Building on her recent MPhil thesis on female convicts in free settlement Queensland, historian Jan Richardson has created a database of female convicts and ex-convicts, their husbands, partners and children who came to Queensland after the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1839. Her project brings to light unknown and missing stories, photographs and burial places of female convicts and their families in pre-Separation Queensland.

Funeral card of Caroline Schofield (née Haines), transported on the Buffalo (1833), died 1907 in Roma. Copy held by Barbara Baker, descendant, reproduced with permission.



Jan Richardson, a Visiting Fellow with the HGRC in 2020-2021, holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne, and a Graduate Diploma of Local, Family and Applied History and a Master of Philosophy from the  University of New England. For the past ten years her research has focused on female convicts and ex-convicts present in Queensland during the free settlement era. Jan is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities, Law and Social Sciences at Griffith University researching the presence of non-Indigenous ethnic minorities in Queensland prior to 1860. She is also a Research Assistant at the Harry Gentle Resource Centre.

The female convict that Queenslanders are most likely to have heard of is Hannah Rigby — one of only three women to have been transported to Moreton Bay twice, as well as the only woman to remain in the district when her sentence expired. Hannah was born in Liverpool, England in about 1794 and arrived in Sydney on the Lord Sidmouth in 1823. Through Dr Jennifer Harrison’s research on the 144 female convicts who served colonial sentences at the Moreton Bay penal settlement we know that Hannah had a child with colonial clerk Robert Crawford, whom she named Robert Frederick Rigby.[1] Six months later, in January 1824, she married the convict George Page in Parramatta. He was transported to Moreton Bay in 1826 for stealing fabric from a docked ship, leaving Hannah by herself with a young son. However, the 1828 New South Wales census showed that Hannah was living at Newcastle and had given birth to another son, Samuel Rigby. In 1830 she was transported to Moreton Bay, where her husband George Page was still serving his sentence, for stealing thirty yards of ribbon. A third son, James Rigby, was born at the penal settlement in September 1832 but, as demonstrated by Harrison’s meticulous research, his father was not George Page but the boat pilot at Stradbroke Island, James Hexton, a free arrival in the Australian colonies.

Hannah was returned to Sydney at the expiration of her sentence in February 1837, leaving her five-year-old son James Rigby behind. She then stole two hats and was transported back to Moreton Bay in October 1837 to serve a second colonial sentence. When the penal settlement closed in May 1839, Hannah was one of five female convicts chosen to remain as assigned servants during what has become known as the ‘wind-down’ period between 1839 and 1842. She was employed in the service of Dr Ballow, the Colonial Assistant Surgeon, who recommended her for a certificate of freedom in July 1840. Ten years later, in 1850, Dr Ballow died from typhus contracted from passengers on board the Emigrant, one of the first ships to bring free settlers directly to Moreton Bay. Further tragedy struck when the father of Hannah’s youngest son, the boat pilot James Hexton, drowned after his vessel capsized in rough seas on his way back from Cape Horn in April 1851. It is also possible, though not confirmed, that her middle son, Samuel Rigby, died in the Brisbane Hospital in February 1853 aged in his twenties.

Hannah died in Brisbane in October 1853, leaving her youngest son, 21-year-old Jimmy Hexton, orphaned. According to the Moreton Bay Courier, she died in her home, described as a ‘hut’ near Queen Street, after attending a neighbour’s wedding, and was buried at St John’s graveyard.[2] However, the original St John’s Church was not on the site of the current St John’s Cathedral on Ann Street, nor its predecessor on William Street. Rather, Hannah was buried at the site of the original St John’s Church on the western side of Queen Street, near the corner of George Street. During the penal era, this was the site of a lumber yard and convict workshop. In 1842, the Church of England converted the workshop into Brisbane’s first, and very humble, St John’s Church. From 1854 the building was used as a school and lecture hall before being demolished in 1902. The Treasury Hotel and Casino is now located on the site. As for most convict women transported to Australia, there are no photographs or portraits of Hannah Rigby. However, a photograph of James ‘Jimmy’ Hexton, her youngest son, was published by the Brisbane Courier in 1914 on the occasion of his death at the age of 81, under the title  ‘The oldest white native’.[3]

[1] Jennifer Harrison, Shackled: Female Convicts at Moreton Bay 1826-1839, Melbourne, Anchor Books, 2016; Jennifer Harrison, ‘Rigby, Hannah (1794-1853)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 2005, (unpaginated),

[2] ‘Sudden death’, Moreton Bay Courier, 15 Oct 1853, p. 2.

