Category: Emigration

Fur Traders in Canada: The Hudson’s Bay Company

Pierre-Esprit Radisson Source: National Archiv...
Pierre-Esprit Radisson Source: National Archives of Canada, Canadiana Collection / C-015497 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the 17th century, the Canadian fur trade was fully controlled by the French. When two French traders, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medard de Groseilliers, found that the Hudson’s Bay area was rich with furs, they approached the French government with the idea of setting up a trading post on the Bay. The French Secretary of State was uninterested in backing the scheme, as he opposed exploration and trapping and was trying instead to promote farming in the colonies.

Radisson and des Groseilliers were undaunted, and instead approached a group of Massachusetts businessmen with their plans. The businessmen immediate saw the potential and in turn, brought the two Frenchmen to England to raise financing for the venture.

In 1668, two ships were commissioned for exploration and trade in Hudson’s Bay. One ship was forced to return home off the coast of Ireland, but the Nonsuch continued on to a successful trading expedition throughout the winter of 1668-1669.

When the ship returned to England with its bounty of furs, a number of wealthy English merchants were fully ready to participate in the venture. They formed the Hudson’s Bay Company, and in 1670, the King of England granted them a complete monopoly over the fur trade throughout the lands surrounding Hudson Bay. The fact that those lands did not belong to the crown seemed of little consequence.

The Company proceeded to build strategic trading forts along Hudson’s Bay, securing key points at the mouths of rivers. These key ports were valuable not only because they provided access to some of the richest fur country, but the deep-water ports gave Britain a distinct advantage over the French as well.  French fur traders had no nearby forts, so they were forced to paddle long distances to reach their sale points in the interior. The British could simply sail their ships straight into the Bay where they could unload their trade goods and load up on furs to bring home.

Business was hugely profitable until the late 1740s, as the HBC held a tight monopoly on the fur trade in the region. Naturally, the Company needed hundreds of employees as traders were required for expeditions deep into the Canadian interior. Most of these employees were brought from England and Scotland as indentured servants. Many of these men married native women, and while company policy forbade such unions initially, they soon allowed it and a distinct ethnic group – the Metis – was formed.

Hudson’s Bay Company Logo
Hudson’s Bay Company Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1750s saw the fur trade slow considerably due to the Seven Years War between France and England. When Britain won the war, they took full control of New France and the fur trade. While this should have spelled prosperity for the HBC, competition began to spring up. The North West Company was formed in 1783, spurring fierce competition. No longer could the HBC sit back and wait for the furs to arrive – both companies launched out toward the west to find new sources of fur. Eventually the feud came to an end when the British Government pressed the two companies into a merger.

As Canada received more and more settlers, the fur trade went into decline. Since it was soon unrealistic for the HBC to administrate the huge region, the British government negotiated a settlement, transferring the company’s lands to the dominion of Canada. The HBC received a hefty payment and a substantial land grant in payment; however, the company soon diversified its interests. They invested in real estate, marketing and other ventures, and due to their wise investments, the company exists to this day as one of the largest private companies in Canada.

The “Ten Pound” Pom

Orient Liner
Orient Liner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after World War II, one of the largest planned mass migrations of the 20th century began. Britain was a fairly depressing place at the time, plagued by housing shortages and post-war rationing. Australia, on the other hand, had more land than they could handle, and a burgeoning economy to boot.

Australia was desperate for new immigrants to populate its shores; however its racist “White Australia Policy” kept blacks and Asians from applying. The British government was only too happy to help populate the Commonwealth, and thus, the assisted migration scheme came into being.

By the end of 1944, the British and Australian governments had begun negotiations for the planned assisted migration scheme. The government began to promote Australia as a land of glorious opportunity – a place where Britons could escape the difficulties of England and live a new, modern British lifestyle in sunny Australia.

The proposed scheme seemed nearly too good to be true to many in England. Hundreds of thousands of Britons were seduced by a fare of only £10 per adult and free passage for children. The government offered housing and great employment opportunities for all participants. In the first year alone, 400,000 Britons applied for the migration plan.

