Notes for Samuel Hodkin BAKER

General Note

TRIED: Bedford, 11 March 1789, hanging, commuted to life [1]

TRANSPORTED: Matilda (3rd Fleet)

TO NORFOLK ISLAND: Mary Ann, 8 August 1791

TRADE: Chimney sweep, chair-bottom maker, carpenter

DIED: 7 April 1841, Launceston, age 77

BURIED: Launceston

LAND: 15 acres Norfolk Island (AONSW 4/6977A, reel 6020), 50

acres (in practice 30) Blackstone Heights, South Esk; Locatee two blocks Brisbane Street, Launceston.



TRANSPORTED: Britannia, 1798, 7 yrs


BORN: Ireland


DIED: 27 August 1826

BURIED: St John's, Launceston


1. William Baker (mother Elizabeth Lewis) born 1801 Norfolk Island, died within 3 months

2. Mary Brennan Baker (mother Mary Ann Brennan), born 10 September 1816, Launceston, baptized 22 August 1825, Launceston, married 6 July 1841 James East, Launceston, died 26 April 1884, Launceston.

3. Elizabeth Brennan Baker (mother Mary Ann Brennan), born 10 August 1818, Launceston, baptized 22 August 1825, Launceston, married 18 July 1831, John Brown, Launceston, died 27 September 1854.

4 Sarah Ann Brennan Baker (mother Mary Ann Brennan), born 3 November 1820,

baptised 22 August 1825, Launceston, married 1 June 1840, John Bassett,

Launceston, married 2 November 1854, William Cole, York Street Chapel, Launceston, died 27 July 1899 Wynyard, buried 29 July Wynyard.


Samuel Baker, as he came to be known, is thought to have come from Chalgrave, Bedfordshire, England. During the night of 7 August 1788 Odkenbaker, with an accomplice George Davis, broke into the Hockcliffe, Bedfordshire, shop of draper Francis Millard. They stole stockings and handkerchiefs to the value of 6 15s, and perhaps also 3 13s 6d cash. Within two days, they were arrested at Harpenden, Hertfordshire on 'very strong suspicion.' Odkenbaker claimed that he had been sold the goods and was on legitimate business.

He was sentenced to hang. This was commuted to life and transportation on 27 April 1789. Odkenbaker was sent first to Portsmouth gaol then on the 23 December 1789 to the hulk 'Ceres' at Langstone Harbour, his base while working at Fort Cumberland on Eastney Common. This was one of the line of defensive structures against the possibility of a French invasion by sea.

On 3 March 1791, Odkenbaker was moved on, ready to embark in the Third Fleet on the Matilda. On 8 August 1791, a week after arrival in Australia, he was embarked on the Mary Ann for Norfolk Island as a convict sawyer.

He was from then on referred to by the surname 'Baker'. In 1801, convict Elizabeth Lewis, transported on the Britannia in 1798 for seven years for theft, gave birth to Baker's short-lived son, William. Lewis returned to Port Jackson in 1809.

By then Samuel an unmarried '3rd class settler', holding 15 acres of land (only 7 farmed), with 14 pigs. He later built a 'small dwelling house'. He was also on record as gardener to the Governor at Queensborough. He was pardoned in January 1813, so entered Van Diemen's Land as a free and pardoned man (Fiche 3292; 4/6974.1 p.79) so was not a convict founder of Tasmania.

He was joined in Port Dalrymple by Mary Brennan in 1814. He was allocated '30' acres at Blackstone Heights, overlooking the South Esk. The land marked out, though, was in fact 50 acres, situated around where Baker's Court now stands. In 1918, he was appointed 'constable' and perhaps also agent to the Hobart Town Gazette for the collection of payments. By then Mary Brennan had given birth to Mary, while Elizabeth was on the way. In 1820 she gave birth to Sarah.

