I have written previously about my excitement when the package of copies of the trial records for John Graham arrived in the post. The trial records of transported convicts from Scotland are available to be copied, and are indexed by name in the National Archives of Scotland catalogue.
Let me tell you what I found. To recap, the arrival of John Graham into New South Wales was a bit of a mystery as there were no NSW convicts of the right age and no recorded immigrants who fit his circumstances. His death certificate gave the length of time he lived in the Colony of New South Wales as a fairly precise 46 years, meaning that he should have been 16 when he arrived here in about 1846. It also claimed that he was born in Scotland, and that his parents were John Graham, a bricklayer, and Ann Duffy. His widow was the informant. His marriage registration didn’t give his parents; nor did the parish register.
There was a convict by that name arriving in Tasmania from Scotland in 1840, aged 12. The likelihood of this being the John Graham in question was high but not certain.
When I found this convict on the National Archives of Scotland catalogue the entry very helpfully stated that his father was Peter Graham, a weaver. This was a bit discouraging but the other evidence was strong enough to make it worthwhile to order the copies.
The packet of copies arrived, and a large packet it was! Here is a single page, to show the format. Each page is labelled at the top, as you can see.
When I had time to go through the many pages I found the following:
- a long list of stolen items acquired on 4 separate occasions over about 2 weeks
- a detailed description of his acquisition of these items and how they were distributed. It would be possible, using a contemporary map of Dundee, to trace John’s movements over the period.
- a list of the 5 other boys that John hung out with – “all common thieves and associate very much together”
- extracts from 3 previous convictions for theft
- statements given by a large number of people, including his father Peter Graham, his mother Rose Duffy, and his uncle Michael Graham, to whom John had given a stolen silk handkerchief
- Peter Graham, a weaver, was aged 38 and resided at Smalls Wynd, Dundee
- Rosie Graham or Duffy was aged 38 and very deaf
- Michael Graham, weaver, was aged 27 and resided at Lyons Close, Dundee
- Patrick Ward, weaver, and Alice Ward or Collins his wife, were lodgers with the Grahams
- None of the defendants or the family members giving evidence could write
- John pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 years transportation
Wonderful detail! I was very pleased to see that his mother’s maiden surname was Duffy, giving some link with the details on the death certificate given by his widow.
I am now more inclined to think that this transported John Graham, aged 12 in early 1840, is the same John Graham who died in 1892 after 46 years in the Colony of New South Wales. He was given his Free Certificate in 1846 and may well have headed straight to New South Wales in the same year.
His wife may well have thought that he was born in Scotland, but this convict was born in Ireland, according to the Tasmanian convict records. It would have been an easy mistake to make. John may not even have been able to remember Ireland at all, and certainly by the time he had done his time in Tasmania it must have seemed like a distant memory.
I may never be able to prove that this young convict grew up to be the man I am looking for. I do think that he is the closest match I will ever find, and I’m thrilled with the files I got from the National Archives and the evidence they contain.
NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Death registration of John Graham, 1892/3934.
Joint Copying Project, ‘The Register of St John the Baptists Wellington NSW – Marriages 10 August 1841 to 23 June 1857 and 17 July 1874 to 14 September 1874.’ Society of Australian Genealogists, 2008.Joint Copying Project, ‘The Register of St John the Baptists Wellington NSW – Marriages 10 August 1841 to 23 June 1857 and 17 July 1874 to 14 September 1874.’ Society of Australian Genealogists, 2008.
National Archives of Scotland: Crown Office Precognitions 1839; Precognition against John Graham, Thomas McKay for the crime of theft, habit and repute, and previous conviction; AD14/39/95.
National Archives of Scotland: High Court of Justiciary Processes 1550-1598; Trial papers relating to John Graham, Thomas McKay for the crime of theft, habit and repute, and previous conviction. Tried at High Court, Perth, 25 Apr 1839; JC26/1839/5.