Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our latest book is here!

One Family History: 220 Years in Australia is the latest edition to the Irish Wattle stable. Meticulously researched by Neil Hall and Barbara Hall, One Family History is the story of a family whose first Australian ancestor was sent on the Second Fleet, arriving in Sydney in June 1790. The book tells of other arrivals, convicts and free, up to 1825; when all those from whom the current family are descended had arrived in the colony.

The family names Hall and Readford occur again and again throughout this history: but there were other family names too. In placing this family history in a broad social and historical context the book provides an interesting, detailed and easy to read story of one family in Australia. This is a family history that is contemporaneous with the history of Australia.

Unique facts and much evidence not previously published and certainly not readily available are presented in this publication. The book provides an example of good practice in family history writing. It has been thoroughly researched, it is well written and provides detailed stories and insights into the lives of convicts, their 19th-century descendants and the more recent generations, including those still living.

One Family History: 200 Years in Australia is available for purchase by contacting Irish Wattle.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The voices of Convict Sydney

Convict Sydney. Photo: Ben Mercer

Historic Houses Trust NSW has opened their latest exhibition at Hyde Park Barracks: Convict Sydney. Irish Wattle visited this impressive show earlier this week, and loved it!

Hyde Park Barracks - checking for stolen goods. Photo: Ben Mercer

Just some of the features include wonderful murals depicting life before transportation, and after arrival; a giant map that guides you through the streets of early Sydney; and touch screens allowing you to scroll extracts of the Barracks Benchbook, where crimes and sentences were recorded.

Interactive touch screen map of early colonial Sydney. Photo: Ben Mercer

Interactive touch screen mural. Photo: Ben Mercer

Details for the exhibition are below. To find out more, go to the Historic Houses Trust or follow on Facebook for updates on all their brilliant work!

Location: Queens Square, Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Contact:   02 8239 2311
Admission: Adult $10 I Child /Concession $5 | Family $20 | Members free
Hours:  Daily 9.30am — 5.00pm

Its a great way to spend a morning and to get to know Sydney's convict past!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spotlight on: James Meehan, convict surveyor

Above: Field Book 31: Survey of Grants and Farms, Road and River Traverses, 
Sydney Leases (County Cumberland) 1804 to 1808 (1817). 
Source: Land and Property Management Authority of New South Wales

These days every part of the world has been mapped and surveyed, and even our houses can be zoomed in on thanks to Google street view. Imagine then the role of the first surveyors in the early colony, and the significance of their findings.

One of these surveyors was James Meehan (1774-1826) from Offaly in Ireland. In 1796, when he was 22, he joined the Society of United Irishmen as a schoolteacher and surveyor. After surrendering voluntarily, he was charged with being a member of an illegal organisation and transported for life to New South Wales.

When he arrived in Sydney aboard the Friendship in 1800, he was assigned to work in the Surveyor-General’s Department where he was immediately successful. By the time Lachlan Macquarie took up his position as Governor in 1810, Meehan was holding a ticket-of-leave and was Acting Surveyor-General.

The two became good friends and Meehan accompanied the governor on many tours of the colony. Meehan was also relied on by Macquarie to enact his vision of opening up the colony through the issue of land grants.  In return, Macquarie supported Meehan’s application to become Surveyor-General of New South Wales. The British Government proved not as supportive of emancipists as Macquarie, and subsequently John Oxley was appointed in his place.

The field book pictured above dates from 1804 to 1808 and documents Meehan's work in surveying the settlement in Sydney and across the Cumberland Plain. Now thanks to the Land and Property Management Authority of New South Wales, you can explore the book online.

And more than 200 years later, a stone statue of Meehan is being made and will be placed in the wall of the heritage-listed Lands Department building in Bridge Street, Sydney later this year.