[3] ‘The oldest white native’, Brisbane Courier, 18 Feb 1914, p. 22.

Note: Archival, other primary source references, and online databases used throughout this paper appear in the References list at the end.

The Moreton Bay district was opened to free settlement on 9 February 1842. At that time, the non-Indigenous population was probably only 200 men, women and children as a year prior, in March 1841, the New South Wales census recorded 133 convicts and 67 free persons, including children, at Moreton Bay (not including squatters on the Darling Downs who were included in the New England census).[1] By 1851, the census of the ‘Northern Districts’ of — encompassing Brisbane, Ipswich and the wider Moreton Bay region — recorded about 4,500 adult males and 1,200 adult females aged 21 and over. Of these, 2,224 were convicts and ex-convicts who had remained at Moreton Bay in 1839 or travelled north from New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.

The 1851 census was the last to categorise residents as either ‘free’ or ‘bond’. Those who were ‘free’ were further categorised as ‘arrived free’, ‘born in the colony’ or ‘other free persons’. Those who were ‘bond’ were divided into ‘ticket-of-leave holders’, ‘in government service’ and ‘in private service’. Of those categorised as ‘bond’, there were 643 male ticket-of-leave holders and five male convicts still in government service. One female convict was a ticket-of-leave holder and another was still assigned to private service. In total, there were 650 convicts present in the Moreton Bay region in 1851 who were still serving their original sentence and were yet to receive a certificate of freedom or conditional pardon. In addition, of the categories of free residents, ‘other free persons’ were emancipated convicts who acquired their freedom after arriving in Australia. Adding the 650 convicts in the ‘bond’ category and 1,574 emancipists in the ‘other free persons’ category, there were 2,224 convicts and ex-convicts in Queensland, comprising a staggering 40 per cent of all adults. However, there was a huge gender imbalance with 2,117 male and only 107 female convicts and emancipists.[2]

Of the convict and emancipist women I have identified, many were accompanied to Queensland by their ex-convict husbands and children. Some women reoffended and were sent to gaol, some fell into poverty and were admitted to a benevolent institution as a pauper, while others appeared indistinguishable from their free settler counterparts, becoming part of Queensland’s ‘pioneer’ narrative. While their numbers are small, I contend that the contribution of these women to the transformation of Moreton Bay from a penal settlement in to a free colony has long been neglected. Indeed, the contribution of all convicts and ex-convicts to the establishment of Queensland has been overlooked, with the exception of a small number of male convicts who are famous for their escapes from the penal settlement or who became ‘successes’ during Moreton Bay’s free settlement era.

The Scottish convict James Davis, born in 1808, also known as ‘Durramboi’, was transported to Sydney on the ship Norfolk in 1825 and then to Moreton Bay in 1829. A celebrated runaway, he lived for 13 years in the bush with his Aboriginal family, finally surrendering himself to the authorities in 1842. He chose to stay in the district, where he worked as an Aboriginal interpreter, maintained contact with the son he had with his Aboriginal wife, and later married Bridget Hayes, who was charged with his manslaughter in 1889.[3] Another well-known convict identity is Thomas Dowse, born in 1809, who was transported to New South Wales on the Florentia in 1828. Having served his convict sentence, he arrived in Brisbane as an emancipated convict in July 1842, just five months after the district was opened to free settlement. Dowse put his hand to many different roles over the years, including ferry owner, auctioneer, correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Moreton Bay Courier, and Brisbane town clerk. Other well-known male convicts include the politicians William Henry Groom and Patrick O’Sullivan, landholder Edward Mott, and Irish political prisoner and medical doctor, Kevin Izod O’Doherty. They are mentioned in multiple articles and books, we have many of their portraits and photographs, and we know where they are buried.[4]

James Davis per Norfolk (1825), The Queenslander, 19 March 1892, p. 555.


Thomas Dowse per Florentia (1828), 1862, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Negative No. 63310.


Memorial to Irish convict exile Dr Kevin Izod O’Doherty at the Toowong Cemetery. Photographed by Jan Richardson, 2015.


Three of the ten convicts featured on the ‘Convict Queenslanders’ page on the State Library of Queensland website. See [4] below.


[1] New South Wales Government Gazette (NSWGG), No. 71, 31 Aug 1841, Supplement, p. 1172f; Mamie O’Keeffe, Convicts at Moreton Bay, 1824-1859, Brisbane, Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 2001, pp. 25-26.