Starting in 1947, the migration began in earnest. Most migrants traveled aboard refitted troop ships, though a lucky few were able to make the voyage on luxury P&O liners that provided comfortable cabins, good food and even swimming pools.

The £10 plan didn’t come without a catch, however. As great as the deal seemed, the contract stated that migrants were required to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years or else they would be required to pay back the full fare. The risks were disregarded by most. Migrants were blinded by government propaganda films, and seduced by the idea of a stunning new life.

In reality, most had no idea what they were in for. Most Australian cities seemed little more than backwater towns to the incoming Brits. Many arrived without savings, thus, they were housed in former army barracks. The conditions seemed appalling to the immigrants, and many complained of being misled. Some didn’t even bother to get jobs, deciding instead to simply sit tight for the required two years until they could go home. The Australian media retaliated by labeling the British migrants “whinging Poms”.

Others truly did see Australia as a chance for a fresh start. Opportunity was everywhere – both for men and women – and those who tried were quickly able to find gainful employment. Some saved carefully and were able to buy their own land within the first year.

Over 1.5 million Britons took up the offer and relocated to Australia on the £10 fare. However, it’s estimated that about 250,000 of the “Ten Pound Poms” returned to England after the first few years. Oddly enough, half of the returnees eventually decided that returning had been a mistake and ended up going back to Australia after all. These became known as the “Boomerang Poms”.

English: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gil...
Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A number of well-known personalities actually participated in this scheme. The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is in fact one of the most famous Ten Pound Poms. She migrated with her family from Wales in 1966 in the hopes that the warmer climate would aid in the healing of her lung infection.

The Gibbs brothers – better known as the Bee Gees – moved from Manchester, England to Queensland, Australia in the late 1950s. They kicked off their music career in Australia in 1958.

Other famous Ten Pound Poms include actor Hugh Jackman, singe, the mother of actress Kylie Minogue, and English cricketers Frank Tyson and Harold Larwood.

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The £10 Ticket to another life


The 99 Year Lease

Sir Henry Pottinger's house in Victoria, Hong ...
Sir Henry Pottinger’s house in Victoria, Hong Kong, 1845. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hong Kong officially become a Crown Colony of the British Empire in 1843, and Sir Henry Pottinger took charge as governor of a settlement that quickly descended into chaos and lawlessness as more and more people arrived and settled.

The population of the island grew rapidly from a mere 33,000 in 1850 to 265,000 by 1900. With so many British citizens living in Hong Kong the army felt pressed to protect the growing colony from China’s ever-present threat.

Relations between China and the British colony were strained at best. The Second Opium War (or Second Anglo-Chinese War) had broken out in 1856 and raged on for two full years before the two governments signed the Treaty of Tientsin. In spite of the treaty, there were continued skirmishes between the British and the Chinese until the British and French marched on Beijing and pressed the Chinese into the Convention of Peking. This convention ratified the Treaty of Tientsin, placing Stonecutters Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the entire Victoria Harbour (and its approaches) into British Hands.

1930s in Hong Kong
1930s in Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to protect these new territories, as well as to provide water for the growing population, the British approached the Chinese government to request a land extension which would connect Hong Kong with the new territories. Surprisingly, China agreed and offered Britain 235 islands and a hefty slice of territory that reached north to the Shenzhen River. This land increased the size of the Hong Kong colony by 90%. Unlike previous agreements, the British were granted these lands on a 99 year lease, guaranteeing their claim on the colony until 1997.

Word spread as fortunes were made by British merchants in Hong Kong. Business was booming in trading houses dealing in silk, tea, opium, and spices. Both British and Chinese emigrants flocked to Hong Kong’s harbour. In 1900, over 11,000 ships arrived in Hong Kong harbour, bringing waves of new settlers. A decade later, the population was nearing 300,000. There were few immigration or visa procedures required for British citizens to live or work in Hong Kong, so it was fairly common for young blue collar workers to find work in Hong Kong when the economy at home took a downturn.

As the lease term drew to a close, both governments began considering the upcoming transition. Plans were made throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and on July 1, 1997, sovereignty was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China.