Notes: Additional information courtesy of State Records NSW and the Land and Property Management Authority of New South Wales. Field book collection, State Records NSW: NRS 13889 [SZ864]

Monday, August 16, 2010

George Massey, gentleman convict

On August 1795, the Saunders Newsletter in Dublin published a letter written by convict George Massey. In it, Massey wrote that "tea, of the quality sold [in Dublin] for 6 shillings per pound, sells [in Sydney] at a guinea, sugar 2 shillings per pound, soap 4 shillings, and bad rum 28 shillings per gallon."

Massey was a former Bank of Ireland employee who'd been convicted of embezzlement. The explanation given for his crime was that he'd recently married and launched he and his wife into a style of living they could ill afford. He tried to cover up his crime by saying she was an heiress, but the truth about him cooking the books soon became clear.

Massey was sentenced to transportation for life and arrived aboard the Sugar Cane in 1793. Read more about him in A Nimble Fingered Tribe by Barbara Hall, available through Irish Wattle.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Convict sites awarded World Heritage status

Old Government House, Parramatta. Source: Flickr

Eleven of Australia's historical sites were given World Heritage status this week. Together, they illustrate the key aspects of the convicts' experience in the penal colony. Established by the British empire across the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the sites housed or employed tens of thousands of men, women and children condemned to transportation. The sites now protected are:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Explore the Parramatta of 200 years ago

Want to experience Parramatta as it was in Governor Macquarie's time? View the district through the eyes and voices of the soldiers, settlers, rogues and clergy who roamed the streets of the city in colonial times with a terrific iPhone App by Parramatta City Council. 

This fun and interactive tour takes you on a journey with a lively account of Macquarie's vision for the remote penal colony. This free app is brilliantly produced, with terrific voiceovers (I loved the accents of the narrators) and lovely images. Don't have an iPhone? Until 28 July you can hire an iTouch for free from Riverside Theatres. 

For more information, contact Discover Parramatta.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Favourite flickr - Ships from ANMM

Untitled, Hugh Crawford in two views off a rocky coast
Hugh Crawford near a rocky coastline. Source: ANMM flickr

Featured on the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM). The ship transported cargo and passengers between London, Hobart and Sydney during the early 1800s. It is a rare depiction of an early ship associated with trade in colonial Australia.

The barque Success off Point Piper
Convict ship Success off Point Piper. Source: ANMM flickr

Built in 1840, Success achieved great fame in the twentieth century for being an original convict transport.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hyde Park Barracks wants your reunion photo

Hyde Park Barracks. Source:

The Hyde Park Barracks is putting together a new semi-permanent exhibition about convicts in Sydney. A component of the exhibition discusses the legacy of convicts and the many descendants of convicts alive today who are very proud of their ancestry.

We are looking for a photograph of a large family reunion of people descended from a convict. It would be preferable to have descendants of a convict who resided in the Hyde Park Barracks, but any Sydney-based convict would be welcome.

If you recently had a family reunion of convict descendants, had a group photograph taken and are happy to have this on display in the Hyde Park Barracks, please contact Kate Bruxner at the Museum of Sydney on 02 9251 5988 or email

Source: The Society of Australian Genealogists, June newsletter

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Check out Ask about Ireland

It seems that everytime we go onto the Ask about Ireland site, there is something new and interesting. The Ask about Ireland team is definitely providing one of the best resources we know for Irish history online.

For example, we found out today that the centre of Cork city is built on a number of marshy islands on the River Lee. The word 'Cork' comes from the Irish word 'corcach' which means a marsh. A map of 1545 brilliantly outlines the different islands. The first settlement near the city was not on the islands themselves but a monastery founded south west of the islands.

Early map of Cork City, 1545 Source: Ask about Ireland

AskAboutIreland is an initiative of Irish public libraries together with local museums and archives which aims to digitise and publish the unique and the unusual material from their local collections to create a national Irish online resource for culture.

