John Cheeseman Convict

(last updated 30 November 2012)

John's convict record and life in Australia

John's connections to Benjamin

John's convict record and subsequent life in Australia

The 'All England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892' maintained by, show that a John Cheeseman, born in around 1813, was tried for sheep stealing in the Hythe Borough Sessions on 24 June 1837 and found not guilty. A year later, on 7 April 1838, a John Cheesman, aged 25, was convicted of larceny by the Hythe Town Sessions of the Kent Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation. We are reasonably confident that these two Johns are the same person and, as argued below, he is related to our Benjamin.

hulks at sheernessThe Archives Office of NSW AO Fiche 738 (Principal SuperIntendent of Convicts, Printed Indents 1839) shows that John was transported to Australia on the JOHN BARRY. This sailed from Sheerness harbour (pictured on the left) on 12 November 1838 with 320 male convicts on board and arrived at Sydney on 22 March 1839. It was the fifth time the ship had conveyed convicts to Australia. On this occasion the JOHN BARRY's master was John Robson and its surgeon-superintendant was Francis Campbell. The ship's indent states that our John was a Protestant aged 25 years, could read and write, and was married with two male children. He came from Kent, worked as a shepherd and had been tried in the Kent (Hythe) Assizes on 7 April 1838 for stealing potatoes. The indent further states that John was 5 foot 5 and 1/2 inches tall, had a sallow complexion, dark flaxon hair and grey eyes. He had a scar on the bridge of his nose and warts on the back of his right and left hands. The surgeon-superintendant's log of the journey indicates that initially at least, John had 'rather a debilitated constitution' and had to be treated for pneumonia between 17 and 23 November.

We think that John was assigned to work as a shepherd somewhere between Yass and the Riverina district around Narrandera. The NSW Archives Authority AO Reel No. 948 (Ticket of Leave Butts) records that he received his ticket-of-leave (no. 43/1239) on 9 May 1843 and was 'allowed to remain in the district of Yass'. We think it likely that he also worked for a time on the 'Cooba' or 'Cuba' sheep station which was established near Darlington Point on the Murrumbidgee River in 1844 by John Peters who named it after the Aboriginal word 'coob' for a common local tree.

On 10 October 1853 John married a widow, Christina Stewart nee McDonald, at Wagga Wagga. The wedding certificate states that John was a bachelor and that they were both living at 'Wroley' (probably the Euroley sheep run located near Yanco) at the time of their marriage although it is not clear whether they were living in the same household. The wedding was witnessed by an Alexander Murphy and a Marie Anne Davis both of Wagga Wagga.

According to one of her descendants, Terry Keyes, Christina was born at Perth in Scotland in 1816, the daughter of Daniel McDonald and Margaret Brown. She married John Stewart sometime before 1838 and had two boys, Neil and George Stewart, in Scotland before the family emigrated to Australia on the 'Anne Milne' on 16 September 1841 (Neil died during the voyage out and was buried at sea). The couple's immigration papers state that Christina could neither read nor write and that they were sponsored by Mesrs Robert Howe & Co (who printed the Sydney Gazette). John took up the position of stockman or station master at Cuba station. While there the couple had three more children: John (born 19 August 1843), William (18 March 1846), Mary Catherine (18 July 1849) and Alonzo Hector MacDonald (10 July 1852). John Stewart snr died sometime between 1849 and October 1853 and was probably buried on the Cuba station.

The NSW Achives register of land grants, leases and purchases (AO reel No. 2562) shows that Christina purchased, over the period 1854-56, a nineteen acre block of land adjacent to the Parkanpregan Lagoon at North Wagga Wagga. Her son George Stewart purchased land opposite her. They were among the earliest settlers in the area, living initially in slab huts. John and Christina had one daughter, Amy Margaret Cheeseman, who was born at North Wagga Wagga on 21 April 1860. Amy's birth certificate states that John was a farmer, aged 47 years and that he had been born at West Hythe in Kent in England (in 1813).

