Saturday 8 April 2023

Who was Catherine Ridge, born Sydney c.1796?

A great deal of sleuthing has been necessary to uncover my forthcoming story of Robert Forrester's son-in-law Richard Ridge, who was an intriguing Third Fleeter with a long history as an officer of the court (bailiff) in the early days of New South Wales. 

Part of my detective work involved investigating the unregistered birth of a Catherine Ridge in Sydney around 1796. The original intention was to include her full story as an Appendix in the Richard Ridge book, he being the only man named Ridge living in Sydney at that time. But Catherine was unlikely to have been Richard’s biological child and, in the interests of relevance to his story, I'm publishing what I know of Catherine's life story here.

It is postulated that Catherine was actually the natural child of William O’Neal and Mary Cunningham or Coningham a.k.a. Mary Carroll, conceived aboard the Marquis Cornwallis but born after the ship reached Sydney in February 1796. The Irish convicts William and Mary, both educated enough to be literate, likely formed a bond during their long journey to Australia. But in 1796, as newly-arrived convicts, the system for placement of women meant that William and Mary could not stay together by choice.

Marquis Conwallis in 1793, by Frans Balthazar Solvyns,
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, ML1346

Perhaps Mary was assigned as the housekeeper in Richard’s hut, under his ‘protection’, and when her baby was born she acquired the surname Ridge out of common usage. This happened to Isabella Forrester, the girl who later became Richard's sister-in-law: after her mother died, young Isabella was raised from infancy by Paul Bushell and his wife and in some places is referred to as Isabella Bushell.

The given name of Catherine might have honoured Mary’s friend Katherine Neil from the Marquis Cornwallis voyage, who perhaps attended the birth and who married Richard's co-accused William Shaw in December 1796. Since Richard’s mother was also named Catherine, he would have readily accepted the name.

After Richard’s sentence expired in September 1796, he and Mary and baby Catherine moved to the Hawkesbury. For the time being, William and Katherine Shaw remained in Sydney.

Mary’s second daughter Mary Ann Ridge was born around 1798, her birth also unregistered. Richard was the acknowledged father and later documents prove the connection. (His land grant of August 1804 was subsequently gifted by him to ‘Mary Ann Ridge his daughter’ in August 1838. Mary Ann’s 1856 death certificate gives her father’s name as Richard Ridge and her eldest ‘brother by the half blood’ James Bligh Ridge of Windsor announced his intention to prepare an application to the Supreme Court for Letters of Administration over her estate.)

At the Hawkesbury Mary met up again with William O’Neal, her fellow Irishman and shipmate from the Marquis Cornwallis. Mary left Richard, taking her two infant daughters with her, and took up with O’Neal.

As soon as O’Neal was free-by-servitude Mary married him at Parramatta, on 30 December 1799, signing her name as Mary Coningham. He signed as Wm O’Neal. Witnesses were Patrick Burn, a fellow shipmate and an Irish political prisoner, who made his mark, and Burn’s new wife Sarah Best who signed. In subsequent administrative records the Mary living with William O’Neal is recorded as Mary Carroll, not Cunningham or Coningham.

Both Catherine and Mary Ann Ridge were then raised by their mother and her husband, who became a baker and publican in Sydney, with some background details included in Richard Ridge's story, because of his direct connection to Mary Ann.

In 1814 Mary Ann’s older half-sister Catherine Ridge makes her inaugural official appearance in the records, being mentioned by name for the first time. She was around eighteen years old when she witnessed a wedding in Sydney:

Henry Buckley, aged 35, Bachelor, Abode: Sydney [NSW AUS], Brazier, Signed X; & Hannah Jones, aged 30, Spinster, Abode: Sydney [NSW AUS], Signed X; married 29 Sep 1814, registered St Philips Church of England Sydney [NSW AUS] by Banns by William Cowper, Assistant Chaplain; Witness: John Kern, Signed X; Witness: Catherine Ridge, Signed.

Henry and Hannah Buckley then disappear from NSW records. The groom may have been the merchant who died in Lancashire in 1816, aged 37. John Kern may have been a soldier named John Kean.

Catherine is literate, in keeping with two literate parents. Her exact connection to the Buckley couple is unclear but the merchant and soldier connection is plausible. Catherine lived in the business heart of Sydney, close to the army barracks, and her half-sister Mary Ann Ridge will soon become the de facto wife of another merchant in Sydney, R.C. Pritchett.