Want more info? We'd highly recommend a visit to Ask about Ireland. You can also follow Ask about Ireland on twitter and Facebook. Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ideas Worth Spreading - TEDx Sydney

How Mary Victor O'Reeri used her connection with the land to trace Irish Sister Bernadette O'Connor, lost in the Kimberley region of Western Australia:

Mary Victor O'Reeri - Indigenous Australian Wisdom: TEDx Youtube

Want more info? Go to the TEDx YouTube Channel or TEDx Sydney.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New records on Irish Genealogy

The 2nd phase of has been launched, by Ireland's Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Archbishop of Dublin. This launch makes available church records for free and allows you to search for these by name, location and date.

Additions include pre-1900 Church of Ireland records such as church baptism, marriage and burial records for Dublin City, Carlow, Cork and Kerry. Also, some additional Roman Catholic parish records from the Diocese of Cork & Ross have been added.

What's next? Work on complete Roman Catholic records for Dublin City and South & West Cork is progressing and their release is expected soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Voices from Ireland

Want to learn about Ireland's culture firsthand? Visit to listen to many of Ireland's best contemporary writers talk about Ireland's history, people and literature.

It's a terrific place to discover Ireland, whether you're a homesick expat, or are planning your first visit. The land of saints and scholars, it's history, prose, poetry, myths and legends are all waiting for you at - and all for free!

Friday, June 4, 2010

A cup of tea with..

Welcome to our new series, where once a month we'll chat to an archivist or historian about what's happening in the world of genealogy.

Christine Yeats is the Manager, Public Access, at State Records NSW. Cassie Mercer talks to her about the archives office’s latest convict databases, and what’s on the books for the future.

CM: Your role at State Records involves looking after many documents of historical importance. Do you find yourself walking around Sydney and thinking about what was there previously?

CY: Definitely, you can’t help but have an interest in the history and what the records tell you and translate it to the built environment. One of the interesting things about archives I think is they inform so much about our heritage and you really can’t have assessments of heritage or considerations of heritage without reference to the official sources and other documentary material.

Are there any stories you’ve come across of people finding forgotten treasure?

There is always the potential, say in the correspondence records of the Colonial Secretary, that you’ll come across something that’s not so much hidden in the records, but may be described in such a way that it’s not apparent what they are. All of it has the potential to make people say, that’s fantastic. A lot of it is the tried and proven genealogical path – convict records and shipping records – but there is a tremendous amount of other records that are rarely used and which still have that wow factor. We have had some terrific finds but often it’s a rediscovery. We might find a really beautiful map or a really beautiful plan. We’ve got some Burley Griffin drawings of towns. Then of course there are other things that might be a collection of records, for instance, about a bushranger. The records might be documents and newspaper clippings, but together they tell you this fantastic story.

The one-stop-shop for your convict databases is a wonderful resource for historians. How did the project come about?

These were indexes that we had on the site already but we decided to promote them in a different way by amalgamating them into a single database. The prompt was really the fact that we acquired the Ticket-of-Leave index of 1810 to 1875. The combined database has had an amazing effect. People have really taken to it and love it. So it’s been a really interesting initiative.

I was intrigued by the database called Convict Bank Accounts…

Yes, it’s easy to stereotype and think they were all people who were very poor. Many of them were of course, but a lot of convicts came here with money because they originated from all walks of life. They put their money into an account and then they would collect it at the end of their sentence. It made such a difference to people to have a bank account and money. I was reading something recently about Sydney in the early days and how expensive it was.

But of course it didn’t stop people being consumers. There is a lot of material in the records about people importing stuff into the colony, and it wasn’t simply food and alcohol and so on, they were also bringing the latest fashion from England and Europe. Although it took a long time to get the goods here, people were ultimate consumers; they were dealing and making money and all sorts of things.

They were quite entrepreneurial, weren’t they.

Extremely so. People were looking at ways of making money and generating revenue.

Tell me about upcoming projects.