Information collected by Terry Keyes and others enables us to follow John and Christina's subsequent lives and trials. Both were present at the marriage of Christina's eldest daughter, Mary Catherine Stewart, to the Irish American Andrew Keyes in Wagga Wagga on 1 January 1870 (John was a witness to the wedding). On 24 February 1875, Christina was called as a witness to an inquest into the death of her son George who died of a heart attack in the back of his dray while carting timber for the Keerawareena Sawmills. The NSW Electoral Roll for Murrumbidgee for 1878-79 showed John and Christina still residing at North Wagga Wagga. By this time not all was well with Christina. A newspaper report dated 6 March 1880 stated that 'Mrs Cheeseman had been charged with being of unsound mind'. What happened to her after that however remains unclear. As Terry Keyes describes on her website: 'searches of State Records of NSW have not found her in any of the institutions that would have been available at the time. A lucky day came when we researched some land records for her two daughters, there very clearly was Christina's death date of 5th Feb 1886. [Unfortunately] A search of the registers for this date showed a big gap in entries and we can only surmise that the clerk for whatever reason was not at work and the vital records for the period have just been missed being noted. A search of newspapers for this time confirmed her death details'. Although they now know when Christina died, the family remain unsure about where she is buried.

John continued to live at North Wagga Wagga until his death there on 1 August 1888. His death certificate, which was informed by his son-in-law William Atkinson, states that he was born in 'West Tythe, Kent' and had been 'about 50 years in NSW'. His only child at the time was said to be Amy Margaret Atkinson (nee Cheeseman) aged 25 years. John's obituary, printed in the 4 August 1888 edition of the Wagga Wagga Advertizer, stated that 'another old resident has joined the great majority in the person of the late Mr John Cheeseman who died at his residence, North Wagga, on Wednesday last. The deceased who had reached the ripe old age of 75 years had been a resident of Wagga for the past 35 years'.

A few years after John's death William and Amy Atkinson nee Cheeseman and their family moved from Wagga to Adelong and thence to the New England area of New South Wales. According to Terry Keyes, Amy died at Torrington in New South Wales in 1942. Her husband William pre-deceased her by 18 years, dying at Tungsten in NSW in 1924. They had altogether nine children: 1) Jessie Margaret Adelaide Atkinson who was born at Wagga Wagga in 1881 and married William Henry Moon (1880-1928) at Shepardson in NSW in 1900. They had three sons: Lawrence, Donald and Eric Moon. 2) Rose Annie Atkinson (1883-1968) who married Cameron McEachern (1872-1935) at Shepardson in 1904 and had two children: Ronald and Margaret. 3) William Charles Atkinson (1885-88). 4) Reginald Atkinson who was born at Wagga Wagga in 1888 and married Blanche Cellestine Martyn at Glen Innes in NSW in 1920. 5) Valerie Agnes Atkinson born at Wagga Wagga in 1890, married Joseph James Emanuel Cupitt at Grahamstown in NSW in 1908 and had five children: Reginald, James Joseph, Amy, Agnes May and Eric Cupitt. 6) Mabel May Atkinson (1892-1918) who married Walter Reginald Spanswick at Marrackville in Sydney in 1916 and had one child, Thelma Marcelle Spanswick. 7) Wilfred Thomas Atkinson, born at Wagga Wagga in 1894, married Jessie Moss at Glen Innes in 1925 and had two children. 8) Violet Victoria Atkinson who was born at Shepardstown in 1897, married Herbert Clarence Heywood at Barraba in NSW in 1917 and had two children (one of whom, Neville, was killed in World War II). 9) Robert John Atkinson (1900-62) who married Henrietta May Hardy at Glen Innes in 1938.


