Convict Case Study: Mary Ellis Ennis Tully Smith abt 1799 – 1868
In July 1817, Mary Tully, an 18-year-old girl from County Cork in Ireland, found herself on the wrong side of the law, convicted of house breaking in Dublin for which she received a sentence of transportation to New South Wales for seven years.
We don't know why Mary fell into crime. Maybe she had lost her job as was a silk winder in Dublin. In the latter part of the 18th century, Irish silk weaving flourished, with around 1,200 looms operating in the Liberties area of Dublin. However, by Mary's time silk weaving had entered a period of depression. Dublin supplied silk garments to the fashionable upper classes, but when the Irish Parliament was dissolved in 1801, Ireland was integrated into the United Kingdom and many of the Dublin's wealthy relocated to London. As a result, the demand for silk dropped. So, one can easily imagine young Mary fallen on hard times, resorting to thieving to survive.
To understand the progress of Mary's life, we need to examine the various family names by which she is recorded in the archives: Mary Ellis (at trial and transportation), Mary Ennis (on permission to marry document and at marriage), Mary Tully (on the baptismal certificates her NSW-born children and on her death certificate), and Mary Smith after she married John Smith, in New South Wales in 1820. The most likely explanation is that Mary was born Mary Tully and subsequently married or had a relationship(s) with a person(s) by the name of Ellis or Ennis or both. No birth certificate for our Mary Tully can be found among the available Irish records, but according to her death certificate, she was born in Cork, Ireland.
Mary was transported on the Elizabeth 1, (Elizabeth 1, to distinguish it from later convict ships named Elizabeth), which set sail in July 1818 from Cork Harbour under the command of Captain William Ostler. There were 101 women and 17 children on board and, according to the ship's surgeon, Mr William Hamilton, who recorded events in his journal (cited by secondary sources), the 101 comprised two groups of women – some from Cork and some from Dublin. At 5pm on 11 July 1818, as the group of 28 convicts from Cork came alongside to join the Dublin girls already on board, a loud cheer rang out. Hamilton divided the groups evenly and issued them with identical rations and clothing. As was often the custom, the 482-ton sailing ship, built in Chepstow in 1809, sailed directly to NSW, not stopping at the Cape of Good Hope. The vessel made rapid progress, completing the journey in 116 days and all on board were landed safely at Port Jackson on 19 November 1818.
Mary Ellis is listed on her arrival in the Colony as having been tried in Dublin in July 1817, sentenced to transportation for seven years and assigned to the "Government Factory".
|Mary Ellis listed in 1818 on the 'New South Wales, Australia, Settler and Convict Lists', p.1, from Ancestry database|
|Mary Ellis listed in 1818 on the 'New South Wales, Australia, Settler and Convict Lists', p.2 from Ancestry database|
Upon arrival, Mary travelled by boat up the Parramatta River to the Women's Factory there. We don't know if she was able to use her textile skills while at the Factory, but within a short space of time she met her future husband, fellow convict John Smith (transported, Sir William Bensley, 1817). The Women's Factory had a reputation as somewhat of a marriage market – a place where single men of the Colony went to find a wife. Maybe that is where our great-great-grandparents met? In July 1820, Mary and John sought and received permission from Governor Macquarie to marry and, on 4 September 1820, they were wed. Mary married under the name of Mary Ennis and there is an entry in the Marriage Registry St Matthew Anglican Church in Windsor.
Four years later, on 7 October 1824, Mary became free from servitude and at this point the record gives us a detailed physical portrait of our ancestor. She was five foot and half an inch tall, with a fair, ruddy, freckled complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. Against "hazel" there is a barely legible comment that indicates a peculiarity, maybe blindness, in her left eye.
|Physical description of Mary Ellis from the Certificate of Freedom, found on Ancestry|
The 1825 General Muster of convicts in NSW, records Mary Ellis as having arrived on the Elizabeth 1, transported for seven years, and assigned as housekeeper to J. Smith (presumably her husband) in the district Melville. Over the following years, census records reveal that Mary and John settled into life in the Colony, with John working as a farm labourer in the district of Bathurst (the less). In 1824, Mary (alias Mary Ennis) and John have three children: Margaret (5), John (3), Mary (1). By 1828, the couple had five children Margaret (9), John (6), Mary (5), Henry (3), James (2) and owned five head of cattle. On both census documents the name of the ship (Elizabeth, 1818) and the sentence (seven years) are recorded against Mary's name.
Mary's husband John died on 19 July 1866. My great-grandfather, Robert Smith, the 10th of Mary and John's 13 children, reported Mary Tully Smith's death at Nelson on the Windsor Road. At this point Mary's birth name is given as Tully and her father is identified as Charles Tully. The family placed a notice in the Sydney Mail newspaper on Saturday 20th June 1868.
|Death notice for Mary Tully Smith published in the Sydney Mail, from Tove database|
Australia, Convict Index, 1788-1868, Ancestry, Accessed 11 May 2017.
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Breathnach, Kathleen. 'The Last of the Dublin Silk Weavers', Irish Arts Review Yearbook, 1990, pp. 134-143.
Brown, Arthur. J. A Battle Against the Odds: Stories of our Pioneering Families on Norfolk Island, the Hawkesbury River, Mulgrave Place, Green Hills, Box Hill and Nelson. Epping, NSW, Arthur J. Brown, 1990.
Hughes, Robert. The Fatal Shore. 1st American edn, New York, Knopf, 1986.
New South Wales, Australia Convict Ship Muster Rolls and Related Records, 1790-1849, Ancestry, Accessed, 4 May 2017.
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New South Wales, Australia, Settler and Convict Lists, 1787-1834, Ancestry, Accessed 25 May 2017.
New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1856, Ancestry, Accessed 4 May 2017.
New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867, Ancestry, Accessed 4 May 2017.
New South Wales, Census and Population Books, 1811-1825, Ancestry, Accessed 4 May 2017.
New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849, Ancestry, Accessed 4 May 2017.
New South Wales, Australia Census 1828, Ancestry, Accessed 4 May 2017.
Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages New South Wales.
St. Matthews Anglican Church Register, Windsor, New South Wales.
Wikipedia. 'Acts of Union 1800', https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1800, Accessed 25 May 2017.
Willetts, J. 'Free Settler or Felon? Convict Ship Elizabeth 1818', http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_elizabeth_1818.htm, Accessed 25 May 2017.