In this post, I'll be looking at convicted felons deported from England to Maryland. During the 1700s, along with the illustrious figures of history, England also sent some of their worst individuals to America. Depending on the crime, men and women were convicted to either seven or fourteen years of hard labor in the colonies.
Land records, especially from the colonial era, are an overlooked treasure trove for genealogists and historians. Sifting through the records is time-consuming and tedious, but well worth the effort.
While researching my own family history in Maryland's land records, skimming through the thousands of pages available online, I've come across quite a few items of interest which can be found only by viewing each page.
Every book of land records includes an index, but the index refers only to actual land deeds and includes only the names of the primary buyer and seller. During the colonial era, the Maryland land record books included a wide variety of other types of records: the sale of slaves, the marks of stray animals, supersedeas and judgment cases, even the occasional bill of lading. None of those records were included in the index.
Since I was taking the time to skim every page, I decided to keep track of these hidden treasures. I'll be posting them here to aid other researchers in their work.
Throughout the colonial era, numerous people who were convicted of felonies in England were shipped to "His Majesty's Colonies or Plantations in America," including some who were sent to Maryland to serve out their sentences.
There are extensive records of the convicts sent to the colonies. You can find a bibliography of resources on the Genealogy Decoded blog.
There are also quite a few convicts listed in the Prince George's County Land Records Book Y, pages 553-563. You can view the scanned pages on the MDLandRec website run by the Archives of Maryland Online.
|Record of convicts sent from Newgate Prison in London to Maryland|
Prince George's County Land Records, Book Y, p. 562
Serge Weavers from Tiverton
The first conviction record in Book Y (pages 553-554), is for Samuel Berry and Richard Roberts the Younger, two men living in Tiverton, Devon County, England. Both had been working as serge weavers. Serge was a high quality wool fabric. Its production was an important industry for Devon County during the 1700s. The document does not specify their crime(s), but it does state that they were to serve seven years in the colonies.
The Mayor of Tiverton, Walter Broad, and a serge manufacturer, Leonard Blagdon, were the town's Justices of the Peace who deported Berry and Roberts to the colonies. They contracted with Richard Euchmarch, a Tiverton merchant, to handle the transport across the ocean.
The Tiverton contract and the sentences of Berry and Roberts were recorded at the request of Dr. David Ross, a Scottish immigrant living in Bladensburg, Prince George's County, Maryland. Ross was a capitalist, building his fortune through many types of enterprise (James H. Johnston, From Slave Ship to Harvard). Ross owned a share of Frederick Forge, supplied provisions to the military during the French and Indian War, and made use of imported convicts.
Most likely, Ross received Berry and Roberts upon their arrival at Maryland. By recording the conviction document, Ross was ensuring that the conviction would be upheld in America. Berry and Roberts would perhaps have worked for Ross as free labor until they had served their sentences.
Here are the transcribed highlights from the Berry/Roberts record:
At the Request of Doctor David Ross the following Convictions was Recorded _____ day Anno Dom. Seventeen hundred and forty two ~
This Indenture made on Tribble Six Penny Stampt Parchment according to Law the fourteenth day of May in the Fifteenth Year of the Reigne of our Sovereigne Lord George the Second... Between Richard Euchmarch of Tiverton in the County of Devon Merchant of the one Part and Walter Broad of Tiverton aforesaid Merchant and Leonard Blagdon of the Same Sergemaker of the other Part. Whereas at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held in and for the Liberty of Tiverton aforesaid at the Guild hall thereby Adjournment the Thirteenth Day of this Instant May.... Samuel Beary and Richard Roberts the Younger of Tiverton aforesaid Sergeweavers were convicted of Felony and Intitled to the Benefitt of Clergy and at the Guild hall of Tiverton aforesaid ordered by The said Court to be Transported to one of his Majestys Colonys and Plantations in America for the Term of Seven Years according to Act of Parliament in the fourth Year of the Reigne of his late Majesty King George the first Intitled an Act for the Justices Preventing Robbery Burglary and other Felonys and for the more Effectual Transportation of Felons and unlawful Exporters of Wool and for declaring the Law in Some Points relating to Pirates.... And Whereas... The said Walter Broad Esq'r Mayor and Leonard Blagdon Esq'r two of his Majestys Justices of the Peace of and for the Liberty of Tiverton aforesaid or either of them was or were nominated and appointed to Contract with any Person or Persons for the Performance of the Transportation of the said Samuel Berry and Richard Roberts and to take Care that such Contractors do give sufficient Security to the Satisfaction of the said Justices to be taken by Bond in the Name of the said Walter Broad Esq'r Mayor That he will Transport or Cause to be Transported Effectually the said Samuel Berry and Richard Roberts Conveyed by him by such Contract to one of his Majestys Colonys or Plantations in America... And Whereas the said Walter Broad and Leonard Blagdon... Contracted to and with the said Richard Euchmarch for the Effectual Transporting or Causing to be Transported the said Samuel Berry and Richard Roberts to Virginia or some other of his Majestys Plantations in America for the Term aforesaid....
