The BURT sisters
Father Joseph BERT1 b.c. 1820 m. 18502 d. 19103
Mother Elizabeth COWARD b.c. 1822 m. (1) 18424 (2) 1850 (1) William CLAYSON (2) Samuel BIRT d. 18615
Half-sister Caroline Ann CLAYSON b. 18466 m. 1862 Henry TAYLOR d. unknown
Half-sister Sarah Jane CLAYSON b. 18487 m. 18658 Donald John MACDONALD d. unknown
Half-brother William CLAYSON b. 1850 m. none - d. 1850
Inmate Susan BIRT b. 18519 m. none - d. 187110
Brother Henry Joseph BIRT b. 185311 m. 187312 Mary LORD d. 192213
Inmate Jemima BERT b. 1855 m. - d. unknown
Brother George BIRT b. 1857 m. d. 191714
Brother William Robert BERT b.c. 1861 m. d. 192215
Table of Contents

Jemima and Susan were daughters of Joseph BERT and Elizabeth COWARD even though they were admitted at different times. Susan was admitted to Newcastle in 1868 but Jemima was not admitted until 1870. There is no record of Jemima's connection to the family anywhere in NSW apart from correspondence in the CSIL. A letter written on 2 August 1871, respecting difficulties with her age and her baptismal certificate confirms her family. LUCAS records Jemima’s statement and quotes from the now missing Entrance Book pages stating that Jemima

was born after her brother, Henry Joseph, and before George in the year 1855 and that she is sixteen years of age. This corresponds with her age as registered in this institution.

A letter from J. Spicer WOOD reporting on the contents of the baptism register confirms that Jemima’s baptism doesn’t appear with those of her three siblings.16

Joseph was a labourer at Hexham on the Hunter River west of Newcastle. He had been sentenced to transportation for life aboard the Strathfieldsay but had received his Ticket of Leave in 1844. He could read and write. Joseph and the widow, Elizabeth CLAYSON, were granted permission to marry on 11 July 1850, by Robert BOLTON at Hexham. Joseph was thirty. They married on 21st August, and the marriage is recorded in the Newcastle Christ Church Register but occurred at Hexham. The witnesses were William LUCK and Irvine COULTER. Elizabeth was twenty-eight and had had arrived free as a bounty immigrant in 1840 on board the Mary Ann.

In 1842, Elizabeth had married the convict William CLAYSON who had arrived on the Marquis of Huntley and who had died in 1849 at the age of 42. William and Elizabeth had two daughters - Caroline Ann and Sarah Jane – and a son, William, who died as an infant. Elizabeth’s death is recorded in Newcastle in 1861 with the surnames BURT and COWARD and her mother was also recorded as Elizabeth. She may have died having William Robert whose birth was registered in Newcastle and who was recorded as being born in Alnwick, Hexham, in 1862. Because the birth and death registrations for William Robert don’t record Joseph’s name, and because Elizabeth’s death is recorded in both her married and maiden names, it is likely that had Joseph abandoned his family sometime during 1861. He disappears around this time and no further trace has been found for him. Caroline and Sarah both married in Newcastle and one of these women, named as Susan’s sister, gave evidence at her court appearance. The sister stated that Susan’s mother was dead and ‘her’ father probably was too, suggesting that the family also had doubts about Joseph’s whereabouts even at this early time.

