In almost every case, the publication contains the name, date and place of birth of people who applied to emigrate, including their children, a total of 347. Dates of marriage are also included.
The Wiltshire Emigration Association was founded Earl Bruce, son of The Marquis of Aylesbury. As a result of the repeal of the Corn Laws many farmers had a hard job to make a living, and, as a consequence, were forced to employ fewer labourers thus causing a great deal of unemployment.
Earl Bruce knew that these conditions prevailed all over Wiltshire which was, as now, a predominantly agricultural county so 'he decided to try to gather a body of people who might organise an emigration scheme to Australia. The first meeting of the Association was held in October 1849.At this date the Colonial Office was already organising emigration in other parts of England so the Association applied for help with their scheme, which was granted.
Advertisements were put in all the chief newspapers in Wiltshire stating the conditions to be met by applicants. Those eligible were divided into groups but all were offered a free passage, although £2 must be paid for the use of bedding and cutlery on board ship. The most desirable immigrants were thought to be young married couples with not more than two children. If a family had a number of children under ten it was likely to be rejected as the conditions at sea were such, and the voyage so long, that it was likely that some would not survive. All who emigrated were to be capable of labour and of going out to work. Each person or family must have a sponsor who could vouch for them being of good character and all children had to have a certificate of vaccination. Finally, every application had to be passed first by the Association and then by the Colonial Office.
Finally, emigrants could sail in 1851 in any month from March to July and could go to Adelaide, Port Philip, Sydney although few chose the last. The ships carried quite small numbers of Wiltshire people, the 'John Knox' sailed in March with 24, the 'Omega' in April with 35, the 'Thetis' in May with 38, the 'Navarino' in June with 22, and the 'Statesman' in July with 25, in all a total of 258. Although the minutes of the Wiltshire Emigrants Association contain plans for 1852, there are no more minutes and the Association seems to have come to an end.
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