Samuel Stanford, a 3x great-grandfather on my mother’s side, was born in Harpley, Norfolk, in June, 1831. He was the first child of his parents Samuel and Elizabeth (nee Hall)’s marriage, although Samuel senior brought a child, Smith Stanford, into the marriage – he was the widower of Elizabeth Callor.
The family was clearly not well off. Although Samuel senior is noted in records as a shoemaker, generally a better occupation than his later work as a labourer, he was in trouble with the law more than once. The Norwich Chronicle of 15th August 1829 records he was acquitted of a charge of stealing a leather apron from a local farmer.
Imprisonment for at least two charges of poaching followed and there were at least two more custodial sentences for unrecorded offences. A conviction for stealing an ass was the final straw. At the Norfolk Quarter Sessions on 25th October 1836, the judicial system washed its hands of him, and Samuel was sentenced to seven years’ transportation to Van Dieman’s Land. Before setting sail he was held on the prison hulk Leviathan in Portsmouth, and left for what is now Tasmania on 29th July 1837 on the Susan, arriving the following year.
After a chequered convict career Samuel senior settled in Collingwood and in 1848 married a widow, Jane Crozier (nee Allan), fathering another family of five. He died of mobus cordis – unspecified heart disease – and old age on 4th November 1880 in Brighton, Melbourne.
Samuel senior’s second wife, Elizabeth (nee Hall), was left caring for her four children after her husband’s transportation and, for at least some of the time, stepson Smith, who joined the 29th Foot regiment at the age of 15 and was discharged on the 21st April, 1842 after two years’ service with a ‘disease of the left knee joint’ – he died three months later in late July, 1842.
Elizabeth moved around the county after being widowed by the state. In the 1851 census she said she was a 37 year-old widow and dressmaker in King’s Lynn, living with her 16 year-old daughter Elizabeth, daughter Susanna Hall (10, born 1841) and son George Earle (three, born 1848) – all with the surname ‘Stanford’. In 1853 another daughter, Hannah Earle Stanford, arrived. Boarding with the family in the 1851 census was 27 year-old Samuel Earle. Although the 16 year-old Elizabeth was the daughter of Samuel Stanford, all of the younger children were likely to be Samuel Earle’s, whom Elizabeth married as ‘Samuel Earle Dawes’ in King’s Lynn in September, 1863. Elizabeth died at the age of 73 on 4th October 1884 in King’s Lynn, Samuel having died in 1870.
Samuel senior and Elizabeth’s eldest, Samuel the first New Zealand ancestor (the name runs strong in this family – Samuel’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather were all Samuel; and he was to name his first son Samuel) was not to escape the poverty trap that led many at the time to fall into crime. Born in 1831, left fatherless in 1836 by his father’s conviction and subsequent transportation in 1837, Samuel was not living with his mother at the age of 10, at the time of the 1841 census.
The next recorded mention of Samuel is, unfortunately, his trial at Chelmsford, Essex. On the 19th October 1847 he was tried and sentenced to 10 years’ transportation for housebreaking; he was found wearing clothes and having money from the burglary near Romford; although he had never been in prison before.
His record (in the name of Samuel StanDford, a common error) notes him being of 19 years, with dark brown hair, grey eyes, five feet, seven inches tall and with a fresh complexion, a small nose and medium mouth and chin. He could read and write a little.
Samuel was transported on the second voyage of the William Jardine on 12th August 1850 from Portland, Dorset (it’s likely he had been imprisoned there, as there is no record of him being on a prison hulk), arriving in Van Dieman’s Land on 14th November 1850.
No notation is made on his convict record of his employment once he reached Van Dieman’s Land, and the next entry was on the 23rd of March 1852: “Ticket of Leave” and was recommended for a conditional pardon very quickly on the 30th March 1852.
Wikipedia tells us: “Ticket-of-leave holders were permitted to marry, or to bring their families from Britain, and to acquire property, but they were not permitted to carry firearms or board a ship. Convicts who observed the conditions of the ticket of leave until the completion of one half of their sentence were entitled to a conditional pardon, which removed all restrictions except a ban on leaving the colony. Convicts who did not observe the conditions of their ticket could be arrested without warrant, tried without recourse to the Supreme Court, and would forfeit their property. The ticket of leave had to be renewed annually, and those with one had to attend muster and church services.”
