According to Rebecca’s convict records, she was born in County Donegal about 1830. I have found a baptism record for her on 17 October 1830 No 486 at Taughboyne Parish Church, St Baithin’s Church of Ireland, Churchtown, Carrigans, County Donegal.

This record says her father was William and her mother Catherine Campbell. They were residing at Garshuey Parish of All Saints where William was a blacksmith.

Also baptised here with the same parents was John  on 28 March 1827 No 321

Her convict indent also mentions siblings named John, James, William, Margaret, Mary and Catherine. Some of these were still in County Donegal while at least one of them was in America.

Her younger brother William was also convicted along with their father and another relative Jane or Sarah Steel.

Rebecca’s life as a child must have been tough. According to newspaper reports from the Donegal Quarter Sessions, Lifford, printed in the Londonderry Journal on 13 January 1847, the Jackson family were part of a gang.

Report of Lifford sessions

Rebecca was mentioned in two cases heard by Mr McClintock at the Newtown Cunningham Petty Sessions

Anne Jackson of Garshuey(sic) and Anthony Gallagher of Ruskey a(gainst) William Jackson the Elder, William Jackson the Younger, Rebecca Jackson, Jane Steele and Mary Jane Gallagher

For that they did at Ruskey on the 1st day of April 1846 feloniously steal and carry away 4 stones of potatoes value 8d the property of Anthony Gallagher

Information taken returnable to Quarter Sessions at Lifford January 1847

The second case:

Anne Jackson, Caldwell Motherwell of Monglass, sub constable James Love?, Nelly Jackson of St Johnston and Joseph Wray of Curryfree(sic) County Derry a(gainst) William Jackson the Elder, William Jackson the Younger, Rebecca Jackson, Jane Steele and Mary Jane Gallagher

For that they did at Criche? on the 6th day of April 1847 into a certain dwelling House of one John Motherwell feloniously broke and enter and did then and there feloniously steal from one large cloak valued 2/5, one Mc Intosh(sic) cloak value 6d, 3 frock coats value 7/6, one body coat value 2/-, 3 pairs of trowsers(sic) value 6/-, 3 waistcoats value4/6, one sheet value 6d and one quilt value 6d the goods and chatels(sic) of Caldwell Motherwell, Motherwell

Information taken returnable to Quarter Sessions at Lifford January 1847

So with both the potato famine and a father who taught his children to steal, Rebecca probably had a better life once she arrived in Tasmania and completed her seven year sentence.

On 16 February 1847 at 7pm Rebecca, Jane and her two children Mary Jane Gallagher and John Gallagher were received into Grangegorman Female Prison in Dublin. Mary Jane was 13 years 6 months old while John was 8 years and 9  months. Rebecca was 16 and Jane 53.

Rebecca was described as 5 feet and half an inch, blue eyes, brown hair, fair complexion, single, neither read nor write, Presbyterian, a servant and never been convicted before.

On 14 July 1847, the records say she was disposed of from the prison and put on the ship Waverley. This ship departed Dublin on 17 July and arrived in Hobart Town, Van Diemens Land on 25 October 1847. Only 44 people both convicts and free settlers were on the sick list but not Rebecca, Jane or her children. There was a matron on board ship, Miss McCauslin, who was to look after the welfare of the women and children.

The surgeons report said Rebecca was of exemplary behaviour and could now read a little and was a nursemaid.

On arrival in Hobart Town, Rebecca and Jane were sent to the Anson Probation Station which was an old hulk moored at Prince of Wales Bay in the Derwent River. They spent 6 months in probation on here and then were able to be hired out for service.  Jane’s two children were sent to the Queen’s Orphan School on 29 October. Mary Jane (Ann) remained there until 22 September 1849 when she was discharged to William Insley, Hobart. John remained until 8 April 1850 when his mother, who had since married and received her ticket of leave, took him out herself.

It is unknown if Rebecca and Jane kept in touch despite being relatives in a strange land.

Rebecca became a 3rd class passholder on 6 May 1848 which meant she could be hired and all wages would be paid directly to her. She was employed by Henry Hinsby, a chemist in Elizabeth Street, Hobart on 30 October 1849 for the princely wage of 8 shillings for a months work.

She received her Ticket of Leave on 2 July 1850.

