Recent Additions to Convict Stories


Older Stories


These stories have been submitted by members of the Female Convicts Research Centre, researchers and descendants of female convicts.  We hope the selected stories help to put the women's lives in perspective and give the readers some understanding of the factors that might have affected their circumstances and the decisions they made.

The stories provide some historical background to shine a light on the lives of their subjects either before or after transportation. This contextual material could include prevailing social conditions, political ideology or geographical history relevant to the existence of the particular convict women and their families.

All stories are subject to copyright.

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We welcome all stories about female convicts. However, in order to protect the integrity of this site and the quality of information provided, it is necessary to maintain certain standards of research and writing.


Writers are encouraged to incorporate into their stories, where appropriate, some historical background to assist in shining a light on the lives of their subjects either before or after transportation.


All such material should be factually based and referenced accordingly. As a general rule, stories should be limited to approximately 2500 words or less.


If you would like to contribute an interesting female convict story, please complete a submission form and ask about our style guide. Stories will be selected for publication on the basis of historical interest and quality of research and writing. 


For those writers who also have photos they would like to share, database storage limitations prevent these being incorporated into the stories. However, please complete an image and document submission form for separate storage of photos in the database.


All stories are subject to copyright.

Recent  additions:



Elizabeth & Henry, 1848

By Helen Ménard


As Lydia, ‘young and somewhat pretty looking’,[1] wandered the streets of Manchester engaging in petty theft and traipsing in and out gaol, did she ever contemplate orchestrating a voyage to the antipodes in the hope of a better life? Could she have imagined that such a life would involve marrying a fellow convict and, ultimately, mixing with the glitterati of Melbourne society where her daughter, Lillie, proprietor of a successful photographic gallery, married a ‘basso profundo’ with the Italian Opera Company – described as ‘one of the handsomest men in Melbourne’[2] and many years her junior!

How much of her daughter’s high profile life Lydia shared is unclear but, over time, she loaned her daughter substantial amounts of money which, unpaid, resulted in legal action between them. Surely, this must have created some tension in their relationship! In fact, Lillie was no stranger to litigation – both as a plaintiff and a defendant. However, Lillie’s life cascaded downhill dramatically following a disastrous accident, after which she appeared to seek solace in alcohol, her marriage dissolved, and her high profile husband moved to Sydney. Yet, despite everything, it seems Lydia and her daughter lived together in Carlton, Victoria in their final years and died in the same house within two years of each other.

Read more of Lydia Blinkhorn's story

A Journey of Ten Thousand Miles – Frances Galloway

(Baretto Junior 1850)

by CJ Eddington


At fifteen years of age Ann Stewart[a] also known as Frances Galloway was convicted of theft from Mr Crawford, spirit dealer in High Street, Glasgow. She was sentenced in January 1850 to seven years transportation. It was her third conviction for theft. She was living in Havannah Street, Glasgow walking distance to Mr Crawford’s house in High Street.[1]

By 1770, Glasgow had become the largest linen manufacturer in Britain – but tastes had changed and there was a move to cotton cloth. After 1850 spinning declined in importance but power-loom weaving of fancy muslins and high-quality shirtings continued to expand up to the First World War.[2] A number of the inhabitants of Havannah Street in the 1851 Scotland census are employed in the textile industries – muslin weaver, shawl fringer, stream loom weaver and muslin clipper.[3]

No suitable baptismal registration has been found for Stewart but her age at conviction and death gives a birth year of 1835. At the time of her conviction Stewart was 15 years old and a flax worker, but she had also worked as a country servant and nurse maid.[4]

A Journey of Ten Thousand Miles continues...