Fifteen months later when she is around nineteen, Catherine witnesses another wedding in Sydney:

James Jenkins, aged 40, Bachelor, Abode: Sydney [NSW AUS], Stonemason, Signed; & Elizabeth Saunders [signed] Elizabeth Sanders, aged 21, Spinster, Abode: Sydney [NSW AUS], Signed; married 12 Dec 1815, registered St Philips Church of England Sydney [NSW AUS] by Banns by William Cowper, Assistant Chaplain; Witness: Thomas Saunders, Signed X; Witness: Catharine Ridge, Signed

This time it seems likely that Catherine is a friend of the bride. James Jenkins, recently widowed, lived at the Rocks.

Then on 9 April 1821 it’s Catherine Ridge who is married, to James McDonald at St Phillip’s Sydney. The bride was a 24 year old spinster of Sydney, able to sign her name, and the bachelor groom was an illiterate 28 year old labourer, also of Sydney. The date of this marriage and the bride's age implies she was born after 9 April 1796. To fit with the supposition that she was conceived aboard the Marquis Cornwallis, she must have been born by November 1796.

There were several James McDonalds in Sydney at this time but his choice of Arthur Little as a witness suggests James was possibly the man from Armagh in Northern Ireland who’d stolen a horse and had arrived on the Providence in 1811, along with Little. The marriage was performed after banns by William Cowper, and was witnessed by Arter (Arthur) Little and Mary Little (nee Norman). The Littles had both arrived on different ships as convicts in 1811, had met in Sydney and by now were the parents of four children. In 1828 Arthur was a dealer at King St, Sydney and he died a wealthy man at his palatial home ‘Rockwall’ in Macleay St, Darlinghurst in 1862.

James McDonald (a.k.a. MacDonald and McDonnell) had a life sentence but he’d been emancipated by Macquarie c.1818. He applied for a grant in July 1820 on the basis that he had been brought up to agriculture. He did not mention a wife at that point. However a daughter Mary A McDonald was likely born in 1820, and a son James in 1822. The land grant was approved on 22 September 1824, provided James settled on it. This appears to have been 30 acres at Long Reef, where Arthur Little also had a land grant, his being 100 acres. James, a grasscutter, employed various convict tradesmen and was occasionally in trouble for not paying for them, up until October 1824. Muster data shows James and Catherine (born colony) living together in Sydney in 1822 and 1825 but, apart from her date of birth around 1796, the research process (to date) has not uncovered any further definitive information about Catherine. 

DNA tests should help resolve the puzzle: descendants of Catherine should share DNA with the Pritchett descendants of Mary Ann Ridge but not with the descendants of the eleven children fathered by Richard Ridge with his wife Margaret Forrester.

More details of Catherine's half-sister Mary Ann Ridge will be included in the forthcoming biography of Richard Ridge, which I hope to publish later in 2023. Please email me, or contact me on Facebook or Instagram, if you'd like to be added to the waiting list for this book. 

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Sentenced to Debt - What's in a Name?

When I read a book, I always pay attention to its title because it often encapsulates the author's decision to write that particular book. What was it that resonated with the author, that they would devote the long, arduous hours to writing all those pages? 

Some titles, especially for family histories, make the book's content obvious from the start. Usually the family name forms part of the title, to make it easier for extended family members to find the book on various search engines. Some authors of family histories are more creative, such as my cousin (by marriage) John Jennings when he wrote 'A Lot about a Little'.

When I read Behrouz Boochani's powerful book 'No Friend but the Mountains', the author's choice of title did not mean anything to me until I'd read three-quarters of the book, when the author wrote about his home country. Similarly, readers of my book 'Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory' had to reach her retirement years to discover the reason for my subtitle. 

For my most recent book Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter, published in 2020, the title was carefully chosen for three reasons. In 1783 in London Robert Forrester escaped his sentence to death and I liked the play on words. In 1794 in Australia he received a small free land grant beside a flood-prone river and my research proved that this sentenced him to a lifetime of actual debt. Today, his descendants everywhere are beginning to acknowledge that they remain in virtual debt to the original owners of the land taken from them by the colonial government without their permission. 