A conditional pardon wasn’t granted until 14th June, 1853 – perhaps a conviction for unlawfully wounding a pigeon in December 1852 (for which he was fined) and the minor infringements of being absent from the muster (twice) in 1853 held it up a little.
However, on 27th September 1852 permission was granted for Samuel to marry Mary Ann Scrivens and the young couple (both were 21 years of age) married that day at St John’s Church, Launceston. Samuel was described as ‘Ticket of Leave’ and Mary as ‘Free’ – she signed with her mark.
Although in the colony as a free person, Mary’s life would have been almost as proscribed by the law as her new husband’s. Her father, Thomas Scrivens, was convicted at the Middlesex Sessions on the 13th May 1833 for ‘obtaining goods by false pretences’ (newspaper reports of his trial allege he was part of the ‘Coster Gang’ of thieves and the evidence seemed overwhelmingly against him) – and sentenced to be transported to Van Dieman’s Land for seven years. Thomas was then held on the hulk Hardy, before leaving on the 3rd August, 1833 on the second voyage of the convict ship the John, arriving on 1st December, 1833 in the colony.
A petition for clemency survives in England’s National Archives – this was not successful, although a second petition requesting that his wife, Mary Ann (nee Vaisey) and children be allowed to to join him was granted.
In Tasmania he was made a constable in early 1834 and worked as a watchman in the prison. To be honest, they must have been short of candidates. Subsequent bad behaviour saw him dismissed on 6 Oct 1836 and he then worked as a labourer until the 22nd of that month, when he was granted his ticket of leave “as a consequence of the destitute condition of his wife and family”. Despite several more convictions he was granted his Free Certificate in 1840 and listed as “free by servitude” in 1841.
Thomas’ wife, Mary Ann Vaisey (or Veasey) joined her husband in Tasmania, sailing on the Strathfieldsay, from Gravesend in August, 1834. She was noted as travelling “with three children”; including daughter Mary Ann, who was a young baby.
Thomas and Mary Ann had six children; three survived to adulthood. It seems that the family didn’t do well in Australia; possibly due to the ‘destitute condition’ mentioned above, Mary Ann died of an ‘abscess’ at the age of 30 on the 13th September, 1843 at Goulburn, then an area near Hobart. The informant on the district’s death register was Thomas, recorded as a labourer.
Thomas died in the district of Hobart on 27th January, 1853 of consumption, the informant being a ‘friend’, H.S Wheeler. He was 50 years old.
Meanwhile, Samuel Stanford and his wife Mary Ann Scrivens appeared to thrive in the New World. Perhaps, as being younger when they arrived in the colony, they adapted better than Mary Ann’s parents.
After his pardon Samuel and his family lived in the town of Stanley, in the Horton District, Tasmania, where he was a police constable until 1861, his previous occupation being a labourer. The history of Stanley is the subject of Betty Jones’ book Along the Terrace: The Owners and Occupiers of Stanley 1843-1922 (Stanley Discovery Museum, 2015) and she has placed the Stanfords at 12 Church Street, where they rented a wooden cottage from J.S. House. Eventually the section became the town’s National Bank, before the Commercial Bank of Australia bought the bank in 1919 (personal note; I worked for the Dunedin branch of the C.B.A for several years).
By the time Samuel resigned as a policeman, he and Mary Ann had six children: Elizabeth Ann, born 1853; Mary Ann (registered as Margaret, but in every other record, Mary Ann), born 1855; Samuel, born 1857; Emily, born 1858; Emma, born 1859 and William, born 1861. The family emigrated to Invercargill, New Zealand, on the schooner Alma in May, 1863; it appears the two youngest children had died, as they didn’t appear on the list of passengers and no record of them is subsequently found, although there is a likely death for William in 1862 (see brief biographies below).
During his time in Invercargill Samuel owned and operated the general mercantile business known as Stanford & Co, selling kerosene, lamps, sewing machines, etc. It’s unknown who the ‘Co’ was; however a large American company of the same name and nature of business had a number of branches in New Zealand and Australia at the time – perhaps the savvy Samuel was trading on their reputation?
By the time of the first ‘disastrous fire’ in Invercargill’s commercial centre in March, 1864 (there was a second fire in the December) Samuel had sold out of his business – it was as Spencer & Co that the business’s stock of kerosene was described as “… burst into fire with a loud explosion… the kerosene-fed flames shot out from the front and back of the premises, leaving the occupants barely time to escape with their lives.” (Lake Wakatip Mail, 5 March 1864, page 4) Two women living in a nearby hotel were killed in the fire.