Well, we’re continuing to add to the website. One of the major projects that we’re working on, which will probably take a few more years, is to list the loans files for the soldier settlement project. This is part of an Australian Research Council project with Monash University and the University of New England to really promote the collection which is hardly ever used, primarily because there were no indexes or registers [for the records]. We had probably 1km of files but no way of really accessing them with ease. So it’s been a really worthwhile project. That’s one of the major ones.

There is an index of publicans’ licences from the 1830s that will be on the website soon we hope. There are also some additions to the divorce indexes. So there are a few things like that happening.

Over the next few years, they’ll be a lot more listing and indexing [online] and probably also a jewel box approach – an online exhibition with some interpretations and some transcriptions.

Sounds wonderful. We’re already looking forward to it.

State Records NSW is located at:

Sydney Records Centre: 2 Globe Street The Rocks Sydney

Western Sydney Records Centre: 143 O’Connell Street Kingswood

Image: New South Wales Police - Particulars of deaths and bodily injuries sustained by the police from bushrangers 1862-1870

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Irish Wattle in the press

We're delighted to be reviewed in the May 2010 issue of Labour History, the journal of the Business and Labor History Group at the University of Sydney. Here's an extract from the review of The Irish Vanguard:

"Biographical details about these unfortunate travellers and their shipmates have been pieced together by Barbara Hall in this fifth in her series of books about convicts on the five ships sent from Ireland before 1800. The book is structured as a biographical dictionary with an entry for each convict. Hall counts as her major achievement ‘the collating and publishing, for the first time, of a large number of trials and/or crimes’. I would add as an equally important contribution her painstaking pursuit of what happened after they disembarked.

Barbara Hall’s study of convicts on the Queen makes a valuable contribution to understanding Australia’s earliest days of settlement by turning our attention to individual men and women who had not come of their own free will to a land they experienced as wilderness, but many of whom nevertheless took to the life of the pioneer and brought up families whose descendants are now interested in their stories. For academic historians following patterns as well as individuals, these biographical outlines offer texture and detail. The unevenness of the sources, the scarcity of information, are themselves reminders of how precarious the original venture really was – especially for those whose survival depended on navigating through both the convict system and the strangeness of an utterly foreign place."

Thanks for the terrific review!

Monday, May 24, 2010

1798 Rebellion and the Act of Union

On this day in 1798 the famous Irish rebellion against British rule had begun, which ultimately failed and lead to the transportation of hundreds of Irish patriots to Australia.

Want more? Find out more at Ask About Ireland. AskAboutIreland is an initiative of public libraries together with local museums and archives in the digitisation and publication of the original material from their local studies' collections.

Image courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Irish Wattle partners with Tourism Ireland!

We're delighted to be working with Tourism Ireland as we continue our research into the lives of the first convicts to be transported from Ireland to Australia. Stay tuned for more details!

Visit Discover Ireland to learn more about the beauty of the Emerald Isle, plan your trip there or just explore.

Want more? Follow GoToIrelandOz on Facebook and Twitter for updates on travel deals, competitions and the island of Ireland.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spotlight on: Historical Atlas of Sydney

The Atlas presents digitised versions of maps and related cartographic resources, covering mainly the City of Sydney local government area but also more widely in the County of Cumberland region. Dating from 1842, maps can be downloaded in PDF so that you can see the street names and boundaries in detail. A wonderful site well worth a look.

Photo: City of Sydney 1857 to 1870. Source: Historical Atlas of Sydney.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Touring the great west

We enjoyed a terrific trip out to Ilford, Sofala, Orange and Mudgee, west of Sydney, recently. We wanted to see where our ancestors, the Readford and Aldridge families, lived in the early 1800s. The Readfords ran The Woolpack, an old coaching inn on the outskirts of Ilford, which is still standing. It's now called Old Westwood. The current owner says it's believed to be haunted - by a long-lost relative perhaps?

