These stories have been submitted by members of the Female Convicts Research Centre, researchers and descendants of female convicts.  All stories are subject to copyright.

If you have a story to share for publication here, please complete a submission form and ask about our style guide.

 

Recent  additions:

  • GODWIN, Mary per Sea Queen 1846. By Don Bradmore (28/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Mary Godwin arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) as a convict per Sea Queen on 29 August 1846.[1] Two years earlier, she had been convicted of stealing a hen and some chickens in Monmouthshire, Wales, and sentenced to transportation for seven years. Although there is contradictory evidence in her convict documents about her age upon arrival, it is believed that she was somewhat older than the majority of the 13,500 (approx.) females who were transported to VDL for their crimes between 1812 and 1853. There is also a discrepancy in her convict documents about her marital status. Upon arrival at Hobart, she told the authorities that she was married and that she had left her four children with her husband, Thomas Godwin, in England – but when she married again in VDL two years later, she stated that she was a widow. In the colony, her behavior was exemplary – she was not charged with any new offences as a prisoner. However, soon after she had served her time, she and her new husband, John Blagg, were involved in a scandalous Supreme Court case which involved their refusal to return to its natural mother a young child for whom they were caring. Although the Blaggs had not been charged with the abduction of the child, they emerged from the trial with their reputations tarnished. Thereafter, nothing more was heard of Mary (Godwin) Blagg until she passed away at Bothwell, Tasmania, on 27 July 1868. Her death certificate shows that she was sixty-five years old.

    This is her story:

     

    [1] Conduct record: CON41-1-10, image 59; Description List: CON19/1/5, image 182; Indent: CON15/1/3, images 324/325; Police No: 415; FCRC ID: 10943.

     

     

     

     

     

  • SMITH, Elizabeth, per Morley 1820. By Don Bradmore (21/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Convict Elizabeth SMITH had been in Van Diemens Land (VDL) for almost fifty years when she passed away at Hobart on 20 September 1868. In the fifteen years before her death, she had managed to stay clear of the law but her first three decades in the colony had been turbulent ones. As a prisoner she was troublesome. She was charged with drunkenness on a number of occasions. She kept bad company. While assigned as a servant to free settlers, she frequently absented herself without leave. She was disorderly, disruptive and rebellious - and, on at least one occasion, violent. She absconded once and was missing for ten days before she was apprehended. More seriously, she narrowly avoided being hanged for murder![1]

    This is her story …

     

    [1] Thirty-one prisoners named ‘Elizabeth Smith’ were transported as convicts to VDL between 1812 and 1853.  Two of them arrived on Morley in 1820. This Elizabeth Smith has been given ‘Identifier 2’. Upon arrival at Hobart, she was allocated Police Number 27; see CON40/1/9, Image 14.

  • BRADLEY, Margaret per Sea Queen 1846. By Don Bradmore (21/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Margaret Bradley arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) aboard Sea Queen in August 1846, one of 13,500 (approx.) female convicts who were transported to the colony between 1812 and 1853.[1] While some of these women served out their time without great discomfort and eventually became good and useful citizens, others found their term of servitude humiliating and difficult in the extreme. Margaret was in the latter group, some of whom tried to escape from their island prison. Few were successful. In 1852, after having served only six years of her ten-year sentence, Margaret absconded from her assigned service and was missing for three months. She managed to get to Melbourne but soon after arriving there was apprehended and returned to VDL, where she served out the remainder of her time. But what happened to her after that is a mystery! She seems to have simply vanished from all records. Did she leave the colony? If so, where could she have gone? Still only twenty-six years of age, and probably alone, would she have tried again to make a new life for herself in Victoria? Or one of the other Australian colonies? Or New Zealand, perhaps? Would she have dared to return to her native England where the penalty for doing so was death?[2] Her story is a most interesting one but, frustratingly, it has no satisfying ending.

    This is her story:

     

    [1] CON41/1/10, image 13; Description List: CON19/1/5, image 172; Indent: CON15, image 312; Police No: 803; FCRC 1D: 10904.

    [2]  See ‘Tickets of Leave, Certificates of Freedom, Pardons’ at https://www.nla.gov.au/                                      

  • FITZPATRICK, Ann per Sea Queen 1846. By Don Bradmore (13/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Ann Fitzpatrick’s story is of a life of courage and resilience.[1] She arrived as a convict in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL), alone and unsupported, at the tender age of fifteen in 1846 and died in New Zealand, happy and successful, at eighty in 1911. In the intervening years, she gave birth to at least seven children - two of whom died in shockingly tragic circumstances in childhood - and outlived two husbands. After serving her time as a prisoner in VDL, she left the colony and made a new life for herself as the proprietor of a popular boarding house at Invercargill, New Zealand. At the time of her death, she was mourned as a respected pioneer settler of that town and one of its oldest inhabitants. It is unlikely that many, if any, of her friends and acquaintances knew of her convict past.

    This is Ann’s story:

     

    [1] Conduct record: CON41-1-10, image 49; description list: CON19/1/5, image 180; indent: CON15/1/3, image 320.

  • McDEVITT, Eliza per Phoebe 1845. By Don Bradmore (7/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Convict Eliza McDevitt arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) at the age of thirty-two in 1845.[1] She was a married woman, apparently childless, who had left behind in Ireland – without regret - a husband who had treated her badly. Although little is known about her life, either before her conviction and transportation or afterwards, one thing is very obvious: she was a strong-willed woman who seemed to know what she wanted in life and might have achieved it eventually. While still a prisoner in VDL, she married again but that marriage, like her first, was not a success and so, after serving her sentence, she fled from it, too. There are no further sightings of her in VDL. Where did she go? Did she leave the colony? There is some (slight) evidence that her husband tried to find her in the neighbouring colony of Victoria but without success. It is frustrating to find that – as with many females sent to VDL as convicts between 1812 and 1853 - she simply vanished from the pages of history soon after serving her time.

