In the not too distant past it was considered somewhat shameful to admit to having a convict
ancestor. Such things were seldom spoken about even within one's own family. In the course
of my research I uncovered several convicts, none of whom had been previously known to my
family or my husband's family.
These days a convict in the family is something to celebrate. Many of these unfortunates rose
above their humble beginnings to carve out a new life for themselves under harsh and trying
conditions. They weren't all saints, let's not fool ourselves. But many were convicted of crimes
that today would warrant no more than a few hours community service. Follow the links to
read the full account of each convict.
Ann Carey: My earliest convict ancestor was sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing
two handkerchiefs. It's the iconic crime, alongside stealing a loaf of bread, however if you read
the transcripts Ann was originally charged with stealing several items of clothing as well. Ann
arrived with the second fleet aboard the Neptune, that infamous convict ship that holds the
record for the highest loss of convict lives.
Ann/Hannah Williams: was born about 1773 in Carmarthen, Wales. She was convicted of
theft at Carmarthen on 14th August 1800 and sentenced to seven years transportation. Ann
could not write. She arrived in Australia aboard the Nile on 12th December 1801. In March
1805 she travelled to Tasmania in the role of ladies maid to Eliza Paterson, wife of Lieutenant
Colonel Paterson, probably aboard the 'Buffalo' or the 'Lady Nelson'
William Smith: What every researcher dreads....the SMITH name! William, aged 22, had only
been married for three months when he was convicted of stealing three lambs. His received the
death sentence, perhaps because he was a shepherd. His sentence was commuted to
transportation for life and he never saw his wife again. He arrived in Hobart aboard the
'Bengal Merchant' in 1828. Ten years later he married for a second time although his first wife
was still living in England. Such marriages were not unusual and were generally conducted
'provided the clergyman was satisfied the first wife was dead' At a time when many people
could not read or write, contact with family at home was difficult to maintain. Often it was
accepted that if a spouse had not been heard from for seven years then it was safe to assume
them dead and to remarry. This applied to spouses left in England as well.
William Hughes Originally thought to be one of my husband's ancestors, I have since
discovered that William is actually a 'step ancestor'. From Stamford Lincolnshire, his family
moved to London and it was here in 1831 as an 18 year old, William was convicted of
pickpocketing [a handkerchief!] and sentenced to life in the colonies. It was his first offence.
He arrived in NSW aboard the Portland in February 1832.
Frederick Pointon: One of my husband's ancestors, Frederick is probably the only one of our
convict ancestors who could be considered a true criminal. Frederick, two of his brothers and a
cousin were constantly before the courts for a variety of offences ranging from theft to assault.
One brother was charged with murder but was acquitted. Frederick and brother Henry were
transported from England aboard the Sarah 2 which sailed from Spithead on 22nd December
Ellen Donovan: Ellen at the tender age of 18 was sentenced to 7 years transportation for
uttering base coin. This was her third offence. She had three known aliases, possibly more.
Until her marriage to William Smith [above] in 1838, Ellen was constantly in trouble with her
Henry Batterson: Henry is actually a step ancestor. He married Hannah Waite, widow of Peter
Hickson about six months after his death by drowning. Henry became the step father of Peter
jnr, who was born about six weeks after his father's death. Of all my convict ancestors, Henry
seems to have been the most cunning. He had a nice little scam going before he was caught. A
newspaper of the day described him as 'a respectable looking young man'. Transported in
1839 per Barossa/Barrosa.
Patrick Callan/Callen: From my husband's side, Patrick was born about 1795 in County
Armagh, Ireland. He was a blacksmith and farrier. Patrick Callen [sic] was tried at Market Hill,
County Armagh for stealing fowl. He was convicted on 10th April, 1840 sentenced to 7 years
Louisa Wright: Louisa had at least one criminal conviction before being sentenced to
transportation, indeed the 1841 census reveals she was in prison with older sister Martha. On
the 13th June 1842 Louisa was once again convicted of larceny in the Central Criminal Court
for stealing a watch and on suspicion of stealing clothes. She was sentenced to 7 years
imprisonment and transported to Tasmania aboard the Garland Grove 2.
Esther Byrne: Another step convict, from my husband's side. Esther was charged with 'child
stealing' and street robbery. She and another woman lured a 7 year old child into an alley way
and stole his clothes. Esther was a 23 year old widow with a child when she was convicted and
sentenced to 7 years transportation. She went married twice more in NSW, both to ex-convicts.
Her story is an interesting one and she lead a colourful life right up until her death.