Throughout the 99 year lease, Britons made up only a small percentage of the entire population. Exact numbers have been hard to estimate, as not all immigrants registered with the British Consulate. Much of the population was also transitory, with most staying a short while and then returning home to England. By the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong’s Immigration Department estimated that there were around 22,000 Britons living in Hong Kong (though that number could range between 16,000 and 28,000). Today, about 95% of the population is Chinese, and less than 3% is made up of British and American citizens.

The Second Fleet: The Women of Australia

English: Arthur Phillip.
Arthur Phillip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Australia had proved a valuable dumping ground for England’s overflow of convicts. In 1778, the First Fleet had launched under the command of Governor Phillip, transporting 1480 people to the Australian continent. Approximately 759 of these “First Fleeters” were convicts, including 586 males, 192 females, and 13 children. The remainder of the fleet was made up of seamen, marines, officials, and merchants.

Despite being provided with livestock and seed, the new colony struggled from the word go. Disease took its toll and food supplies dwindled. The convicts were poor farmers with little to no experience, so most crops failed and much of the livestock died off. Morale was low, the colonists were distraught, and many vented their anger on the local Aborigines.

The British Home Under-Secretary Even Nepean concluded that a colony could not be built on a population of mostly men. He decided that for the colony to succeed, it would need more than provisions – it would also need the stability of women, children and family living.

This was accomplished by rounding up a shipment of female convicts to be sent off to Australia. At first, the British government had a difficult time finding sufficient women, so they quickly resorted to imposing much harsher punishments on women convicted of crimes. While only the most hardened male offenders were sentenced to the Colonies, women could be sent for even fairly minor crimes, provided they were under 45 years of age and in good health.

English: The Lady Juliana in tow of the Pallas...
The Lady Juliana in tow of the Pallas Frigate. The Sailors Fishing the main Mast which was shatter’d by Lightning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus, the Second Fleet set out for Sydney, the first ship being the Lady Juliana, carrying 225 female prostitutes, thieves and con artists. The Lady Juliana set sail from England in July 1789, and charted a leisurely course through the Canary Islands, on to Cape Verde, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town before finally arriving at Sydney Cove. Though the Lady Juliana left England months before the rest of the fleet, its voyage lasted ten months, and the ship only arrived a few weeks before the rest of the fleet.

The Lady Juliana became something of a “floating brothel,” with both the crew and the ladies profiting from a bustling sex trade at each port of call. The women sold themselves for money or alcohol to the sailors from their own ship, as well as to men from other ships as they met at the various ports. This resulted in several women giving birth on the ship, and others soon after arriving in Australia. Some women chose instead to become “wives” of the crew members, as attaching themselves to one man would often provide them with better accommodations and rations.

When the women finally arrived, they didn’t receive quite the warm welcome they might have expected. Instead of a ship full of supplies, the colony received over 200 “damned whores” – and the colonists made their disappointment clear to the new arrivals. Fortunately, the supply ships arrived in Sydney Cove just three weeks later.

parramatta river
Cliffs on the Parramatta River, New South Wales, circa 1875 (photo credit: Museum of Victoria)

Unfortunately, the women were largely unable to escape enforced whoredom. For the first twenty years or so, all convict women were considered whores. While some certainly were depraved, others formed attachments with single men, and even marrying in some cases. The stereotype was strong though, as seen in sentiments voiced by magistrate Thomas McQueen who described the women as “the most disgusting objects that ever graced the female form.”

Nonetheless, these women became the founding mothers of Australia. Many rose above their humble beginnings and went on to achieve great things.  Ann Marsh, for example, founded the Parramatta River Boat Service which is still in use today. Mary Wade became Australia’s greatest matriarch, leaving a legacy of more than 300 descendants. Though the women of the Second Fleet were initially the dregs of Australian society, many now look on them with pride as the ones who helped lay the foundation for today’s prosperity.

