When researching my family tree, I came across Jack Kirby (my 5x great uncle). Jack was born in 1761 in Blean, Kent, and in 1789 having been sentenced to transportation to Australia for seven years, wrote a pamphlet in which he confessed to all his crimes. This pamphlet provides an intriguing insight into life in the late 18th century.
Whilst reading it though, I got the impression of a young man who had fallen into thievery and found he could make an easy living out of it. Jack didn’t come across as an evil person – more of a lovable rogue.
So, 250 years later, I decided to find out more about Jack, his family, and the other residents of Blean from whom he stole or whose house he broke into.. Here I present what I have discovered.
Part 1 is JACK’S STORY, written in the 1st person, which I have taken directly from his original pamphlet. His story will make you both laugh and cry. It is reproduced in the left-hand columns, so if you just want to read it straight through, you can do so.
I’ve also highlighted in the original text (in bold) items of interest, which I’ve explained in some notes on the right-hand columns. These include definitions of words and terms no longer in common use as well information about the legal system in place at that time.
I’ve also added short life stories of some of the people mentioned in Jack’s story; these appear in shaded light blue boxes. In 1801 the population of Blean was 287, hence Jack knew the names of those he stole from, in fact he probably had a close everyday relationship with many of them. Many of the families had lived in the Blean area for generations so they inter-married. (I’ve capitalized surnames when they refer to other families mentioned in Jack’s text.)
I’ve also included some press cuttings from the Kentish Gazette which confirm the dates and events around the trial proceedings.
Part 2 explains WHAT HAPPENED TO JACK after his story as written up in the pamphlet ends. Here I present what was likely to have happened to Jack after his sentence to transportation, and his time on board the convict ship.
Part 3 is my research into WHAT HAPPENED TO JACK’S FAMILY after his transportation – that is, his mother, brothers and sister. I have focused on the family of his brother, Joseph, from whom I am descended, and have unearthed some fascinating family stories and photos.
Jane Hart, January 2022, firstname.lastname@example.org