Reading on Twitter about peoples' love of lone chimney stacks, I just had to include a picture of this lonely and forgotten chimney on the road to Ilford. I wonder if my ancestors ever sat around it with their friends, relaxing after a long day on the farm?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Amazing archive images of Ireland

We've loved flicking through some of the 34,000 photographs of Ireland in the Irish National Library Digital Collection in the National Library of Ireland.

The images taken from the photo glassplates date from 1860 to 1954 and are simply beautiful!

Photo: Customs House, Dublin. Source: National Library of Ireland

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lovely Vaucluse House

View of the estate from the kitchen garden

Original portrait of Hayes' daughter, Mary Jude

We spent the morning wandering the grounds and house of the beautiful Vaucluse Estate in Sydney's eastern suburbs, run by the Historic Houses Trust NSW.

The curators of the house have done a magnificent job in showing how the house would have looked when the Wentworth family lived there in early to mid 19th century. Thanks Gary and Ron for showing us around.

We loved seeing the stone wall that is the only visible part of the original stone cottage built by Sir Henry Browne Hayes in 1803. The cottage was built by two Irish convicts, both of who Irish Wattle has identified through colonial records. Contact us for more details.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Irish Wattle collaborates with Dublin City Library

We're looking forward to working with Dublin City Library on one of our projects in 2010! More details to follow soon.

Photo: Dublin City Library. Source: Flickr

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Irish Wattle is now on Twitter!

Get instant updates on news, reviews and the latest research as we find it. Tell us about future history events and we'll publicise them for you.

Just head to to join us on Twitter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spotlight on: Samuel Breakwell

Or Sir Henry Browne Hayes' "fancy man", as he was otherwise called by General Joseph Holt.

You may remember that we highlighted colourful Irish convict, Sir Henry Browne Hayes, in our November newsletter. Hayes had been the Sheriff of Cork before he abducted an heiress and was transported to New South Wales on the Atlas. One of Hayes’ many reputed antics in the colony was to import soil from Ireland to fill a trench around his home in Vaucluse, Sydney, with the belief that it would keep out snakes.

Samuel Breakwell sailed to Australia from Cork as a free man aboard the Atlas, arriving at Port Jackson in 1802. He served as Sir Henry’s valet until 1812 when they departed the colony on the Isabella. Their journey back was just as eventful as their lives in the colony, for the Isabella was wrecked in the Falklands enroute to Ireland.

Breakwell was, at the time of leaving Sydney, the owner of two properties, a 60-acre land grant (the site of the present-day Rose Bay) that he named Tivoli (after a stately home in Cork overlooking the River Lee) as well as the Vaucluse House estate (pictured above, though a later building than the one Hayes had built) that Hayes had generously given him. Breakwell was probably at the time also a father.

Once he returned to Ireland, Breakwell settled in Cork. Later, in July 1830, Breakwell gave Attwell Adam Hayes (nephew of Sir Henry) Power of Attorney to sell both the Vaucluse and Tivoli estates. In 1831 Breakwell, while living at Grattons Hill in Cork, sold Tivoli to Thomas Horton James of Sydney. Hayes at that time was also said to reside at Grattons Hill, possibly in the same house as Breakwell. Hayes died a short time after in 1832.

Four years later Breakwell married Julia Crowley in the Diocese of Cork and Ross. He was listed as a business owner in the 1844-1845 General Post Office Directory as “Samuel Breakwell, glover, 38 Grand Parade”.

The probate of his will was approved in 1847, so he probably died either in that year or the year before. There is no record of his death or burial record in the Death Registry because the Registry started in 1864.

This information is supplied by Rolf Grunseit, who would like to hear from anyone with further information on Samuel Breakwell and Sir Henry Browne Hayes. He is especially hoping to find any clues as to which ship may have delivered the Irish soil to Hayes in Sydney. If you are able to help, please contact us and we’ll forward your details to Rolf.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wreck site of Irish convict ship heritage listed

A piece of Irish-Australian convict history will be preserved for future generations after being placed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The NSW Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly has announced that the wreck of the convict prison ship Hive was officially on the register. The announcement was made when he visited Wreck Bay (pictured above) in Booderee National Park, near Jervis Bay, south of Sydney.