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John's connection to Benjamin Cheeseman and his English family

We are now reasonably certain that John was Benjamin's brother and eldest son of John and Mary Cheeseman nee Masters. He was baptised at Burmarsh, on 27 November 1814, but, like his siblings, spent his early childhood in the nearby village of West Hythe (said on both John's death certificate and the birth certificate of his Australian daughter, Amy Margaret Cheeseman, to be his place of birth). We also now think it likely that Benjamin's offspring were aware of their convict uncle as evidenced by the fact that Benjamin's son, Alfred John Cheeseman, named two of his children, who were born during or just after Alfred and his wife Elizabeth Jane lived and worked in the Wagga region, John and Christina (the name of convict John's wife). We also now wonder whether Benjamin, who seems to have died sometime between 1862 and 1873, may have done so while seeking to join his elder brother in New South Wales.

What of John's first wife and their two sons?

As described above, the indent records for the 'John Barry' state that when he was transported to New South Wales in 1839, John was married with two male children. We suspect, although have not yet confirmed, that his wife was Mary Hobday who married a John Cheeseman at Folkestone in Kent on 17 June 1832 (the LDS database shows that a Mary Ann Hobday, daughter of John and Ann, was baptised at New Romney on 31 August 1817). We think his two boys were Charles and John Cheeseman, who, according to the local parish records, were baptised at Hythe on 1 September 1833 and 20 April 1835 respectively (the records further indicate that their parents were John, a labourer, and Mary Cheeseman). The 1841 census shows a John and Charles Cheeseman, aged seven and six years respectively and both born in Kent, living in the Romney Marsh Union Workhouse (there was no mention of a Mary Cheeseman). The Catherine House index shows that a Charles Cheesman died in the Romney Marsh Registration District in 1843. This is confirmed by the index of births and deaths at Romney Union Workhouse which record that Charles Cheeseman, 8 of West Hythe, died there of Mesenteria and was buried at New Romney.

Charles' brother John survived the workhouse and later moved to Yorkshire. The 1851 census shows a John Cheeseman, aged 17 years and born at Hythe, living at Bowling in Yorkshire with his stepfather William Webb (born at Nailsea in Somerset in 1814) and his mother Mary Ann Webb (born at Waltham in Kent in 1815). The Catherine House index shows that John Cheeseman was married in the Bradford Registration District of Yorkshire in 1853. His marriage certificate, contained on Ancestry's West Yorkshire marriage database, tells us that John's spouse was Ann Walton, the 21 year-old daughter of Joseph Walton, a miner [and Sarah Kendall who married Joseph at Bradford in Yorkshire in 1828]. John was said on the certificate to be a 20 year-old 'puddler', son of John Cheeseman a shepherd. Both he and Ann were living at Bowling at the time of their wedding which was witnessed by a John Sellers and William Holmes.

At the time of the 1861 census, John (a 26 year-old pit sinker who was born at Hythe) and Ann 'Webb' (28 year-old woolen power loom weaver born at Bowling) and their two children - Albert (6, Bowling) and John 'Webb' (1, Middlesborough) - were living next door to Ann's parents at Wortley near Leeds in Yorkshire. The 1871 census has a John Cheesman (36 year-old ironstone miner born at Hythe) living on High Street in Marske in Yorkshire with his wife Ann (39, Bradford), their three children - Albert (16 year-old horsedriver who was born at Bradford), John (11, Eston in Yorkshire) and Mary (4, Marske) - and a lodger John Davies (a 26 year-old ironstone miner who was born at Great Dunmoor in Essex). The 1881 census shows John (47), Ann (49), John (21) and Mary (14) living at Station Terrace at Marske in Yorkshire. In 1891 John and Ann were living at 14 Dale Street in Marske in Yorkshire. With them was their six year-old grandaughter Ann W. Angwin who was born at Marske-by-Sea in Yorkshire.

John Cheeseman was killed in an accident at the South Skelton ironstone mine in Yorkshire on 21 April 1897. He was 63 years old. His death certificate states that he died from 'injuries received by a set of waggons'. The 1901 census shows his widow, Ann, at 37 Carney Street with her married son John (42) and her granddaughter Selina A. Cheeseman (13). We think that Ann died in 1907. As shown by the censuses, she and John had three children we are aware of: Albert (born at Bowling in 1854), John (1860, Eston Yorkshire) and Mary Rebecca Cheeseman (1867, Marske-by-Sea).