Dorset County Convicts
Dr. David Ross also recorded the convictions of fourteen men from Dorset County, England in 1742 (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 554-556).
John Basely, Michael Gillham, and Henry Bride were convicted of "several felonies for which they were Intitled to the benefit of Clergy" and sentenced to be transported to the colonies in America for a term of seven years.
Robert Strawbridge, William Aglin, Thomas Allen, Joseph Shear, and Samuel Dawe were convicted of "several felonies for which they were Intitled to the benefit of Clergy" at Dorchester and were sentenced to a term of seven years.
Samuel Evomy, John Ole, and Robert Pickfore were convicted of "several felonies for which they were excluded the benefit of Clergy and to whom his Majesty hath been gratiously pleased to Extend his Royal Mercy on Condition of Transportation to some part of America for fourteen years..."
The Dorset County Justices of the Peace handing down their convictions were John Meech, Esq'r of Charminster and William Clapcott of Upway, along with Sydenham Williams, Churchill Rose, and George Treenhard, Esq'rs. Meech and Clapcott contracted with Robert Fowler Coade to transport the fourteen felons to America.
Coade was under contract to transport the convicts to "Maryland in Virginia," to procure an authentic certificate "under the hand and seal of the Governor or Chief Officer of the Customs of the said Colony," and to "not willfully permit the said felons... to return from the Collony in America to any part of Great Britain or Ireland" during the length of their sentencing.
Coade appointed William Taylor, Commander of the Italian Gally, to be his attorney in the disposal of the convicts.
A group of six men were deported from the City of Worcester, England in 1742. Their convictions were recorded in the land records book, but a blank space was left where normally the clerk would have written the name of the person requesting the information be recorded (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 556-557).
John Standy, Enoch Malborn / Maulbourn, John Armstrong, Thomas Melland, Samuel Taylor, and Vincent Catstree were "convicted and attainted of felony by them done and Committed for which they were Excluded the Benefit of Clergy" and granted the King's mercy on condition of being transported to the colonies for fourteen years.
Worcester Justices of the Peace Richard Cookesey and Reginald Lygon, Esq'rs contracted with Hinmash of Exeter, Merchant, to transport the convicts.
Wiltshire County Convicts
A group of nine men and one woman were deported from Wiltshire County, England (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 557-558).
Moses Harding was convicted of felony within the benefit of Clergy and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for seven years.
James Boyce, Philip Stone aka Clefts were convicted of certain felonies within benefit of Clergy and were sentenced to be transported to the colonies for seven years.
James Allen, Mathew Lorell, Sarah Lumbard, Edward Moore, and Thomas Bettesworth were convicted of several felonies and entitled to the benefit of Clergy and were sentenced to be transported to the colonies for seven years.
Rinaldo Monck was convicted of felony and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for fourteen years.
Edward Seammell was convicted of felony for which he was excluded the benefit of Clergy, granted the King's mercy, and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for fourteen years.
Justices of the Peace James Harris and Matthew Pitts, Esq'rs contracted with Robert Fowler Coade of Lime, Dorset County, Merchant to transport the group of convicts to the colonies.
Coade appointed William Taylor, Commander of the Italian Gally, to be his attorney in the disposal of the convicts.
More on Coade and Taylor
The land records also include a contract (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 560) in which Robert Fowler Coade of Lime in the County of Dorset, Merchant, and William Taylor of Topsham in the County of Devon, Mariner, are bound to William Hawkes, Esq'r, Clerk of the Peace in the County of Wilts, for £100. The bond was set to ensure that the convicts would be removed to the colonies, and the debt would be voided once Coade and Taylor produced documentation proving that they had fulfilled their end of the contract.
A quick internet search indicates that Taylor's wife was Elizabeth Spicer. Her brother, John Spicer, was also a mariner (Joanne Mcree Sanders, Barbados Records: Wills and Administrations, Volume I, p. 334).