    This is her story

     

    [1] Conduct record: CON41-1-5, Image 91; Description List: CON19-1-4, Image 197; Indent: CON15/1/3, Images 124, 125. Police Number 229; FCRC ID: 10127.

  • FISHER, Ann per Mary III 1823. By Don Bradmore (25/02/2020). Open or Close

     

    Ann Fisher arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) as an impoverished nineteen year-old convict per Mary III in October 1831 and died there in 1872. She had been a prisoner of the crown for seventeen years and, even after she had gained her freedom, her life was a continual struggle against hardship and the law. It is impossible to read her story without feeling great sympathy for her.[1]

    Ann was born in London about 1812 but little is known of her early life except that, apparently, she had been caring for herself from her early teenage years.[2] Whether she had been orphaned, or abandoned by her parents, or had run away from them, is unknown. What is clear, however, is that she had been a regular recipient of ‘out-door relief’ from a London workhouse before her conviction and transportation.

     

    Read more of the story of Ann Fisher.

     

    [1] CON40-1-1, Image 189; Police Number 98; FCRC ID: 8632. Ann’s age is shown in Old Bailey records of her trial as seventeen. In VDL some months later, she stated that she nineteen.

    [2] CON40-1-1, Image 189.

  • MANNING, Mary per Persian 1827. By Don Bradmore (February 2020) Open or Close

     

    There are many heartbreaking stories among those of the 13,500 (approx.) women who were transported to Van Diemens Land (VDL) as convicts between the years 1812 and 1853. One of the saddest, perhaps, is that of Mary Manning, a young Irish woman, who arrived per Persian in 1827.[1]

    An unmarried mother when she arrived, she had brought her small child with her. Two years later, she married a free settler and gave birth to twins early the following year. Five months later she and her babies were brutally murdered inside their hut in a remote part of the bush by a small party of aborigines apparently intent on taking revenge on settlers in the vicinity for the atrocious treatment they had long been receiving at their hands. Mary was twenty-three years old. She had been in the colony for only four years.[2]

     This is her story …

     

    [1] CON40-1-7, Image 35, FCRC ID: 10017; Police Number 61.

    [2] See report of inquest: The Tasmanian, 18 June 1830, p.5.   

     

     

     

  • CORFIELD, Susan per Mary III 1823. By Don Bradmore (21/02/2020) Open or Close

     

    Convict Susan CORFIELD had been in Van Diemens Land (VDL) for only a little over seven years when she was brutally murdered at Hobart by a jealous lover.  She had just received her certificate of freedom after having completed her term of servitude. She was twenty-eight years old and single.

    Of course, Susan did not ask, or deserve, to be murdered. She was the victim of a monstrous attack by an enraged, vicious killer. It was he who was solely responsible for her death and he was executed for his crime. However, based on evidence presented at his trial, some would think that Susan’s behavior in the years before her death had been imprudent, rash and duplicitous.

    This is the tale of her short, pathetic life.

     

  • WOMACK, Jane per Aeolus 1809 & WOMOCK, Jane per Maria 1818 ('a twist of fate'). By Rhonda Arthur (07/02/20). Open or Close

     

     

    The possibility that they were one and the same person emerged and it transpired that Jane and her husband, William Womack, were transported twice. Their daughter, Mary Ann Womack, born in Hobart Town accompanied Jane on the Maria 1818.

    Read 'a Twist of Fate'.

  • DYER, Elizabeth per Royal Admiral 1842. By Don Bradmore (13/02/2020). Open or Close

     

    On 3 May 1845, after Elizabeth Dyer had served only three years of her ten year sentence, she was granted a conditional pardon for the role she had played in rendering assistance to the Master of Royal Admiral and his officers when mutinous members of the crew had been preparing to take over the ship whilst at sea in 1842.

    Read More about Elizabeth Dyer.

     


 

 

Please note:  The links below for conduct record, indent and description list will take you to the Archives Office of Tasmania website.

 

Convict Stories

  • ADAMS, Catherine per Sir Robert Seppings 1852 (The Dean Poisoning Case). By Colette McAlpine (17/11/2019). Open or Close

     

    Not many convicts appeared before a Royal Commission, not many were sketched as often as Catherine, and few had photographs taken due to giving evidence. This woman's story also shows how convicts kept in touch with each other, changed partners, names and identities, but also how the past caught up with some of them in the strangest ways.

    Read more about Catherine Adams and The Dean Poisoning Case.

  • ARNOTT, Jane per Margaret 1843 (The Cook and the Blacksmith). By Jan Westerink Open or Close

     

    The story of Jane Arnott per Margaret in 1843 and John Dunn, per Waterloo, 1835.

     

    Read more about 'The Cook and the Blacksmith'.

  • ATTWOOD, Elizabeth per Tory 1848. By Geoffrey Court Open or Close

     

    Elizabeth Attwood was born at Pinfold St, Birmingham on 27 December 1813 to parents Thomas and Hannah Attwood. Thomas Attwood was born in 1766, was a jeweller and died in 1823. Hannah was born in 1785 and died in 1821. Thomas and Hannah were married circa 1808 and had three other children – John died as an infant, Thomas Jnr born in 1815 and Maria. Thomas and Hannah both died young, with Elizabeth being only 8 when her mother died and 10 when her father died. We do not know how the children were raised, but can assume that things were very tough for them.

    We can find no trace as to what happened to Maria, but we do know that Elizabeth started a relationship with Charles Spratt around 1832, with a daughter, Emma Attwood, being born in 1833. In April 1835 Charles and a pregnant Elizabeth, were living in Birmingham when they robbed a man of two shillings and five pence.

     

    Read more of the story of Elizabeth Attwood, and the voyage of the Tory in 1848.
    (conduct record, indent, description list)

  • BENNETT, Sarah per America 1831. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    At her trial at the Old Bailey, London, on 28 October 1830, Sarah BENNETT was found guilty of stealing a watch, two seals and a key (total value of £7.0.6d) from the person of a working-man by the name of John NEWTON. She was sentenced to transportation for life.