More miseries: Being nervous and cross examined by Mr Garrow,
Thomas Rowlandson, 1 April 1807

It has taken me many years to learn about, understand and come to terms with these three themes, especially the last one. My journey towards understanding began in my childhood.

In Sydney from 1958 I attended a school located 'out amid the flannel flowers' on 'bare plains swept by sea winds clean'. These were the opening words of the school song for Narrabeen Girls High School, no longer in existence by that name.  There the broad sweep of history always attracted me and I achieved First Class Honours in Modern History in the old NSW Leaving Certificate. Sensitive about my inability to reel off names and dates 'to order'- that's what historians are meant to do, isn't it? - I took another tack at university, a problem-solving tack based on economics and mathematics.

Flannel Flowers,
Image courtesy Patsy Templeton, 2020

Growing up in the old Manly-Warringah Shire of Sydney (now called the Northern Beaches), abounding in beautiful bushland, sandstone caves and lagoons, I never gave much thought to Aboriginal matters although we sang the following words as the second verse of our high school song: ‘Where our native people gathered, where they danced corroborees, young Australians climb Parnassus, on the plains of Narrabeen’. These words turned out to be true because in 2005 the skeleton of 4,000-year-old ‘Narrabeen Man’ was unearthed near a bus shelter at Narrabeen. 

In May 1966, at my graduation ceremony at the University of Sydney, the Great Hall resounded with applause for Charlie Perkins, who’d led the famous Freedom Rides around New South Wales the year before. That day he became the first Aboriginal graduate of an Australian university. 

When I voted for the first time in 1967, I happily joined the overwhelming majority vote at the Referendum for permitting the Federal government to make laws for Aboriginal people and count them within the census. We naively thought it would lead to an instant improvement in the lives of our country's original inhabitants.

In 1967 and 1968, just into my twenties, I taught mathematics to some Aboriginal children at South Dubbo High School but remained ignorant about the disadvantaged neighbourhood where they lived.  

Re-visiting Dubbo, 1987

In the 1970s I was co-founder of the Cameragal Montessori School at Lavender Bay, North Sydney – the name honoring the Aboriginal clan of the area. My parents lived in a street named Wallumatta Road. I liked Aboriginal-sounding names so I made up the name "Billalooa Farm" for our farm.
Cameragal Montessori School, 2012

For almost thirty years life then took me in other directions and I gave little thought to Australian history. I remained unaware that a man named Robert Forrester had once lived on a Crown grant at the Hawkesbury, that he played a prominent part in early interactions there with Australia’s First Peoples and that, through a grandson, he has Aboriginal descendants who have lodged a Native Title Claim in Queensland. 
Anchor Memorial, Thompson Square, Windsor, 1999

In 1999 my mother Julia Woodhouse and I stopped for a coffee in Windsor, on our way towards Wilberforce, the birthplace of my mother’s grandmother Varah Jane Bushell. We stood in front of the Pioneer Memorial in Thompson Square, looking for the name Robert Forrester. He was named as the father on the death certificate for Varah’s grandmother. The digital age had not arrived and I was tracking the family tree the old-fashioned way by working back through the official birth, death and marriage certificates for each generation. There he was, listed as an arrival in 1788. 

It was only then that we realised that we were descended from a First Fleeter. Australian history has absorbed me ever since. And naturally I'll be voting in favour of The Voice at the forthcoming referendum.

Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter is a complete rethink and rewrite of the first book I wrote about Robert Forrester back in 2009. Get your copy of this book here.

Thursday 29 October 2020

What Happened to Jane Metcalf?

Most family histories are set in the third person, past tense.  Somehow the third person, present tense energises a story but it's very hard to sustain a book-length story of the past using this writing style. Some writers have managed it, such as Hilary Mantel in 'Wolf Hall'.

A recent writing exercise set by the GSV Writers Circle in Melbourne challenged us to tell a short story in the third person, present tense. I chose an example from my latest book Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter to explain what happened to Robert Forrester's long-term de facto wife after his death in 1827. 

Italics in the following short story show the use of the present tense.

In 1828 Jane Metcalf is still alive, working at Wilberforce as a seamstress and living with her Forrester stepsons Robert (Jnr) and William. In 1833 she comes before the Supreme Court, indicted as the receiver of meat from a calf stolen from a neighbour by her stepson Robert and his friend John Norris. Some sort of neighbourhood dispute is in play.