Jemima BERT

Name Variations BURT

Jemima’s admission to the school is located in the missing section of the Entrance Book so no family, religious, educational, admission or discharge details are available from this source but she is listed in LUCAS's list of girls eligible for apprenticeship in June 1871.17 LUCAS’s further letter recommending her apprenticeship on 2 August 1871, confirms that she was admitted in May 1870. The circumstances of her admission haven’t been discovered. On 3 March 1871,18 she escaped with Mary COUGHLAN and Catherine HARDING. They were quickly recaptured by constable SMITH of Newcastle Police and ten days later, on 13 March, she was tried with Ellen JOHNSTON, Winifred McDONALD, Ellen PHILBEN, Mary Jane WRIGHT, Bridget McEVOY and Mary COUGHLAN in Newcastle Court for willfully destroying Government property during the riot at the school in March 1871. The girls were fined five pounds each or sentenced to Maitland Gaol for one month labour. Jemima went to Maitland Gaol19 and on her release on 12 April 1871, she was recorded as a native of the colony. She absconded again in May 187120, with Catherine BANNAM and Catherine CONDON but they were also soon recaptured and arrested by Senior sergeant LANE. Jemima transferred to Biloela and was listed in a letter to the Colonial Secretary by LUCAS on 23 June 1871, as being eligible for service. On 6 August 1871, John F. GRAY, Esq., the Magistrate at Byalla, near Wheeo, Yass, requested an apprentice. LUCAS stated that Jemima was conducting herself well so she was apprenticed for two years. She was to be paid five shillings a week for the first year and six shillings a week for the second. By 12 December 1871, GRAY wrote stating

since I last wrote to you on 13th November respecting Jemima BURT [sic] apprenticed to me from the Public Industrial School on 12 Aug’ last she has refused to do any duty here and she refuses to have her Indentures assigned to any one unless in a town although Mr. MEDWAY, one of the most respectable settlers in this neighbourhood agreed to take her if you approved. I therefore sent her in to Gunning yesterday hoping to get her forwarded under care of the police to Biloela. I offering to pay her coach fare – but the Police would not consent to take the trouble so my son had to take her out here again and she is now, as she has been since I wrote you last, living with one of my shepherd’s families. She can never re-enter my house for reasons I did not know when I last wrote but have since learned to be improper conduct with the men here doing shearing and violent insolence to Mrs. GRAY on being reprimanded for it. I therefore wish you would take such steps as may be advisable in the matter for I cannot keep her until next Gunning court day …

Jemima returned to the school and a further request for an apprenticeship to Mr Richard JOHNSON, Esq., LUCAS decided was undesirable so she remained on Biloela possibly until she was eighteen.

No further information has been found for Jemima. The CSIL may hold further clues as the index contains further correspondence concerning Jemima. No further trace has been found for her in NSW or Queensland although she is referred to in some of the letters as Jenna(?).

Susan BERT

Name Variations Susanna BIRT, BURT

Susan was arrested by constable SMITH and appeared in Newcastle Police Court on the 14th October, 1867, and was admitted to the school that same day. She stated that her brother-in-law and sister had turned her out the previous night. Susan’s age was reported to be almost sixteen when she appeared in court and it may be that lies were told to have her sent to Newcastle as she said that she would rather go to the Industrial School than back to her brother-in-law’s house. She was a Protestant and her level of education was assessed as “first book on slate.” Susan’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was a virgin. On the 13th September, 1870, she was removed from the school to the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum by order of the Colonial Secretary. She died there on the 11th July, 1871, her death was registered at Parramatta in 1871and was noted in the Newcastle Entrance Book. Susan was only twenty and no parents are recorded on the registration. Parramatta Records may give more information about her condition.
The Entrance Book records that Susan’s parents were both dead so they weren’t named but she has been identified as the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth BERT. She was born on the 16th December, 1851, and baptized by R. F. BOLTON on the 18th January, 1852, as Susanna BIRT.

Could Donald McDONALD be connected to the McDONALD sisters? Look in the HVPRI. Doesn’t appear to be. Where did this reference to Jemimah BERT come from?

NSW Marriages: V1842567 26C/1842 [CLAYSON/COWARD]; V1850728 36B/1850 [BIRT/CLAYSON]; HVPRI: BERT & CLAYSON; NP: 18 Oct 1867 [PCN]; SRNSW: 14722; 5/3428; p.4 No.39; ML: CY882 A737 p.83; SRNSW: 4/607 67/6696 [Dr HARRIS’s report]

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License