    Read more on Sarah Bennett 

  • BLEARS, Charlotte per Woodbridge 1843. By Kath Graham 2016 Open or Close

     

    Charlotte Blears was a local girl baptised on the 26th October 1822 at St Mary the Virgin, Leigh who was to lead a quite extraordinary life. Her mother, Elizabeth Blare, was described as a singlewoman and although no father’s name is given on the baptismal record, many years later Charlotte herself names him as Henry Cordwall. This is the first and only mention of Henry who doesn’t seem to have played much of a part in Charlotte’s life.

    Read more of the Charlotte Blears story.

  • CASCADES, May 1847. By Maureen Mann Open or Close

     

     

    "I had already come across several very interesting women. I found I could link them all to Cascades during a single month – May 1847. It would have been possible to choose another month in another year and discover other interesting lives. Serendipity"  ....Maureen Mann

     

    Read Cascades May 1847

     

  • CAVANAGH, Rosannah per Abercrombie 1841. By Don Bradmore. Open or Close

     

    A small number – probably fewer than 120 - of the 13,500 (approx.) females who were transported to Van Diemens Land (VDL) between 1812 and 1853 were convicted in one of the other Australian colonies. Rosannah CAVANAGH was one such. She was convicted in New South Wales (NSW) and arrived in VDL per Abercrombie on 16 April 1841. She was twenty-three years old.

    Cavanagh (seen also as Rosanna CAVANAGH, Rosannah CAVENAH, Rosanna CAVANNAH and similar variants) was born at Liverpool, about sixteen miles (26 kms) west of Sydney in 1818. There, she lived with her Irish-born mother, Mary Ann ATTWOOD and her step-father, James ATTWOOD, a farmer. Both were former convicts. Mary Ann Attwood had been eighteen when she arrived in NSW (as Mary Ann PRENDERGAST) aboard Experiment II to serve a seven year sentence in 1809. English-born James Attwood had been sentenced to transportation for life and had arrived on Lady Castlereagh in 1818.

    Read more of Rosannah Cavanagh's story.

  • CUTHBERT, Isobel per Margaret 1843 ('Do not use me so'). By Ian Billing Open or Close

     

    Reclaimed by her father at the age of five, we know little of Isobel's life until she became step-daughter to Cecilia Thornton in marriage to her father, William Cuthbert, in 1827. Isobel would gain a step-sister and step-brother from this union, and then lose them as both succumbed to the misery, disease and poverty of marginal life on the fringes of rural Scotland during the early 1830's, her father's trade and income fell into decline under the onslaught of mechanisation in the textile industries, the rise of machines was destined to eradicate the craft of hand-weaving which was William's occupation. Eventually Cecelia was to fold into the grave also, reducing family Cuthbert back to where it had started, approximately fourteen years before, just father and daughter.

    Closing the curtain on any hope of a normal family life and ushering in the darkness, William Cuthbert now dropped his moral torch and instead lit a flame for his teen-aged daughter. There would come years of distress and abuse, a perpetual nightmare of manipulation and molestation from the mid eighteen-thirties until Isobel’s arrest at the age of twenty-one in the dawn of the following decade.

     

    Read more of the story of Isobel Cuthbert “Do not use me so”

  • DAWSON, Ann per William Bryan 1833. By John Peck (2016) Open or Close

     

    Ann became embroiled in a Beverley body-snatching gang (she was considered by some to be the leader of this gang). “Bodies used to be unearthed and conveyed to the garden known as Rattle Garth at the south-eastern corner of Jack Taylor’s Lane in Beckside, Beverley. A shed which stands just by Jack Taylor’s Lane and another shed at the bottom of the garden where the sights were horrible, the cutting up of bodies by this gang. The gang also at times have said to have used (a) shed on Queensgate Road in (a) field till lately occupied by (Mr.) Whisker.” One of the gang members was a notorious William Ware (known as “Edinburgh Bill”) who, along with other gang members, was caught and arrested at Cottingham Churchyard. Ware tried to escape but fell into a heap of lime and was temporarily blinded.

    Read the story of Ann Dawson.

  • DOCKERTY, Mary per Hydery 1832 ('Destinies plan for Mary Dockerty'). By Kay Buttfield (16/10/2017) Open or Close

     

    Questions of destiny and the future may not have ever been considered by young Mary Dockerty, seemingl y her concerns were more immediate and centered around the daily here, and now of her existence. However, in 1832 when Mary stood in the dock of the Old Bailey her destiny was to change forever. With no family for support, seventeen-year-old Mary lived on the streets of London. She was one of many trying to survive in that ancient city awash with a teeming mass of souls all striving to stay alive amidst a changing landscape mostly etched with hopelessness. Information on Mary's earlier years has not been uncovered but she may have been living on the streets for some time. Where, and when she was born we will never know but anecdotal information passed down to her twice great granddaughter suggests she was Irish or at least her parents were born in Ireland.

     

    Read the story of Mary Dockerty Destinies plan for Mary Dockerty, 

  • DONOVAN, Ellen per Martin Luther 1852 ('Campbell Town Nell'), by Diane Honan (12/01/2020) Open or Close

     

    Ellen PRATT nee DONOVAN (per Martin Luther 1852) alias ‘Campbell Town Nell’

    It is the truth of war that the history is written by the survivors. Convict histories are largely the same, written by their descendants. Those that managed to obtain their freedom marry and enjoy, if only in a small way, the security of work and family. Over time, with the status of wife and mother, they obtained a respectable place in society. For many others who never married or obtained a settled life, their history is told only from their struggles with the law.

    This story is of Ellen, who partially succeeded. She did indeed marry and had a family of six children. For reasons unknown (although a liking of alcohol may have been the reason) Ellen was not able to grasp the opportunity marriage had given her.

    Read the story on Ellen Donovan alias 'Campbell Town Nell'

  • DONOVAN, Mary per Rajah 1841. By Erica Orsolic (16/10/2017) Open or Close

     

    A letter to Mary Donovan 1819 - 1891 by great great great great granddaughter, Erica.