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New Zealand – Edge of Empire

As 1840 dawned, New Zealand was officially incorporated into the British Empire. A small number of British immigrants had trickled to New Zealand in previous years, and had made their living in sealing and whaling, as well as in timber, agriculture and livestock. The floodgates really opened in 1840, however, with wave after wave of British and Irish immigrants flowing to settle in the newly incorporated territories.

1840 – 1852

A poster of the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line pro...
A poster of the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line promoting Immigration to New Zealand in the 1850s, featuring the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three major streams of migrants made their way to New Zealand between 1840 and 1852. The largest group consisted of assisted immigrants who were brought in to populate the New Zealand Company settlements. This group settled first in New Plymouth, Nelson and Wellington (between 1840 and 1842), and later in Otago and Canterbury (between 1848 and1852).

The second wave brought groups of land purchasers and free migrants. Many of these settlers came from an Irish background, and the majority of this group made their home in the Auckland province.

The third wave began in 1845, and brought a predominantly military crowd. Over 700 men who had been sent to New Zealand during the Northern War (1845-1846) were discharged from the British regiments and chose to stay and settle. Over 2500 men, women and children also travelled to New Zealand as part of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles – a regiment sent to provide military protection to settlers near Auckland. Smaller groups also arrived in New Zealand throughout this time, such as the 514 migrants from Paisley who settled in Auckland in 1842.

1853 – 1870

From 1853 onward, New Zealand saw a dramatic increase in population, rising from around 20,000 to over 250,000 (non-Maoris). The provincial governments offered an alluring prospect to migrants from Britain and Ireland, not only providing assistance with fares, but even offering land grants in some cases. When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, and then in Westland in 1865, emigration to New Zealand reached its peak as aspiring miners flooded in hoping to make their fortunes.

At the same time, war broke out once more between the settlers and the native Maori tribes. The British government sent a number of imperial foot regiments to resolve the conflict, and subsequently, over 2000 of those men decided to settle in New Zealand once they were discharged from service. Most of these men chose to take their discharges in Auckland, though smaller numbers did settle in New Plymouth, Wanganui and Wellington.

This time period (from 1853-1870) saw the greatest flow of migration. Over 45,000 people arrived in New Zealand in 1863 alone, with English and Irish nationals making up a substantial percentage of the total. From1853 to 1870, over 46% of immigrants to New Zealand were born in Britain, closely followed by approximately 21% who were born in Ireland. Of note, a large number of Highland Scots also made the voyage at this time, and made up a little over 30% of the total migrant population.

1871 – 1890

English: Sir Julius Vogel, ca 1870s

When immigration to New Zealand began to drop off some following the gold rush, New Zealand’s Premier, Sir Julius Vogel answered with an expansionist policy. He proposed deferred payments and guaranteed employment upon arrival for new migrants. He particularly hoped that new settlements on lands taken from the Maori would bring a measure of peace and security.

Some feared that New Zealand would become a “receptacle” for the “refuse population of large towns and cities, composed of beings hopelessly diseased in body and mind, deficient in all capacity for useful labour, vagrant and idle alike by habit and inclination, paupers by profession, and glorifying in being so.” In answer to those fears, Vogel proposed careful selection of immigrants through the Immigration and Public Works Bill.

This bill, in fact, simply allowed the government to bring in the type and quantity of immigrants requested by provincial superintendents. Over the next few years, the scheme expanded to provide subsidized or free passage, as well as the opportunity for settlers to nominate friends or relatives for immigration from England or Ireland.

The London-based Agency General followed and launched an all-out campaign to recruit immigrants. Through recruiting agents and lectures, the agency worked tirelessly to attract immigrants in general, but agricultural labourers and women in particular. The decade from 1870-1880 saw over 100,000 assisted migrants relocating to New Zealand. 1874 alone produced over 32,000 assisted migrants, making it New Zealand’s highest level of annual net migration ever.

Immigration was also encouraged in the private sector. For example, George Vesey Stewart was a gentleman entrepreneur from County Tyrone, who came to obtain 10,000 acres of land in New Zealand. To this parcel of land, he eventually attracted four groups of Protestant families from Ulster County.

