Thursday, March 15, 2012

The other William Brunt

The mystery surrounding my ancestor William Brunt has deepened -- or, perhaps I should say doubled -- for another William Brunt, also a convicted thief, also transported to Van Diemen's land in 1841, and also given his freedom in time to have emigrated to Canada and established a family in Ontario, has come to light. He was far less savory-sounding than the other -- but matches a key detail, that in my family I'd always heard it said he'd been a horse thief, not a housebreaker, and this William Brunt not only stole horses, he was proud of it. His initial report goes as follows:
"Sent aboard the Lady Raffles. Transported for Horse stealing -- Gaol Reports 5 previous convictions, one of the Pottery Gang … Stated his preference for Horse Stealing. W. Brinsley my Master. One time acquitted for a Coat once 6 months for receiving once 2 mos. neglect of Family, 7 days for abuse. Married wife, Maybe 2 children. Surgeon's Report: Gaol conduct good."
Now I have no idea who the "Pottery Gang" were -- apparently, a bad lot -- and a number of other convicts were listed as having fallen in with them. His having been jailed for "neglect of family" and "abuse"-- as well as his not knowing how many children he had -- are far more unsettling. His physical description ran thus:
Face: Fresh, polished. Height: 5 / 9 1/2 Age: 36 Complex. Fair. Hair: to red. Whiskers: to red. Eyebrows: Brown. Eyes: Blue. Nose: Sharp. Mouth: Small. Chin: cleft. Native Place: Stoke-on-Trent. Remarks: WB inside of arm, star between chink of fingers left hand, left arm much diseased.
Interestingly, Stoke-on-Trent was listed as his place of residence or possibly birth when he was convicted in 1839 at the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions; if he was indeed from Ireland, as my family has always held, then he'd stopped off for a while on his way. His later record while in Van Diemen's Land is not untypical: "Period of Probation: Fifteen Mos. Station of Gang: PB (Prisoner Barracks) 25/1/41 BR (Brown's River?) 17/6/41 AN 15/9/42 BW (Bridgewater) 11/11/42 P.B. (Prisoner Barracks)" -- notes at the side seem to indicate that, at some point, he had gotten his Ticket of Leave and obtained a job as a constable in Hobart Town, where there is a further charge of "Drunk & neglect of duty" for which he served seven days in solitary confinement. He received his certificate as a free man in 1850.

The only inconsistent feature would be his age -- 36 in 1841 -- which would mean he was born around 1805, and would have been quite old -- at least 50 -- when he emigrated to Canada, and 60 when Mary, my great-grandmother, was born. It's not impossible, just seems a bit old for the period.

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