Providence, 1821

By Helen Ménard


This is the story of Nell and her second husband Pryce Pritchard, a property owner and farmer, living at the Black Brush, a rural area about 40 kilometres north of Hobart. They spent twenty years together but, despite living an apparently quiet life, all was not peace and harmony behind the scenes. Pryce struggled with physical and mental battles that arose from injuries sustained during service as a Royal Marine ‘in all parts of the globe’.[1]

Nell Daverron was born in Limerick, Ireland most likely between 1780-1784[2] and, at some stage, moved to England. She was married to Richard Glynn (Gwynne) who lived in ‘the Boro’,[3] but it is unknown whether they met and married in Ireland or England nor is there any record of whether they had any children. There are no birth or marriage records for Nell in Ireland,[4] nor do there appear to be any marriage records in England.[5] In fact, there is little information about Nell’s life up until her first recorded meeting with the law in England when she was about 40 years old.

Read more of Nell Daverron's story

Janet Johnston

Hector, 1835

By Helen Ménard

(Postscript added 21/04/2023)


Sadly, Janet’s story is a short one. The window into her life is miniscule – it barely covers eight years. We don’t know when she was born; anything about her family; where she went after she served her sentence; whether she ever married or had children; or where she died. What sets Janet’s story apart from many others is that she was probably only 12 years old when she was sentenced to be transported half a world away to a developing and often brutal colony. Of the 13,500 female convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) from 1803 to 1853,[1] roughly 190 were 15 or younger – 1.4 percent; and approximately 39 were 13 or younger – 0.3 percent.[2]

Although Janet had prior convictions for theft, she was hardly old enough to be a seasoned criminal and, like many of her contemporaries growing up in Glasgow during the industrial revolution, survival was undoubtedly her primary driving instinct. 

Read more …


Catherine Barry
(St Vincent, 1850)
 By Helen Ménard



In the years from 1803 to 1853 almost 13,500 female convicts were transported from Britain and its colonies to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) and were assigned to work all across the main island of Tasmania. Records suggest only about seven convict women were ever sent to the Furneaux Group of islands (part of Tasmania) that lie in the Bass Strait above the northeast tip of Tasmania - most for very short periods of time.[1] Only one of those women made the islands her permanent home where she married, raised a family and became a respected member of the community until she met her untimely and unfortunate death – she was Catherine Barry. In fact, Catherine was one of the first three European women to live permanently in the Furneaux Group.[2]

Catherine was born in Bristol, England between 1827 and 1829 of mother Ellen and father David Barry. She had at least two siblings – brothers John and Daniel.[3] Catherine grew up in the middle of the industrial revolution in Britain where, despite the expanding wealth of the country domestically and internationally, the urban areas that were home to millions were overcrowded, disease ridden and unsanitary slums.[4] Bristol is a city in southwest England, situated between Somerset and Gloucestershire on the tidal river Avon. It has been among the country's largest and most economically and culturally important cities for eight centuries. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the construction of a floating harbour, advances in shipbuilding and further industrialisation with the growth of the glass, paper, soap and chemical industries.[5]

Read more of Catherine Barry's story


Mary DEVEREUX (The Younger)

(Mary, 1831)

by Helen Ménard


When Mary Devereux (the younger) was sentenced to death with her mother Mary Devereux (the elder) - both later commuted to transportation for life - she was only 18 years old and had no recorded criminal history. One might have thought that having escaped the gallows at such a young age she might have opted for a quieter life. Not so! Mary took on the penal system in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) with all its rules and regulations with gusto. Over a twenty year period, after which she was finally granted a conditional pardon, she was charged with no less than forty three conduct offences resulting in almost eight years of incarceration.[1] Most offences involved serious abuse of alcohol, absenteeism and misconduct while in detention. She even featured in the official ‘Inquiry into Female Convict Prison Discipline’ for dancing naked and other obscene behaviour![2] Marriage failed to temper the darkness in her soul - in the first five years of her marriage to John Wagg she spent almost a year in and out of the Cascades Female Factory.[3] Nor did Mary ever manage to tame the ‘demon drink’. Eventually, she ended up in a de facto relationship with Edward King with whom she ‘frequently quarrelled’[4] and who was ultimately convicted of taking her life – she was only 45.