Baker was not long out of trouble. A year after baptizing his three daughters at St John's, he was charged on 15 August 1826 with possessing a stolen blanket. The charge was dismissed. On 19 August he was charged with 'illegally retailing spirituous liquors' and fined 25. Just over a week later, Mary Brennan died of alcohol poisoning. In November 1826, Baker was again fined 25 for retailing illegal grog. Three months later, one of the Brisbane Street blocks was sold for 35. But Baker could not keep out of trouble - over the years he was charged six times with drunkenness, being fined 5s 0d each time.

In July 1831, the two elder daughters married within twelve days of each other: Mary was 14 and Elizabeth ('Betsy') 12. Sarah waited until she was 19.

It is not known whether Baker ever farmed his acreage at Blackstone Heights - there is no record of a dwelling of any kind. It seems unlikely, as there are repeated references to his presence in Port Dalrymple, later Launceston.

He was almost certainly Samuel Hodkin Baker. Most notable for his transportation in the Third Fleet to the penal colony of Norfolk Island in 1791.

He is thought to be from Chalgrave. The Bill of Indictment shows an "unnumbered" document amongst the papers of piece ASSI94/1317. It starts: "Bedfordshire. The Jurors for our Lord the King upon their Oath present that George Davis late of the Parish of Chalgrave in the County of Bedford Labourer and Samuel Odkenbaker late of the same Labourer ..." A family researcher noted as follows: "the fourth letter of "Odkenbaker" must originally have been something else. The letter has clearly been rubbed out and "e" written over it. Similarly "the same" [i.e. parish] after Odkenbaker has been written over an earlier deletion." The Bill of Indictment would therefore indicate that he was "of the Parish of Chalgrave." This does not mean he was born there, but could have been living there. Regardless, he appears to have come from that broad area.

Samuel was transported to Sydney in The Third Fleet in 1791, then on to Norfolk Island as a convict, then on as a pardoned free settler, arriving at Port Dalrymple, Van Diemen's Land (ie Launceston, Tasmania), 01/04 Mar 1814. On Norfolk Island he was said to have been employed as a gardener at the Governor's residence in Queenborough. Once in Tasmania, he seems certainly to have been mostly in Launceston, although he had a grant of land at Blackstone Heights. He also had two small blocks in Launceston, one of which he used for manufacturing chairs.

Samuel was said to be from Rickmansworth [now known to be wrong], but no baptism record has been traced for a birth around 1769. (Has anyone tried looking at the original parish records rather than the IGI?) A family story says he was a gypsy, but this could be speculation, interesting though it is. Until proof of this in the official record is obtained, in my view to be taken with a pinch of salt. My suspicion is that he would not have been entrusted with an official position such as constable in Port Dalrymple in 1818: gypsies were regarded as lower than vermin. Moreover, the English court records would almost definitely have referred to this most important attribute. The English were not coy about being candid in court.

For a definitive account of the fortunes of people like Samuel read these notes from this website Minstrel (1813). Further down is a transcription of a document dated 31 December 1829 assigning to him land on the South Esk. It was signed by L. Macquarie. A photogopy or this is in the hands of the family.


Books dealing with him and Mary:

Schaffer, Irene & McKay, Thelma, Exiled Three Times Over!, Profiles of Norfolk Islanders exiled in Van Diemen's Land 1807-13, St David's Park Publishing, 1992, pp229-30.

Schaffer, I. Musters. For the 1819 Muster list. Full reference: PRO ref: CO201/43. Published in Land Musters, Stock Returns and Lists: Van Diemen's Land 1803-1822, Irene Schaffer (ed), St David's Park Publishing, Hobart, 1991, ISBN 0 7246 2177 6 (SAG ref: D7/30/1803). For 1823, see Convict Muster - Van Diemen's Land - October to November 1823 PRO ref: HO10/45

Wright, Reg, The Forgotten Generation of Norfolk Island and Van Diemens Land, Library of Australian History Sydney, 1986, pp137-138.

Nicholson, Ian Hawkins, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1803-1833, Roebuck, 1983, p32.

