September 4, 2013

I Learned Something New From Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?  Convict Transportation to America
Who Do You Think You Are? on  TCL  in partnership with Ancestry.com featured Country & Western singer Trisha Yearwood last night.

For me this was a very interesting episode as I learned something quite new. Trisha was given her ancestry back to Samuel Winslett, born in England in 1744 who emigrated to Georgia around 1760.

Notice: Spoiler Alert if you have not watched this episode!

Samuel and one of his brothers (Aside: what happened to the third brother who was part of the deer taking??) were found guilty of killing deer that did not belong to them and sentenced to hanging. They were then reprieved and sent to Georgia as convicts. Samuel's sentence was 14 years and once he arrived in America, he and other convicts were sold at auctions. This blew me away! I knew of convict transportation to Australia, and I knew of indentured servants but I have never read or heard about convict transportation to America.

So I had a look around this morning and found an interesting article about this little-known period of American history.  Convict Transportation to America: Epilogue is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. History fascinates me and I plan on reading the entire series today. Then I will purchase the Kindle version of the book Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America 

Many of my readers know that I'm fascinated with immigration. My first exciting find in genealogy was one of my immigrant ancestors and that set me on a path to discover every immigrant ancestor I have. I'm fascinated with the stories - why did an ancestor immigrate? And what was behind their choice of settlement? What was their journey like? That's why my website Olive Tree Genealogy specializes in Ships Passenger Lists and immigration substitutes.

One of my secondary passions is learning about the lives of those who were impoverished and sent to almshouses, workhouses and poor houses, or removed from their homes in Great Britain and sent to the colonies. I scour little known records such as the Poor Law Union Records to find names and stories of those who were forced from their homes. Many of these "convicts" were sentenced for crimes that involved hunger or poverty and as such I find myself once again caught up in the tragedies.

Do you have a story of a convict ancestor sent to America? I'd love to hear about him or her!


12 comments:

Heather said...

Some of my ancestors were the Bullocks/Bullochs who helped found the state of Georgia but I always joke that my ancestors came to Georgia "on the second boat" since the first boat was debtors and criminals. They teach (or used to teach) a year of Georgia History in public school and that's where I learned it.

Shirley said...

The beginning of the film "Captain Blood" starts with Errol Flynn being transported to America. He's auctioned to the highest bidder, who just happens to be Olivia deHavilland! Great movie!

Yvonne Demoskoff said...

I don't have any convict ancestors (at least, I haven't found any), Lorine, but the part that really surprised me, was learning that English convicts were sold at auction after they arrived in colonial America. You'd think their transportation sentence and years of hard labor would be enough of a punishment.

Rosemary said...

One of the reasons Australia was settled by the English was to have a place to send convicts after the US stopped accepting them.

Anonymous said...

I have an ancestor whom was a Scots Prisoner of War from the Battle of Dunbar, he was sent/sold to the colonies in 1650 aboard the Unity. One of his descendants, eventually married into the Van Slyke. Very interesting stuff!

penguinn said...

Georgia was originally set up as a prisoner colony - if I remember my High School American History - 50 years ago!! I fell asleep after the first 10 minutes or so, so I was disappointed not to see what she found. She made the comment of probably having no royalty in her line. I was curious to find out if she was wrong. Maybe she was barking up the wrong tree line! :-)

Anonymous said...

Many of the Irish who refused to give up their land to the British were sold as selves in the colonies.

Roylene F. said...

Thanks for the information! I also enjoy tracing the immigration patterns
of my ancestors.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I heard Georgia was a prisoner colony but then I live in Idaho.
My husband maybe has ancestors from Georgia. Have to do some serious searching.

Anonymous said...

I wish American history was taught in public schools.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Anonymous - since there is barely enough Canadian history taught in our Canadian schools, I'd be reluctant to wish for American history to be added to the curriculum!

As it is, there is a fairly large segment of American history already taught in our schools. we couldn't possibly teach it in depth (and why would we want to!!) without giving up our own Canadian identity and history

Angie said...

My mother's family is from GA and she always thought that the family probably came over with Oglethorpe and the debtors. It turns out the family was not a debtor family.