Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Story of John Best - Prequel to "The Road to Hollow Tree"

I've been researching one of my ancestors - John Best. 

Here's a little story starter to create a bit of hype amongst Best family and genealogists with Van Diemen's Land connections.

It was August 1817. Ireland. County West Meath. John Best, of Kinnegad, was tried at the Trim summer assizes.  He was found guilty of burglary and robbery.  He was given a life sentence.  He was to be transported to a penal settlement in New South Wales.

John was a married man with four young children.  In 1817, the family's standard of living had been deteriorating.  The wet summer of 1817 reduced income from their main cash crop (potatoes).  Rent was steep. Absentee landlords cared little about their tenants. Who knows? Maybe John was tempted to steal simply in order to make rental payment on his family cottage and land. Default on his rent would have meant eviction for his family, literally being ejected out onto the street. John may not have acted alone - a George White was also tried for burglary and robbery at the same hearing.  White appears to have lived close to John and there are tantalising suggestions that he might have been John's brother-in-law (or married to a close relative of John Best).

That John was caught suggests robbery was not something he was particularly good at!  The impact of his capture on his family is hard to know - were they evicted?  Did John's wife, Mary, and the children have to move into a relative's cottage to try and pick up their lives?

John was despatched to Van Diemen's Land on New Year's Day, 1818. On the 7th of June 1818, the convict transport 'Minerva' arrived in Hobart Town.  John was 35 years old, not a young man in those days. He may have thought he had lived out most of life by then.  Little did he know that the second half of his life in Van Diemen's Land was just about to begin.  Nor would he have been aware of what a ride he and his family were in for!

Read about John's story in "The Road to Hollow Tree".  It is a limited print, but a hard copy will be available at the National Library, the State Library of Tasmania (LINC Tasmania), the University of Tasmania Library and the Historical Information Centre, New Norfolk.

For my blog readers - I'm sorry but 'The Story of John Best' as it appeared on my blog has now (as of 19 December 2017) been removed.

If you have a family connection with the Best family (or the White, Bennett, Bell, McCarthy families etc.), I welcome you making contact with me via email.

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