When the men are sentenced to death even their horrified accuser rallies to their defence. So does their neighbour and local magistrate, William Cox: “I never heard one of the family charged with doing wrong until now. Among the young men of these districts they are considered as standing high.”

The death sentence is waived and the two men with their wives and children are sent to Tasmania for seven years, where Robert (Jnr) works for a son of William Cox. Jane is sentenced to 12 months gaol at the Parramatta Female Factory. She is now in her late seventies.

Second Parramatta Female Factory, 1818-1848
By Augustus Earle (1793-1838) - National Library of Australia., Wikimedia

After gaol, Jane needs economic support. She issues a summons seeking maintenance from James Metcalf, her much younger legal husband, although they’ve lived apart for twenty five years. He agrees to resume co-habitation, with Jane keeping house for him.

Described as a 71-year-old pauper, James Metcalf dies in hospital in Windsor in 1843.

Jane Metcroft, a 98-year-old widow, is buried in Windsor in 1854. Four Forrester siblings now live in this town but none of them are entirely sure of her correct surname. She’s simply Jane, their stepmother since 1810.

The full version of Jane's end-of-life story, written in the past tense, is on pp 365-366 of Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter, available online through BookPOD. 

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Bella Ramsay Makes a Stand

In my last post I mentioned that the Third Fleet convict Bella Ramsay is being considered as an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography's 'Colonial Women' project. Why might that be? 

In 1791 Bella had a tough start to her life in Australia. But she did not let that cow her. Using some of Bella's own words, selected from court documents of 1799, we begin to see a feisty young woman prepared to make a stand against a large group of vengeful men running a kangaroo court inside her home. Here is a taste of that story.

Original Sketch by Julia Woodhouse, 2008
My husband was away. I was preparing the evening meal, alone with my five small children, when our farm worker James Metcalf arrived along with three young natives, each armed with a spear, a warmaraa and a waddy. 

Original Sketch by Julia Woodhouse, 2008

Metcalf said ‘These natives were in the woods with Hodgkinson the night before he was massacred. Give them a piece of bread as they might be the means of finding out the natives that killed Hodgkinson.

Metcalf left us to find the widow Hodgkinson, who is my friend, and alert seven other neighbours. 

Left alone with the natives, I was glad to see Constable Powell come in, for I was in fear for myself and the children. We have been robbed by the natives, but from their general inhuman behaviour I am the more afraid of them.

Powell said they should be killed for they had killed a worthy good fellow, and it would be a pity to see them go away alive.

'On Trek', from front doorway of Mitchell Library, Sydney.
Photo by Louise Wilson, 2018

Gradually all our neighbours arrived at my house. Butler came with a bright cutlass, saying ‘What sentence shall we pass upon these black fellows – I will pass sentence myself – they shall be hanged.’

Powell wanted to hang them on the beam in my house. I did not consent, knowing he had a place of his own. Powell asked me for a rope and I said I had none. I tried to save the lives of the natives.

Two neighbours went home to collect ropes and the hands of the natives were then tied behind them by a rope put about their necks. They were taken out of my house. 

About a quarter of an hour afterwards I heard the report of two muskets. Two natives lay dead. The other ran away and he later identified the real murderers.

The above dramatic excerpt condenses the main event but not the aftermath. The full version is outlined in 25 pages of meticulously researched historic detail in "More Killings, 1799", Chapter 11 of the book Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter, available online through BookPOD.

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Bella's Journey into History

In Melbourne I belong to the GSV Writers Circle and occasionally we practise the writing of a meaningful excerpt of our family history in a word-limited story. It certainly helps focus the mind on content and pace. We try to avoid wandering off the highway and down narrative byways. Here's an example of such an exercise - a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, told in approximately 350 words. It's a concentrated taste, a short-form version, of the adventures of Isabella Ramsay, a key character in my latest book Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter.

In May 1790 16-year-old Bella stole a man’s coat, a checked apron and red duffle cloth from a farmer’s wife, her former employer. Found guilty at the Carlisle Assizes and incarcerated in the Carlisle Citadel, she soon heard about a new British government policy requiring women prisoners of child-bearing age to be sent to New South Wales.

She was moved to the assembly point at Newgate Prison in London. 

