Sunday, 18 February 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 7 - Valentine

Valentines's Day (14 February) is celebrated by many as a time for Love and Romance. It is thought to have dated back to Roman times as a festival - Lupercalia - which celebrated the coming of Spring. Since the fourteenth century it has been celebrated as Valentine's Day in many countries.

When my convict ancestors arrived in Australia I suspect the main emphasis on their lives was the need to survive. Sydney was first and foremost a convict settlement which had to be established in an environment that appeared alien to those who had previously lived in England and Ireland. Over time the convicts [later emancipists] had the opportunity to acquire small parcels of land on which to grow food essential for the survival of themselves and the settlement in general.

The first marriages occurred in the new colony on 17 February 1788, only a few weeks after the arrival of the convicts. The Reverend Johnson, a Church of England minister, officiated. However men greatly outnumbered women in the new settlement.

Seven hundred and seventy-eight male convicts arrived in the First Fleet (January 1778) along with one hundred and ninety-two female convicts. However when the Lady Juliana arrived in the colony in June 1790, another 226 women joined the Sydney Cove population. Seventy-eight female convicts arrived aboard the Neptune later in the month.

The proportion of male convicts compared with female convicts in the colony was still high but the new arrivals provided a window of opportunity for First Fleet convicts to find partners.

In my family, William Roberts (1756-1820) and George Guest (1765-1841) were sent to Australia on First Fleet ships. Then, in 1790,  Mary Bateman (1773-1829) arrived on the Lady Juliana followed by Kezia Brown (1771-1854) aboard the Neptune. Eventually George and Mary married on Norfolk Island on 5 November 1791 while William and Kezia were married in Sydney on 17 August 1793.

George Guest (24) arrived at Norfolk Island in January 1790 and Mary Bateman (17) arrived there in August. On 5 November 1791 they were married when Rev Johnson briefly visited the island. He married up to 100 couples during his short stay. As Mary and George's daughter, Sarah, was born on 1 May 1792 they, like most of the others married at this time, would have been living together before the clergyman made his first visit to to Norfolk Island. Rev Johnson also performed many baptisms.

William Roberts was 22 when he married 21 year old Mary Russell (1757-1802) at Helston, Cornwell, England on 1 July 1778.They had three children, Mary, William and Richard. However the family's life dramatically changed when William was arrested for stealing a quantity of yarn and sentenced to seven years transportation in August 1786. The following year he was on his way to Sydney Cove aboard the Scarborough. As we have seen, Kezia arrived in the colony in June 1790. William and Kezia's first child was born in 1791 so it would appear that they had formed a relationship shortly after Kezia's arrival in the colony. However, because William had a wife and family back in England, William had to wait seven years from the time of his sentence until he could remarry. Consequently William (now 37) and Kezia (22) were married in Sydney on 14 August 1793. Together they had ten children.

On October 18 1813 William and Kezia's eldest daughter, Mary Roberts (1793-1863) married Richard Holland (1783-1867). Twelve days later their first son, William, was born. Richard, aged 23,  had been arrested in 1806 for stealing a parcel from a delivery van in the middle of the day. When transported to Australia he left a wife behind in England. Richard, now 30, therefore also had to wait seven years before marrying 20 year old Mary. They had nine children.

The Church of England was the official religion of the early settlement at Sydney Cove. However not all convicts transported to Sydney were members of the Church of England. This may have affected decisions regarding marriage for some of the convicts.

John Pendergast (1769-1833), a Catholic, was transported to Sydney Cove in 1799 arriving in January 1800. It is believed that he married another convict, Catherine, and they had a son, also John, born in 1801. Catherine also died in 1801. Records show that Jane Williams (1775-1838) was assigned to John Pendergast shortly after her arrival in the colony in 1801. There are no records showing that John and Jane married, however they had five children, the first born in 1803. John and Jane were both Catholics and although there was one Catholic priest in Australia in 1803 his permission to perform marriages was withdrawn shortly after his arrival. The next Catholic priests arrived in Australia in 1820.

Uriah Moses (1780-1847) was transported to Sydney Cove arriving in November 1800. He eventually settled in Windsor where he ran a bakery, along with other businesses. Uriah was 20 when he arrived in Australia but he did not marry until he was 50 years old. Uriah was a Jew but on 9 March, 1830 he married Ann Daley (1809-1880) at St Matthews' Church of England. Ann was the 20 year old daughter of convicts, Charles Daley (1775-1831) and Susannah Alderson (1780-1854).  Uriah and Ann had nine children, their eldest son arriving three months after they married. Twenty-two years after Uriah's death Ann married James Powell.

It was not unusual for the convicts to have married more than once in the colony as we have already seen with John Pendergast. Charles Daley arrived in Australia in 1793 and three years later he married another convict, Ann Lockett. Ann died ten years later in 1806. They had no children. On 27  August 1810 Charles married Susannah Alderson who had arrived in Australia with her son in November 1808. Susannah had been charged with perjury after she accused the schoolmaster she worked for of being the father of her child. Charles and Susannah had five children.

Mary Hyde (1779-1864) arrived in Sydney in July 1798. She lived with a ship's officer (John Black) when he was not at sea. They had two children. Captain Black's ship disappeared at sea in May 1802 and was officially declared missing in February 1803. By 1805 Mary was in a new relationship with Simeon Lord (1771-1840) and their first child was born in 1806. By the time they married on 27 October 1814 they had five children. Another five were born after their marriage. Simeon adopted the two children that Mary had with Captain Black plus another girl whose parents had died. 

So looking at this small sample what factors contributed to the need / ability to form a relationship / marry once in the  new colony? 

Forming a relationship, whether it resulted in marriage or not, could provide a form of protection for the female convicts, especially in a male dominated society. However for convicts who had been married in England it was necessary to wait seven years before they could legally marry again, though there was nothing to stop them forming a new relationship and new family in the meantime. For some couples there was no hurry to marry anyway or to marry at all. Religious beliefs that differed from the established Church of England could also influence or delay decisions. Most of the couples, with the possible exception of Mary and George Guest, appear to have built a comfortable new life with their partner and family in their new land, so hopefully there was some romance as well as practicality in the arrangements.


  1. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    thank you, Chris
    Always interested in reading more about convicts...I have a small collection of them also.

  2. Thank you for promoting my blog, Chris.