On 27 November 1851, Rebecca Jackson and John England, a convict on the Pestonjee Bomangee applied for permission to marry. According to the record, this could not be complied with maybe because John had been transported for life in 1846 so had only completed 5 years of his conviction.1

How did the two meet? On 2 October 1849, John became a passholder gained from extra work while at Darlington on Maria Island. He then moved to Hobart and worked as a moulder with John Swaine in Collins Street, Hobart, then Crosby and Robinson in Campbell Street and again with John Swaine. 2 The population of Hobart was not that large that they couldn’t have met while Rebecca was at work.

16 October 1852 their first child William was born despite Rebecca and John not yet being married.3 The family were living in Molle Street in Hobart.

Rebecca received her certificate of freedom 3 January 1854 which was 7 years after her sentence began.

Once Rebecca was free, they applied again for permission to marry and it was approved on 20 September 1854. 4 Three weeks later on 16 October they married at St Georges Church when John was 23 and a moulder while Rebecca was 21. Witnesses were John Minty and Isabella Lovett. 5

26 December 1854 birth of son Henry Lewis. 6

22 February 1857 birth of Elizabeth 7

4 November 1859 birth of Edward (Jack) 8

30 November 1861 birth of Mary Ann 9

2 March 1864 birth of William James 10

28 July 1866 birth of a female child – name unknown still 11

3 December 1868 birth of George Thomas 12

In April 1868, Rebecca was in court as a witness to an assault that occurred near where she lived in Molle Street. 13

Was this Rebecca in June 1874 in trouble this time as a disturber and charged 5 shillings? 14

Did she have a dog at large in May 1885, so was fined 5 shillings and costs or seven days in gaol? 15

The family must have saved enough money to go into agreement to buy land but unfortunately Rebecca had to have a solicitor auction land and hereditaments in July 1887. 16

Rebecca’s husband died in 1905 and just the next year on 23 October so did Rebecca. The funeral was from her daughter’s house (Mrs J Bradley) to Kettering. 17


Story 4 – Garshooey townland

An ancestor of mine Anne Jackson (I think this is her married surname) lived in an area called Garshooey. This townland in Donegal, Ireland is just over one and half square kilometres in area. In the 1911 census there were only 64 people living there of which 23 were 16 and younger. Ten years earlier, out of the 86 inhabitants, 40 were 16 years or younger. Even in 2011, there are still only 66 inhabitants in 24 households.

So why were there so few people living in Garshooey townland? Looking at the historical maps of 1840s, there was a Presbyterian Meeting House and National School House west of the little town of Garshooey, a corn kiln to the north in Garshooey Upper and a flax mill to the south in Garshooey Lower.  There were lots of trees to climb, planted along the sides of the lanes in the townland. There was also a couple of mill ponds, maybe a chance for swimming or paddling on hot days. Through the centre of the townland was the main road between Londonderry (now called Derry) and Newtowncunningham.

By the 1850s, less flax and corn was being grown so there would be less cottage industry work for the women of the townland. There would also be less farm work for the men.
This may be a reason why the Jackson family resorted to theft during the 1840s, that finally resulted in transportation.

Story 2 – Notorious Jackson Gang

It is a cold, dark night in April 1846. Members of the Jackson family are inside the Monglass home occupied by Caldwell Motherwell.

“Da, hurry up,” whispers Rebecca. She listens intently for any sound coming from the bedrooms above.

“Don’t you be worrying, me girl,” William replies, “We still have plenty to get from here.”

“But, da, we all have a coat or cloak to wear. We don’t want to wake up Mr Motherwell with any sudden noise.”

Rebecca slowly edges to the doorway with her younger brother William, who was wearing a macintosh, and her friend Mary Jane Gallagher, who was wearing a cloak.

William the elder, Anne Jackson and Jane Steele, who were also members of the notorious Jackson gang, picked up the last of their stolen goods and followed the children out the doorway.

Quickly and silently they headed over the fields that should have been filled with potatoes, towards their home in Garshooey, about a mile away. But with the potato famine happening all over Ireland, there was little in the way of food to eat. Pawning the pieces of clothing meant food in their stomachs for another week or so.

Eight months later, Anne reports the thefts to the local sub-constable James Lowe. William, his son and daughter and Jane Steele are convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation. Thus begins a new life in Van Diemen’s Land for my great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson.


Report of court trial at Lifford Quarter Sessions, Donegal,  1 January 1847. Found in the Court of Petty Sessions records for Newtowncunningham held at Donegal archives, Lifford.


Two students replied to this story mentioning a bit of confusion with the two William – father and son. Also to maybe set the scene more with lots more description.

Readers: Where else could I improve this writing? As it is only going to be published on this blog, feel free to re-write whole paragraphs if you want.