Throughout this period, New Zealand’s non-Maori population increased from approximately 256,000 in 1871 to over 624,000 by 1891. A majority of the immigrants to New Zealand continued to come from the United Kingdom, making up approximately 54 % of the gross number.

Emigration from the UK continued to wax and wane throughout this time, and was determined in large part by the economic climate in New Zealand at the time. The depression of the 1880s and early 1890s certainly made New Zealand a less appealing option for migrants – especially once assisted migration was cut during the late 1880s. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that New Zealand once again became an attractive destination for migrants.

The Hong Kong Colony

Hong Kong harbour from a hill above Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong harbour from a hill above Causeway Bay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britons in the 19th century had created an enormous market for Chinese tea; however, they were hard pressed to offer any British products that the Chinese were interested in exchanging. This presented a very real problem until the British discovered a commodity that China did want: opium.

Thanks to the poppy fields of India, the British had access to a vast supply of the narcotic, and began to aggressively pursue the trade. The Chinese government, however, became alarmed as opium addiction became widespread and the nation’s coffers were drained to pay for the imported opium. Emperor Chia Ch’ing and his successor, Tao Kuang issued edicts banning the opium trade throughout China, Whampoa and Macau.

The drug trade could scarcely be suppressed though, and a network of corrupt officials ensured its ongoing success. In 1839, Lin Xexu, the governor of Hunan and a man known for his integrity, faced off with the British garrison in Guangzhou. He surrounded the garrison, cutting off the British food supply until they turned over their stockpile of more than 20,000 bales of opium.

Captain Charles Elliot was British chief superintendent of trade at the time, and he responded by promptly cutting off all trade with China while he waited for orders from London. Lord Palmerston, the foreign secretary, sent off a force of 4000 men under the command of Rear Admiral George Elliot. He tasked them with pressing the Chinese government into yielding to a favourable trade agreement and providing reparations for the confiscated goods.

This sparked the beginning of the First Opium War, as the British forces first besieged Guangzhou, then sailed north, blockading and occupying ports and cities along the Yangtze River. When the British forces reached Shanghai and began to threaten Beijing, the Emperor realized the very real danger to his capital. He quickly sent out an envoy to negotiate with the British, offering Hong Kong Island in exchange for the British withdrawal from Northern China.

Ultimately, neither side truly agreed to all the terms of this offer, known as the Convention of Chenpui, though the British did take control of Hong Kong in January of 1841, hoisting the British flag at Possession Point. Hong Kong was, at the time, little more than a backwater. There were only around 20 tiny villages; however, its deep, sheltered harbour provided the British with a distinct advantage in the region.

Captain Elliot saw the island as an ideal foothold for the British Empire from which they could conduct their trade under complete British sovereignty. The British merchants in Guangzhou felt differently, however. They saw the tiny, barren island as scarcely the sort of victory that the British should have achieved. The following month, Captain Elliot took control of the Pearl River, the Bogue Fort in Humen, and laid siege to Guangzhou, refusing to withdraw until he exacted concessions from the merchants there.

Sir Henry Pottinger, the first governor of Hon...
Sir Henry Pottinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Henry Pottinger succeeded Captain Elliot six months later, and led a powerful force north, seizing Amoy, Ningpo, Shanghai, and other strategic ports. With the British closing in on the strategic city of Nanking, the Chinese were pressed into accepting the terms that the British offered.

When the Treaty of Nanking was signed, five “treaty ports” were opened to the British. British residents were free to establish themselves there, and foreign trade was allowed to thrive. British nationals were exempt from Chinese laws, and the island of Hong Kong was officially ceded to Britain “in perpetuity”. On June 26, 1843, Hong Kong officially became a Crown Colony of the British Empire.

When Hong Kong became a British Colony, it was very easy for Britons to find work there since visa and immigration procedures were almost non-existent. It became quite common for young working class Britons to turn to Hong Kong for employment, especially during economic low periods in England.

Interestingly enough, however, Britons never made up more than a small portion of Hong Kong’s population. While the mark left on the culture and institutions of Hong Kong was enormous, there were never a very large number of Britons there at any one time. This can be seen on the census of 1865, which notes Hong Kong’s population at 125,504, of which only 2,000 or so were European or American.

