Australia Day Heritage: Meet Isaac Richardson, Labourer, Swing Rioter and Convict

As a way to help celebrate our Australian heritage on Australia Day, fellow Aussie genealogy blogger Shelly from TwigsOfYore has suggested a theme of finding a document relating to your earliest Australian ancestor and writing about it.

As such … let me introduce you to my great-great-great-great grandpa Isaac Richardson. First just a little of his background. Born in Somersetshire, England in 1804, Isaac was the oldest of 10 children born to Benjamin and Esther Richardson (nee Moore). During his childhood the family moved from Somersetshire to Kent where his father was a clock and watchmaker.

During the early part of the 19th century the Agrarian Revolution, as well as the Industrial Revolution was taking place, which made times difficult, and wages fell and unemployment increased.

By the mid 1820s, Isaac was married with two children. Both he and his brother Simeon became involved in the ‘Swing Riots’ (also known as the ‘Kent Machine Breakers’), protesting against the poor living conditions, low wages and the introduction of machinery.

Wednesday 24 November 1830 was the day that changed Isaac and Simeon’s life forever, as they, along with others were arrested for rioting. They were sentenced to death, but a petition from the local townspeople saved their life, and they were then transported for ‘Life’ to Van Diemen’s Land instead.

Prior to being transported, Isaac and Simeon were sent to stay on the prison hulk “Retribution”. And thanks to having put these records online, I now have a record documenting this.

The document I have relating to my earliest Australian ancestor, would be the “Conduct record” (a portion of which is below). This mentions that Isaac (and Simeon) were transported on the ‘Lord Lyndoch’ which arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 18 November 1831. So this is the date of arrival of my earliest Australian ancestor.

Available to view online this, together with the “Physical Description record” as well as the “Appropriation List” (who he was assigned to – which is pictured below) are all on the Archives Office of Tasmania website and available to search, view, and print for FREE. Awesome work from this Australian Archives!!

So without going into the whole of Isaac’s life, it did turn out pretty good for him, considering he was sentenced to death at age 25.

He was assigned as a labourer to James Hume, in Campbell Town (Tasmania), and managed to stay out of too much trouble, which was no doubt a contributing factor when he was granted a Conditional Pardon in 1842.

Matilda, Isaac’s wife managed their two children for seven years on her own, before finally being granted assisted passage to emigrate to Tasmania in 1837/38. So it took a while, but they were a family again. Seven more children were born in Tasmania, he became a watchmaker, no doubt having learnt something of the trade from his father, and he lived to the age of 69.

I really do believe that everyone has an interesting story, and this is just ONE story about ONE of my fascinating relatives. Thanks again to TwigsOfYore for coming up with this blog idea, and allowing me to share a little of my history. I do look forward to reading the posts by others on this topic.

21 thoughts on “Australia Day Heritage: Meet Isaac Richardson, Labourer, Swing Rioter and Convict

  1. Thanks, Alona for sharing your story.
    The tales told in these posts are just amazing.
    I am fascinated by your convict’s “Conduct Record” – I am going to pay a virtual visit to Tasmania right now to take a good look.

  2. Thanks for your contribution to the Australia Day blog posts. I haven’t had much experience with convict records, so I appreciated this post, a chance to learn, thanks.

  3. What a great story. You have left me wondering though. Did Isaac ever reunite with his two children or did he start a new family when released?

    Doing the family tree has made be very grateful and appreciative of my ancestors. We are still a relatively new nation and it is amazing to think of the hardship and sacrifice that our ancestors went through, which has resulted in us living in this wonderful country.

  4. Thanks all for taking the time to read (and comment), it is nice to know that it does actually get read.
    @Geniaus I love the ‘Conduct Record’, though Isaac was quite a good boy, so it doesn’t say a huge lot for him, but his brother Simeon was in all sorts of trouble after being transported, and it’s all there written down … love it!!
    @Aillin My pleasure
    @Sharon thanks for asking. Matilda and the two children from England all emigrated, so yes, they were lucky enough to be able to become a family again.

  5. Enjoyed your post and images from the documents relating to Isaac. It’s always interesting to hear the circumstances behind the events of our ancestors’ lives. Also can’t imagine following your convict husband to the other side of the world with two children 7 years later – but that might just be me!

  6. Thanks for sharing this story, Alona, and for your substantial contribution to this blogging event.

    I agree that everyone has an interesting story, but they’re not all as easy to spot as this one! Nice to know it all worked out for him in the end!

    Thanks again.

  7. I was just wondering if you know the names of his children, and how you are related to him. I’m doing a family tree of my own, and this may be helpful to me. I understand if you either don’t want to share, or are un-aware of this information, but it would of great interest to me. Thankyou for your time.

  8. Thanks for your inquiry. Isaac and his wife Matilda, had 9 children (Edward, Esther, William, Frederick, Benjamin, Isaac, Henry, Edmund, and Samuel). I am related through the eldest son Edward who married Emma Mary Sutton (that was marriage 2 of 3 for Edward). If this sounds life a family of yours please email me direct at

  9. well,hi Alona ,you must be related to me then as Edmunds son Henry was my great-great Aunt Tess (I called her nanna Tess)father.Her name was Theresa Esther Priscilla Richardson.

  10. Hello ‘cousin’. It’s always great to have others find you. But have you been in touch with Beverly Richardson? She’s one one that’s REALLY doing the Richardson family. If not, let me know, and I can send you her details.

  11. Hi Alona,Helen (nanna Tess granddaughter) has gifted me the book written by Beverly,I have only had a quick glance at it as my mother has kidnapped it from me,it has bought back many memories for her as she remembers staying with so many relos in the book,and she also lived with nanna Tess for a while.I now have Beverlys address as she posted me the book,I can’t wait to kidnap it back,Thanks

  12. Lisa … fabulous news. Always great to have your own copy of the book isn’t it! 🙂

  13. Its great to have the book,although it gets confusing when a few of them have the same name,have been googling extra info too,want to download old photos,also found out nanna Tess maternal grandfather was murdered in Cleveland tasmania and the 2 men who did it were hung,history is so interesting

  14. […] had a total of 9 children, and continued to live in Tasmania. For more information check out my blog post. Web – Convict Records Book – ‘A Family Remembers: The story of Isaac and Matilda […]

  15. Lynette Kelly says:

    Thank you for the story. I am a great-great-great-great-great grand daughter of Issac and Matilda Richardson. Reading about there story gave me chills and helped me with my research. I will love to have the book about their lives but not sure how to get it as I live in Melbourne. I saw their graver sites a few months ago and got chills that day and this just as exciting. Can you please reply back to me as I will love to learn more about the family. My link is through Gladys Elizabeth Richardson. She is my great grandmother.
    Lynette Kelly

  16. Hi Lynette, if you’re after more about the Richardson’s (including info on the Richardson reunion – from your other message), you should contact Beverly Richardson. I was checking with her before publicly posting her details, but she’s fine with me giving you her email. You can contact email her at: All the best with your searching 😉

  17. Hello cousins.

  18. Isaac Richardson is my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, this is so cool to find. Mum thinks it’s great we have Luddites in the family as she can shun technology now knowing she is decended from one.

  19. Angela Bengtson says:

    I am also a 3rd great granddaughter of Isaac through Charlotte! Thanks for sharing your story <3 … now I need to track down the book!

  20. Maurie Richardson says:

    Isaac Richardson was my Great Great Grandfather, Isaac Simeon Richardson was my Great Grandfather, Arthur Isaac Richardson was my Grandfather and Kenneth Roland Richardson was my Father.

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