    'You were born in late 1819 in Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland. I’ve seen pictures of it on the internet. Lush green hills and fields. I read that it was a British Army barracks. One of the largest in all of Ireland at the time.

    At age 20, for reasons unknown, you had travelled to London living “on the street” as they politely put it when you were arrested for larceny alongside Matilda Everdon. Was she your friend, Grandmother? Perhaps a roommate? Or just an acquaintance? I wonder what you were thinking when you pawned the stolen jacket of David May, upon Matilda’s request. Did you have any idea that one small action would have changed the course of your life forever? While you were drinking with your ill-gotten funds, at the back of the pub on that Thursday in March 1841, did you ever imagine you would be sent across the sea to the other side of the world to serve out your 7 year sentence and never return?'

     

    Read the story of Mary Donovan 1819 - 1891

  • DORE, Eliza per Duchess of Northumberland 1853. By Barry Files Open or Close

     

    ELIZA’S STORY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ELIZA WEBB DORE 1829 –1875

    Eliza was convicted of the crime of wilful murder in 1852, narrowly avoided the death sentence, and was transported for life to Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen‟s Land, arriving in April 1853.

    She died on the 15 July 1875, aged 47, in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

     

    This story tells how her life unfolded.


    (conduct recordindentdescription list)

  • DOVE, Mary per William Bryan 1833 ('A letter to my great great great granddaughter'). By Margaret Walsh (16/10/2017) Open or Close

     

    A LETTER TO MY GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER,

    My dearest Margaret

    This letter is written to you by my son, Samuel, who can read and write, whereas I never learned to do so. Samuel urged me to tell my story, so that future generations know from whence they came.

    I was born in Galway, Ireland on 1 August 1811, and was a nursemaid/needlewoman. You would probably think me to be quite a brave young girl when I tell you what happened next. I went over to London to try to make a living, as life in Ireland had no future for me. I also had a child, and on 27 February 1833 I left my child with a friend, Bridget Key, and told her I was going to sell some fruit, but I never went back. I never saw my firstborn again. If I’d known what was about to happen, I would never have gone. On 28 February, I met up with Mary Lee, who was a stranger. I asked her for lodgings, and she said I could stop with her, which I did for four nights. The next day, a cold winter’s day on 1 March 1833, Mary Lee met up with a journeyman silk-weaver, John Carlier. Mary asked him if he would give her anything to drink, so they went to a house on Bunhill Row and had some gin. Mary asked him to come to our house, which adjoined Chequer Alley. I was at home in bed when they arrived. Mary leaned over John Carlier and took something from his pockets, and before he realised what had happened, Mary had rushed downstairs talking in Irish. She’d taken a quarter of an ounce of pigtail tobacco, four sovereigns and some silver.

    Read more of the story of Mary Dove 1811 - 1865

  • DOWLING, Esther per Currency Lass 1834. By Don Bradmore (6/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    The story of convict Esther DOWLING is an intriguing one. When reading the story, it is not difficult to get the impression that she wanted to be a convict – and that she wanted to remain a convict forever!

     

    Read more.

  • DUESNAP, Elizabeth per Maria to NSW, 1818; Elizabeth Henrietta to VDL, 1818. By Don Bradmore (23/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    The fascinating story of a resilient convict woman. Born at Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, around 1797, Elizabeth led a long, difficult - and, at times, sad - life but was in her late eighties when she passed away at Longford, Tasmania, in 1883.

    Read the story on Elizabeth Duesnap.

     

  • FINDLATER, Margaret per Cadet 1848. By Arthur Davidson Open or Close

     

    Margaret Findlater or Ower – ID 3528 – Cadet

    Early Life:

    Margaret Findlater was born in Perth on 15 December 1810 to parents James Findlater and Janet McLauchlan. She was the eldest of 12 known children. Her father's occupation was described variously over the years as 'Wright', 'Coal Merchant' and 'Shipowner'. Little is known about her early life though it would appear she received some form of education as she signed her own Declaration to the authorities prior to her trial in 1847, and declared she could read and write when she arrived in VDL. Three of her siblings died very young, the oldest being only 9 years old.

    Read more of the story of Margaret Findlater


    (conduct record, indent, description list)

  • GOULD, Jane per Baretto Junior 1850. By Don Bradmore (4/02/2020). Open or Close

     

    Although the story of convict Jane GOULD (or GOLD) is a cheerless and depressing one, it is difficult not to feel some sympathy for the woman herself. She seems to have been endowed with very few of the natural female advantages and her long life was one of poverty, ill-fortune, and sadness.

     

    Read more on Jane Gould

     

  • GREEN, Ann (2) per America 1831 by Don Bradmore (6/01/2020) Open or Close

     

    Ann Green and her husband were both sentenced for the same offence and both transported for seven years, ending up in Hobart.  Ann Green was assigned to a house at Hamilton described as  a ‘debauched house’ and a ‘most improper place’ in which to live.

    Read more

  • HALDANE, Mary Ann per Borneo 1828 ('A Lucky Escape'). By Victor G Malham Open or Close

     

    A Lucky Escape – Mary Ann Haldane

    On Thursday 28 June 1827, Mary Ann Haldane was arrested for housebreaking and stealing at the property of Dr Thatcher in Elder Street, Edinburgh. At her trial on 9 November 1827 at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh she was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. Historically, transportation has been seen as a harsh punishment. Families were torn apart, never to see each other again. But for Mary it may have been an escape from a worse fate.

    Mary was born to Elizabeth Haldane about 1810 in Glasgow, father is unknown nor is it known why or when they moved to Edinburgh. Mary’s mother, Elizabeth (or Betty), and sister, Margaret (or Peggy), became victims of the notorious Edinburgh murderers (also known as West Port murderers), Burke and Hare. William Burke and William Hare were Irish immigrants, and their accomplices, Burke’s defacto, Helen (or Nell) McDougal, and Hare’s wife, Margaret, were responsible for at least 16 murders between November 1827 and 31 October 1828. The victims were to provide cadavers for dissection by Dr Robert Knox, a lecturer on anatomy at Edinburgh Medical College.