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Britain’s Child Migrants

Toward the end of the 19th century, Britain was facing significant social and economic trouble. Deprivation, homelessness and neglect were endemic throughout Britain’s overcrowded cities, and child migration emerged as a solution.

1950 Child Migrants
1950 Child Migrants (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Britain was in the midst of empire building and the colonies not only provided enormous wealth and resources – they also provided alternative homelands for the unwanted peoples of Britain. Many Britons emigrated throughout this period of history; yet few know of the many thousands of children who were rounded up and sent abroad. Child migrants became the brick and mortar force on which the Empire could continue to expand.

Children as young as three were routinely shipped abroad – primarily to Australia and Canada – through government-sanctioned child migration schemes. Charities were even established to support the emigration efforts, as children were gathered from across the UK. They were brought to major British ports such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Southampton where they were given a trunk of clothing and shipped off to their new homes. The vast majority never returned to their homeland.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada, over 7,000 to Australia, and several hundred were shipped to New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. Prior to 1900, the majority of the children were collected from workhouses, city streets and declining rural areas where they were often found destitute and homeless. After the turn of the century the children were sent from orphanages and children’s homes. In some cases, parents were unable to provide for their children and chose to send them abroad with the migration schemes.

Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950
Australian Child Migrants leaving Alverstoke 1950 (Photo credit: theirhistory)

Many of the children hardly knew what to expect. They faced the future with fear, but also with excitement as in many cases they were simply leaving behind a life of neglect, hunger and hardship. They were promised new sights, new places and the excitement of exploration. They were treated to tea parties and visited by popular entertainers, powerful benefactors, and even by royalty. Each departure was highly publicized to promote the work of the various charities.

The children were actually treated very well in Britain and all throughout the voyages. They enjoyed the luxury of passenger liners, sleeping in comfortable cabins, eating hearty meals, and even enjoying games, swimming and schooling on board the ships.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in their new homes the children were faced with lands completely foreign and often harsh. In Canada, the children were distributed to rural homes where they lived and worked with farming families. Some fared better than others; however the majority faced hard physical labour in a harsh climate, compounded by the loneliness of being with a family but not being considered part of the family.

In Australia the children fared no better. Their smart wardrobes were stripped from them and exchanged for khaki work clothes and bare feet. The children were placed in religious institutions or farming schools where they were subjected to harsh discipline and backbreaking labour. The children were expected to continue in agriculture, and thus received little to no education.

At the height of the child migration scheme, as many as 300 children would travel aboard a single ship, chaperoned by staff from their designated charity. The numbers dropped lower and lower as the 20th century progressed; however, the schemes weren’t officially ended until 1967.

When the Child Welfare Act was passed in 1948, the child migration schemes came under scrutiny. Investigations were carried out and several of the participating institutions received strong condemnation. The schemes continued, however, for another decade. The last group of child migrants was sent to Australia by air in 1967, and the institutions began to close in the 1970s.

Forced Migration – Convicts to Australia

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the British correctional system became severely overburdened. The population of England rose dramatically, and London soon became overcrowded. Poverty and social injustice were rife, child labour and long working hours were widespread, and living conditions were squalid and filthy. Many were unemployed, and crime was rampant.

English: Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plym...
Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britain’s police and penitentiary system were practically non-existent. In fact, many government officials saw the concept of a circular prison as a very American concept, so for years, the “Bloody Code” dictated the death penalty for hundreds of crimes – many as insignificant as petty theft or minor property damage.

Fortunately, the Bloody Code was put to rest when lawmakers and judges felt that the death penalty was too harsh for many crimes. The few existing gaols of the day were so overcrowded, however, that the government converted old war ships into floating prisons moored in coastal waters. The prison hulks were horrible floating dungeons, infested with vermin and disease, poorly lit and with little ventilation.

Even by the standards of that day, the prison system soon was considered unacceptable treatment of convicts. With nowhere else to turn, the British government conceived the idea of transportation as a humane alternative to the death penalty and a practical solution to overcrowded prisons.