1. Albert Cheeseman (1854-92) & Mary Sleightom (1855-1915)

The Catherine House index shows that Albert Cheeseman was married in the Guisborough district of Yorkshire in 1876. His wife was probably Mary Sleightom or Slightham, the daughter of James Sleightom and Margaret Martin of Redcar in Yorkshire. The 1881 census shows Albert (a 26 year-old ironstone miner) living on High Street Marske in Guisborough in Yorkshire with his wife Mary (26, born at Marske) and three children: Florence (4), Mary Ann (2) and Albert (11m) where all the children were born at Marske. The 1891 census has Albert and Mary still on the High Street in Marske with their by now six children: Florence, Mary Ann, Charles, Amy, Margaret and Henry. The Catherine House records indicate that Albert Cheeseman, aged 38 years, died in the Guisborough district of Yorkshire in 1896. The 1901 census shows his widow Mary (a 47 year-old charwoman) living on High Street in Marske with her sons Charles and Henry and daughter Margaret. The 1911 census has Mary (55) still on the High Street in Marske-by-Sea. With her were two of her grandchildren: Albert (13) and Florence Walton (11) both of whom had been born at Redcar. We think that Mary died at Marske in 1915.

The 1911 census return indicates that Albert and Mary had been married 34 years and had eight children, three of whom - Albert jnr, Henry and another unknown child - had died. What of the others?

Their eldest daughter, Florence Cheeseman (1877-1936), married a railwayman, John Walton, in 1896 (probably at Redcar although that has to be confirmed) and had five children with him - Albert, Florence, Amy, John and Thomas Walton - before John's death in 1908. Florence re-married in 1911, to Frederick William Sturdy. We think that she died in 1936, aged 59 years. We don't know if she and Fred had any children.

Florence's sister, Mary Ann Cheeseman (1879-1958), married a greengrocer Henry Butterfield (1878-1930) in the North Bierly RD of Yorkshire West Riding in 1898 and had three children we know of all born at Eccleshill: 1) Gladys Butterfield (1899-1904); 2) Evelyn Butterfield (1902-73) who married Hector Johnson in the Bradford RD of Yorkshire West Riding in 1948, the same year she received probate from her mother's will; and 3) Dorothy Butterfield.

Amy Cheeseman (1885-1948) seems not to have married and died at Eccleshill in Bradford on 29 November 1948. Probate from her will went to to her widowed sister Mary Ann Butterfield.

Charles Cheeseman (1883-1956) married Emily White in the Guisborough RD of Yorkshire in 1907. The 1911 census shows Charles (a 28 year-old ironstone miner) and his wife Emily (28 and born at New Shelton in Cleveland, Yorkshire) living at 20 Chapel Street in Marske-by-Sea. With them were their two daughters: Gladys (3) and Hilda Cheeseman (6m) (birth places not give but probably Marske-by Sea). We think that Hilda may have married Joseph Marshall at Marske in 1939 although that has still to be confirmed.

The Catherine House index shows that Margaret Elizabeth Cheeseman and Robert Hyrum Turner were married in the Middlesbrough RD of Yorkshire's North Riding in 1907. The 1911 census shows a Robert (a 29 year-old plasterer who was born at Hull in Yorkshire) and Margaret (24, Marske-by-Sea) living at 14 Fletton Terrace Undercliffe with their two children: Robert (5) and Minnie Turner (3) both of whom were born at Marske-by-Sea.

