It’s hard to imagine what was going through Enoch Pearson Barratt’s mind as he sat in chains on the ship, William Jardine, en route to an alien land thousands of miles from England and thousands of miles from his wife and children.
Perhaps he wondered whether he’d ever see them again. Perhaps he feared for his future. And for theirs. Whilst his mindset will never be known, judging by his future success, it would appear that he was a man of good qualities, sound morals and positivity.
He arrived on 1 August 1852 and it’s likely he spent very little time in prison. He may have at first worked on Government projects but perhaps his good work ethic meant that he soon drew the attention of the free settlers. Honest, hardworking men (despite the convict taint) were in demand.
Throughout the first year of being in Western Australia, it’s doubtful that Enoch had learnt to read and write and was sending letters home to his wife, Mary Ann. In any case, if he had learnt, she wouldn’t have been able to read them (being illiterate herself) without the help of someone else. He continued to think of his family and it’s likely he had some help when enquiries were made about them receiving assisted passage to join him in Perth.
An excerpt from a letter addressed to Thomas Marchant of St Pauls Deptford dated 10 June 1853 states:
I am directed by Viscount Palmerston to acknowle[dge] the rec[eip]t of y[ou]r l[ette]r of the 8th inst[ant], requesting to be furnished with information regarding the Grant of an Assisted Passage to Western Australia to the Wife and Family of Enoch Pearson Barrett, a Convict under Sentence of Transportation in th[a]t Colony.
There were no issues with the application and the assisted passage was granted. Enoch’s wife, Mary Ann, and his children, Elizabeth, James and Emma found themselves booked for passage on the ship ‘Victory’.
Originally advertised to depart England on 3 December, the ship didn’t actually leave until the 28th. The voyage itself appeared to be relatively uneventful and three months after their departure, on 24 March 1854, they arrived in Albany (the first port of call) in Western Australia.
It was while searching for Mary Ann, Elizabeth, James and Emma in the passenger lists that I came across a strange anomaly. Most of the lists are what you’d expect: Mary Ann at the top with the three children listed below her in order of their respective ages.
But on one passenger list, which specifically listed the families of convicts who had been granted assisted passage, there is an additional passenger written below Emma.
Who was Jemima Barratt?
It’s not an easily answered question. The record itself is found within the Western Australian Passenger Lists (Albany arrivals) but it’s not actually part of the same document that the previous list came from.
Could there have been confusion with a different Jemima? There was a Jemima Gibson listed on the same page of convicts’ families who were granted assisted passage but this Jemima was four years old and next to the family group, a note was scrawled stating that they had defaulted and, I assume, did not travel on the ship. We can easily discount this theory.
Could Mary Ann have given birth to another child before she embarked on the Victory? To check this theory, I searched through the list of birth registrations in England for a Jemima Barratt/Barrett born around 1853 and the one possible match (born in Greenwich) looks to have died in the same year. A search for Jemima Fleming also yielded no results. Was Mary Ann already pregnant when she boarded the Victory? Did she give birth on board? If this was the case, given the timeline, it would mean that Jemima wasn’t Enoch’s child.
Was it all just a mistake that can be put down as human error? Perhaps Mary Ann was holding someone else’s child when they were recording the names and it was accidentally assumed that the child was hers. If that’s the case, why is there no other Jemima on the other list of passengers? Could it simply have been a recording error and no Jemima existed at all? This, seems like a rather strange error to make in my opinion.
Assuming Jemima was Mary Ann’s child – perhaps conceived at a time when she thought she’d never hear from Enoch again – I find myself pondering the next question, whatever happened to her? There are no early Western Australian death or marriage records for a Jemima Barratt/Barrett and a vague search of the name ‘Jemima’ shows that there’s barely a record of anyone who had that name. Could she have been given up for adoption (and given a new name) due to the fact she wasn’t Enoch’s child?
It’s all quite strange and given the lack of future evidence of any Jemima in Western Australia, I’m inclined to think it’s a mystery which may remain as such. It’s hard to conduct a search for someone who appears to not exist. Until I can conduct some more in depth research (possibly with records from the Victory) I’ll have to leave the question of ‘who was Jemima?’ open for a while.
Incidentally, the Fremantle Prison’s convict database lists Enoch’s marital status as “Mar 3 chn” and then under kin they state “Wife Mary Ann nee FLEMMING & 4 chn of Deptford.” Very interesting indeed.
Mary Ann Barratt (nee Fleming)
The excerpt from the letter was obtained courtesy of Findmypast (Series: HO13 – Piece: 102 – Folio: 265).
Gale Newspapers online – STEAM to DUNKIRK, Lille, and Paris.-The The Times (london, England), Tuesday, Nov 08, 1853; pg. 1; Issue 21580.
SRO of Western Australia; Albany Passenger list of Assisted Emigrants showing names of emigrants and from which countries selected; Accession: 115; Roll: 214
Various facts obtained from Fremantle Prison’s Convict database (http://www.fremantleprison.com.au/Pages/Convict.aspx).