Initially, convicts were transported to America; however, with the onset of the American Revolution, Britain had to look elsewhere. They found a viable solution in Australia, and the first convict fleet set sail in 1787

On January 18, 1788, the fleet of ships arrived at Botany Bay, a spot that had been selected as appropriate for a penal colony. Upon arrival, however, the fleet found that the harbour was unsafe and lacked a fresh water supply, so they quickly moved on. Several days later, Captain Arthur Philip, the fleet commander, raised the British flag at Sydney Cove. A group of 751 convicts and 252 marines, along with their families, disembarked and there established the colony of New South Wales. This colony eventually became the modern city of Sydney.

Two more fleets followed quickly in 1790 and 1791. Captain Phillip, who became Governor of the colony, put convicts to work according to their particular skills and regardless of their previous crimes. Men laboured as carpenters and brick makers, farmers, shepherds, and cattlemen. Educated convicts were put to work in record-keeping.

Women, on the other hand, were considered best fit to being wives and mothers. When a female convict got married, she was freed from her servitude and released to care for her husband and subsequent children.

If convicts were well-behaved and productive, they could earn a ticket of leave, giving them greater freedom. Once a convict completed his sentence (usually seven years), he was issued a Certificate of Freedom, with which he could either return to England or settle in Australia.

New penal colonies were eventually established in Port Arthur, Tasmania and Norfolk Island. These communities were considered to be places of secondary punishment where convicts suffered harsher labor and solitary confinement.

In 1803, 300 convicts arrived in Sullivan Bay near modern-day Sorrento, Victoria. While this settlement was quickly abandoned due to poor environmental conditions, others were established and between 1844 and 1849, around 1,750 convicts arrived in the region from England.

In 1850, new convicts were beginning to arrive in Western Australia. Between 1850 and 1868, 9,668 convicts were transported to the new colony on 43 convict ships. The initial convicts were sent from the New South Wales colony in 1826 with the mission of establishing a settlement there.

By the 1830’s, opposition was growing toward the transportation of convicts to the colonies. Members of the Independent Congregation Church in England were especially outspoken and influential in ending the transportation of convicts.

By 1840, convict transportation to the New South Wales colony had ceased, and Brisbane had stopped receiving convicts the previous year. For some years Van Diemen’s Land continued to receive prisoners; however, the practice was under steady attack by the anti-transportation movement.

The last convict ship to arrive in Australia arrived on January 10, 1868. Approximately 164,000 convicts on 806 ships were relocated to Australia throughout the 80 years of convict transportation.

Off to Work We Go!

An engraving of Cornish miners from the St Ive...
An engraving of Cornish miners from the St Ives area in 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A factor that has impacted migration to, from and within the UK has been the ready availability of employment. As economic conditions declined in certain regions throughout Europe, people naturally picked up and moved on in search of better opportunities. A prime example of this phenomenon is the migration of the Cornish miners – a migration that has, in fact, had a major impact on the global mining industry for over a century.

In the early 19th century, the mining industry in Cornwall was thriving. The industrial revolution had produced an enormous demand for copper, and at that time, Cornwall was the greatest producer of copper in the world. Thanks to heavy demand, copper prices were high, and since Cornwall’s copper deposits were so large, there was little competition elsewhere in the country.

So huge was the industry that not only was copper mined in Cornwall, but for a long while, the metal was smelted there as well. At the peak of the copper mining boom, up to 30% of the county’s male workforce was employed by the mining industry.

By the mid-19th century, however, the best copper deposits in Cornwall had been mined out, and huge copper deposits had been discovered in other countries around the world. Fortunately, in digging deep for copper, miners had run across significant tin deposits. The mining industry was able to maintain thanks to tin; however, the tin industry was no match for copper. Cornwall’s mining industry progressed at a much smaller scale and employed a much smaller work force.

