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Why a site listing world immigrants to VDL/Tasmania to 1900 Essay

Tasmania has been populated by Aboriginal people since time immemorial. It was known internationally from the 1642 until 1853 as Van Diemen’s Land (VDL). From 1853, with the cessation of convict transportation from the British Empire, it became known as Tasmania.

At the 1996 Census, 13,873 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people registered as living in Tasmania (ABS 1301.6 – Tasmanian Year Book, 2000), and in 2010 just over 500,000 people were living in Tasmania with, according to Alexander (2010), more than 70% having [some] convict ancestry. This is not surprising, considering that more than 72,000 convicts were transported to VDL.

The ancestry of many Tasmanians also originates from beyond the British Isles. Some people, free arrivals and convicts of colour, were sentenced in or departed from the UK, yet this was not their original homeland. Knowledge of these forebears and record of their original country remains often elusively buried deep across many convict, arrival, newspaper, marriage and death records.

Immigrants or visitors from beyond Britain also began regularly arriving into Van Diemen’s Land waters from the early 1790s, even before the English officially began their colonisation from 1803.

Initially arriving on sealing, whaling and trading ships; sailors, convicts, servants, farmers, constables – people of all trades and walks of life came from all corners of the globe: Jamaica and the West Indies, Mauritius and Africa, China, many Pacific islands, India, the United States and Canada, for starters.

Cassandra Pybus stated her research has “….uncovered at least 400 and maybe many, many more people of African descent who came here [VDL] in the Colonial period, about 300 or 350 people came as convicts and then there were all the crews on whaling ships…”. Ref: Four Corners – 26/08/2002: Quentin MCDERMOTT interview with Dr Cassandra Pybus http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/s659087.htm

These immigrants – husbands, wives, parents – are the ancestors of many contemporary Tasmanians and some subsequent mainland Australians. From many cultural backgrounds, they brought with them histories and experiences that were beyond the pale in terms of what was to nevertheless become an increasingly anglicised island.

Given Tasmania’s fraught history in terms of brutal treatment of Aboriginal people, and its convict ‘stain’, many families until recently chose to be amnesiac about this island’s colonial history – and hence their own origins and arrival stories. Knowledge of family farther than 3 generations past is usually a complete blank for many living Tasmanians.

This site is a place to add information as found in public records: archives, newspapers, births/deaths/marriages, etc, about any immigrants arriving into VDL/Tasmania up to 1900 from beyond the British Isles, or with heritage from outside the British Isles. This listing includes Indigenous people from outside Tasmania, eg: Aboriginal people from mainland Australia and internationally, and people of uncertain ancestry from beyond England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland, also individuals and families immigrating from elsewhere in the ‘Empire’, most commonly India and the West Indies, or forcibly brought as convicts from places including Canada and the Cape Colony.

Ideally this site will prove a useful resource for people, perhaps mostly for those who believe they have heritage beyond Britain but haven’t yet figured out how or who – for example incoming ancestors from the places mentioned in the accompanying primary site page listing immigrants.

Please post information, questions, answers and also corrections to assist and increase the number of people listed and content about what were no doubt complex lives in this colonial outpost, perhaps cohabitant-in-colour with displaced Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The format for this site currently consists of four pages. The main page is adjacent – an alphabetic scrollable listing of immigrants by country of origin or ancestry. More individuals and details will be added when information from the public record and references are contributed in the ‘comments’ box at the bottom of the list.

This is currently a small starter list – but it already shows that people came from a wide number of places and cultures, and undertook a diverse range of activities, while resident in VDL/Tasmania.

The second page is also scrollable listing of longer stories about individual immigrants who arrived pre 1900 to VDL/Tasmania with ancestry beyond Britain. This information is also sourced from the public record (archives and publications). Posting titles of useful publications and archive sources and web links would also be much appreciated.

This site should ‘work’ – grow from public input. It aims to make public an otherwise predominantly microfilm-bound but significant component of this island’s story since colonisation.

Names or initials of researchers/contributors to this site will be listed below, to acknowledge the collaborative necessity and basis of this project. When you post or provide information for the first time, please also mention if your name / initials can be acknowledged in this listing.