The Hive ran aground in Wreck Bay in 1835 with 250 Irish convicts, guards, the ship’s crew, women, children and a cargo of coin worth £10,000 on board. A crew member, the Boatswain, drowned while convicts and passengers were being transported from the foundering ship to shore. The crew established a bush camp in the adjacent sand hills of Bherwerre Beach, in Wreck Bay, to await rescue while they stripped the vessel of anything they could salvage.

Mr Kelly said the wreck of the Hive had to be protected because it was the only known ship wrecked on mainland Australia while carrying convicts. “It has considerable heritage significance as it meets all seven Heritage Council criteria for listing on the State Heritage Register,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly said the events surrounding the loss of the Hive demonstrate early contact with local Aboriginal communities.

“The co-operation and support of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community members and other Aboriginal peoples in assisting the survivors and in passing word to distant Sydney is a key element of the site’s significance,” the Minister said.

Because the Hive is buried under sand, an important sonar survey of the shipwreck will be undertaken by maritime archaeologists from the Heritage Branch and the Commonwealth’s GeoScience Australia, to determine the amount of buried hull timbers remaining.

Wreck Bay gained its name following the loss of the Hive and another 10 subsequent shipwrecks.

What else is on the State Heritage Register?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Irish in Australia exhibition in 2011

The National Museum of Australia is developing a major exhibition on the Irish in Australia, to open on St Patrick's Day 2011. The exhibition will cover the Irish presence in Australia from 1788 to the continuing arrival in our own time of young Irish backpackers.

Irish in Australia will open at the National Museum of Australia on 17 March, 2011 (St Patrick's Day) and later travel to Dublin, Ireland.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Settlers' Guide - in store this week!

This is just some of the medical advice given by Dr William Bell to the colonists of New South Wales.

Born in Ireland in 1815, Dr Bell studied medicine at London's Royal College of Surgeons, then came to Sydney in 1839.

He wrote The Settlers' Guide in 1849 to enable those in medical need to help themselves or others in times of difficulty. Warming to his task, The Settlers' Guide eventually contained more that 85,000 words and is in two parts. He advertised it as "soon to be published" but sadly, this did not occur.

The manuscript was lost for 160 years, until Lois Sabine discovered it at the bottom of a box of papers in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

We're delighted to be stocking Lois' newly published book in our online store. Read more about The Settlers' Guide.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Secondhand books added to our online shop

Irish Wattle has added second hand books to its online shop and will be adding many more soon!

'An unfailing source of inspiration and delight' was how Havelock Ellis described the library over 100 years ago. Today's reader will delight in this lively and entertaining account of the State Library from its earliest days - in warehouses, 'dingy caverns' and 'awful dungeons' - to its latest elegant buildings in Sydney's Macquarie Street.

David Jones tells of the battle for buildings which were never built, and the stories behind those that were. How the fate of the Bronze Doors was sealed on a golf course. And many more anecdotes. The terrific book also takes the reader on a tour, in words and pictures, through the new complex, fully documenting each feature of this intriguing library.

This year the Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales celebrates its centenary. Read about the exhibition here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St Patrick's Day tomorrow!

Irish Wattle is looking forward to St Patrick's Day tomorrow and the parade in Sydney on Sunday!

The whole world is going green!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Laurence Butler: 1798 rebel and Sydney's first cabinetmaker of note

Irish rebel Laurence Butler (1750-1820) led an extraordinary life. Originally from Ferns in County Wexford, he was 48 when he took part on the 1798 Uprising in Ireland, and not much older when he was subsequently transported for life for his actions.