[2] NSWGG, No. 128, 7 Nov 1851, Supplement, p. 1803; O’Keeffe, Convicts at Moreton Bay, pp. 28-31.

[3] ‘Charge of manslaughter’, Brisbane Courier, 7 Jun 1889, p. 2; and, ‘Charge of manslaughter. Death of “Durramboi”’, Brisbane Courier, 22 Jun 1889, p. 3.

[4] ‘Convict Queenslanders’, State Library of Queensland (SLQ), n.d.,, accessed 1 Sep 2021.

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.

Early gaol records have also proved to be a fruitful avenue of research. The first admissions register of the Brisbane Gaol covers the period from January 1850 to February 1864.[1] The fourteen years covered by the register encompasses the ten years that the gaol was located in the old Female Factory on Queen Street (now the site of the Brisbane GPO), as well as the first four years of the operation of the new Petrie Terrace gaol. The admissions register recorded each inmate’s ‘Ship’, ‘Year’, ‘Native Place’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Trade or Calling’. In addition, the ‘Condition’ of convicts and ex-convicts was described using terms including ‘Bond’, for those who arrived in the colony as convicts, ‘T. of L’ for ticket-of-leave holders, and ‘F. by S.’ for those who were free by servitude. In contrast, people counted as ‘Free’ were categorised as free arrivals in Australian, those born free in the colonies (including children of convicts) and those recorded under the deceptively-named ‘Other Free’ column who were, in fact, emancipated convicts who had completed their terms of servitude.

Female convict factory on the site of the present GPO, c. 1850, State Library Queensland.


Of the 4,500 gaol admissions between 1850 and 1864, only 446, or about ten per cent, were female. Of these, 375 female admissions were for free women. In the main, they had arrived on emigrant ships sailing to Sydney or directly to Moreton Bay in the 1840s, 1850s and early 1860s, but there were also a small number of women born free in Australia. The remaining 71 admissions relate to women described in the gaol register as bond, ticket of leave, or free by servitude. Alternatively, their entries provided enough details for me to be able to confirm that they were transported as a convict. Although there are 71 entries connected to women transported to Australia, they do not belong to 71 different women. Only 22 women were responsible for the 71 admissions. Seven women were repeat offenders, while 15 women served one sentence each. Two women, in particular, were repeat offenders. Mary Allen, who said she was transported on the Roslin Castle (1835), served 27 terms of imprisonment, and Agnes Ferguson, transported on the Whitby (1839), served 11 sentences. These two women accounted for 40 per cent of the 71 admissions of convict and ex-convict women between 1850 and 1864.

Sarah Adams, an English convict, was born about 1820 in the county of Somersetshire. At the age of 19 she was convicted of a felony and transported for ten years, arriving in Sydney on the Mary Anne (1839). In 1847 Sarah was granted a ticket of leave for Raymond Terrace, New South Wales. By November 1854 she was in Queensland where she married Thomas Taafe (or Taife), a well-known horse jockey in Queensland and New South Wales. A few months later Sarah was charged with stabbing Thomas at their house in Ipswich. It seems that a violent argument ensued after Thomas came home to find dinner not prepared. Sarah was imprisoned in the Brisbane Gaol until her trial and then, having been found guilty, was sent south to serve three years’ hard labour in the Parramatta Gaol. Sarah returned to Ipswich in 1858, but the following year a newspaper report suggested that her husband Thomas had met another woman and was living with her in Brisbane.[2] Unfortunately, the stories of both Thomas and Sarah come to an abrupt halt with their lives cut short at a young age. Thomas died in Ipswich in February 1861 aged about 28 of throat cancer, while Sarah died of ‘phthisis’ (most likely tuberculosis) five months later in July 1861. Sarah’s death certificate stated she was 25 years old but, based on her age at transportation, she was closer to 41. The death certificates of Thomas and Sarah both record that the couple had one living male child and one deceased male child but, sadly, neither son can be traced.

[1] Queensland State Archives (QSA),  Item ID ITM2917, Register of male and female prisoners admitted – HM Gaol, Brisbane, 3 Jan 1850 to 3 Feb 1864.

[2] ‘Monday, August 8th’, North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 9 Aug 1859, p. 3.