Samuel’s obituary tells of his setting up his store in East Invercargill and later he bought a hawking business, “a travelling business with pack horses.” (The Southland Times, 22nd December 1904). At the time of his daughter Mary Ann’s marriage to Daniel Strang, it was noted that the ceremony took place “at the house of the father of the bride, McMaster St, Invercargill”; he owned freehold land in Sylvan Bank, Invercargill, noted in the 1875-1875 electoral rolls.
Although four Stanford children arrived from Tasmania with their parents, the family was not yet complete. Alice Jane was born on New Year’s Day, 1864; George in 1865 and Charlotte in 1867. However, on the 16th May, 1871, their mother Mary Ann died at the age of 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as ‘inflammation of the lungs’. Mary Ann was buried in the Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill, and to eventually share her grave with her daughter Emily (Anderson) and grandchildren Archibald, Daniel and Lucy Strang, all infant children of her daughter Mary Ann and Daniel Strang. Interestingly, in 1911 little Doris Mary Ratcliff, aged one month and daughter of William and Catherine, joined them. I haven’t found a link to the family as yet.
Samuel remained in Invercargill with his younger children until around 1876-1880 – the business Stanford & Co, selling kerosene, oil, lamps, sewing machines etc appears in newspaper advertisements in Lumsden around that time. School records (a copy of the School Register of Admissions for Southland, Southland Museum) show the three younger children attending Invercargill Middle School with Charlotte, the youngest, remaining in the care of her elder sister Mary Ann at the school until 1882.
Samuel is given the occupation in records of merchant, storekeeper etc for the remainder of his life. In 1880 his premises in Lumsden were destroyed by fire, in what seems to have been a fairly regular occurrence; a newspaper report of an inquest into a fire that burned down a bakehouse owned by his second wife Isabella in 1890 mentioned that: “A great deal of sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Stanford as this is the third time that they have been sufferers from fire in Lumsden, and on each occasion clearly through no fault or carelessness on their part” (The Southland Times, 8th July 1890.)
Samuel remarried in Winton on 25th November, 1880, to the previously unmarried Irish-born Isabella Atkinson. The groom was 49 and the bride 42.
Samuel and Isabella became parents on 27th August, 1881 – the birth records give the name of a little girl, Mary Atkinson Stanford. However, on Samuel and Isabella’s headstone in Lumsden Cemetery is recorded the burial of a little boy, William Atkinson Stanford. William’s death certificate gives his date of death as 26th December, 1884 and the cause as tuberculosis and peritonitis, his age being three years (what a dreadful Christmas that must have been). This age chimes with the birth date for Mary. There is no birth certificate for a William Atkinson Stanford; there is no death certificate for a Mary Atkinson Stanford. Were they twins and William was missed at registration time? If so, what happened to Mary? Is it possible… the baby was intersex and Mary became William?
Clearly the 1880 and subsequent fires affected the business. Samuel was declared bankrupt in 1882 and in 1886; it was on his own petition he adjudged bankrupt in 1886. During the meeting of creditors in 1886, Samuel was examined under oath: “He had suffered a severe loss through fire some time ago. Had it not been for that misfortune he would have managed to pull through.” (The Southland Times, 29th September 1886.) Samuel was discharged from bankruptcy in 1887.
Samuel recovered from these setbacks and became the proverbial pillar of his community, serving on the Lumsden School committee; was the treasurer of the Lumsden annual racing meeting and Caledonian games in 1881; chairman of the Cemetery Trust; worked to raise money to build a Presbyterian church in the town.
Charity also began at home for Samuel and Isabella. Isabella’s orphaned niece living with her aunt and uncle from a young age. Mary Atkinson, known as Minnie in her youth, was the first bride married at the church for which her uncle raised money. A report of the wedding in the Mataura Ensign of 31st December 1893 noted: “The bride’s uncle, who has been her guardian for many years, celebrated the nuptials by giving a grand spread in his residence. …The wedding breakfast was sumptuously provided by the bride’s uncle, Mr S. Stanford.”
Samuel lived in Lumsden after he sold his business to John McFettridge and into his retirement. He died on 17 December 1904, the cause of death being ‘mitral valvular disease of the heart and cardiac dyspnea and failure, of three weeks’ duration.