Tardif, Philip, Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls. John Bowen's Hobart, published by the Tasmanian Historical Research Association.



1. Index in NSW Archives: State Records, PO Box 516 KINGSWOOD NSW 2747. By email:

By telephone +612 9673 1788. Western Sydney reading room is located at: 143 OConnell Street KINGSWOOD. Ask for Colonial Secretary's Papers. These include the Rev. Fulton's records from N. Island. Also Valuation of Buildings on Norfolk Island. 15th February 1813. Also there, 1828 record of children, (Elizabeth=Betsy), father Samuel Baker, 'carpenter, Protestant'. Ref. CSO 1/122a. See too the Matilda indents, leaving Portsmouth 27.3.1791, arriving Port Jackson 1.8.1791. Ref. SZ115. List February 1805, described as 'sawyer', ref. Film 762. (See also Reg Wright, book, as above). Fulton's records from Norfolk Island, see Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825. BAKER, Samuel 1813 Feb 15 Re valuation of buildings belonging to on Norfolk Island (Reel 6020; 4/6977A p.15) In index to land grants in Van Diemen's Land (Fiche 3262; 4/438 p.8). BAKER, Samuel Oaken. Per "Matilda", 1791 On list of convicts who have received absolute pardons [Jan 1813] (Fiche 3292; 4/6974.1 p.79). LEWIS, Elizabeth. Per "Britannia", 1798 1810 Jun 9 Granted certificate of freedom (Reel 6038; SZ758 p.52)

2. Brisbane Street, Launceston (Port Dalrymple) blocks, North side, near corner of Wellington Street. Land Grants Van Diemen's Land: Land Data Registration Branch, Recorder of Titles, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. GPO Box 541 Hobart TAS 7001, Australia. +613 6233 6467. Memorials of transactions, 16 February 1828, assigned to Alexander Wales, commander of the brig Tranmere. 10 September 1833 Conveyance to George Burgess. See Vol. I, nos 113, 2665.

3. Original grant: reference number on the Original Grant Survey, ie Acqu Nos. 2426-2429 Lakeside Rserve: F024041. Apply to Land Deparment Library: DPIWE Library - Lands Building Hobart, 134 Macquarie Street, (GPO Box 44), HOBART TAS 7000 Phone: +613 6233 6418

4. Hobart Town Gazette (see an indexed print-out at Launcest Library, Family History section) 30 May 1818, also 31 October 1818.

5. Tas Pioneer Index for deaths and births of children.

6. St John's Launceston Burial Index for observations on Mary Brenan (age 30?) 'formerly convict', 'occasioned by drink'.

7. TAS Archives (AOT): Hobart: Archives Office of Tasmania, 77 Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 7000. Telephone +61 3 6233 7488 and 61 3 6233 7490. Departure from Norfolk Island, list for Minstrel, 18 Feb 1813 for Port Dalrymple. (ref. CSOI/177/4306/ For 1822/3 'Return' on Port Dalrymple education, see card index for Samuel Baker. MUSTERS for Van Diemens Land, 1819 Port Dalrymple. His trial listed as March 1788, Warwick. 1819, listed as Proprietor, 'Land' and 'Stock' at Port Dalrymple. 1820 and 1821 Mary is referred to 'wife of Baker'. 1823, still on the 'List of Convicts', his trial still listed as March 1788 Warwick. Earlier trial details, one commentator suggests, are 'more likely to be correct'. No longer on 'List of Convicts' 1826 and 1830.

8. Trial and indictment bundles: London. National Archives (Kew), a beautiful and huge new building, well worth a visit just to look. Piece details: ASSI 94/1317. County and place of sessions: Beds 1789 Lent. These can be seen 'in the flesh' at Kew and even photographed with a digital, ie non-flash, camera. They can be located online by searching with this given reference number but no further detail is contained other than references. At Kew, go prepared to be body searched going in and out and watched over. Make sure you arm yourself with all the details on the first floor before going up to document access on the 2nd floor, as the 'help' team is downstairs, a big array of very accommodating experts. Address: The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, United Kingdom.Tel: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444.Website: You can also use Documents online:, or Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444. You can ask to see a) Examinations, George Davis, Samuel Odkinbaker b) Bill of Indictment (to appear before grand jury), c) Bills of recognizance: Francis Millart to indict, James Paul to give evidence.