     

    Read more of A Lucky Escape – Mary Ann Haldane


    (conduct recorddescription list)

  • HARRIS, Charlotte, per Anna Maria 1852 (The Orange Woman). By Rhonda Arthur (4/12/2019). Open or Close

     

    Charlotte Harris was convicted of murdering her husband at a time when there was a groundswell of people calling for the abolition of capital punishment as being cruel and immoral.  Charlotte was to be hanged but the sentence was suspended until she gave birth. In the meantime, an abolitionist, Charles Gilpin, was active in organizing  petitions for clemency on behalf of Charlotte and on 8 November 1849 he presented petitions with 15,000 signatories to Sir George Grey at the Home Office.

    Read more about Charlotte Harris 'The Orange Woman'.

  • HOLLEY, Sarah per Majestic 1839. By Peter Brennan (16/10/2017) Open or Close

     

    In the early 19th Century Exeter, ‘by the standards of the time [it] was a large and important town’, however, the industrial revolution largely by-passed the town as the ‘traditional industries of wool manufacture and tanning declined’ and moved north. Exeter, despite the efforts of the Improvement Commissioners in 1810 ‘to pave, clean and light the streets’, still remained dirty and unsanitary.’ The slums were appalling and ‘in 1832 a cholera epidemic killed 440 people.’ This was where Sarah Holley was born in 1817, grew up and plied her trade as a servant and who undertook some extracurricular activities ‘on the town.’

    Sarah was 21 years old when she was sentenced to ten years goal and transportation at the Devon/Exeter Quarter Sessions for stealing a watch on 2 July 1838.There is little doubt that this five foot two inch, freckled-faced brunette was resentful and very unhappy about the severity of her sentence – although it was just slightly more than the average of nine years. The gaolers reported her conduct was ‘bad’ before she was sent off to London to board the Majestic.

    Read more of the story of Sarah Holley 1817 - 1895.

  • HUDDERSFIELD FOUR per Sea Queen 1846. By T C Creaney 2015 Open or Close

    The Huddersfield Four

    This is the story of four women, friends, from Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, who lived a life of crime and prostitution, and were eventually transported to Van Diemens Land for “larceny from the person”, ostensibly plying a young man with alcohol and robbing him of his cash. They were: Lydia Clay (born 1809); Elizabeth Quarmby (born 1822); Mary Ann Wentworth (born 1824); and Ruth Richardson (born 1817).

    The offence took place in August 1845, they were tried in December that year, found guilty and sentenced to 10 years transportation, finally arriving in Van Diemens Land on 29 August 1846 on the vessel “Sea Queen”

    Written by  T C Creaney – September 2015

     

    Read more:  Huddersfield Four, The.

     

     

  • HUNT, Mary per Emma Eugenia 1851. By Diane Munro Open or Close

     

    Mary Prior 1813 - 1863

    By 1838 however life began to take a turn for the worse. In October Mary wasindicted for stealing a black silk neckerchief the property of G. Reynolds. She was found guilty and sentenced to six weeks' hard labour at the Bath Gaol.

    Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette11 October 1838

    BATH MICHAELMAS QUARTER SESSIONS Mary Hunt, a married woman, having an infant with her at the bar, was indicted for stealing a black silk neckerchief, the property of G. Reynolds. Guilty. Six weeks' hard labour at the Bath Gaol.

    In 1838 their twin daughter Sarah died aged 4 years.

    In 1843 their other twin daughter Mary Ann died aged 8 years.

    In 1844 their son William Henry died aged 2 years.

    In May 1849 Mary was charged with stealing a silk dress in the shop of Mrs.Hornby and Mr. Tucker.

    On 26 Oct 1849 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Mary and she was admitted to Shepton Mallet Gaol, Somerset, England. Mary gave birth to a daughter Mary Ann in October 1849 whilst on remand.

    Read more: Mary Prior 1813 - 1863  (Mary Hunt)

  • HUNTINGDON, Jane per Atwick 1838 ('Why my great great-grandmother is my heroine'). By Lorraine Roberts Open or Close

     

    'Why my great great-grandmother is my heroine I wondered what it meant when in The Preston and Lancashire Chronicle Advertiser, dated Saturday July 1, 1837, they wrote, “Jane Huntington, age 21, an interesting looking girl, pleaded guilty to stealing. To be transported for seven years”. Was there something about her looks or the way she dressed? Or just an attitude she had? Seven years, and transportation? Was this forced migration? The prosecutors were determined to punish her, even if the cost of doing so amounted to being ridiculously higher than the value of the item she had stolen. Why did she steal a cloak? Was it to sell or did she just want it because she liked it? In any case, I have a feeling she was a proud person, and being guilty of having committed the crime, she would rather be transported than stay in the horrible prison in Preston. Seven years, and she would come home again! Coming from a large farming family, and having pleaded guilty, her family must have been devastated, but could do nothing to help her.'

     

    Read more: Jane Huntingdon, Why my great great-grandmother is my heroine

  • HUTCHINGS, Sarah per Providence II, 1826. By Don Bradmore (12/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    Sarah, sentenced in England in 1825 to transportation to Van Diemens Land (VDL) for seven years,  was a convict when she died at Hobart thirty-two years later.

     

    Read more.

     

  • JENNINGS, Elizabeth per Lord Sidmouth/Lusitania 1823. By Don Bradmore (1/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    Elizabeth Jennings became a servant to Miss Bromley, accompanying her between Sydney and Hobart Town.  Elizabeth's life in Van Diemen's Land was not a happy one; according to her husband's Will she was  'afflicted in her mind'.  She died, at the age of 81, at the New Norfolk Asylum on 12 June 1876. In the story of Elizabeth Jennings, Don Bradmore looks into inconsistencies in various historical records. 

    Read more.