100 objects that define modern Australia

Modern Australia has a million stories that belong to the Aboriginal people who discovered and settled it, the explorers, sailors and navigators who mapped it and the waves of 19th and 20th century migrants who built it. All these people have written the story of modern Australia. What is left behind are the objects, stories and places that define who we are… Stephen Thompson

Objects through Time is a new publication from the NSW Migration Heritage Centre traces the history of migration to this continent through a selection of 100 significant objects spanning a 60,000 year time frame. Researched and written by MHC curator Stephen Thompson, the book features objects from collections across the world that document the migration of people, technology and ideas to our shores.

It begins with the first migrants, the Aboriginal people who crossed the land bridge to Northwest Australia some 60,000 years ago and follows the story of arrivals through Indonesian outrigger canoes, a technology that enabled the Indonesian Macassans to make the journey to northern Australia, and the inscribed plate that Dirk Hartog left at Shark Bay in Western Australia in 1616.

There are objects from the early British arrivals, like the sextant and secret instructions from Captain James Cook’s expedition to the South Pacific and east coast of Australia in 1770, and the 1787 draft Instructions for Governor Phillip laying the foundations of European Australia in 1788. Objects and stories belonging to the people who streamed into the Australian gold rushes, the Chinese who established market gardens and grocery stores, and the Afghan cameleers who opened the heart of the continent enabling the construction of the Overland Telegraph are also featured.

Events that shaped the 20th century are represented by objects and ephemera from the White Australia Policy, German Australian communities during the Great War, the Cowra breakout during WWII, the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme, the Colombo Plan, the rock ‘n’ roll of The Easybeats, the vessel Tu Do that the Lu family used to flee Vietnam in 1975 and a special polymer banknote commemorating the 1988 Bicentennial.

The story concludes with the Friendship Stick made especially by Aboriginal artists Gavin Flick, Alana and Jai Rose for the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Book: Objects through Time: 100 Objects that define modern Australia

Published by: New South Wales Migration Heritage Centre, Powerhouse Museum

Purchase: Available from powerhousemuseum.com/publications, at the Museum shop and all good bookstores, $35.00 (incl GST).

Distributed by: NewSouth Books www.newsouthbooks.com.au

Informed the natives of the operations carrying on against the blacks, and the whole of them was in tears throughout the whole of the day. Journal of George Augustus Robinson, 26 November 1830

Next day we all reached Bothwell, where we joined the line which extended to the sea coast from the westward – all the parties before we joined had been driving the natives towards the centre, some 3500 men being placed along the line each 320 yards apart – it was astonishing to see the mannerism by which the settlers had turned out with their own servants leaving their homes for an indefinite time. There are not many left now who can recollect the trying occasion. Henry James Emmett (NLA MS 3311)

Black War ~ Van Diemen’s Land CSO 7578 is a site created for transcripts of the manuscript series: CSO 1/7578/316-332. The original records consist of 1 metre of original bound correspondence held in the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (TAHO), Hobart. These are viewable at TAHO on microfilm reel numbers: z1825 – z1830 and are not (yet) online. These records date from 1824-1836, the period of leadership of Lieutenant George Arthur, the 12th Governor of Van Diemen’s Land: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/arthur-sir-george-1721

Tasmania is constructed from the precepts of the Black War, a period of cross cultural conflict initiated by British official occupation from 1803 that intensified by the 1820s, resulting in the Government managed Black Line campaign of 7 Oct – 24 Nov 1830 that culminated in a purported 3500 armed ‘settlers’ and military, supported by £30,000 of Government expenditure, attempting to militarily force, over a period of six weeks, Aboriginal people remaining at large in the ‘settled districts’ onto the Tasman Peninsula. Although this campaign logistically failed, it is believed that it led to the surrender of the remaining openly adversarial Aboriginal people and resulted in their subsequent exile to Flinders Island, located off north eastern Tasmania. See http://www.linc.tas.gov.au/?a=24356 for a listing of original, archival material held in TAHO relating to Tasmanian Aboriginal people and history.


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