Like the convict and emancipist women who were incarcerated in the Brisbane Gaol between 1850 and 1864, those who ended their days as paupers at the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on Stradbroke Island are relatively easy to trace. In a small number of cases they were described in the asylum register as ‘bond’ but, in most cases, their former convict status was revealed through the recording of their ship and year of arrival which matched that of a ship known to have transported female convicts to Australia. In contrast to the gaol registers — which only recorded an inmate’s place of birth, along with their ship and year of arrival — the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum records provide a veritable treasure trove of additional information about female ex-convicts, including the names of their mother and father (thereby revealing maiden names) and their father’s occupation, along with details of each woman’s marriages, husbands, children, employment, travels around the colonies, and their health and financial situation.[1]

View of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum from the ocean, 1918, State Library of Queensland.


Unfortunately, the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was not a place that people would go to unless they were desperate, especially during the early years of its operation in the 1800s. Historian Raymond Evans described the asylum as the end of the road, a place of ‘last resort’.[2] Similarly, Joseph Goodall wrote that: ‘The asylum’s function was not to help the weak and crippled but to hide them.’[3] The food was completely inadequate and often rotten, there was no heating, and the wards were closed during the day, even during winter, so that inmates were forced outside where some were reported to have died from the cold. A doctor visited from the mainland but many ‘medicines’ available at the time were ineffective and, in any event, inmates were often dead by the time he got there. My research reveals that 19 female ex-convicts, and many more male ex-convicts, were residents of the asylum in mid- to late-1800s and early 1900s. Nearly all of these 19 women lie buried in unmarked graves, some with their ex-convict husbands, in unmarked paupers’ graves at the  Dunwich Cemetery.

Women’s quarters, Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, c. 1914, State Library of Queensland.


Susan Hill was transported to New South Wales for seven years on the Caroline (1833). Born in County Armagh, she was tried in Antrim for stealing clothes. The indent stated that Susan’s brother James Hill was transported four years earlier. In late 1833, Susan married Charles Hunt, a free arrival aged 36, in Hexham, Newcastle. The Hunts had one daughter, Adelaide Hunt, born in 1834. Susan’s second spouse was William Aldridge Reynolds, who arrived in Australia on the Waterloo (1824). Her daughter Adelaide Hunt was married in Ipswich in 1852 to Thomas Young using the name Adelaide Reynolds. However, it seems that William and Susan were still in New South Wales as their son Thomas Reynolds was born in 1858 in Chippendale, Sydney. The Reynolds family then moved to Queensland and lived at Canal Creek, near Leyburn on the Darling Downs. In 1859 Susan and William were both detained in the Brisbane Gaol. William was on trial for horse stealing, a charge of which he was acquitted, while Susan was convicted of threatening to burn down the Rose and Crown Inn. Then in 1861 Susan accused her husband of assault but the case was dismissed as neither appeared in court. Over the next few years she was also charged with minor offences including drunkenness and the use of threatening language. In December 1883, by which time they were both in failing health, William and Susan were sent to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on Stradbroke Island. William had ‘senile debility’ and Susan was recorded as suffering from paralysis (possibly the result of a stroke). William died at the benevolent asylum in 1884 and Susan, described as a ‘native of Country Antrim, Ireland’, died there in 1889. Both are buried in unmarked graves at the Dunwich Cemetery.

Margaret Hartigan, a 32-year-old Irish dairymaid, was tried at the Limerick Spring Assizes and transported for seven years for stealing blankets. She arrived in Sydney on the Minerva 6 in 1839. In 1845, Margaret was granted a ticket of leave for Liverpool, New South Wales. Ten years later, in 1855, she married Richard England, a convict per the Adrian (1829), in Ipswich, Queensland. England may have deliberately hidden his convict background as the indent of the Adrian records that he was married with three children. In July 1856, not long after marrying Margaret Hartigan, England was sent to gaol for six months after he attempted suicide, reportedly as the result of ‘[d]istress of the mind, caused by intemperance’, and failed to pay ‘sureties to be of good behaviour’.[4] The following week it was reported that Margaret had ‘no fixed place of residence’ and she was sent to gaol for two months for vagrancy.[5] It would appear that England had a mental condition which impacted negatively on his life, as well as causing difficulties for Margaret. However, it is not clear whether her subsequent alcoholism predated or was caused by her husband’s mental struggles. In 1866 when England was admitted to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, he told staff that he had ‘kept a general store in Ipswich but was ruined by my wife’s drinking’ and that Margaret had ‘burnt to death’. Indeed, Margaret’s death certificate confirms that she died in Warwick in September 1865 after suffering tetanus for six weeks caused by a ‘severe burn’. Richard England was discharged from the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum in 1868 and possibly died several years later in New South Wales.


