Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Letters from Van Dieman's Land

Above: a page showing Benjamin Wait listed as a convict, with a life sentence, and noting his ship and place of origin (Upper Canada) from  Tasmanian Colonial Convict, Passenger and Land Records. Various collections (30 series). Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania as available online at

I read with interest the post on the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog about the Patriot War of 1837 (a futile attempt on the part of Americans to "help" settled British-Canadians revolt against the British government) and about those New York rebels who were captured by the British and sent to Australia--specifically Tasmania, at that time called Van Dieman's Land. Many of those northern New Yorkers were pardoned and made it back to their home country, while a few remained in Australia. Near the top of the list displayed at the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog of those men transported to Van Dieman's Land aboard the ship the Marquis of Hastings is the name Benjamin Wait.

For those interested in the story of one man who remained in Australia (Ira Polley), see my blog post titled  Australian Descendants of Jefferson County, New York settlers.

I happen to have (handed down to me over the ages) the book written by Benjamin Wait during his imprisonment. The book includes the letters and exhaustive efforts of his wife (including travel abroad) to get him released. It is a wonderful small brown book published in 1843 and it tells firsthand a fascinating story.

Wait, with a few other convicts escaped and returned to New York.

Fortunately for all who might be interested in the story, you won't have to ask me to borrow the book--a scanned version of the text can be found at See the text at

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