Bartletts Emigrating

The world opened up for emigrating in the early seventeenth century, first to America and later elsewhere. Some of this was voluntary, some was forced.

The Emigrants

Dorset was an early point of departure. Emigration there was organized by Puritan merchants in Dorchester who were seeking a religious and political escape from the tensions of the time. These merchants took over the Massachusetts Bay Company with the idea of setting up a new colony in America. Ships were purchased and colonists were sent.

The first Bartlett to leave was Robert Bartlett, the son of Robert and Alice Bartlett of Puddletown, who had departed on the Ann for Plymouth Rock in 1623. His brother Richard followed nine years later. Two more brothers, Robert and John (the sons of William Bartlett of Powerstock), left Dorset for the same destination twenty years later. And there were further Bartlett emigrations to Massachusetts and to Virginia in the years to come.

Bartletts did not only leave for America. There had been early links between Dorset and Newfoundland. In 1583, a Dorset man had been part of Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s party which had first discovered the island. Dorset men were to fish off the Newfoundland banks for generations to come. Several Bartletts did leave Dorset for Newfoundland in the 1780’s, settling in Brigus on Conception Bay.

Dorset men have in fact left for various far-flung destinations. Three notable Bartlett men of Dorset blood are:

Even today, Bartlett's Farm on Nantucket Island can be directly traced back to its Bartlett Dorset forebears who settled in Marblehead.

And An Underclass

However, not all those who left were willing emigrants. Large numbers were forcibly transported. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the greatest crimes were considered crimes against property. Theft, above a certain value, was a hanging offence. As jurors became reluctant to hang and prisons bulged, transportation to the newly developing colonies (in effect forced exile) became an increasingly attractive alternative to deal with the problem.

Some were transported for serious crimes, some for petty theft. It did not bode well for you if your accuser were rich or important (as the following Old Bailey records suggest).

Virginia. The first destination for convicts was Virginia. The English gentlemen of the Virginia Company had an extreme distaste for manual labor. They called for convicts: “all offenders out of the common jails condemned to die should be sent to the colony.”

And from 1618 onward, a steady infusion of felons was sent to the New World colonies, to Virginia, the tidewater settlements of the south, and to Barbados. Enterprising sailors would sell these convicts to shipping contractors who in turn sold their labor rights to plantation owners. And when America closed as an outlet in the 1770’s, Australia opened up.

The records suggest that more Bartletts were sent to the colony as convicts and indentured servants than went as free emigrants. The indentured servants could scarcely be considered free men or women. During their time of indenture, they were their master's personal property and their contract could readily be bought, sold or passed on.

There were ten Bartlett convicts, according to the passenger lists, who were dispatched to Virginia and the south between 1650 and 1685 and another fourteen between 1740 and 1775. Here are a few of their records:

Australia. When Australia opened up, James Bartlett, sentenced at Winchester, was on the Alexander in the first convict convoy that arrived in Botany Bay in 1788. Further Bartletts were onboard the second and third fleet convoys. And another fifty Bartlett convicts were to follow to New South Wales and Tasmania over the next sixty years.

Conditions on the transport vessels were vile. The prison hulks employed were usually condemned ships. There were generally three decks, each containing between 500 and 600 prisoners who were issued with coarse convict clothing and fettered with heavy irons. Disease was rampant. Epidemics of cholera, dysentery and smallpox would sweep through the packed masses, resulting in wholesale death.

The terms of transportation would vary from seven years, fourteen years, or life, depending on the perceived magnitude of the offence.   Those Bartletts sentenced for life terms included:

Robert''s crime was burglary.  He did receive a conditional pardon after sixteen years, stayed, but died a year later.  Many others also stayed after their release, in the hopes of a better life for them or for their children.