On 14 February about 70 female prisoners were moved onto two lighters lying off Blackfriars Bridge. A vast crowd of curious Londoners gathered on that cold winter’s morning to watch them set off down the Thames towards Woolwich, where the transports bound for Botany Bay were moored.

Bella was loaded aboard the Mary Ann, stripped of her clothing, shaved of her hair and issued with a woollen cap, a jacket and a petticoat of blue baize. 

Next day the Mary Ann set sail. She made a fast voyage, anchoring in Sydney Cove at 2pm on Sunday 9 July 1791, ahead of the main Third Fleet ships.

A grim fate now awaited Bella, not yet eighteen years of age. Marines, soldiers and settlers crowded aboard the Mary Ann, keen to have first pick of prospective servants and ‘wives’. Women not selected were permitted to go with any man they chose, or else become hut-keepers for from two to ten men. For a virtuous woman, the available options were highly disagreeable. Paraded before the ogling men, Bella was selected by James Manning, a former First Fleet marine. They lived first in the barracks in Sydney, then on a farm near Parramatta.
Sydney in 1791, looking westwards towards Parramatta,
from David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales
Aborigines are standing near today's southern approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Women, being so scarce in the colony, were able to wield some power of their own. Within two years Bella chose a male partner more to her liking. With industrious Robert Forrester, a former First Fleet convict, she had nine children before her death in 1807, thereby becoming a founding mother of modern Australia.

Bella made a mark during her short life in Australia. She's been nominated for inclusion in the Australian Dictionary of Biography's 'Colonial Women' project. Read her full story in Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter, available online through BookPOD

Monday 28 September 2020

Elizabeth Forrester, 1794-1814

Promises are often hard to keep. I should have known better back in 2009, when I published 'Robert Forrester, First Fleeter', that promising a follow-up book about his and Isabella Ramsay's children would be a challenging exercise. As a descendant of their daughter Ann I started first with her story ('Southwark Luck', 2012). Recently I updated the 2009 book with 'Sentenced to Debt'. Details for both books are listed below. 

Today I'm making a minor start on the rest of the family with this cameo picture of the short life of Robert and Bella's eldest child.

Elizabeth Forrester was born in the infant colony of New South Wales on 16 March 1794 but it’s unclear whether she was born near Parramatta or on her parents' new farm at Cornwallis, beside the Hawkesbury River.[1] Her parents definitely lived at Cornwallis by early September 1794 and when her sister Margaret was born there on 2 April 1795 both girls were taken on the long and dangerous journey to Parramatta to be christened.[2] On 25 October 1795 Rev Samuel Marsden dabbed holy water on the infants under a large spreading tree, as the church of St John's was yet to be constructed. He misinterpreted Robert's Scots-Irish accent and recorded the surname as Foster.

Elizabeth's and Margaret's Baptism Record 
Registers, St John’s Parramatta, SAG 55, SLNSW

When her mother died around February 1807, Elizabeth would have been about twelve years old. Onto her shoulders fell the  primary responsibility for housekeeping duties inside the family home and childcare duties for her younger siblings. These numbered seven, until baby Isabella went to live with the childless Bushells.[3] Forrester family finances were tight after the 1806 floods and there would have been pressure on Elizabeth to find paid employment as a servant or housekeeper, her next younger sister Margaret being available as a backstop housekeeper at home.

The convict James Chapman now enters Elizabeth's story. Tried at Portsmouth in January 1801 and sentenced to a seven year term, he arrived in the colony on 11 March 1802 aboard the ship Glatton.[4] At the 1806 Muster he was a prisoner employed by ‘Mr Arndell’.[5] This was Thomas Arndell, formerly a medico but now a free settler with a farm near Portland Head several miles further down the Hawkesbury. Although Chapman was literate (proved in 1814) he did not sign an address written to the Rev Samuel Marsden by 300 principal inhabitants of the Hawkesbury on 1 January 1807, as he was still a prisoner.

Chapman's Signature on 26 December 1814,
Marriage Registers, St Matthew’s Windsor, SAG 53, SLNSW

When Chapman's sentence expired in 1808 and he could make his own life for himself, he was around 28 years old and Elizabeth would have been about 14 years old. Soon they were married. The ceremony would have been held on the ground floor of the government granary at Windsor, a space used as a place of worship on Sundays and as a school on other days.[6] James would have signed on the dotted line, but there’s no evidence that Elizabeth ever received any schooling.