  • JONES, Elizabeth per Siren 1835. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    Jones (or Nowlan) aged 18, first came to the attention of the general public when this report appeared in The Australian [Sydney] on 5 December 1834:

    On Sunday last a barbarous murder was committed at Wilberforce [about thirty-eight miles (sixty kilometres) north-west of Sydney], by a female named Elizabeth NOWLAN, on the person of one Charles MULLINS, with whom she cohabited. ... A Coroner's Inquest sat on the body [and] returned a verdict of wilful murder against Elizabeth Nowlan. She was committed to prison on the Coroner's Warrant.

    In the first week of February 1835, Nowlan was tried for the murder of Mullins before Mr. Justice BURTON and a military jury in the Supreme Court, Sydney. In the dock with her were Susannah DAVIDSON and William REYNOLDS, both of whom had been present at the sly-grog shop when Mullins was killed and had also been charged with his murder.

     

    Read more:  Elizabeth Jones, ‘The Morning Star of Liverpool’

  • LEGGATT, Sarah per Providence II 1824. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    On 27 October 1825, Leggatt was convicted at the Old Bailey, London, of the theft of two sheets, two blankets, two pillows, and a table-cloth - valued in total at about nineteen shillings - from the lodging house at which she was living at the time. The court heard that she had sold the goods to a nearby pawnbroker and then replaced them in her room with cheaper substitutes. When the owner of the boarding house discovered the ruse, the police had been called and Leggatt had been arrested. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years.

     

    Read more: Sarah Leggatt

  • LYNCH, Johanna per Janus and Princess Charlotte 1820. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    At the Lent Assizes in County Waterford, Ireland, in 1819, Johanna Lynch, a twenty-one year old country servant, was convicted of larceny. She had been found guilty of stealing ‘two cloaks and a petticoat’, the property of Maurice Connery of Ballyrusa, her employer.

    Sentenced to transportation for seven years, she was put aboard Janus which, with Thomas Mowat as master and James Creagh as surgeon-superintendent, left Cork with a cargo of 105 female convicts on 5 December 1819. Also aboard were a small number of passengers, including two priests, Father Philip Connelly and Father John Joseph Therry, both of whom had volunteered to migrate to New South Wales after the authorities had consented to have Catholic chaplains stationed at Botany Bay.

    Making its way via Rio de Janeiro, Janus reached Sydney Cove on 3 March 1820, a passage of 150 days. Although Captain Mowat had been instructed to call first at Hobart, he had chosen to disregard this order following the sudden death of Creagh as the ship neared Van Diemen’s Land. Instead, he had proceeded directly to Port Jackson.

    In Sydney, 104 prisoners were disembarked; one had died on the way.

    Read more: Johanna Lynch
    (conduct record)

  • LYONS, Catherine per Nautilus 1838. By Geoffrey Court Open or Close

     

    Catherine Lyons was born circa 1821 in London and was arrested on 28 August 1837 when she was 15 and charged with stealing a watch.

     

    Catherine’s conviction is recorded in detail and is quite amusing as she would have been an inspiration for a female villain in a Dickens’ novel. She was tried on 18 September 1837 for stealing a watch and ring, convicted and sentenced to 7 years transportation. From the records of the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, comes the following account...

    Read more: Catherine Lyons


    (conduct record, description list)

  • LYONS, Eleanor per Blackfriar 1851. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    On 9 July 1850, Ellen stood trial in County Wexford, charged with arson. Found guilty, she was sentenced to transportation for fifteen years.

    The circumstances under which Ellen had decided to burn someone’s property are unknown as official transcripts of her trial have not been located. However, family sources have always believed that she and other members of her Catholic family had become involved in some way in the political troubles in Ireland at that time. Encyclopedia Britannica explains this situation by claiming that the Orange Order (popularly called the Orangemen), which had been founded in 1795 to defend the Protestant Ascendancy, were increasingly excluding Catholics from holding favourable properties, forcing them to subsist on poorer lands which had to be subdivided continually to cope with population increase. This situation became even more intolerable when a potato blight hit their crops and a long and devastating famine ensued.

     

    Read more: Eleanor Lyons (Blackfriar 1851). 

  • MacCARTNEY, Jane per Hindostan 1839 ('The relative in the cupboard'). By Stephanie McComb Open or Close

     

    The Relative in the Cupboard

    The story of Jane Sefton alias Jane MacCartney

    There are 3 creased and torn letters which tell a piece of my family’s history and speak of a woman’s life lived in South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land during the mid-19th century. Letters which had been kept neatly folded in a jar and are known to have been kept in a cupboard for over 100 years. The story of those letters was told to me many years ago by my Great Aunt Rebecca. My Aunt was born in Liverpool in 1898. She would recall to me how her close knit family had spoken of the relative who had left Liverpool for Australia, with a black mark, in shame, and with a stain on her character. The family through the years had spoken that they knew their relative had done something wrong, had caused a family scandal, that she had left for Australia. But as with all skeletons in cupboards through the course of the subsequent years the story as too why and what happened was no longer discussed and in time all but forgotten.

    Read more: Jane MacCartney
    (conduct record, indent, description list)

  • MARTIN, Mary per Canada to Sydney, 1810; Emu to VDL 1815. By Don Bradmore (1/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    The fascinating story of Mary Agnes MARTIN (nee HALLETT). She had outstanding success as a schoolmistress. Sadly, however, her life ended in misery. She died in poverty at the age of fifty-five in 1831, her achievements largely forgotten.

     

    Read More.

     

  • McCABE, Catherine per Siren 1836. By Don Bradmore (18/12/2019). Open or Close

     

    Catherine McCabe was one of the oldest females sent to Van Diemen's Land.  In 1825 Catherine, along with at least three children, arrived in NSW on the ship Thames to join her husband.  Her husband had previously been transported to Sydney for life in 1821.   Census records show that the family was reunited, but only a short while. In 1836, along with her son, Edward, Catherine was convicted and transported to Van Diemen's Land. Read Catherine's story.