A second bond (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 560-561) was recorded between Coade and Phillip Lyne, Clerk of and for the County of Cornwall for £240, in reference to a group of thirteen men and five women from that county.
Robert Hoare, Richard Trennerry, Stephen Johns, John Johns, Elias Johns, Ann Nicholls, and Jane Veale were convicted of felonies, entitled to the benefit of Clergy, and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for seven years.
Joseph Honey and William Found were convicted of felony and "Sentance of Death past on them Lett them be Transported for fourteen years."
Mark Nicholls, John Pearse, Grace Tucker, John Lane, Edward Fawcett, Richard Key, and Thomson Smallecombe were convicted of felonies for which they were excluded from the benefit of Clergy, granted the King's mercy, and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for fourteen years.
Grace Polkinhorne and "Elizabeth the Wife of John Woone" were convicted of felony and sentenced to be transported to "some of his Maj'ties American Dominions for the Term of Seven Years."
A group of six men and two women were convicted at Newgate Prison in London, England and sentenced to be transported to Maryland or Virginia (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 562).
Thomas Bird, Nathaniel Nicholls, Robert Nicholls, Thomas Twist, Mary Biggs, James Cunningham, James Russet, and Dorothy Preston were "for diverse Offences Felonies and Misdemeanours by them respectively Committed" were sentenced to the term of seven years in America.
Miles Man, Esq., Town Clerk for the City of London, contracted with Andrew Reid, a London merchant, for the transport of the convicts.
A second group of thirteen men and six women were also convicted at Newgate Prison (Prince George's County, Book Y, pp. 562-563).
Elizabeth Gibbons, Thomas Carter, John Baker, William Floyd, John Shamlet, John Brooks, Samuel Cox, Duncan Cameron, Joseph Coopey, Edward Porter, Robert Mason, Ann Nelson, Ann Stevens, John Fyer, Alice Rackett, George Cheek, Elizabeth Edridge, James Palmer, and "Margaret the Wife of Joseph Devall" were "for Divers Offences Felonies and Misdemeanours by them respectively Committed" sentenced to seven years in Maryland or Virginia, except for Margaret Devall, who was sentenced to fourteen years.
I was able to find out more about Margaret Devall thanks to the Old Bailey database. She was convicted of receiving goods knowing them to be stolen. More specifically, she received from William Evans a silver sauce-boat, valued at 30 shillings and belonging to William Show. Devall and Evans were convicted on February 24, 1742.
Also on the Old Bailey database, we can see that Elizabeth Gibbons was convicted for stealing a cloth coat, a cloth waistcoat, a pair of cloth breeches, three linen shirts, a silk scarf, a pair of worsted stockings, and a silk handkerchief, the goods of William Coatsworth; also, three shirts, two pillowbriers, and a napkin, the goods of Michael Gibbons.
John Fryer was convicted of stealing a pair of leather shoes valued at five shillings, the goods of Thomas Phithian.
Alice Racket was convicted of stealing three yards of cotton, valued at three shillings sixpence, the goods of William Upmore. Think of that: a seven year sentence for stealing three yards of cotton.
Ann Stevens was convicted of stealing a silver buckle valued at five shillings from James Skeen.
George Cheek was convicted of shoplifting a "silver dog" valued at twelve shillings from the shop of Christian Heland.
Thomas Bird, Nathaniel Nichols, and Robert Nichols were convicted of stealing 75 pounds of lead, belonging to a pump, valued at 25 shillings, the property of Joseph Close.
John Shamblet was convicted of breaking and entering the dwelling house of Thomas Cartwright, Esq. and stealing two silk gowns, as well as various other items.
Elizabeth Edridge was convicted of stealing a copper pot and a copper stew-pan from John Loxton.
Joseph Coopey / Coupee was convicted of stealing two bushels of malt, valued at six shillings, from Richard Staples.
Dorothy Preston was convicted of stealing a pewter gallon pot, valued at six shillings, from Henry Biggs.
Searching the Maryland Land Records
If you'd like to do your own research using the Maryland Land Records, here are some useful links.
MDLANDREC: The online database for the Maryland State Archives collection of land records. Search by county, then by book and page number in the "Jump to a new volume" box. Find out which book you want by using the Maryland State Archives Guide.
Maryland State Archives Guide to Frederick County Land Records: You'll need this guide to know which book you want. There are similar guides for each county.