He was charged with “aiding, abetting, and assisting the murder” of George Grimes, a Protestant in the Yeomen militia (accused of murdering a Catholic blacksmith for making pikes), and of acting as a rebel captain. Witnesses at the trial did not confirm that he ordered or assisted the murder, only that he was at the scene of the crime. Laurence’s defence was that he was forced to participate, a common plea at these trials. It was also revealed that he carried the colours at the Battle of Tubberneering, the rebels' major victory during the uprising.

Laurence arrived on the Atlas 2 in October 1802. He is now recognised as Australia's first cabinetmaker of note, having a large manufactory in Pitt Street (now Angel Place next to Martin Place), and employing several journeymen and apprentices. He also had a general merchandise business. Known customers were Sydney notables, John Blaxland, John William Lewin, and Rev Rowland Hassall. He also made furniture for the Supreme Courts building and the chambers of Judge Advocate Jeffrey Bent.

Conditionally pardoned in 1813, he made many useful acquaintances – John Oxley, and Elizabeth Macarthur, among others, endorsed his first petition for a pardon. D'Arcy Wentworth recommended he be granted 100 acres at Lilyfield (now part of the Callan Park Hospital grounds, pictured above), which neighboured Lieutenant-Governor George Johnston and Captain John Piper's properties.

For a convict exiled to the other side of the world, Laurence did very well for himself. His estate when he died was worth $2000, and consisted of the 100-acre grant, two adjacent houses in Pitt St and a house in Kent.

The research on Laurence is kindly provided by Barbara Butler. Barbara is seeking contact with anyone researching Laurence. If you can help, please contact Irish Wattle so we can put you in contact.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

State Library of Queensland showcases its convict database

Log on to the State Library of Queensland's website for information and resources invaluable to family historians. Right now the library is showcasing its convict database - you can search online for a convict, plus there are lists of useful resources (Irish Wattle's books are there!), information on the journey to New South Wales, great convict escapes and life on the prison hulks, all available via the library's resources. Check it out here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

For our researchers in New Zealand...

The Irish Lower North Island Interest Group is celebrating its fifth birthday tomorrow February 6. There are giveaways, spot prizes, raffles, Irish dancers and more!

Shake your family tree!

National Archives is hosting a Shake Your Family Tree day in each of its capital city offices on 23rd February. Attend and enjoy these excellent events.

More: National Archives of Australia

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wicklow Gaol - Where the 1798 rebels were held

The Wicklow Gaol was where those Irish patriots involved in the 1798 rebellion were held prior to transportation to Australia. Inmates included prominent rebels such as "General" Joseph Holt and Michael Dwyer.

The first Irish convicts were transported to the Sydney colony in 1791 and prisoners were sent there from Wicklow Gaol from 1796 until the 1850s. You can find more history on the Wicklow Gaol website.

Read the Wicklow Gaol blog for stories of the ghosts that still haunt the gaol today! And play the video above for a ghostly tour by Wicklow guide Marie Cromerford.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A rebel tale

Thomas Lynch was transported to New South Wales in 1796 aboard the Marquis Cornwallis. A lad from County Meath, he and a group of his friends were found guilty in 1795 under the Whiteboy Act of inciting rebellion against the government in Ireland. Initially sentenced to hang, his sentence was commuted to transportation for life.

By 1800 he was assigned to work at Mr Balmain's farm near Windsor and it was there he started to re-establish his rebel tendancies. Lynch was one of the leaders who were to bring other rebels to Parramatta (above, pictured in 1798) from the farm and surrounds in September of that year. The plan was to take Parramatta, command the soldiers weapons, "put the gentlemen to death ... and starve Sydney out" in a bid for their freedom.

The authorities thwarted the rebellion while it was still in the planning stages. Most of the leaders were punished with 1000 lashes and sentenced to hard labour on Norfolk Island. Lynch appears to have escaped punishment, but died soon after from natural causes.