Richard Trevithick's statue by the public libr...
Richard Trevithick’s statue by the public library at Camborne, Cornwall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tin mines were also extremely deep, and this led to high costs and drainage problems. Interestingly enough, however, this problem turned out to be something of a boon for Cornwall’s miners as the problems drove folks like Richard Trevithick to begin innovating. His high pressure steam engines revolutionized the world of mining, and many of the systems were built locally providing much-needed employment.

As mining companies around the world began to take note of Cornish technology and skilled labour, they began to cash in on their own mining booms. And since work was scarce for miners in Cornwall, they were eager to look elsewhere for better pay and conditions.

The Cornish flocked to work wherever it appeared, rehabilitating mines as they went. In the 1820s they took over abandoned, derelict mines in South America and restored them to high levels of productivity.

Peru began to import the now-perfected high power steam engines for their silver mines; however, their mining region was hardly industrialized. Because of that, they were forced to import from Cornwall everything from the steam engines and boilers to the staff that was required to work the mines, process metals, and even organize and administrate the enterprise. Gold mining companies in Brazil also contracted hundreds of Cornish miners to work in the Morro Velho and Gonco Soco mines.

The Cornish became the first hard rock miners in the USA, and were considered some of the best in the world. Many migrated there, finding work in the lead mines in Illinois and Wisconsin, and the copper fields of Michigan. Eventually, the Cornish even joined in on the California Gold Rush, offering their expertise and technology.

Cornish miners also turned to the copper and lead deposits in Norway and Spain in the 1830s, then to the huge copper boom in Australia in the 1840s. In fact, Australia might not have its status as a major copper region if it were not for the expertise of the Cornish miners who migrated and settled there.

When diamonds and then gold were discovered in South Africa in the 1860s and 1870s, the Cornish miners were ready. Their perfected hard rock mining techniques were just what were needed to retrieve the precious stones, and many Cornish immigrants flocked in to make their fortunes.

To this day, there are active, thriving Cornish communities throughout North and South America, Australia and South Africa. The Cornish ex-pats, fondly known as “Cousin Jacks”, brought much of their heritage with them, making their presence and culture a prominent feature in their communities around the world.

Migration across the Atlantic and up the Political Ladder

From a Norfolk Migrant to the White House

When tracing our family history, we often find many siblings that seem to disappear. Either their marriage or burial wasn’t recorded or more often for one reason or another they moved villages or in many cases migrated to pastures new.

Saint Peter's Church, North Barningham, within...
Saint Peter’s Church, North Barningham, within the parish of Gresham, Norfolk, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just outside Swaffham in mid-Norfolk was a hamlet by the name of Pagrave, later Palgrave. One John Pagrave, Lord of the Manor there in the 14th century, married Sybil Hethersett, a daughter and heir of William Hethersett of North Barningham near Sheringham, where three generations later, Henry Pagrave was firmly established as Manorial Lord

The same family also inherited lands in and around the villages of Hethersett and Wymondham where Henry’s great grandson, Richard Palgrave (sic), was living during the 1620s. However, in 1630, Richard and his wife and family, were passengers in one of the eleven ships in the Winthrop Fleet taking 700 or so settlers to New England. They settled in Charlestown, Mass. Nine years later he was granted 200 acres of land in Woburn, Mass. His daughter, Mary, married Roger Wellington, another settler, living at Watertown whilst  his daughter, Sarah, married Dr John Alcock.

Richard Palgrave’s great granddaughter, Mehitabel Wellington, married William Sherman: their son Roger Sherman was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Her sister, Elizabeth Wellington, married John Fay of Concord, Mass and, six generations later, Harriet Eleanor Fay married the Rev James Smith Bush, great grandfather of George Bush, 41st President of the U.S.A. and great great grandfather of George Walker Bush 43rd President of the U.S.A.

Great granddaughter, Joanna Alcock, married Ephraim Hunt, their offspring including Elizabeth who married Lemuel Pope. In the next generation, Mercy Pope married Caleb Church whose granddaughter, Deborah, married Warren Delano whose forbears are believed to have been involved in chartering the Mayflower. Granddaughter, Sally Delano, married James Roosevelt, father of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S.A.

Article Contributed by Derek Palgrave


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