Most researchers are unaware that many "Justice's Notebooks" have survived and contain transcripts of the trials conducted before them.
Having determined the name of Fred's trial judge from newspaper reports, I accessed the listing of surviving judge's notebooks stored at State Records of New South Wales at Kingswood (near Penrith) and held my breath as I flicked down the alphabetical listing until I came to the letter "C". Yes, Justice Cheeke was listed. Then I looked down the list to see if it mentioned Quarter Sessions trials (it did), then the relevant time period (it did), so I ordered the volume and waited with every finger and toe crossed. Because sometimes the judges used their own shorthand script making their notes unintelligible. Or sometimes they took notes so quickly that their scrawl was unreadable.
When I opened the notebook and turned to the correct date I found page after page of notes relating to Fred's trial. Justice Cheeke's handwriting was bad but at least he hadn't written in shorthand. So I paid for the expensive photocopies and took them home and began transcribing. It took a number of passes and even then there were words I couldn't decipher, but what was written was very interesting indeed (see Trial Transcript 1856).
Until I made this discovery, Thunderbolt researchers had seen only the newspaper reports of Fred's hearings and trial which provided an abbreviated account of the proceedings (see Trial Reports 1856).
Not only did the transcript provide detailed information about the crime that led to his first Cockatoo Island incarceration (which is covered in Chapters 8 and 9 of Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady), it assists in debunking some of the Thunderbolt myths. For example, it helps determine Fred Ward's true parentage (see Who were Fred Ward's parents?). It helps overturn the myth that Fred was retaliating against Tocal station for the death of his brother George (see Did the death of Fred Ward's brother spawn his life in crime?). And it overturns the myth that he was an innocent victim of his brother William's duplicity. In fact, William risked his own legal safety in attempting to defend his brother.
For more detailed information about the events of that important year, see Timeline: 1835-1863.