[1] QSA, Item ID ITM9520, Register of personal details relating to females admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, c. 1 October 1859 to 28 June 1906.

[2] Raymond Evans, ‘Charitable institutions of the Queensland government to 1919’, published M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, 1970,, accessed 26 Mar 2020, p. 169.

[3] Joseph B. Goodall, ‘Whom nobody owns: The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, an institutional biography 1866-1946’, published Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, 1992,, accessed 3 Apr 2020, Abstract (unpaginated).

[4] ‘Ipswich – Attempted suicide’, Empire [Sydney], 1 Jul 1856, p. 3; ‘Local and domestic’, North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 8 Jul 1856, p. 3.

[5] ‘Local and domestic: Vagrancy’, North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 15 Jul 1856, p. 3.

Finally we come to the potentially largest group of convict and ex-convict women at Moreton Bay during the free settlement era — those who were not recorded in Moreton Bay’s early court, gaol or benevolent asylum registers and have therefore been the hardest to trace. In many cases they would be regarded as ‘success stories’ who were married and raised families, sometimes also working or running businesses. Some of their stories have been traced by local historians and academic researchers, while others have only come to light through genealogical research by descendants and convict researchers, such as those associated with the Female Convicts Research Centre in Hobart. Working backwards from marriage and death certificates, newspaper articles, family trees, and entries in family Bibles, today’s descendants have utilised the explosion in digital and online records to discover convict ancestors. In some cases, this has led to the unexpected discovery that a female ancestor who ‘emigrated’ to Australia or arrived in Queensland as a ‘free settler’ or ‘pioneer’ was, in fact, first transported to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land.

Jane Burnside, transported to New South Wales on the Margaret 3 (1840), and Joseph Ray per Bussorah Merchant (1828) were married at St John’s Church, Camden, New South Wales in 1843. Research by a descendant, Jan Bimrose, has established that by 1852 the couple and their young children were living in North Brisbane. The family moved to Kangaroo Point in 1854, then west of Brisbane to Drayton, back to Ipswich and later to Rockhampton where Joseph died in 1866. Jane Ray outlived her husband by 44 years, dying in Toowoomba in 1910 just two days short of her 97th birthday and having had eleven children, of whom three died young. Unfortunately, further information about Jane Burnside’s parents — Thomas Burnside, a tailor, and Jane Morrow — has been elusive and it seems likely that although Jane was born in Liverpool, her family was Irish and either returned to Ireland or moved elsewhere in England. However, descendant Jan Bimrose has had great success in uncovering the story of Jane’s husband, Joseph Ray, who was a highway robber and a member of the Birmingham Five. Joseph was sentenced to death for his crimes in 1827 but, while he was in Stafford Gaol awaiting his execution, the Marquis of Lansdown presented a petition to King George IV to extend the Royal Mercy to a group of 78 prisoners. Fortunately for Joseph, the petition was granted on condition that they all be transported to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land.[1]

The story of another Queensland female emancipist has been uncovered by academic researcher, Louise Westall Taylor, whose 2015 thesis featured the biography of Edward Collins, an ex-convict who settled on Queensland’s Darling Downs.[2] Collins, who was transported to Sydney on the Nithsdale (1830), was re-transported to Moreton Bay in 1835 for two years under a colonial sentence for assault. After his return to Sydney in 1837, Collins married the convict Margaret Lane who had arrived in Sydney on the ship Margaret (1837). The couple lived at Newcastle and Scone before Collins purchased land at Warwick in 1852 and commenced a cartage business. Ten years later, in 1863, Margaret Collins died in an horrific accident on a narrow and steep section of road about halfway between Ipswich and Warwick. The Toowoomba Chronicle reported that:

Mrs. Margaret Collins, an old resident of this town, met an untimely end whilst proceeding to Ipswich on a bullock dray, in company with a person named Lambert. On going down the range, on the other side of Burdoff’s, the wheel of the dray struck against a stone, and the unfortunate woman was precipitated on her head. She was taken up insensible, and never spoke afterwards.[3]

Margaret’s grave lies in the Main Range National Park at Spicers Gap where a sign records that she is one of up to thirteen ‘pioneers’ buried at the site. Another sign explains that the narrow section, or ‘pinch’, of road where Margaret died is known as ‘Mother Collins’ Pinch’. However, there is no mention of her convict past, nor that of her husband who served two years at the Moreton Bay penal settlement and returned 15 years later to live in the district.

