Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jonas Keeble

Jonas was man small in stature but resolute of nature. Born into a lowly family, his aim in life was to care for his family, sadly this meant pilfering items which today he wouldn't even get a rap over the knuckles for.

He was born at the turn of the 19th century in North Lopham, Norfolk and married a girl from the nearby village of Thorpe Abbots in 1825 - her name was Henrietta Girling born 1806...It appears they were happily married but when the children started to come along there wasn't a great deal of money to spare - Agricultural Labourers had very poor pay...Bartering was often a good way to make sure families in those days had enough to eat.

Maybe Jonas was weak but he succumbed to the temptation of stealing a bale of straw (probably from the farm he worked on)..For this offence he had to serve a six months spell in Norwich prison...I'm afraid things didn't improve after he was released from there ( I imagine things had probably deteriorated for the family with no man's wage coming in during that time) once again he gave in to temptation and stole some boards - for whatever reason I don't know, but because this was his second offence he was sentenced to seven years transportation.

Jonas was held in prison in Norwich from the September of 1836 until he set sail from Portsmouth on the ship *Eden* for Hobart, Tasmania in August 1836...This voyage took four months as he arrived in Hobart 22nd December of that year... I hate to think what the conditions were like on board ship but out of the 280 male convicts on board 3 of them died on the journey....His hulk report is stated as good - so hopefully he spent some of his time in repentance.

It must have been a very difficult time for his family as he was leaving behind a wife and five children, and obviously Henrietta thought she wouldn't never see Jonas again  as very few convicts made their way back to England after their release....Perhaps understandably after four years she had found solace with another man and gave birth to his son in 1840.

..Meanwhile Jonas really must have been desperate to come home and his record in prison was good and therefore after serving 5 of his 7 yr sentence he was given his ticket of leave in January 1841 - I think this meant he was able to work outside of the prison for the other 2 years of his sentence.....I have no record of what he did during the next 5 years but he returned to England in September 1846 -- what a shock to find another mouth to feed when he returned home!!
Happily he must have accepted the situation as he and Henrietta continued to live together as a family until well into old age before death claimed them...Jonas died in 1881.


  1. Its great Ann, Jonas..aawwww bless him, don't you just feel for him, do you know if they were buried close together? He certainly done his best. Lynn

  2. Thank you Lynn. Yes they were both buried in the same churchyard but sadly no tombstone.

  3. Now that I have finally worked how to leave comments (!!), I wanted to once again reiterate that I thoroughly enjoyed your debut blog and I sincerely hope that you will blog again soon with many more of your family stories. xx

  4. Thank you Debra for those kind words.