52 Ancestors #26 – Black Sheep – John Clinch

Not technically my direct ancestor, however, this story fits perfectly into the “Black Sheep” prompt for this week. John Clinch married Ann Greene on the 21st July 1851 in Hobart, Tasmania. At the time he was 27 years of age and Ann was just 17.  I’m not sure of the research process that I went through, as it was a long time ago, however, I do know that I received this certificate from the Clinch relatives in New Zealand which started me on that journey.

I knew that my great-grandmother, Alice Zenobia Campbell (married name Lymburner) was the daughter of Ann Clinch nee Greene and through the research process I was able to determine that Ann had been married previously, and there were 3 older children who had the surname of Clinch.

Clinch, John_1851_marriage certificate_Hobart, Tasmania_to Ann Greene

The LINC Tasmanian website has a fantastic system for researching your ‘apple isle’ ancestors. Even before their records went online, the cost to obtain copies of certificates was very minimal and they answered their letters very swiftly. It didn’t take long to find the first reference to John being a convict when I was searching marriage records and found the permission to marry. Here it stated that John had arrived on the Equestrian a convict ship and Ann Green(e) was a free woman. I soon determined that John had been tried in the Clerkenwell, Middlesex Quarter Sessions and was given a seven-year sentence on 8 April 1845. Just that number, seven years, is enough to mean transportation to the colonies, Australia and Van Dieman’s Land was his destination. John’s crime, stealing 40lbs of coffee, but was there more to this story?

Permission to Marry

This is a long post, so bear with me if you can as I take the story back to the beginning of John’s life, with his birth and through other records in the convict system, I was able to prove through the naming of siblings on a Convict Indent CON14 and his distinctive tattoos described on his Conduct Record CON33, that I had the right person.

John is the middle child of Thomas Clinch and Ann, maiden-surname unknown, a (Wood) Turner from Britannia Gardens. He was born the 3rd September 1822 and at the age 15, was baptised at St Leonards, Shoreditch, Middlesex, the 27th February 1837. His brother Stephen, born 18 June 1830 was also baptised on the same day. Stephen would have been 7 years old.

Clinch, John_1822 Sep 03_Birth_Shoreditch St Leonard and brother Stephen (1)

John was only ever going to appear on one census record for England and it was the one with the least amount of information, 1841. However, I did indeed find him with his parents, Thomas aged 50, a Turner, Ann aged 40, an older brother Thomas aged 15, John also aged 15 and Stephen, 10. Now there is something interesting going on here. Is John a twin? I found this oddity in the parish records of St Leonard, Shoreditch, Thomas Clinch, son of Thomas and Ann, a Turner, born 11 May 1822, baptised 21 July 1823. How could that be? John was born in September 1822!! Maybe a mistake by the minister perhaps! When the 1841 census was taken, the years didn’t have to be exact, they were usually rounded up or down, so exact ages cannot be guaranteed. Always questions and more detective work in family history. Nothing is ever clear-cut, but then again, where would the fun of the chase be in that?

Clinch, Thomas_1822 May 11_baptism_Shoreditch St Leonards_brother of John 31281_A101306-00124 small (1)

On further investigation into John’s criminal activity, we find that there were previous convictions prior to the one that “was the straw that broke the camels back“. The following was found in the Old Bailey Records of 1842. The entry reads:

2687 JOHN CLINCH was indicted for stealing, on the 8th of September, 2 snuff-boxes, value 8/-; 1 coat, value 2/-; 1 cloak, value 2/-; and 1 pair of boots, value 1/-; the goods of William Henry Storey, in his dwelling-house.
WILLIAM FULLER. I am a groom to William Henry Storey, of Eden-house, Isleworth. On Thursday, the 8th of September, I was in the stable-yard and saw the prisoner crossing the yard with a  bag across his shoulder, going from the house towards the road – as soon as he saw I was after him, he threw the bag down and ran away – I called “Stop thief” – I ordered some persons to pick up the bag – he was stopped – I came up and brought him part of the way back – as I was going along I saw him drop two silver tea-spoons and a pair of sugar-tongs – the person with the bag waited till I came up, and in it were two snuff-boxes, a pair of boots, a cloak, and a coat – they were all my master’s – the prisoner was searched, and several halfpence and another spoon found on him – another spoon was found on him at the station – I had seen this coat and cloak safe two hours before, because I brushed them and put them on a slab in the hall – I had seen these boots on a chair – they belong to my young master – these snuff-boxes are my master’s – they were lying on the side-board in the dining room – I have no recollection of seeing them after Sunday – these things were found in the prisoner’s bag.
Cross-examined by MR PRENDEGAST. Q. Are you quite sure he is the person you saw there? A. Yes, I am quite sure he is the person – I do not know any thing of him – I am quite sure these are the snuff-boxes – I know them by their general appearance.
DANIEL BECKHAM (police-constable T 49.) I took the prisoner – he denied it – while searching him I saw a silver spoon drop from him – I took him to the station, and there searched him again – I found another silver spoon in the lower part of his trousers – this bag and other things were delivered to me.
(The prisoner received a good character).
GUILTY. Aged 19 – confined Twelve Months.
(There WAs another indictment against the prisoner)

Three years later, John finds himself in Millbank Prison awaiting to be transported to Tasmania, then known as Van Dieman’s Land. The Morning Post of 10 April 1845 reports in the Middlesex Session of John Clinch aged 18, (Note the discrepancy in age from a previous conviction, however, all crimes are noted on his conduct record) and William Anderson, aged 19 were indicted for stealing forty pounds weight of coffee value 50s, the property of Charles Scales.
Mr O’Brien defended the prisoners.
From the evidence it appeared that, upon the 26th of March, about dusk, the prisoners were observed loitering about the prosecutor’s premises in the Old-street-road. The policeman Jenkinson, who had seen their conduct in the course of the evening, saw a cab proceeding at a rapid rate down Old-street, and the prisoner Clinch sitting upon the box. He instantly stopped the vehicle and found Anderson inside, and the large bag of coffee now in Court. Anderson got out with Clinch, and began to thrash him for his alleged impudence in detaining the cab. The cab driver also interfered, and the prisoners made their escape, after having knocked the policeman down. They were subsequently taken into custody.
The prosecutor identified the bag of coffee as his property.
The jury found the prisoners Guilty.
The prisoners turning out to have been previously convicted more than once, Clinch was sentenced to transportation for seven years, and Anderson to imprisonment with hard labour for six calendar months.

Unfortunately, the following letter has fallen on deaf ears –

32 St Pancras Place
Old St Pancras Road
19th April 1845

Honoured Sir
I trust that the feelings of a parent will plead a sufficient apology for the liberty I take in addressing you in behalf of my unfortunately child John Clinch, who was convicted at the last Middlesex Sessions and sentenced to seven years transportation.

This Memorial humbly prays that should it meet with your concurrence, the Convict on account of his youth (being but 19 years of age) may be permitted to remain in this country for the term of his sentence in such of her Majesty’s Prisons as you may be graciously pleased to deem expedient, where he may be instructed and made fit for a better course of life, instead of transporting him beyond the Seas.
Should you condescend to yield to the prayers of this Petition you will confer an eternal obligation on an afflicted Father and ever claim the prayers and blessings of

Your most obedient
Devoted humble Servant
Thomas Clinch
To the Rt Honourable
Secretary of State

The undersigned the Prosecutor begs respectfully to join in the Prayer of the Petition and to recommend the Prisoners Case to your Consideration.
Charles Scales
Source: Home Office: Criminal Petitions: Series II: HO18

John arrived in Van Dieman’s Land per Equestrian on 15 October 1845.

It’s interesting to note his description on the Conduct Record; ruddy complexion, oval head, light brown hair, oval visage, medium height forehead, sandy eyebrows, hazel eyes, medium nose, medium mouth, medium chin.  I have seen photos from my grandmother Norma Cripps nee Lymburner’s collection of her New Zealand cousins, with the same ruddy complexion and hair colour. He has tattoo marks an E & W, 2 wreaths on right arm above the elbow. His occupation is that of a wood turner, he’s 5’1″ tall and now his age is 21!  The surgeon reported that John Clinch was ‘very bad’.

