Answers to Questions


GREEN, St Albans, early 19th century

April, 2011



St Albans

Maureen McHugh.(iluka4 @t writes: I have a brick wall that perhaps you could point me in the right direction. I have a Levi Green who was transported to Australia. I'll start at the beginning of what I know. Levi was born around the year 1828. His father was a Richard Green or so it was written on his marriage certificate. This might be an error as his wife's father was named Richard and on the certificate his name was written as unknown.

It seems possible that Lucy's father's details were written in Levi's father's box

In 1839 Levi was arrested along with two other boys (Thomas and George Sears) for theft of four ploughshare points from a John Gomme from St Stephens a parish on the south of St Albans. Levi was sentenced to five days in a House of correction and to be whipped once.

 A year later Levi was arrested again for theft. On the 13 December 1840 Joseph Smith a friend of Levi's stole a show glass containing a quantity of suckers worth one shilling from  the shop of Thomas Harding, who was a fishmonger on Sopwell Lane, St Albans. Levi during the theft had waited outside and had been seen running from the shop with Joseph Smith, Levi were taken before St Albans sessions on 7 Jan 1841. He was sent to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight before being transported to Western Australia. My problem is no-one can find who Levi's parents were. Obviously he could have changed his name also he could have been a foundling so you are probably our last hope. Many people in Australia have tried to find Levi's parents to no avail. Looking forward to hearing from you. Maureen..

While Green is a common surname, there is, as you say, no birth/christening records for a Levi Green on the more obvious sources. Names often pass down families - but there are no geographically close Levi Greens listed in the 1841 and 1851 census who could have been close references, and no Levi Green was buried in Hertfordshire between 1800 and 1850.

Trying another track the 1841 census shows that Thomas (14)  and George Sear (12) were living in Sopwell Lane with their parents. Also living in Sopwell Lane was a 10 year old Enoch Green, born in Hertfordshire Unfortunately he was not with his parents, but living in a house where the head of household was William Crouch, wife Martha (nee Peters).. Enoch is also a rarely used given name - but is the sort of Old Testament name that might well turn up in a family that called another son Levi - and whose children would not be baptised in the Church of England. Unfortunately Enoch died aged 11. His burial is recorded in the St Albans Abbey registers, and I can see no sign of his birth/baptism in the more obvious sources.  His death was registered  at St Albans, September 1841 ref 6/272 but the death certificate is unlikely to say anything about his parentage, although there might be a clue from who registered his death if he was an orphan associated with the workhouse, and had been "fostered out" to the Crouch couple. (The Registrar Office in the same building as HALS may be able to provide a copy.

Another line relates to the crimes - and a full study of what original court records remain might throw up some clues. There are some very unusual features about the the story. While it was not unknown, it was rare for pre-teen age children to be transported. In 1839 three children Thomas (about 12), Levi (about 11) and George (about 10) steal four ploughshare points ... What is going on ... Pre-teen-children steal food, money, perhaps clothing, or go poaching. They do not steal comparatively heavy iron objects such as plough shear points on their own account.  They must have been stealing to order.

In 1840 Joseph Smith steals a "glass jar and 2 ounces of suckers" from a fishmonger, and Levi Green was his look out. You don't say anything about Joseph Smith, and I have no information about who he was, how old he was,  and whether he was caught. Unfortunately the entry in Transported beyond the Sea does not mention Levi's co-conspirator. It is easy to be misled by the idea of a 12 year old boy stealing a glass jar containing boiled sweets from a sweet shop (but surely he would have stolen a full jar??). However what was stolen from the fishmonger was undoubtedly a glass jar full of water containing suckers = live leeches which were used by the surgeons of the day for blood-letting. Wikipedia records that in the 1830s 6 million leeches were imported from France for use in blood-letting. I think we can be certain that whoever Joseph Smith was he was not a pre-teen boy. He was almost certainly a professional criminal stealing a specialist item to supply a known market. The fact that Levi was transported suggests that he was already considered a hardened criminal.

A picture immediately comes to mind - that of Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens published this story in 1838 to highlight the fate of many workhouse children and the criminal child gangs of waifs and strays in London at the time. I am sure that in the larger town there were those who would use young children (particularly those with no family) to help in their nefarious activities.

My suggestion is that Levi and Enoch Green were brothers, probably orphans and under the control of the Overseers of the Poor. St Albans involved four parishes (St Albans, St Michael, St Peter and St Stephens) which would have their separate workhouses at the time Levi and Enoch were boorn, but by the time Levi was arrested for the first time the Union Workhouses had been established. HALS will be able to advise you on which poor law records survive for each parish for the period and whether they are likely to contain mentions of Levi or Enoch (and/or their mother). They are also likely to have at least some of the court records. There might also be some more information on Joseph Smith (not his real name??). There may have even been other young child criminals in the "gang".

Anthony Carter (acarter @t drew my attention to the "Parkhurst Boys" saying: It was not at all uncommon for preteen boys to be transported. Officially they were not convicts, the idea being for them to be apprenticed on arrival. Try Googling Parkhurst Boys to learn more and you should arrive at a site where you can find some info about Levi [See Convicts to Australia]. As your correspondent will know Levi eventually made good and had a 3000 acre farm. You can read about him under Pinjarra Cemetery which also has the father as Richard (surveyor) but no doubt from the same marriage certificate. Under NonConformist Records I did find an older Levi Green at Cardington, Beds. but that is 40 miles north of St Albans..

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

April 2011   Page created