2. John Cheeseman (1860-c1907) & Mary Jane Picknett (1868-1946)

redcar promenadeJohn Cheeseman lived with his parents in Marske until at least 1881. Sue Bishop tells us he married Mary Jane Picknett, the daughter of Charles Maude Picknett and Mary Ann Kingston, at Marske in Yorkshire on 5 June 1887. She adds that 'the Picknetts were a fishing family, but Charles and his brother William (my gt gt grandfather) became builders. The 1860s were a boom-time for Redcar (pictured on the left) and the town expanded rapidly from a small fishing village to a large town. It was already quite a popular seaside resort, but the Stockton-Darlington railway was extended to Redcar and the steelworks in Middlesborough became a major industry. Many former rural workers flocked to the area to work as ironstone miners, and the township of New Marske was built to accommodate them. Builders such as Charles and William Picknett became quite wealthy as there was a huge demand for housing. I know that Charles Picknett moved away from Redcar to a more salubrious area'. Click here to see Sue's website on the 'Picknett Family History'.

The 1891 census has John and Mary Jane (23, Redcar) at 101 St Spence Street in Linthorpe in Middlesborough with their two children: Selina A. (3, Marske) and Walter (1, Middleborough). By the time of the 1901 census John and Mary Jane had gone their separate ways, he and his daughter Selina were at his mother's house at 'Skelton-in-Cleveland' in Yorkshire, she was living at Brotton in Yorkshire with a William Henry Stevenson (43, Coltworth, Lincolnshire) and four children: William (8, Durham), Elizabeth A. (6, Durham), Dorothy (9m, Brotton) and Naomi Stevenson (no age, Brotton).

Although still to be confirmed, we think that John Cheeseman died in around 1907. The 1911 census shows a William Henry (53 year-old ironstone miner born at Woolsthorpe in Leicestershire) and Mary Jane Stevenson (43, Redcar) living at 10 Grange Terrace Brotton in Yorkshire North Riding. Also present were four Stevenson children: William (18, Durham), Naomi (11, Brotton), Dorothy (10, Brotton), Thomas (7, Brotton) and Alfred Kingston Picknett Stevenson (18m, Brotton). The Tees Valley and Catherine House indices show that they eventually married in the Guisborough RD in 1933.

What of John and Mary Jane's children? Although still to be confirmed, we think that their son Walter died in 1901. Their daughter Selina Ann Cheeseman married George Arthur Firth (1884-1939) in the Bradford RD of Yorkshire in 1908. The 1911 census shows Selina Ann (23, Cleveland) and George Arthur Firth (27 year-old plumber born at Bradford) living at 6 Mortimor Row Laisterdyke in Bradford in Yorkshire. With them was their two year-old daughter Mary who was born at Bradford. The Catherine House index shows that a Selina A. Firth, born in around 1869, died in the Upper Agbrigg RD of Yorkshire's West Riding in 1962.

3. Mary Rebecca Cheeseman & John William Angwin (1868-1946)

The Catherine House records shows that Mary Rebecca Cheeseman married John William Angwin in the Guisborough district of the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1883. The 1891 census shows Mary R. Angwin (24 year-old clothes presser) and her husband John W. Angwin (31, coal miner from St Just in Cornwall) and their son Justus W. Angwin (2 and born at Marske) lodging at the house of John and Esther Wetherill at Fox Terrace West Hunslet in Leeds. Their daughter Ann W. Angwin was with Mary's parents John and Ann Cheeseman. I've not been able to find John or Mary in the 1901 or 1911 censuses. In 1901, their children Ann (16 year-old general servant) and Justus (12) were with their uncle Samuel Bird (41 year-old widower and ironstone miner) at 22 Chapel Street in Marske in Yorkshire. I have not been able to find them with any certainty after that although there is some evidence that the family may have emigrated to Canada. The UK Incoming passenger Lists, 1878-1960 show a Justus Angwin, born in around 1885, arrived at Plymouth on the 5 September 1927 on the Alaunia which had sailed from Montreal in Canada. The record states that he was then living in Canada and working as a blacksmith. His proposed address in the UK was 26 Princess Street, St Just in Cornwall.

Last updated 30 November 2012

Image sources:
'Hulks at Sheerness' painting from the National Maritime Musem, London (PW6128)
'Redcar beach front', from past & present

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