A record of their marriage has never been found, suggesting that it took place before the commencement of the parish registers for St Matthew’s. The first marriage recorded therein was on 18 April 1810. By the 1811 Muster when she was about 16 or 17 Elizabeth had definitely married, her entry as Elizabeth Chapman, ‘free’ and born in the colony, immediately preceding James Chapman’s.[7]

Elizabeth and her new husband lived beside the river on the Atkins grant just downstream of Wilberforce, in the house once belonging to James Metcalf. Perhaps he had facilitated the Chapman-Forrester match. His house was not far from the Arndell property where Chapman had recently worked, and Metcalf had once worked for Elizabeth’s father at Cornwallis. When Metcalf’s assets were sold off in March 1811 to satisfy creditors, his former house was described as ‘late Chapman’s’.[8] The property was bought at auction for ₤33.10s.0p by Richard Ridge, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law. Ridge and Chapman may have been in business together as Chapman was a shoemaker by trade and Ridge had bought shoemaking items at an auction in Windsor in February 1811.[9] Most likely they also worked with Paul Bushell, the man raising Chapman’s young sister-in-law Isabella Jane Forrester. Bushell was known to be the proprietor of a shoemaking business at Wilberforce from about 1814 to about 1828.[10]

After the floods in late March 1811 James Chapman seems to have moved his home and shoemaking activities into the town of Windsor. Here he found himself in trouble over debts to William Baker, once a Second Fleeter, now a hard-nosed businessman. On 22 July 1811 James Chapman issued a Cautionary Notice declaring invalid a Promissory Note of Hand he had drawn in favour of William Baker as it was James’ intention to ‘resist payment of the same’.[11] James’ plan came to nought. On 23 October 1811 James Chapman of Windsor transferred to William Baker of Windsor, for £32.0.0 consideration, a house & 38 rods (about 9½ acres) of ground situated at Windsor. The document was signed by Chapman and witnessed by the Chief Constable Thomas Rickerby and a man named Bolton.[12] The latter is assumed to be John Bolton, who was in a farming partnership with William Ezzy at Cornwallis but soon ran off to Sydney with Ezzy's wife Jane.[12a]

Chapman must have had some substance in his English background because, in May 1812, two notices appeared in the Sydney Gazette advertising that a letter had arrived from England on the Clarkson for James Chapman. It was awaiting collection at the General Post Office in Sydney.[13] 

Chapman’s financial affairs were in general disarray. On 13 February 1813 a notice in the Sydney Gazette advertised that at Windsor on the following Saturday, on the premises of James Chapman, a quantity of household furniture, the property of James Chapman, would be sold by the Provost Marshal unless events intervened beforehand.[14] The said Provost Marshal was currently his wife's brother-in-law Richard Ridge. [14a]  Their shoemaking partnership had not worked out! This might mark the time when Paul Bushell stepped in to the shoemaking business, presumably helping Richard Ridge and not Chapman.

The short life and childless marriage of Elizabeth Chapman née Forrester ended with her death in Windsor on 25 August 1814. If she died in childbirth we will never know. The John Chapman who died in September 1814 was not her son but a 5-year-old child from the Liverpool district, a son of Robert Chapman.

The St Matthews burial register describes her as Elizabeth Chapman of Windsor, born in the colony, aged 20, the wife of James Chapman.[15] In St Matthew's Churchyard her headstone describes her as Elizabeth Chapman, daughter of Robert and Isabella Forster. The wording ‘daughter of’, not ‘wife of’, suggests the headstone may have been paid for later by Elizabeth’s siblings, after her father Robert, brother William, nephew Robert and sister-in-law Lucy were buried alongside her. Elizabeth's siblings did not care to mention their former brother-in-law.

Elizabeth's Headstone at St Matthew's C of E, Windsor,
Photo by Louise Wilson

Elizabeth's husband quickly 'moved on', as the saying goes. He was recorded as a shoemaker in the 1814 Muster, free and 'off stores', meaning that he was able to support himself.[16] He remarried on 26 December 1814, only five months after young Elizabeth’s death.[17] His new wife was the convict Mary Ann Carpenter, recently arrived from London on the Broxbornebury to serve a seven year sentence for theft and currently a servant of Windsor's schoolmaster and parish clerk, Joseph Harpur. She re-offended in New South Wales and was sent to Newcastle in November 1820 to serve a 12-month colonial sentence.

