Answers to Questions


SCOTT, Bushey, circa 1810

January, 2011




Glenda Gartrell ( of Sydney, NSW, asks: Can you check the militia lists for William Scott and Thomas Cross for the years before they came to trial in 1809 at Lent Assizes [ASSI 35/250 Part 1].

William Scott   b.13/5/1785, Lanarkshire, Scotland [BDM]
    "labourer of Bushey, Herts" when committed to gaol on 10/9/1809
    charged on oath by Bailey Smith and other
    stealing four sheep, property of William Smith
Thomas Cross   Similar record for Thomas Cross, William's co-accused who I understand was born Hamilton, Lanarkshire 1779.
    records include Walcherin Expedition

The Hertfordshire Militia Lists that survive in Hertfordshire do not cover the relevant period, and I don't have any particular access or knowledge of any lists that may occur in the National Archives at Kew.

The Hertfordshire records, as recorded in Transported beyond the Sea appear to be at variance with the information you provide.

At the Lent Assize 1810 at Hertford a 15 year old William Scott was sentenced to transportation for life for stealing 3 sheep, the property of William Smith at Bushey. At the same assize a Thomas Crofts was sentenced to stealing 2 sheep from Peter Clutterbuck at Watford. He was also sentenced to transportation for life. Both were sent to New South Wales on the Admiral Gambier leaving on 12 May 1811 and arriving on 29 September 1811.

While I don't have access to the Assize Records I do have access to the Calendar of Session Rolls for the period, which cover administrative matters rather than the convictions themselves,  The following summary text occurs for 1810:

Account of C. Wilson. For conveying Joseph Gilby to Buntingford to be whipped, 12 shillings. For conveying to the hulks at Woolwich, William Scott, Joseph Slater, James Darby, George Mole, and Thomas Cross, 32 miles at 1 shilling per mile each. 8 pounds. For conveying James Wright to the Marine Society, 1 pound 2 shillings.

The gap between the conviction and the transportation would often mean being held in prison ships - and this confirms it.

Because other people will be reading this, and do not have the advantage of the other information you have, a few comments are appropriate based only on the information given here, to indicate some of the questions that need to be considered in such cases.

The problem of identity is a common problem in family history research - see Right Name, Wrong Body - and errors in the records can occur at all stages from the original document (perhaps written by a bored official taking information from an illiterate) to modern indexes and finding ages. In criminal cases outside the offender's home area one can expect the use aliases to occur in some cases. It is impossible, without further investigation, to know why there is a ten year difference in the age of William Scott at the time of his trial, and it is noted that at the time the name William Scott was sufficiently common for there to be possible confusion.

If Thomas Cross/Crofts was a co-conspirator, and was committed to goal at the same time - on 10/9/1809, this raises the question of what he was doing in Watford in September (apart from stealing sheep). The Walcheren Expedition began in on 30 July 1809 and the troops did not return to England until 9th December. What we know is that they would both have been held in Hertford Prison before the Assize, then held on the prison hulks at Woolwich, and then shipped together to Australia. Bearing in mind they were convicted of different offences, but spent at least 18 months "together" as prisoners, they may well have emerged in Australia as partners in crime.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

January 2011   Page created