Saturday, 8 March 2014

52 Ancestors #11 John Pendergast

John Pendergast was born in Dublin about 1769. On the convict indent his occupation, when he was arrested, was listed as a labourer. 1798 was a time of political unrest in Ireland culminating with the Irish Rebellion in May 1798. The Society of United Irishmen was founded in 1791 with the aim of uniting Irishmen of all religions against the British who ruled Ireland. To complicate the situation France was at war with Britain from February 1793 and many of the United Irishmen appeared to support the French. The United Irishmen was forced to become an underground movement in 1794. In December 1796 the French plan to invade Britain via Ireland came to naught, primarily because of poor weather conditions. The British in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, became even more determined to infiltrate and remove the threat of the United Irishmen. By the Spring of 1798 many of the leaders and their supporters were in gaol. The main uprising was planned for the end of May but although rebellion did occur in some areas Dublin remained relatively quiet.

John Pendergast was obviously one of the many supporters, and probably a member, of the United Irishmen and was arrested for participating in one of the preliminary skirmishes. In Dublin in February1799 he was tried as a rebel and convicted to seven years transportation to New South Wales. Between 1800 and 1806 eight ships carried rebels from the Irish Rebellion to New South Wales. John left Cork on 24 August aboard the convict ship, Minerva. One hundred and sixty-five male convicts and twenty-six female convicts were aboard the ship. The Minerva arrived at Port Jackson on 11 January 1800.

Later that year John married a convict named Catherine. Nothing further is known about her and she possibly died shortly after giving birth to their son John, in 1801. Convict records show that in 1806 Jane Williams was housekeeper for John Pendergast and was possibly the carer of his son. John and Jane must have been living together long before that as by 1806 they a son James (born in 1803) and another son, Thomas (born 25 February 1805). Their daughter, Sarah Jane was born in 1806. They had another two children, William (born 1808) and Bridget (born 1810).

No record has been found for the marriage of John and Jane. Not all marriages were recorded and sometimes early records are missing. It is also possible that there may not have married. John was a Catholic and although many of the convicts in the colony were Catholic the first Catholic priest did not arrive until three arrived with other Irish rebels in 1800. One of the priests was granted permission to hold services in 1803 but this permission was withdrawn the following year. It was not until 1820 when two Catholic priests were allowed to travel to Australia and the foundation of St Mary's Cathedral were laid in Sydney that Catholic church services were officially allowed. Until that time Catholics were expected to attend Anglican services.

Meanwhile John was receiving small grants of land, initially in the Hawkesbury area, and establishing himself as a landholder and farmer. However, although the land was fertile, farming in the area was not always easy especially in years such as 1806 when the Hawkesbury River flooded three times.  However John pressed on and, possibly in 1808, purchased Adlams Farm, 80 acres of property on Upper Half Moon Reach on the Hawkesbury River. The land was used for growing maize and wheat and for livestock included cattle and pigs. On 12 September 1812 John was allowed to obtain cattle from Government Stores at Seven Hills. On 20 June 1816 John was granted 30 acres of land in the Airds district near Campbelltown and on 9 December 1820 received another grant of land in the Hawkesbury district. As his land holdings grew additional convicts were assigned to work on his land.
Pendergast graves at St Matthew's Catholic Church, Windsor
In 1831 the first Catholic services were held in Windsor and St Matthew's Catholic Church was built in 1832. John and his family had supported the development of the Catholic Church in the colony and in 1838 his son, James, donated a block of land in the Lower Portland area (near junction of Colo and Hawkesbury rivers) for the building of a school, but it may have been used as a chapel in 1840. The building was probably destroyed by the 1867 floods. There was also a small Catholic cemetery on James' property. When John Pendergast died on 27 January 1833 his was one of the first burials in new cemetery at St Matthew's Catholic Church on 29 January.
St Matthew's Catholoc Church, Windsor built 1832
 John Pendergast did not leave a will but he had already distributed much of his property to his sons. In 1827 he gave James two properties on the Hawkesbury and in December 1832 he gave properties to John and William and to his grandson, John (son of Thomas). Thomas already had properties in the Monaro district.

John was my great (x3) grandfather.


  1. Hello - My name is Linda and I am wondering if you have any records of an Ella Matilda Pendergast? She was my Great Grandmother. I have done the DNA test through which has linked me numerous times back to John Pendergast born 1769, Dublin Ireland. Ella's death record states she was born in 1895 and she has connections in both Hawkesbury (NSW) and Omeo (Vic) regions. On the death record, her father is listed as Pendergast (1st name not listed). Ella died in 1981 Corryong (Vic). Any information would be greatly appreciated - My email address is ljrobertson0@gmail.

  2. I was also wondering if you have information on who was the parents of John Pendergast. He is my 5th great grand father on the line of Bridget. Thanks. Email is