Offenders, paupers and pioneers
Convict women and their families in pre-Separation Queensland

New South Wales and Moreton Bay convict records for the post-1839 era have proved extremely useful in identifying convict and ex-convict women present at Moreton Bay following the closure of the penal settlement. One woman identified through these convict records is Jane Appleyard from York who arrived in Sydney on the vessel Mary in 1835. In 1837, Appleyard was reported as a runaway from her assigned employer in Sydney. Sent to the Parramatta Female Factory, she had a baby boy Thomas, but he only lived for five months. Three years later, in August 1840 Appleyard re-entered the Female Factory to serve a twelve-month sentence with hard labour, including three weeks in solitary confinement, for forgery. In June 1841, near the end of her sentence, Appleyard’s one-year-old daughter, Rose, died at the Factory and was buried at Parramatta. She was then sent to Moreton Bay as assigned servant to Andrew Petrie, the foreman of works, most likely in the second half of 1841. However, the first evidence of Jane Appleyard’s presence at Moreton Bay occurred when she appears in the Moreton Bay Book of Trials charged with being drunk and disorderly at Petrie’s house on 28 February 1842 — just over two weeks after the district opened to free settlement. She was returned to Parramatta to serve another two months’ imprisonment at the Female Factory.

The following year Appleyard earned her certificate of freedom and in 1848 the 32-year-old former convict married ticket-of-leave holder John Kay, who had been transported on the John Barry, at Tullubi, near Wellington in New South Wales. Jane Kay (née Appleyard) died in 1876 aged 60 years, while her husband John Kay died in 1880 aged 66 years. Both are buried at Spring Hill (located between Orange and Blayney), New South Wales. Descendant Barry Lance and his wife Lorraine have spent many years researching Appleyard’s life story in England and Australia. Through visiting the archives and other sites in Yorkshire, they discovered that Appleyard, an illegitimate child, was educated at the Grey Coat School, a charitable institution in York which prepared orphaned girls for domestic service. In 1834, Appleyard, aged 18, was arrested for stealing a tobacco box containing two £5 notes. As she had previously served time in gaol, she was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Despite Appleyard’s difficult start in life as an orphan, her transportation and the deaths of two children at the Parramatta Female Factory, as well as her banishment to Moreton Bay in 1841, she persevered, married the ex-convict John Kay, and raised a family of four children in rural New South Wales. There are now a large number of descendants who are proud of their convict heritage, in particular Jane Appleyard’s association with Moreton Bay and her strength and fortitude in surviving her convict experiences.[1]

Jane Kay (née Appleyard), died 1876, and John Kay, died 1880, both buried in New South Wales. Copy held by Barry Lance, descendant, reproduced with permission.


Female convicts have also been located via tickets of leave and registers of convict applications to marry held by New South Wales State Archives. Only one convict woman present at Moreton Bay after 1839 received both. Mary Langley was tried at London’s Old Bailey in March 1840 for ‘feloniously making, on the 12th of February, 3 pieces of counterfeit coin … intended to resemble and pass for 3 of the Queen’s current coin, called sixpences’.[2] Sentenced to ten years’ transportation, the 34-year-old Langley arrived in Sydney on the Surrey in July 1840. In September 1845, she obtained a ticket of leave for Moreton Bay. Just six weeks later, aged 39, she applied to marry ticket-of-leave man Henry Skinner, aged 51, a convict per Lady Kennaway. They were married by banns in Brisbane on 19 December 1845.

Henry Skinner arrived in Moreton Bay in October 1839 as part of a group of convicts sent north to maintain the penal station buildings, crops and herds during the wind-down period. He chose to remain and was granted a ticket of leave for Moreton Bay in April 1842, so was already in Queensland when Mary Langley was granted her ticket in 1845. The Skinners had one son, Thomas, born in Brisbane in 1850. Henry died in September 1864 aged about 70. His estate consisted of cattle, stock-in-trade, an allotment at the corner of George and Turbot Streets (on which there was a cottage, a smithy and the Western Railway Hotel), a paddock at Milton, land at Enoggera and a residence at Milton, so clearly the emancipist couple had done well during their years in Queensland. Mary Skinner (née Langley) died in 1878 aged 72 years and was buried at Toowong Cemetery. Unfortunately, however, unlike the celebrated burial site of Dr Kevin Izod O’Doherty, Mary Skinner’s headstone has long since disappeared and only dirt and dust remain.

Gravesite of Mary Skinner (née Langley), died 1878, Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane. Photographed by Jan Richardson, 2020.


[1] Barry and Lorraine Lance, ‘The life of Jane Appleyard 1816-1876’, unpublished manuscript, 25 Sep 2017.

[2] Trial of Winifred Dwyer, Mary Langley and Ann Styles, 2 Mar 1840, Ref. No. t18400302-818, Old Bailey Proceedings Online,, accessed 3 Oct 2021.