Margaret Collins (née Lane), buried near the memorial cairn to 13 ‘unknown pioneers’ at the Main Range National Park, Spicers Gap. Photographed by Julia Murphy, 2020.


[1] Jan Bimrose (descendant of Joseph Ray and Jane Burnside), ‘Joseph and Jane Ray’, unpublished manuscript, Feb 2011, last updated 13 May 2011; Jan Bimrose to Jan Richardson, personal correspondence (email), 25 Nov 2019.

[2] Louise Westall Taylor, ‘Recovering lives: 15 convicts in New South Wales’, published Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 2015,, accessed 28 Sep 2018, pp. 160-164.

[3] ‘Fatal accident’, Toowoomba Chronicle and Queensland Advertiser, 29 Oct 1863, p. 2.

At least 13 female ex-convicts are known to have moved to Queensland after completing their convict sentences in Van Diemen’s Land. Of these, one of the best known is Sophia (or Keziah) Grantham, a bonnet maker, transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the Rajah in 1841. As revealed by Trudy Cowley and Dianna Snowden in their book, Patchwork Prisoners: The Rajah Quilt and the Women Who Made It, Sophia married John Tregilgus, a mariner, in Hobart in October 1845.[1] By 1855 they had moved to Queensland, settling at Taroom on the Dawson River, about 200 kilometres south of Rockhampton. The marriage was not a happy one and, unusually for the era, Sophia sought a magistrate’s order to enforce the separation, which was granted in September 1865.[2] As she had done for many years previously, Sophia continued to support herself by working in occupations considered suitable for women: as a midwife, boarding house manager, and hotelkeeper. In 1873 Sophia’s only surviving child, Ruth Eyles (née Tregilgus), died aged 27 from septicaemia following childbirth, leaving behind a husband and six children, including a newborn baby. Tragically, Sophia died only three weeks later aged just 52 and was buried at the Springsure Cemetery, to the west of Gladstone, under the name Keziah Tregilgus. The following year, John Tregilgus remarried but only lived another five years, dying in Rockhampton in 1879.


Headstone of Keziah Tregilgus (née Sophia Grantham), Springsure Cemetery. Photographed by Aileen Moore, Find a Grave website, posted 10 Sep 2018.


In contrast to Sophia’s small family, several of the Tasmanian women had eight or more children. Among them are Margaret Smith per Midlothian (1853) and Margaret Reardon per Maria II (1849), who had nine and ten children respectively. Margaret Smith, an Irish convict from Derry in Northern Ireland, married William Milward, a convict per Lady Kennaway (1851), at the Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph, Hobart in 1856. Their first two children were born in Tasmania and the remaining seven in Queensland, starting with Thomas Milward in January 1859. When Margaret Milward (née Smith) died at Spring Creek, Killarney in 1916 aged about 81, she had been living on the Darling Downs for about 58 years. Margaret Reardon was also Irish, but from Queen’s County, now known as County Laois. According to her death certificate, Margaret married Thomas Hinchcliffe in Brighton, Tasmania at the age of 17 years and William Jones in Hobart at the age of 29 years. She had four Hinchcliffe children with her first husband and six Jones children with her second. Margaret moved to Queensland when she was about 77 years old, arriving at Jandowae on the Darling Downs in about 1909 with the family of her daughter and son-in-law, Susan and James Sargent. Margaret Jones (née Reardon) died on 22 January 1915 at Glenbrook Farm, Jandowae aged 83 and is possibly the last female emancipist to have died in Queensland.


[1] Trudy Cowley and Dianne Snowden, Patchwork Prisoners: The Rajah Quilt and the Women Who Made It, Hobart, Research Tasmania, 2013.

[2] ‘Police Court – Rockhampton’, Rockhampton Bulletin, 4 Jan 1868, p. 2.

This Harry Gentle Resource Centre project, concentrating on convict and ex-convict women present in Moreton Bay following the closure of the penal settlement in 1839, has investigated the lives of 70 convict and emancipist women, along with those of their spouses and de facto partners (many of whom were also convicts and ex-convicts). In addition, these women are known to have borne approximately 220 children, though some had very large families of up to 16 children while others stated that they were childless. However, it should be noted that, so far, only 38 of the 70 women are known to have children. Of the remaining women, five stated that they were childless, one left four children behind in England but had none in Australia, and it is not known how many children were born to 26 of the women.