Read more on Mary Devereux (the younger) here (.pdf)

[1] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/3 p67 DI 73; CON32/1/4 p299 DI 149; CON32/1/2 p131 DI 67

[2] The Transcript of Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Female Convict Prison Discipline (1841-1843) is of the contents of file CSO/22/1/50 held at the Archives (TAHO) in the State Library of Tasmania, labelled Colonial Secretary, Franklin period. Report No. 5 March 24th, 1842 pages 274-76

[3] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/3 p67 DI 73; CON32/1/4 p299 DI 149; CON32/1/2 p131 DI 67

[4] TROVE: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860-1954) Thu 31 Mar 1864, p2, ADJOURNED INQUEST ON THE BODY OF MARY DEVEREUX



Second chance: Elizabeth McBride (1819-1897)

(Elizabeth and Henry 1847)

C.J. Eddington

Elizabeth McBride was born as Elisabeth Campbell McBride to John McBryde and his wife, Mary McKinnon, on 19 August 1819 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. Elizabeth had two older brothers, Peter, born in 1804, and John, in 1813, and a sister, Catherine, born in 1816. Greenock at this time was a centre of shipping and ship building. Elizabeth, as her name was recorded in Van Diemen’s Land, was the only one of her siblings to have a middle name – a fact which made possible researching her life and finding documents referring to her. But even so, nothing of Elizabeth McBride’s Scottish life was discovered until 1840, when she was 21, when she married David Urquhart in her local parish church of Greenock Old or West.[1] David was a mariner and oral family history suggests that Elizabeth’s family was also involved in this business.

Read more …


(Providence II, 1826)


Don Bradmore and Jan Humphreys


This is the story of Margaret Norman [Providence 11 (2), 1826]. She was a wilful, rebellious young woman of 18 when she arrived in Van Diemen's Land. She was possibly one of the last women to have had to endure the humiliating stocks. She was once held at George Town for some months as an accessory to the murder of a police constable on duty there.  However, like most of the women, she managed to find some inner peace as she matured, married and had children.  She died in Victoria at the age of 77 in 1886.

This is Margaret Norman's story...


(Mexborough, 1841)


Don Bradmore

Catherine Jane Downey was convicted of theft in Ireland in January 1841 and sentenced to transportation for seven years. Twenty-four years old and unmarried, she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) with a four-month-old son aboard Mexborough in December that year.[1]  Thirty-two years later she was still a prisoner. During that time, she married and gave birth to at least two more children. A difficult prisoner for the convict authorities to manage, she was charged with new offences frequently and spent many months in prison. On three occasions her original sentence of transportation of seven years was extended – twice by twelve months and, on the third occasion, to penal servitude for life. Her last recorded gaol term was in November 1857 but what happened to her after that is unclear. A note in her convict documents reveals that, in 1873, the remainder of her life sentence was remitted and she was granted a free pardon. She was then about fifty-six. There is evidence that she was a pauper at that time and living on a charitable allowance from the Government. What eventually became of her remains a mystery.

This is Catherine’s story:

Mary Ann Grayson

(Edward 1834)

By Rae Blair

When twenty-three year old widow, Mary Ann Grayson, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land, she’d already shown a propensity to be difficult and this didn’t change when she arrived. She was transported from England for seven years after being found guilty of stealing twenty-one shillings and sixpence. An English northerner and farm servant by trade, Mary Ann’s time as a convict was characterised by her stubborn resistance to toeing the line, despite the many harsh punishments she received. She married fellow convict, Charles Bartam, which had a profound impact on both of their lives. Mary Ann became one of Tasmania’s most well-known and celebrated hoteliers, amassing assets that would become the centre of a bitter court battle. Mary Ann’s story is told over Three Acts.

Act I: in which Mary Ann’s life changes for ever—windowed farm servant, turned convict. Rebellious, punished, social.

Act II: in which Mary Ann builds the life she’s wanted—respected businesswoman, landlord, unparalleled hotelier.

Act III: in which we witness the epic battle for her assets.

This is her story. (.pdf)


Older Stories

Please note:  There may be links in the stories below for conduct record, indent and description list  which will take you to the Archives Office of Tasmania website.


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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 online [date].

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




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