  • McLAREN, Martha per Tasmania 1844 ('Martha's Shawl'). By Lyn Horton Open or Close

     

    On a cold winter night in July 1874 Martha McLaren’s red woollen shawl went missing. Martha believed Sarah Ladds stole it. The story was reported on 10 July 1874 in The Mercury. At the time Martha was a resident of Kangaroo Point (now named Bellerive), and had come into town on the previous Saturday ‘to receive some money due to her’. During the afternoon she had a drink at the New Market Hotel on Macquarie Street, Hobart. After going outside she met Sarah and went home to Sarah’s house in Watchorn Street, Hobart. It was here Martha discovered her shawl was missing and asked Sarah for its whereabouts, whereupon Sarah proceeded to hit Martha on the head with an unknown object and pushed her out onto the street. Sarah told the court she had taken the shawl to wash Martha’s head with it, but Martha denied this was true. Who then was telling the truth? Could Martha or Sarah be believed? After all Martha’s background would have been said by some as being rather dubious. Sarah’s story until, and after the shawl incident, is unknown.

     

    Read more: Martha McLaren, Martha's Shawl


    (conduct recordindentdescription list)

  • MILLS, Julia per Providence 1826. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    Julia MILLS was only seventeen when she arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) as a convict on 16 May 1826.

    Although there are still some large gaps in Mills’s life history – which, hopefully, further research will be able to fill – her story is surely one of the most intriguing of those of the 13,500 (approx.) females who were transported to the colony between 1812 and 1853.

    Mills was born in Ireland about 1809 – but it was at the Lancaster Assizes, Lancashire, England, on 15 May 1825, that she was convicted. Why had she left Ireland to go to England? That is still one of the unanswered questions. The crime of which she was found guilty at Lancaster was ‘stealing from a dwelling house’. A sentence of death was recorded against her but, as was the general custom at that time, it was later commuted to transportation for life.

     

    Read more: Julia Mills (Providence 1826)

  • MUNSLOW, Harriet, per Tasmania (I) 1844. By Don Bradmore (2/03/2020) Open or Close

     

    Harriet Munslow arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) as a convict per Tasmania (1) in 1844.[1] She was twenty-one years old. Her life in England had been a troubled one.

    Two years later Harriet married a former convict, William Kingsbury and, shortly afterwards, had settled down with him on his small leased farm on the big ‘Adelphi’ estate near Westbury. But it was not a happy marriage and, when Kingsbury, an alcoholic, died in 1855, Harriet soon remarried. Her second husband was Thomas Wildgust, also a former convict, a young labourer on a neighbouring property. This time, Harriet found the happiness that had eluded her for so long. By the time they passed away - Harriet in 1890 and Thomas a decade or so later – they had not only achieved financial security but had become highly respected members of their community. Seemingly, their convict pasts had been quite forgotten.

    This is Harriet’s story:

     

    [1] Conduct record: CON41-1-4, Image 121; Description List: CON19-1-4, Image 156; Indent: CON15-1-3, Image 78.

  • NEALE, Harriot per Friendship to NSW 1818, Duke of Wellington to Hobart 1818 ('Skirting the Law?'). By Fiona MacFarlane Open or Close

     

    Who was Mrs Harriot Davis, and was she guilty of harbouring one of the most notorious bushranging gangs in Tasmanian history?

     

    Read more: Harriot Neale, SKIRTING THE LAW? Mrs Harriot Davis, nee Neat: Bushranger harbourer or innocent bystander?

     

    (conduct record)

  • NIGHTINGALE, Sophia per Janus to Sydney 1820, Princess Charlotte to Hobart 1820. By Geoffrey Court Open or Close

     

    Sophia Nightingale was born 17 March 1789 in England, married somebody Graham circa 1809 and then married John Nightingale on 31 August 1818 at St Annes, Liverpool, UK. The marriage record shows Sophia was a widow. On 26 April 1819 Sophia was tried for larceny at Lancaster (Liverpool Borough) Quarter Session, found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Her police number was 7, she was a housemaid and could not write.

    After arriving in Sydney, Sophia and sixty of the other convicts were transferred to the “Princess Charlotte” for the trip to Van Diemen’s Land. Sophia was one of the very early female convicts to have arrived in Hobart Town. The population in 1810 was about 1,300 and this had grown to about 10,000 by 1823.

    Sophia’s convict number was 52959, she was 30 years of age and is recorded as having a child with her. The child is Mary Ann Nightingale, born 10 August 1819 whilst Sophia was in prison in England.

     

    Read more:  Sophia Nightingale,
    (conduct record)

  • PAGET, Ann per Asia 1847 ('Biography of Ann Paget'). By David Edwards (16/10/2017) Open or Close

     

    My great-great-grandmother Ann Paget's journey from Birmingham UK to Newcastle NSW started on 13 December 1845 when, aged sixteen, she was committed to a 'House of Correction' for 'disorderly conduct' at Solihull.

    Less than a year later, on 19 October 1846, aged seventeen, she was '... convicted of stealing a chemise and other linen from a house in Park-Street, Birmingham ...'. Several previous convictions, and a list of summary punishments showing a history of petty crime ensured that she was sentenced to be transported for seven years.

    Still aged seventeen, Ann arrived in Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land on the fifth voyage of the convict transport Asia on 21 July 1847. The surgeon's report on her conduct during the voyage was 'Bad'. In her description as recorded in her convict record she had a 'large mouth'. This is a physical attribute, but it may well have also referred to her penchant for insolence to her superiors.

     

    Read more: Ann Paget, Biography of Ann Paget,

  • PICKETT, Ann per Cadet 1849. By Don Bradmore (31/01/2020). Open or Close

     

    Ann Pickett was a troubled and troublesome prisoner who re-offended many times. Although she seems not to have been a particularly likeable person - and to have brought a lot of her problems on herself - it is difficult not to feel some sympathy for her. These were not easy times to be a woman, especially one who was single and alone in a male-dominated penal colony.

     

    Read more on Ann Pickett.

