Thursday, November 15, 2018

Was the convict James Orton related to John Orton?

Back in 2014, I described how I'd found records for a man in Australia with the same name as my Leicestershire-born great great grandfather, Thomas Brown Orton. My curiosity was piqued and I looked into this younger man's story a little. I soon realised that it was probably co-incidental that the two men were both named Thomas Brown. My great great grandfather (born 1842) was named after his mother, Mary Ann Brown, while the Australian (born 1880) was named after his maternal grandmother, Ruth Moore Brown. (I previously said he was named after his grandfather, but this wasn't correct.)

Along the way I discovered that the Australian Thomas was descended from a convict named James Orton from Leicestershire. I kept digging, hoping that he might still be related in some way to the Ortons in my family tree. He would be from the same generation as my ggg grandfather, John Orton, born in Husbands Bosworth in about 1813. But I couldn't find a link and eventually gave up.

The Australian Thomas Brown Orton came to mind again this week with the centenary of the Armistice at the end of World War One. I recalled that he enlisted in 1915. Sadly he died of war wounds in Belgium in September 1917, a terrible blow to his widowed mother in Victoria. I decided to look again at his story to see if I could find any new information to link his Orton family and mine.

His grandfather, James Orton, was sentenced on 31 December 1838 at the Leicester Assizes for his part in stealing a large quantity of wool from a hosier in Leicester. His sentence of 14 years transportation was much more severe than that of his companion, Thomas Tomkins, because he had a prior conviction for stealing. (Leicester Chronicle 5 January 1839, p4). He was transported to New South Wales in 1839 aboard the Barossa, at the age of 18.

In 1844, while still serving his sentence, he successfully applied for permission to marry Jane Waddell, a single woman from Glasgow who had arrived as a free settler aboard the Trinidad in 1841. They went on to have at least five children - Allison (1846), Anne (1847), Hannah (1849) James (c 1851) and George (1853).

James Orton received a conditional pardon on 10 June 1850. It seems he and his family moved to Sofala, near Bendigo in Victoria. On 22 March 1856 this advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

(JAMES ORTON left his wife and four children about the middle of February 1855, and has not since been heard of. Should this meet the eye of any person who has seen the above James Orton, will please communicate with his wife.JANE ORTON, Sofala.)
Whether poor Jane ever managed to locate James is unknown. Possibly he was the James Orton imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1862 for being "of unsound mind". There were many James Ortons in New South Wales and Victoria at the time and the prison record contains few details, so it's impossible to be sure.

Jane died suddenly of heart disease in 1872. I haven't been able to find a definite date for James' death. Their son James married May Fulton Eaglesim and became the father of Thomas Brown Orton. He died in 1912.

So, was the convict James Orton related to 'my' Orton family from Leicestershire or not? Until I discover who his parents were, I won't know. I still haven't been able to track him down prior to his appearances in court in Leicester. Several James Ortons were born in Leicestershire around the right time (1820). Some of these I've excluded because they were still living in Leicestershire after 1839. None of the others have clear links to my Orton family.

If there is a connection, it may be much further back than I've been able to go so far. I know that 'my' Thomas Brown Orton's grandparents were John Orton and Mary Steans. (Not to be confused with his parents, John Orton and Mary Brown, though it certainly is confusing!) Mary was baptised in Husbands Bosworth in 1784, and she and John Orton were married there in 1804, but John's origins are still a mystery. Another of those mysteries yet to be solved.


The "English" Thomas Brown Orton
b 1842, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire
m Sarah Gregory, 1865, Leicester
d 1918, Ashton, Lancashire


John Orton
b about 1813, Husbands Bosworth
m 1841, Birmingham
d 1880, Husbands Bosworth

Mary Ann Brown (daughter of Joseph Brown and Mary Berry)
b 1819, North Kilworth, Leicestershire
d 1901, Leicester, Leicestershire


John Orton
b ? 1780, location unknown
m 1804, Husbands Bosworth
d October 1840, Husbands Bosworth

Mary Steans (daughter of Thomas Steans and Elizabeth Illiff)
b 1784, Husbands Bosworth
d July 1863, Husbands Bosworth

The "Australian" Thomas Brown Orton
b 1880, Eaglehawk, Victoria
d 1917 Hell Fire Corner, Belgium

James Orton b about 1851, 
m 8 March 1873, the Manse, Eaglehawk
d 1912, Victoria

May Fulton Eaglesim (daughter of William Eaglesim and Ruth Moore Brown)
b March 1853, Eaglehawk, Victoria
d 1926, California Gully, Bendigo, Victoria

James Orton
b about 1820, Leicestershire. Transported 1839
m 1844, Port MacQuarie, NSW
d ??

Jane Waddell
b about 1821, Glasgow, Scotland
d October 1872, Bendigo, Victoria

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