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


Where are the elusive Jackson father and son?

The last time I found William Jackson senior and junior was on the Ireland Australia Transportation database. But did they actually get sent to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land or Western Australia?

They were tried at Lifford Assizes in January 1847 and sentenced to seven years transportation. Also convicted at the same time for the same offence were Rebecca Jackson, daughter of William senior, and Jane Steel, another relative but not known how. Two of Jane’s children Mary Jane Gallagher and John Gallagher were also on board the convict ship Waverley when it arrived in Hobart Town with Rebecca and Jane.

Could there be reference to the Jacksons in the CSO CR 77 or 78 files or distress papers of 1847? These files include information about conveyance of prisoners to their next prison ready for embarkation on the convict ships. Where were they sent after Lifford Assizes?

From the database there is reference to them TR 6, p 48.  When I was in Ireland, I checked the files for Rebecca, but not sure if I looked at Williams’ files.

There were no other reference codes mentioned for them on the database so no good looking at Convict reference files or free settlers papers.

But there was no sign of either William arriving in either New South Wales or Van Diemens Land or Western Australia between 1847 – 1853.

According to the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers  from the National Archives of Ireland, male Irish convicts were not sent to Australian colonies between 1846 and 1848. This was due to pressure from the Australian colonialists who wanted transportation to cease.

The new re-modelled system which was put into operation when the transporting of males was resumed in 1848, was a three stage system known as the exile system. Under the exile system each convict was to spend between 12 and 18 months in solitary confinement in prison at home, one to three years on public works in Gibraltar or Bermuda (this applied only to men), leading to the third stage which was transportation to Australia on ticket-of-leave.

It was not possible to operate this system in Ireland because lack of accommodation made it impossible to fulfil the strict 12 to 18 months of solitary confinement which constituted the first phase of the regime. Accommodation consisted of a temporary depot which had been opened at Spike Island in 1846 for men and depots at Cork and Grangegorman, Dublin, for women, both of which were overcrowded because of the increased intake due to the Famine. [1]

So did the two Williams get sent to Spike Island?

There are manuscripts held at the National Library of Ireland showing a convict register of an Irish prison giving particulars of prisoners, including those sent to Bermuda, Van Diemens Land and Gibraltar. ]2]

As William senior was in his late 50’s when convicted, maybe the time he spent in prison was more than he could cope with and he never got transported. But William junior was only 13 when convicted. Were the young convicts kept separately to the old hardened convicts?

Maybe they were kept at the Lifford gaol and according to a paper written about resources relating to the famine, there are local prison records kept. [3]

There are also convict letter books starting in 1842 relating to the convict department. Perhaps a mention there?

Where to search next?

  • TR6 p48 at the NAI – is name of ship mentioned or prison they were sent to – Just checked the AJCP and no mention of ship
  • Prison registers for Lifford Gaol in early 1847  at NAI- does it mention where they were sent to next?
  • Spike Island prison register  Ms 3016 at NLI – were they sent here?
  • Convict letter books at NAI – CON LB 1 26 May 1845-3 February 1851

My Irish readers: Any ideas of other records I could look for that might mention where these elusive Jackson father and son were sent to in January 1847 after being  tried at Lifford assizes.

  1. NAI, CSO RP/1849/G10919
  2. National Library Ireland, Ms. 3016
  3. Department of Justice, Prison Registers, and can be consulted at the National Archives Ireland.

Lifford Gaol, County Donegal

So from the Outrage Papers of County Donegal in 1847 I have found out the following:

  • William Jackson Senior is the father of William Jackson Junior and Rebecca Jackson.
  • Jane Steele is a member of the Jackson family somehow – maybe William’s sister?
  • Ann Jackson gave evidence against members of her family which led to their conviction and transportation – is Ann William the elder’s wife and Rebecca and William’s mother?
  • They were tried on 1 January 1847 at Lifford Quarter sessions by the Magistrates of Newton Cunningham Petty Sessions.
  • They were being held at Lifford Gaol.
  • Ann Jackson has had a passage to Quebec paid for her and her two young children aged 10 and 6.

As part of my trip I headed to Lifford Gaol to find out a bit more about it. I was lucky enough to have a guided tour once one of the archivists found I had had a convict relative staying there. The only part of the old gaol remaining is down in the basement and what is now the Lifford Courthouse and Museum. If ever you visit, I recommend the meal at the old Courthouse.

In surfing the web today, I found a report of what the gaol was like on 6 January 1847 when it was visited by the inspector generals of prisons in Ireland. There is a three page report and my Jackson family will be in the number of convicted felons mentioned.

The archivists sent me some images to use when writing about the gaol. Here is one of them:



I took this while touring the basement area:



I enjoyed the humour when entering the archivists room.



But unfortunately, they had nothing more about my Rebecca Jackson, so where was I to go now? I still had not seen any court records explaining what was stolen by this group of thieves. The archivists suggested the heading to Donegal County Archives about 100 metres around the corner. I might find the court records there.