The obituaries published in The Southland Times and Otago Witness were naturally, flattering, describing a hard-working, public-spirited pioneer – and we have no reason to disbelieve them. Of course, the initial paragraphs describing his childhood (he “… landed in Tasmania with his parents at the early age of six years…” said The Southland Times) were pure fiction, but no-one attempting to join polite society would advertise their convict origins.
Samuel was buried in Lumsden Cemetery with his son William; Isabella would join them there in 1914.
Samuel’s Will left his chattels and property to Isabella, until she married again (she didn’t) or died; then the property was shared between his surviving children who lived close to him – George, Alice, Mary Ann and Charlotte. John McFettridge, to whom he sold his business, and his son-in-law John Porter (Charlotte’s husband) were executors; Walter Patterson, Alice’s husband, attested to the fact of his death.
I discovered Samuel’s convict story early on in my family research and I quickly became fascinated with the young man who ‘made good’. As far as I am aware my immediate maternal family were unaware they were descended from convicts; my mother June certainly never mentioned knowing about it and I think my grandmother Myrtle would have been horrified! Samuel and Mary Ann have hundreds of descendants in Australasia and beyond; not a bad legacy for two people with a less than perfect start to life.
If you have any further information or photographs to share of members of the Stanford line, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me via the Contact page.
Brief biographies of the children of Mary Ann Scrivens and Samuel Stanford
Elizabeth Ann: married James Anderson in Invercargill in 1869 and had 14 children. The family reverse-emigrated to Australia, where Elizabeth died in Victoria in 1922, aged 69.
Mary Ann: more detail later; she is my great-great grandmother. Mary Ann married Daniel Strang in 1875 and had 11 children; the family lived in Invercargill. Mary Ann died in 1915.
Samuel: if there was a black sheep in the Stanford family, it seems to have been Samuel. He married Mary Ann McCague (or MaKay, McKay or McCabe) in Invercargill in 1877. Unfortunately, the marriage broke down after two children, leaving Mary Ann to chase him through the courts for maintenance (The Southland Times, September 29, 1903). She was left living in reduced circumstances with her younger daughter Catherine (Kitty, born 1879, who had attended Invercargill Middle School while living there) in Dunedin, their younger daughter Mary Ann Elizabeth having died at the age of four or five months in 1878.
In 1888 Samuel is listed in Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, pg. 410, as employed as a rabbiter in Lumsden.
In 1890 Samuel was to manage a bakehouse in Lumsden, owned by his stepmother Isabella. Unfortunately, before opening, the building and the house next door fell victim to an arsonist. The subsequent inquest could find no-one responsible and the insurance was paid. It’s unknown if Samuel junior went on to become a baker.
Samuel died in 1932, in Whanganui.
Emily: married David Anderson, brother of James Anderson, her sister Elizabeth’s husband. The couple were married in Winton and farmed in the district, having seven children. Emily died in 1891, at the age of 32, in Invercargill.
Emma: born 1859; as noted earlier Emma didn’t accompany her family to New Zealand in 1863. No death record has been found.
William: born 1861, also appears to have died as an infant. I’ve found a Tasmanian death record that may belong to him, dated 1862; the baby was said to have died of ‘water on the brain’. The record gives the father’s occupation as ‘labourer’, as Samuel was then; no parents’ names, and the surname is recorded and digitised as Standforth, with the ‘th’ crossed out. ‘Standford’ was a common error for Stanford, when records were entered from oral testimony.
Alice Jane: attended Invercargill Middle School with her siblings George and Charlotte. She married Walter Patterson in Winton. The couple had 14 children. Alice died in 1937 in Lumsden, at the age of 73.
George: married Edith Sophia Reynolds in 1893; it appears the couple had no children. George was a horseman, referred to in many newspaper reports of horse sales. His father’s Will listed him as a labourer. George died in 1941 at the age of 76. He and Edith are buried in Lumsden cemetery, near his father.
Charlotte: was not even four years old when her mother died. She attended Invercargill Middle School, her guardianship changing in 1881 from Samuel Stanford, McMaster Street, to Mrs Strang, Don Street (her elder sister Mary Ann); this was around the time of Samuel’s second marriage. Charlotte married Alexander Rogerson Porter, a tailor, in 1892, at the home of her sister Mary Ann. She and Alexander had 10 children. Charlotte died at the age of 47, in Invercargill, in 1915.