I’ve lost track of convict ancestor
QMy 5x great grandfather, John Carruthers (b26 March 1747 in Mouswold, Dumfries) was transported to New South Wales on the convict ship Britannia on the third fleet in 1791. He is listed as John Carruthers, alias Irving, his mother’s maiden name. I know that he arrived safely, but cannot find any trace of him after he left the ship. I have exhausted every avenue. Can anyone help please?
Grace Smith, by email
AWhen John Carruthers was transported to Australia in 1791 for seven years after being convicted for theft of bread, he was aged about 43 and left a family.
Comprehensive records of convicts in Australia from arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 can be found on Ancestry. State Records of New South Wales has some free convict datasets and images at
bit.ly/1EfZfDv. A search of Sentenced Beyond the Seas 1788-1801 confirms John Carruthers (alias Irving) was transported on the Britannia, having been convicted at the Penrith Quarter Sessions in October 1790.
The combined convict database has no mention of John Carruthers. Searching for John Irving finds a man pardoned in December 1791. This can’t be our John as it was only two months after his arrival. The Biographical Database of Australia ( bda-online.org.au), a work in progress, brings together transcripts and indexes of original records and biographies of deceased persons in Australia from settlement. Life event records are linked to create a Biographical Report. Unfortunately linked to John Carruthers, was the John Irving who arrived on the First Fleet’s Lady Penrhyn, received a grant of land in 1792 and was buried at Parramatta on 13 September 1795.
No mention of John
Carruthers appears in the Colonial Secretaries’ correspondence, Historical Records of Australia or Historical Records of New South Wales, which are transcriptions of letters to and from early Governors, available on archive.org. He is not in the 1800 muster book or anywhere else after arrival.
John Carruthers either died or left the Colony of New South Wales prior to 1800. Michael Flynn, author of The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790, agrees he may have died unrecorded
on the Britannia or in the Colony. He may also have attempted to make his way home after expiration of his sentence, either by stowing away or as a sailor, but he does not appear in lists of convicts who made landfall in Calcutta.
The 1791 convict register for the Britannia includes John Carruthers