  • SAVILLE, Elizabeth per Sir Robert Seppings 1852. By Geoffrey Court Open or Close

     

    The Elizabeth Saville Story:

    Hers was a truly remarkable life - a product of the disrupted social conditions in England and cast aside with other women of the times to the horrific conditions forced upon convict women on the other side of the world. Elizabeth’s early years in both England and Hobart were indeed turbulent. However, given a stable home and a steady relationship, she raised a fine family of children whose many descendants are typical of the strength which has built this country. Another amazing woman!!

     

    Read more: Elizabeth Saville


    (conduct record, indent, description list)

  • TUCKER, Ann per Anna Maria 1852. By Glenda Stapley Open or Close

     

    Ann's Story

    'My great great grandmother was Ann Tucker. While researching her history, it became increasingly obvious that given her family, time and circumstances, it was almost inevitable that in 1851 she would be on a convict ship bound for Van Dieman’s Land (VDL) with her infant son, never to see her homeland or her three older children again. Ann began life as Ann Dimmock, then through marriage, Ann Tucker, and again through marriage, Ann Sonners. Here is her story.'

     

    Read more:  Ann Tucker, (Anna Maria 1852)
    (conduct record, indent, description list)

  • WELL-TRAVELLED CONVICTS per Emma Eugenia 1842. By Margaret Jones Open or Close

     

    'Over the many years of researching my family and convicts lives of the women of the Emma Eugenia(1842) I have met many brick walls, like us all. Having now looked at over 60 female convicts off the Emma Eugenia I have started to see a common theme when I hit such barriers. What is emerging from all this research is the amount of travel that emigrants and convicts to Australia have been involved in and the need to explore all possible beginnings and destinations of these people.'

    Read more:  Well-travelled Convicts, (Emma Eugenia 1842).

  • WICKS, Elizabeth per Brothers 1824. By Don Bradmore Open or Close

     

    On 25 June 1823, Elizabeth WICKS was convicted at the Old Bailey, London, of stealing 2¾ yards (about 2.5 metres) of bobbin lace, valued at five shillings and sixpence (about $1.10), from her master, a draper. She was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. She was 21 years of age, and single. She could both read and write.

    The voyage of Brothers to the colonies had been a particularly troubled one. When the ship eventually reached Sydney, the events that had occurred at sea were the subject of a celebrated series of court actions. Brothers had sailed under the command of Charles MOTLEY. In charge of the health and welfare of the prisoners was Surgeon-Superintendent James HALL – and it was Hall who was at the centre of the trouble that had occurred at sea.

     

    Read more: Elizabeth Wicks, and the trouble on the Brothers convict transport ship, 1824.

  • WILLIAMS, Maria Louisa per Mary III 1831 ('Maria Louisa Swinchatt transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land in 1831'). By Suzan A L Swinchatt (2019) Open or Close

     

    Maria Louisa Swinchatt transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land in 1831

    On 12th May 1831, a 15-year-old girl calling herself Maria Williams was standing in the dock at the Old Bailey accused of stealing a dress worth seven shillings, from a pawnbroker’s shop in Old Street Road, Shoreditch in the East End of London. The case was just one of hundreds during a regular four-day session with each hearing lasting only a matter of minutes. William Bird is called as a witness. “I am in the employ of Mr. John Burgess, a pawnbroker, in Old Street. I was behind the counter on the 9th of April - I came round and saw the prisoner... putting this gown into her apron”. Now Maria’s version of events. “I met my sister; we were both at the door and my sister took this gown and looked at it; when she saw him coming, she threw it on my arm and ran away”. Then a man named George Osterman stands up and tells the court “ I have a certificate of the conviction of Maria Swinchatt, on the 8th of July last. I attended and know the prisoner is the person who was convicted by that name.”

    The verdict was ‘Guilty’. This being her second offence, Maria Swinchatt recorded under her alias “Maria Williams” became the youngest woman that year to be sentenced to transportation for life at the Old Bailey.

     

    Read more:  Maria Louisa Williams (Swinchatt)
    (conduct recorddescription list)

  • WRIGHT, Ann Margaret per Providence II 1826. By Don Bradmore (11/12/2019). Open or Close

     

    In 1825, Ann Margaret Wright was convicted in England of stealing money from her employer and transported to the colony - and she was still a prisoner there thirty four years later!  In that time, she had been sentenced to death on two separate occasions, had absconded from the colony and fled to India where she had suffered terribly before being recaptured and returned to VDL, had married twice and had spent many years in gaol.

    Read more about Ann Margaret Wright.

  • WRIGHT, Rachael per Friends 1811 and Lady Nelson 1812 ('Stealing an infant of tender years'). By Christopher Riley, PhD Open or Close

     

    Rachael Wright was born in Glasdrumman, County Down, Ireland,in around 1790. In May 1808 she sailed to Scotland and travelled to Glasgow in search of an uncle and aunt who were living there. Her trial documents best describe how her journey would eventually lead to Van Diemen's Land. In court she stated:

    that she only remained in Glasgow for about a week, and left it upon Friday last the eighth ... without being able to find out her uncle and aunt, that having happened to go into the house of Michael McMillan spirit dealer in Glasgow, she there met with two women whom she had never seen before, and who had a little child in their arms, and which they gave to the charge of the declarent, along with six pence to purchase bread for it, and after purchasing two pence worth of bread, she set off to Ayr with the child in company with the said two women but who left her on this side of one of the bridges of Glasgow that after getting out of Glasgow a little space she went into a field of cut hay and wrapping herself and the child into a cloak, slept there among the hay till after sunrise next morning.

    She also stated that she intended to keep the child and bring it up herself.

     

    Read more:  Rachael Wright, Stealing an infant of tender years. 

 

Further stories:

Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary: 

Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of nearly 200 female convicts who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence.

Our Genealogy page also contains some interesting female convict stories researched and written by our genealogists, transcribers and researchers.

The Founders and Survivors project newsletters also contain interesting stories on convicts.
(Scroll down toNewsletter subscription and Previous issues on the left hand side of the page.)

 

 

Please acknowledge our work, should you choose to use our research.  Our work may be subject to copyright therefore please check our Copyright Policy, and Disclaimer policy.

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].