9. Norfolk Island Victualling lists: Mitchell Library: State Library of New South Wales (& Mitchell Library) Macquarie Street, SYDNEY Tel: +612 9273 1414, Macquarie Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000 . Ref. Film CY367.

10. State Library of Victoria. Copies of Victualling Lists for Norfolk Island, ref. GM115. You must make an appointment to see items, unlike the National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom. On the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets at the northern edge of Melbourne's central business district. 328 Swanston Street, MELBOURNE, Vic 3000. Tel: +613 9669 9824 328 Website: (web catalogue access)

11. Australian Joint Copying Project. Access to microfilm. Within the National Library of Australia the AJCP film can be used in the Newspaper/Microform Room on the lower ground floor. AJCP film is available for purchase by libraries in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, so ask at your State Library first. It's also available for interlibrary loan. For information, see: Contains references to hulk returns until 3 March 1791. Ref. AJCP 3553. TI 677, 680, 685, 691 and 692. See also Norfolk Island Victualling Books and Musters. Refs. AJCP 14, CO 201/29. AJCP 21, CO 201/42. Shows Samuel O'Baker 3rd class settler, no wife, no children, land under cultivation 7 acres with waste 8 acres, 14 swine, no hut then. See also AJCP 77, HO 10/421.

Some microfiches are also available at the Society of Australian Genealogists, the Mitchell Library and in many libraries throughout Australia. Armed with these references a great deal of original information can be accessed.


Samuel's name has created some confusion as it has appeared in various versions, including Backer. The IGI offers Backers in Rickmansworth in the century before his birth, showing they were in the area. Indeed, Backer is an old English name, mostly in Aldenham (4 miles north-east of Watford, on the opposite side to Rickmansworth) in Hertfordshire as well as most other counties if England. There are 1310 alone with this spelling on the IGI, and given that the coverage by the IGI is about one-third, it was by no means an uncommon name. The FreeBMD site, however, shows Backer to be mainly a Kent or northern name that had become uncommon by the time of formal registration. This suggests that when schooling began, the teachers recorded the children's names in the more common form of Baker or Baxter. Where Backer survived later, it was mainly in London. As for Odkenbaker, it could be Ogden Baker or even Oakden Baker, but as pointed out, most probably Hodken Baker. There was Hodkin/s and Hodken families in the same villages.

The name Oakden is common as a middle name in Tasmania. Another family suggestion is that his name was Hodgkin with the 'h' left off. There is a 'book' written by Annette Banks on Samuel and his descendant in the family, source unknown. Anyone with access to this, please contact as below.

Rickmansworth falls under the Watford registration area, created 1st July 1837, Sub-districts: Abbots Langley; Bushey; Rickmansworth; Watford, GRO volumes: VI (1837-51); 3a (1852-1930). Abbots Langley, Aldenham, Bushey, Chorleywood, Oxhey, Rickmansworth, Sarratt, Watford. He could have come from any one of the small settlements around Rickmansworth, or indeed from somewhere else. Even the 19th century English records are a mass of contradictions: the informants may guess, the individual not remember, then find out the truth later.

Samuel died in 1841, so taking Watford district registration area and searching for siblings under Baxter or Baker gives: Deaths Jun 1840 : BAKER Elizabeth & BAKER Thomas Watford 6 415, Jun 1850: BAKER Emma, Watford 6 433, Dec 1850: BAKER Javis, Watford 6 409. To find Samuel's birth, perhaps the family that produced these individuals would need to be searched for, not an impossible task through a County Record researcher, money permitting.


