Convicted (1): Joseph Pritchard

My ancestor Joseph Pritchard arrived in the colony of New South Wales on the ship Roslyn Castle 187 years ago on this day, 15 September 1834. Joseph was my great-great-great-grandfather on my father’s maternal line. He is the first reason that I was born in Sydney.

Joseph was born on 14 January 1817 at Macclesfield in Cheshire, England, the son of Joseph Pritchard and Hannah Ridgway, both born in Macclesfield, Cheshire (Joseph in 1791; Hannah in 1797). On the record of his baptism in the local church records (on 13 April 1817), his father’s occupation is listed as Silk Spinster. The minister performing the baptism was Jonathan Barker.

On 7 April 1834, at the age of 17, Joseph appeared at the Chester Quarter Sessions, charged with Larceny. We don’t have any more details than a note in the court records (in a very faint copy). His sentence, of transportation for a period of 7 years, can be found amongst a long list of men convicted of Larceny on the same day in that court.

Joseph was transported to NSW on the ship Roslyn Castle (pictured), which arrived at Port Jackson on 15 September 1834.

The Master of the ship was a Mr Richards. The ship records list amongst the convicts aboard, Joseph Pritchard, aged 17, from London, where he was a Shoemaker’s Boy. Joseph was recorded as able to read (but not write); his complexion was “Dark and Sallow”, his hair was Brown, and his eyes also were Brown.

Joseph was rather short, at 5’ 1 3/4”. Many of the others on the pages of the ship’s log are similarly short (from 5’5” down to 4’10”), suggesting that there was widespread malnutrition amongst the working class in Chester.

A commentary under each convict notes the tattoos on their skin; this writing is tiny and hard to decipher without seeing the original document. Fortunately, this document has been transcribed; the full description is as follows:

The crime for which Joseph was sentenced is clear: “Stealing [from] Master”, for which the sentence of 7 years was given.

On arrival in Sydney on 15 September 1834, Joseph was one of a number of convicts from the Roslyn Castle who were “disposed of”—in his instance, he was sent to a “W. J. Homan, Sydney”—most likely a misspelling of William Holman, who was a cabinetmaker in Sydney at that time.

A further document from the records of the ship Roslyn Castle indicates that Joseph Pritchard of Macclesfield, a Roman Catholic who was a Shoemaker, was then “disposed of” on 1 October, on Bond to a Mr Grey at Wooloomooloo.

Another record indicates that on 20 July 1835, Joseph Pritchard, a Shoemaker from Macclesfield, who had arrived on the Roslyn Castle, was sent to Parramatta.

Just over six years after Joseph Pritchard arrived in the colony of NSW, he applied for permission to marry—as was required of all convicts seeking to marry. The application was made on 8 August 1840, to the Rev. John Murphy, Roman Catholic, of Sydney. Joseph was 23 years of age; His wife-to-be, Mary Sullivan, was 19 years of age, and described as “Native of the Colony”.

A month later, on 7 September 1840, Joseph Pritchard married Mary Sullivan at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Sydney. The celebrant was Father H. G. Gregory; the witnesses were James White and Mary Ryan, both of Sydney. That year, there were just under 30,000 residents of Sydney—almost double the number of residents compared with the year, just six years earlier, when Joseph Pritchard had arrived in the colony.

Two years later, on 23 November 1842, Joseph was issued his Certificate of Freedom.

There are records of Joseph Pritchard living in a house in Phillip Street, Sydney, in 1842–1843, and in a “dwelling house” in Bridge Street in 1851–1852. It is fair to assume that his wife, Mary (née Sullivan), was living there with him; indeed, in the decade after their marriage, Mary gave birth to six children—and in the ensuing 15 years, another nine children arrived!

Mary Sullivan was born in the colony of New South Wales, probably near Appin, NSW, in about 1823. The baptismal register of one of the early Roman Catholic priests of the colony, Rev. J.J. Therry, confirms that he baptised Mary at Appin on 21 August 1823. The sponsors for young Mary were Denis O’Brien and Bridget Dwyer.

The parents of Mary are listed in the register as Daniel Sullivan and Margaret Gorman. Mary was probably one of three children, her siblings being Daniel (baptised on March 13, 1822) and Ellen (born in 1825 or 1826). Her parents had probably each come to New South Wales from Ireland. No record of a marriage between Daniel and Margaret appears to exist in the NSW records.

It is possible that Mary’s father was a convict. A convict, or child of a convict, marrying another convict, or child of a convict, was quite common—they were part of the same strata of society in terms of where they lived, what work they did, and so on. And whilst convicts were still arriving into the colony, a free person marrying a convict was indeed possible, but perhaps not common.

One possibility is Daniel Sullivan, Labourer, of Cork, who was transported in 1820. Another possibility is the Daniel Sullivan, a Sailor/Labourer, who was transported in 1818. A third option is Daniel Sullivan, tried in London in 1799 and transported in 1800 on board the Royal Admiral. There currently are no records which link Mary to any one particular Daniel Sullivan, unfortunately. If anyone can provide me with such a link, I would be most grateful!!

Mary and Joseph had fifteen children in total, between 1842 and 1865. The 1856 birth certificate of Ellen, the eighth child, provides clear information about the origins of Joseph and Mary.

In 1866, the year after the last of these children, Herbert, was born, Joseph died at Spring Creek, near Young, in western NSW. He had been suffering from hepatitis for five months. Mary was left with a large brood of children.

Mary died in 1904.

Joseph and Mary’s fourth child and second son, Joseph Sullivan Pritchard, was born in 1847. He was the third Joseph in a row (in the same way, I am the third John in a row of my direct paternal line.) Joseph carried his mother’s maiden name as his middle name, before his surname, his father’s surname. My parents named me and my two brothers in the same way.

This Joseph (1847–1924) married Maria Jane Jackson in December 1880. Six months before she married Joseph, she birth to a daughter, Margaret Jane. Sadly, Maria Jane lived only a short life (1862–1891). Her daughter lived a long life (1880–1963). I think I can remember her from an encoder when I was a small child.

Margaret Jane Pritchard, in turn, married Edward Thomas Mathias (1871–1941) in November 1899, and gave birth to six children. The eldest of these was my paternal grandmother, Edna Mathias (1905–1992). And so my line of descent from the convict Joseph Pritchard can be traced.

Author: John T Squires

My name is John Squires. I live in the Australian Capital Territory. I have been an active participant in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) since it was formed in 1977, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in this church in 1980. I have served in rural, regional, and urban congregations and as a Presbytery Resource Minister and Intentional Interim Minister. For two decades I taught Biblical Studies at a theological college and most recently I was Director of Education and Formation and Principal of the Perth Theological Hall. I've studied the scriptures in depth; I hold a number of degrees, including a PhD in early Christian literature. I am committed to providing the best opportunities for education within the church, so that people can hold to an informed faith, which is how the UCA Basis of Union describes it. This blog is one contribution to that ongoing task.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s