For the 38 women known to have had children in Australia, the average family size was 5.8 children, ranging from four women who had one child, to nine women who bore ten or more children. While these figures provide an indication of the fertility rates of female convicts and emancipists, it is important to note that infant births and deaths may not have been registered, including in the case of stillbirths and babies who died shortly after birth. Illiteracy, distrust of authorities, and distance from a town may have also played a part in ‘missing’ birth records. Another factor contributing to the difficulty of locating the marriages of female convicts and emancipists, along with the births of their children, is the repetition of common names and the use of aliases in the nineteenth century. It may never be possible to trace children born to Ann Brown per Margaret 3 (1840) and Margaret Smith per Sarah and Elizabeth (1837), nor Mary Butler who stated she was transported on the Buffalo (1833) but is not listed on the ship’s indent.

The location of the burial places of convict and ex-convict women and their spouses has also proved challenging. Nevertheless, some success has been achieved in establishing that 42 of the 70 women died in Queensland. Of these, 15 women died at the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum and are buried in unmarked graves at the Dunwich Cemetery on Stradbroke Island, while a woman who died at the Rockhampton Benevolent Asylum is buried at the South Rockhampton Cemetery. In addition, one woman died at the Brisbane Gaol and another at the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum. Of another seven ex-convict women known to have died in Brisbane, four are buried at the Toowong Cemetery and one in the South Brisbane Cemetery. Five women were buried at or near Ipswich; eight died in areas south and west of Ipswich, including the Darling Downs and Granite Belt; and another four died north of Brisbane and are buried at the Gympie, Maryborough, Roma and Springsure cemeteries. Finally, 12 of the 70 women died (or are likely to have died) in New South Wales, leaving the places of death and/or burial of 16 women unknown.

To date, photographs of five of the 70 ex-convict women associated with Queensland have been located, as well as images of spouses and children, either through direct contact with descendants or via images posted to online family trees on websites including Ancestry. In addition, descendants and ‘citizen historians’ are posting a growing collection of images of gravesites and headstones of convicts who died in Queensland to websites including Find a Grave and the Australian Cemeteries Index.[1] It is hoped that growing interest in Queensland’s convict connections, along with the demonstrated willingness of descendants to share their family trees and the results of their research online, will assist in locating further images. In particular, the collection of data and photographs related to places of residence and burial will be crucial in enabling geo-spatial analysis of where convicts and ex-convicts lived and died in Queensland’s early colonial period. Needless to say, the expansion of a library of images related to convicts and ex-convicts in Queensland will also add a vital visual element to stories that have previously only existed on the printed page, if at all. Indeed, the rapidly growing archive of genealogical research and images posted online by descendants and local historians, combined with the ongoing digitisation of archival records, presents historians and genealogists with previously unimagined opportunities to bring convict Queenslanders to life through combining detailed biographies with evocative visual memorials.


Mail delivery at Perwell station, Queensland, 1868, with Caroline Schofield (née Haines) per Buffalo (1833) believed to be standing on the right. Copy held by Barbara Baker, descendant, reproduced with permission.


[1] Ancestry,; Find a Grave,; Australian Cemeteries Index,


Item ID ITM2917, Register of male and female prisoners admitted – HM Gaol, Brisbane, 3 January 1850 to 3 February 1864.

Item ID ITM9520, Register of personal details relating to females admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, c. 1 October 1859 to 28 June 1906.

Item ID ITM869682, Book of trials held at Moreton Bay, c. 1 July 1835 to 28 February 1842.

Item ID ITM869689, Chronological register of convicts at Moreton Bay, c. 14 September 1824 to 15 November 1839.


NRS 905, Returns of Applications for the Publication of Banns, 1828-1841.

NRS 983, Copies of letters to Moreton Bay, 27 August 1824 to 5 August 1853.

NRS 1156, Indents to Convict Vessels from Ireland, 1 January 1822 to 31 December 1840.

NRS 1272, 1828 Census: Alphabetical Return, 1 November 1828 to 31 December 1829.

NRS 1273, 1828 Census: Householders’ Returns, 1 November 1828 to 31 December 1829.

NRS 12188, Bound Manuscript Indents, 26 January 1788 to 31 December 1842.

NRS 12189, Annotated and Non-Annotated Printed Indents, 1 January 1831 to 31 December 1842.

NRS 12202, Ticket of Leave Butts, 31 March 1827 to 13 December 1875.