John was sent out with a work gang to Nicholl’s Rivulet in the south of Tasmania for fifteen months from the time he arrived to 11 September 1846. He worked in many other locations around Hobart until he received his Ticket of Leave 18 Dec 1849. A Condition of Pardon was granted on 2 September 1851 just two months after his marriage to Ann Greene.

Source: Conduct Record CON33/1/72; Description List CON18/1/44; Indent CON14/1/32; Muster Roll CON13/1/9; Muster Roll CON28/1/2

John and Ann had 1 child together that I’m sure of, Ann Matilda Clinch born July 1853 to John Clinch and Ann Clinch formerly Green, Turner, Murray Street, Hobart. Emily, whose birth date is a mystery, there is no birth record for her in Tasmania and her death certificate from New Zealand indicates she was born in 1860 to Neil and Ann Campbell in Sydney, New South Wales. From contact with family members in New Zealand, she was apparently a Clinch. If Emily was born in 1860, John Clinch couldn’t be her father, as I found him in a Melbourne prison. It was those tattoos and his description that helped prove it was our John Clinch. He now had a couple of extra scars, one on the left side of his forehead and 2 boil marks. The description was the same, the EW and wreath tattoo. Also on the prison record was a notation that he had written a letter to his wife Ann Clinch, Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania 11 March 1857 and another on 5 January 1858. Another child, a son, George Frederick was also born around this time and from his records, he took on the name of Campbell, however, his marriage record gives his father as Clinch. I could not find this birth in any state or in New Zealand. A bit on the side maybe!!?

John Clinch was convicted 3 times for horse stealing and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment on the 6th May 1856.  He was sent to the Prison Hulk President 16 July 1857;  then to the hulk Success 22 January 1858 and by the 31 May 1858 he is in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne.  He was released 1 May 1863 after serving 7 years with a long list of misdemeanours for misconduct and disobedience.

What happens next to John Clinch is unknown, what I do know is that Ann has ended up in New Zealand, supposedly married to Neil Campbell, but I cannot find any record of this. My great grandmother Alice Zenobia Campbell was born in 1870 in New Zealand and the family moved and settled in Victoria hey lived for many years in New Zealand and eventually moved to Victoria sometime in the 1880’s where they both died. I wrote Ann’s story HERE.

I keep coming back to this story and my research of John Clinch to see where he ended up and maybe find one day, how and when Neil Campbell and Ann Greene/Clinch got together. Maybe they never married and that is always a possibility.



About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in 52-Ancestors-52-Weeks, Blog, Clinch and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 52 Ancestors #26 – Black Sheep – John Clinch

  1. tstatton says:

    Very interesting Jenny. I haven’t found any convict ancestors yet in any of my trees, but I find it interesting to read of their misdemeanours and their sentences. Life must have been very hard and harsh for the Tasmanian convicts with the incessant wet and cold weather coupled with their primitive dark and cold dwellings. I feel sorry for most of them as a lot of them made trivial detours from the straight and narrow paths, but ended up with life changing sentences.

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      I’m sure the wet and cold would have been harsh to deal with, then on the opposite end of the spectrum, those who came to WA would have thought they’d come to hell on earth with the heat. In the research I’ve done, I’ve not seen any one who was sent here for stealing a loaf of bread. In most cases, the trivial crime, or so we thought, that they we were sent here for, was after further misdeamours.

  2. crissouli says:

    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris
    Certainly a story that deserved a day… and the time spent shows…

  3. Well, certainly tattoes are a plus in this story. And that probably is the only time I will say I like them. 😊 And how fortunate to find the letter from his parents who obviously tried to do their utmost for their black sheep.

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      I counted I had the right fellow at first as the prison report said he was free and had arrived on a different ship in some obscure year. The letter to his then wife and her address secured the link too. I spent all day writing that blog, got nothing else done.

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