On “Who Do You Think You Are?” last night, country singer and cookbook author Trisha Yearwood learned her orphaned, impoverished fifth-great-grandfather was convicted of stealing and killing deer from an estate in 1760s England.
But instead of being hanged—then the lawful punishment for this crime—he was transported to Britain’s American Colonies. There, he received land that once belonged to the Creek Indians, and his fortunes eventually reversed.
Here’s Yearwood viewing that land, along with historian Joshua S. Haines.
Though early American historians downplayed the presence of former British convicts in their midst, it’s now estimated that more than 52,000 immigrants to the 13 Colonies from 1700 to 1775 were convicts and prisoners.
(The same article points out that African slaves and indentured servants also were a significant proportion of arrivals; only about a quarter of the era’s immigrants traveled here of their own will.)
If your British roots go back to a convict, see our free FamilyTreeMagazine.com article about online genealogy resources for British convicts, such as records from the Old Bailey in London and Scotland’s Inverary Jail, as well as the UK national archives’ prison photos.
For researching British ancestors in general—whether or not they were convicts—check out our Ultimate British Genealogy Collection of how-to guides and video courses on uncovering your family’s records. It’s 60% off right now in Family Tree Shop, but only 100 are available!