NRS 12210, Butts of Certificates of Freedom, 1 January 1827-31 December 1867.

NRS 12212, Registers of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, 20 December 1825 to 26 February 1851.

Note: Digitised copies of NSWSA records were accessed via


CON15, Indents of Female Convicts, 9 May 1831 to 24 February 1853.

CON19, Description Lists of Female Convicts, 1 October 1828 to 31 December 1853.

CON41, Conduct Registers of Female Convicts Arriving in the Period of the Probation System, 1 January 1844 to 31 December 1853.

CON52, Registers of Applications for Permission to Marry, 1 January 1834 to 31 December 1858.

RGD33/1/4, Register of Births in Hobart, 1 January 1851 to 23 August 1853.

RGD33/1/23, Register of Births in Launceston, 1 January 1838 to 31 December 1850.

RGD33/1/50, Register of Births in Launceston and County Districts, 1 January 1872 to 31 December 1872.

RGD35/1/4, Register of Deaths in Hobart, 19 May 1853 to 19 June 1855.

RGD35/1/16, Register of Deaths in Launceston, 7 November 1838 to 30 December 1850.

RGD37/1/4, Register of Marriages, 1 January 1844 to 31 December 1846.

RGD37/1/9, Register of Marriages, 1 January 1850 to 31 December 1850.

Note: Digitised copies of TAHO records were accessed via the freely-accessible Tasmanian Names Index on the Libraries Tasmania website (see below).


State Library of Queensland, Correspondence of the Colonial Secretary: Letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860, A2 Series, Reels A2.1-A2.43 [microfilm] and online indexes [downloadable PDF documents].

Queensland, New South Wales and Australian newspapers, via Trove (see below).

New South Wales Government Gazette (1832-1900), via Trove (see below).



Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,

Billion Graves,

Brisbane City Council Cemeteries Search, Brisbane City Council,

Convict Queenslanders, State Library of Queensland (SLQ),

Convict Records,

The Digital Panopticon: Tracing London Convicts in Britain and Australia, 1780-1925,

Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land Database, Female Convicts Research Centre, n.d.,

Find a Grave,


Finnane, Mark, Kaladelfos, Andy, Piper, Alana, Smaal, Yorick, Blewer, Robyn, Durnian, Lisa et al., The Prosecution Project Database, Version 1, 17 July 2016,

Founders and Survivors,

Hitchcock, Tim, Shoemaker, Robert, Emsley, Clive, Howard, Sharon and McLaughlin, Jamie, et al., The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674-1913, Version 8.0, March 2018,

Libraries Tasmania, Tasmanian Names Index,

National Library of Australia, Newspapers & Gazettes (advanced search page), Trove, Version 9.0,

New South Wales Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages, Births, deaths and marriages search,

New South Wales State Archives, ‘Convicts’ (online indexes),

Queensland Family History Society (QFHS), Queensland Early Pioneers Indexes 1824-1859 (Version 1.01 with QFHSdatasearch – 1.5), CD-ROM, QFHS, Indooroopilly, Qld, 2004. (Searchable online with a Findmypast subscription.)

Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Family history research service,

Queensland State Archives, Search the records, ‘Indexes’ (online indexes to to persons mentioned in QSA records, including the ‘Convicts and early settlers’ index),

Willett, Jen, Free Settler or Felon,


Bimrose, Jan, ‘Joseph and Jane Ray’, unpublished manuscript, February 2011, last updated 13 May 2011.

Cowley, Trudy and Snowden, Dianne,  Patchwork Prisoners: The Rajah Quilt and the Women Who Made It, Hobart, Research Tasmania, 2013.

Evans, Raymond, ‘Charitable institutions of the Queensland government to 1919’, published M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, 1970,

Goodall, Joseph B.,  ‘Whom nobody owns: The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, an institutional biography 1866-1946’, published Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, 1992,

Harrison, Jennifer, Shackled: Female Convicts at Moreton Bay 1826-1839, Melbourne, Anchor Books, 2016.

Harrison, Jennifer, ‘Rigby, Hannah (1794-1853)’Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 2005,

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

O’Keeffe, Mamie, Convicts at Moreton Bay, 1824-1859, Brisbane, Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 2001.

Richardson, Jan, ‘Invisible stories: The presence of female convicts in Queensland following the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1842’, History in the Making, Vol. 2, No. 2, Winter-Spring 2013, pp. 86-108.

Taylor, Louise Westall, ‘Recovering lives: 15 convicts in New South Wales’, published Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 2015,