Thomas Lynch's full biography appears in A Desperate Set of Villains by Barbara Hall.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mr Knaresbro, gentleman convict

To celebrate the re-printing of A Nimble Fingered Tribe we thought we'd feature one of the more adventurous from the book - a gentleman convict who would have dearly loved to have avoided the spotlight that was put on him in the 1790s.

Spring of 1793 brought Mr James Fitzpatrick Knaresbro, seducer of heiresses and prisoner for life, to the colony. He devoutly protested that of the first description he certainly was not; he defended this by asserting that of the two women he seduced in Ireland, the first was only a milliner, and the second was “a girl in a Low Sphere”. In early 1791 he was charged in Ireland with the rape of a Miss B——n. Knaresbro, a man of property, maintained his innocence during his trial at Carlow Assizes.

He was sentenced to transportation for life, but Sydney was no substitute for the life of a womanising dandy in Ireland. He was desperate to leave the colony, and convinced the authorities to let him do so even though he was transported for life. He left for America on 19 March 1796 per the Abigail with the goodwill of Governor Hunter and David Collins, the Judge Advocate.

More than likely, he’d been allowed to leave on the proviso that he not return to Ireland. But within twelve months, he was back in Dublin. He must have known the penalties for returning from transportation, whatever the good opinion of the judge advocate in New South Wales, so his moving about town with insouciance, and his indignation when he was again arrested, perhaps evinces that arrogance necessary to any seducer of heiresses. Three men turned up on his doorstep one September morning, eight weeks after he’d returned to Dublin, and marched him down to the New Prison. Just days later, an incarcerated Knaresbro wrote alarmingly to his peers that the police have “given out that I was an officer in the French Service and came as a spy!!”

He campaigned over many months for his release, writing to as many former friends as he could think of. But he might well have been a highwayman, for all his highbrow connections proved unwilling to have a hand in his release.

Two years later, his health by now failing, he had given up petitioning for his freedom, instead requesting a solitary cell within which other prisoners would not intrude upon him. In May 1799, when news came to him of the death of his father, he requested bail in order to put certain estate and financial matters in order. This appeal appears to have been rejected: the last known record of Knaresbro in 1800 has him still lodged in the New Prison.

His date of death has not been found.

James Fitzpatrick Knaresbro's full biography appears in A Nimble Fingered Tribe by Barbara Hall

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Irish Memorial in Waverley, Sydney

Yesterday we visited the Irish Memorial at Waverley cemetery in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The marble and mosaic structure was built in 1898 to commemorate the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and particularly the part played by Michael Dwyer, 'the Wicklow Chief'.

Michael Dwyer, born in Wicklow, Ireland, in 1772, was 26 when the 1798 Rising against English rule began. He led the English on a merry dance until December 1803, when he surrendered on condition he and his colleagues be sent to America. However, the English reneged and sent them to Botany Bay aboard the Tellicherry in 1806.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie gave him a full pardon in 1814. Dwyer died 11 years later, aged 53, and was buried in Sydney's Devonshire St cemetery (where Central Station now stands).

In the lead up to the centenary of the uprising, the Irish community in Sydney campaigned to have a memorial erected for the Wicklow Chief and his colleagues. The £2000 needed was raised by the Irish in Sydney, country towns in NSW and in Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand.

On 22 May 1898, Dwyer's remains, and that of his wife's, were moved from Devonshire St to the memorial in Waverley. It was the largest funeral Sydney had seen with 400 horse-drawn carriages following the hearse in a procession of 10,000 people watched by 100,000 others.

More than 100 years, the memorial still stands in tribute.

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 Nepean Family History Fair

Fresh from the success of last year's fair, the Nepean Family History Fair is on again in 2010. Irish Wattle will be having a stall there so come and say hello.

When: 10am-4pm, 7 March 2010

Where: Penrith City Library
601 High Street Penrith NSW

Cost: gold coin donation

Contact Penrith City Council for more information