Norfolk Island, closer to Auckland in New Zealand than to Brisbane, was a penal colony until the mid-19th century, and a most terrible place for prisoners until reforms came about around that time. There are plenty of interesting accounts on the Internet which make sober reading. For a stunning account of the conditions in England that convicts left and conditions on board a convict transport, read The Floating Brothel' by Sian Rees, Headline Books 2001, paperback Review 2002, ISBN 0 7472 6632 8.

Here is an excerpt from the "NEW HOLLAND MORNING POST", 18th October, 1791: "The third fleet of 11 ships arrived in 1791, with over 2000 convicts." The newspaper report states that 194 male convicts and 4 female convicts died during the voyage, and that though conditions on board ship weren't as "diabolical" as the previous year, they were still outrageous. The convicts from Ireland who arrived on board the "Queen" are not included in the newspaper lists. The list was compiled in London so there is no way of knowing which people died on the voyage out, or did not leave England for any reason.


Samuel was transported for stealing. An ancestral note by a Tasmanian descendant tells the stories of Samuel Baker and the husband, John Brown, of his daughter Elizabeth. This can be seen in full, and downloaded, complete with references, on this webpage:


A note on the internet referring to the passenger list of the 'Kangaroo', the female convict vessel bringing prisoners to Van Dieman's Land in June 1814, including Samuel's future partner Mary or Anne Brennan, lists Odkenbaker by the altogether more likely name of Samuel Ogden Baker.

** Here is a transcription of the Deed granting Samuel the South Esk land which is too early to appear in the Titles department records in Hobart. This can be seen in the Hobart TAS archives at Murray Street. There is an index card in the drawers giving the microfilm reference (to be supplied to this website later). Also in the Land's Department is the original grant survey, undated, showing Samuel's 50 acres, precisely where Baker's Court now stands. Baker's Court has been driven almost exactly down the middle of Samuel's block, in the same orientation w.r.t. the river, only he would have had more foreshore, given the increased height of the water with the damming of the river. As the Muster lists show, and according to professional advice from a relative, he must have been farming up there before this point as he had land and stock and two daughters (no wife mentioned, so Mary was still acting as an assigned servant). It wasn't uncommon to allocate land, and only get round to surveying it and mapping the area properly later, thereupon a Deed could be drawn up, transferring the block formally to the locatee.

On this original Grant Survey, Scale 20 chains: 1 inch (1:15840), Samuel Baker is written in the surveyor's own script, along with the names of other early proprietors: Charles Edwards (south-east boundary) and Patrick Dalrymple. The Original Grant Survey map is overwritten with this reference: Acqu Nos. 2426-2429 Lakeside Rserve: F024041 It's worth going up there to see. There is a small farm still on the water bank opposite his block, perhaps where he settled with his little family, and at the end of Baker's Court are tracks to land still graced.


50 Acres

Port Dalrymple

Van Damn Land

Unto Simile (should be Samuel, maybe a misreading of early 1800s handwriting) Baker His Heirs and Assignees to Have and to Hold for Ever Thirty Acres of land lying and situate in the District of [blank space] at Port Dalrymple Van Damn Land, bounded on the North East side by a line bearing East thirty five Degrees South forty Chains Commencing at a bend on the South Ak; On the South East side by a line bearing South thirty five Degrees West ten Chains; on the South West side by Chorales Edwards's Farm to the South Ak; and on the North West side by that River: Conditioned and to Sell or alienate the same for the space of Five Years from the sale hereof, and to Cultivate Ten Acres within the said Period, and reserving to Government the right of making a Public Road through the same, and also reserving for the Use of the Crown, such Timber as may be deemed fit for Naval Purposes. Quit Rent One Shilling.

In Testimony for? this 31 Day of December 1820

(Signed) L. Missouri


Witnessed by

H. C. Autile

L. Macquarie

In the left margin: Registration Secretary's Office 31 March 1821) T Goulburn Coll Secrtry & Registrar

Any highly necessary addtions or corrections may be passed on by this e-mail address:, replacing AT with the usual symbol.

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