She returned to Sydney and James Chapman was a labourer in Windsor in 1822, again living with his second wife.[18] At the next Muster he was a shoemaker in Wilberforce, his wife no longer present.[19] He was not included on a ‘List of Owners and Occupiers of Houses and Land within the Hawkesbury-Nepean District’ in 1827.[20] The following year saw James Chapman listed as a 50-year-old shoemaker, once again working at Portland Head but this time for the farmer Edward Churchill.[21]

Sixty-year-old James Chapman died in Windsor on 11 June 1840 and was buried next day at St Matthew’s Windsor, nowhere near his first wife.[22] Despite the claims made in various online family trees, there is no record of any children for James Chapman by either of his wives. 


Elizabeth's parents earned their own special place in history when the European settlement of Australia commenced in 1788. Read all about their adventures in 'Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter', available online through BookPOD. Elizabeth's sister Ann features in the book 'Southwark Luck', also available through BookPOD. The story of Elizabeth's sister Margaret and brother-in-law Richard Ridge is in active preparation. Tales of Elizabeth's brothers and youngest sister are in draft form but the final versions are yet to come.

[1] Louise Wilson, ‘Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter”, (South Melbourne, 2020), pp 119-121

[2] Elizabeth Foster, Baptism record, 25 Oct 1795, St John’s Parramatta, SAG Film 55, SLNSW

[3] ‘Louise Wilson, ‘Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter”, (South Melbourne, 2020), pp 252-253

[4] Convict Indents, NSW, James Chapman, NSWSA: NRS 12188, [4/4004], Reel 392

[5] Carol J Baxter, (Ed), Muster of New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1805–1806 (ABGR in assoc with SAG, Sydney 1989), line A0823, p 23

[6] Ritchie, Evidence to Bigge Reports, Vol 1, p 152, Evidence of Rev Robert Cartwright describing the local places of worship at the start of 1810

[7] Carol J Baxter, (Ed), General Muster of New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land, 1811 (ABGR in assoc. with SAG, Sydney 1987), p 23

[8] Col Sec Special Bundles No 5, NSWSA: NRS 898, (ML [C197]), Reel 6040, p 25, 30 Mar 1811

[9] Col Sec Special Bundles No 5, NSWSA: NRS 898, (ML [C197]), Reel 6040, pp 3-5, 13-15, 17, 22, Feb 1811

[10] ‘Louise Wilson, ‘Paul Bushell, Second Fleeter’, (South Melbourne, 2010), pp 132-137

[11] Caution, Syd Gaz, Sat 27 July 1811

[12] Old System Records, NSW Land Registry Services, Reference numbers to be provided 

[12a] Classified Advertising, Syd Gaz, Sat 2 Jan 1813, p 4

[13] Syd Gaz, 9 May 1812, p 4, col b, and Syd Gaz, 23 May 1812, p 4, col c

[14] Sales by Auction, Syd Gaz, Sat 13 Feb 1813, p 1, col b 

[14a] Syd Gaz, 23 May 1812, p 4, col b 

[15] Elizabeth Chapman, Record of death 25 Aug 1814, St Matthew's C of E, Windsor, Film SAG 54, SLNSW

[16] Carol J Baxter, (Ed), General Muster of New South Wales, 1814 (ABGR in assoc. with SAG, Sydney 1987)

[17] Marriages, St Matthew's C of E, Windsor, Film SAG 53, SLNSW

[18] Carol J Baxter, (Ed), General Muster and Land and Stock Muster of New South Wales, 1822 (ABGR in assoc. with SAG, Sydney 1988), p 86

[19] Carol J Baxter, (Ed), General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825 (ABGR, a Project of SAG Sydney 1991), p 94

[20] List of Owners & Occupiers of Houses & Land Within the Hawkesbury-Nepean District, 1827, Mitchell Library Ref 908/88 (b)

[21] Keith Johnson & Malcolm Sainty, Census of New South Wales, November 1828 (Library of Australian History, Sydney 1980), p 87

[22] James Chapman, Burial Record, St Matthew’s Windsor, 12 June 1840, No 1243, [NSW Register of Baptisms, Burials & Marriages Pre 1856], Ref V1840780 24A/1840