also prove to be valuable for those who have an ancestor who has mysterious disappeared from home around 1787.





Ancestors gone to New York?

New York GenealogyDid any of your ancestors sail across the Atlantic and settle in New York? Many of us will find that people who disappear between census suddenly appear in the Big Apple. FamilySearch have just released a very informative free guide to New York ancestors. The guide comprises a series of research articles about tracing ancestors in New York City which is a vast area so you need all the help you can get.

One of the many interesting points made in the articles is that early New York records are held on The Netherlands. Included is a link to the records available online through the FamilySearch website.

Naturalisation and Denization papers now online

Naturalisation and Denization papersI don’t know about you, but I had no idea what denization was, however thanks to The National Archives I now know that it is a form of British citizenship that gives a person some, but not all of the right of a British citizen. Naturalisation gives a person full citizen rights

National Archives have announced the release of what I think are a brick wall buster set of documents. Thousands of 19th century records concerning immigrants into Britain 1801 – 1871 who applied to become British. To become citizens the applicants had to present the Home Office with details of their name, age, trade and how long they had lived in Britain. It is these application papers that are now available online.

The applicants came from across the world, most seemed to have settled in London.

If you have ancestors whose surnames seem a little unusual and they simply appeared out of no-where then this is a set of records you should search. A name search is free and it costs £3.36 for an instant download of a PDF of the documents.

As an example I did a search under Smith and found Ernest Smith from Prussia whose naturalisation papers dated 1 July 1862 covers 7 pages, John Christopher Smith original country not given whose naturalisation papers dated 1830 covers 22 pages and Emilie Smith from Naples whose denization papers dated 4 July 1833 covers 5 pages. There were a total of 34 separate entries under the name Smith. So it can be seen that some files have a considerable amount of information.

To access these records click on and enter the surname and the government reference HO 1 under Advance Search and then click on search.

NSW Colonial Secretary Papers 1788 – 1825

New South Wales Colonial Secretary Papers 1788 – 1825Just this minute Ancestry has added a new dataset to their Australian Collection. Hot off the press is the New South Wales Colonial Secretary Papers 1788 – 1825, NSW was the first part of Australia to be settled by the British so these documents are important to those who have early Australians on their family tree.

I’ll get around to posting a more in depth post later, but the Colonial Secretary Papers include requests for permission to marry, land grants, convict petitions and much more. Lots of lovely papers to browse through or to focus in on for an ancestor.

New Zealand Emigration & Gold Fields

Gold miner with cart emerging from a New Zealand gold mine.

I came across this interesting book on the Find My Past Australasian website, “New Zealand Emigration & Gold Fields” by George Butler Earp, published in 1853 by George Routledge & co. I can just image some of our ancestors being seduced by the lure of gold and snapping up this book when newly printed !

The book covers such subjects as children being an asset in the new colony, over coming a reluctance to emigrate, reports from the various gold diggings and the use of capital in NZ  which would be too small to be of any use in England. When tracing our family trees it is easy to concentrate on adding more and more ancestors and forgetting to get to know the ones that we already have. This book is a good example of background material that adds understanding and colour to our ancestors lives.


image – Wikimedia – Gold miner with cart emerging from a NZ gold mine – Auckland Libraries