The FIRTH Sisters
Name Variations FRITH1
Father John Wissett FIRTH b.c. 1828 m. 18552 d. 18953
Step-father Alexander4 HURLEY5 b. 18436 m. none d. 18877
Step-father George BRACKAM8 b. m. 18979 d.
Mother Anastasia aka Ann aka Anna aka Hannah Stasia KING b. 183610 m. 1855 d. 192511
Sister Margaret Eliza FIRTH b. 185712 m. (1) 187313 (2) 189014 (1) Henry Edward KILPATRICK (2) Michael MOYLAN d. 194415
Brother James FIRTH b. 185816 m. 187817 Ellen KING d. 194518
Inmate Mary Ann FIRTH b. 186019 m. 1877 (see below) d. 192620
Brother John Thomas FIRTH b. 186221 m. 188822 Elizabeth Ellen MEPPEM d. 191723
Inmate Jane FIRTH b. 186424 m. unknown (see below) d. aft. 1875
Inmate Ellen FIRTH b. 186625 m. unknown (see below) d. aft. 1878
Half-sister Hannah FIRTH b. 187026 m. d.
Half-sister Johannah FIRTH aka HURLEY b. 187527 m. 189728 Arthur Baptist CARMICHAEL d. 195129
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father John30 39 5’ 10¼” brown to grey hazel fresh tall a sawyer; prominent chin, and medium mouth and nose
Father John31 40 5’ 11” brown brown
Brother John32 13 dark stout clear skin; good looking; good expression or countenance; dressed in mulberry colour tweed jacket and trousers and round cloth cap

Ellen, Jane and Mary Ann FIRTH together with their brother, John, were arrested from Tamworth around 10 January 1871,33 by constable STAVE of Tamworth Police under a warrant under the Industrial Schools Act. The children were reported to have been abandoned by their parents and had no means of support. At this stage the children's father, John, was in prison but without access to the report of the trial, it is unknown whether their mother had actually abandoned them. John was admitted to the Vernon on 18 January 1871,34 and the three girls were sent to Newcastle. They were admitted on 16 January, so the date of their arrest must have been before this date and taking travelling time into account. Because the Entrance Book is incomplete for the time the sisters entered the school, details of their family, education, religion or discharge cannot be confirmed from this source. The Entrance Book for the Vernon provides considerable family details.

Born 4th July 1862 at Moore Creek about 8 miles from Tamworth. Father John Wisset Firth. Mother Anastasia King. The father is a native of Enfield near London and is of the Church of England. – The mother is from Waterford, Ireland and is a Roman Catholic. The father is a sea-going man, a sawyer and a bushman he only lately left gaol. The mother is also of bad character. The father and mother were married in the year 1855 at Jamberoo New South Wales. These particulars have been learned from the Father and from the Registry of Births at Tamworth.

The list identifying the parents who didn't contribute to the upkeep of the boys on board and compiled in 1872, confirmed that John's father was John Wisset FIRTH. It also indicated in two letters that his family had no means to contribute to his upkeep on the Vernon and that the whereabouts of his parents was unknown.35 When John absconded from his apprenticeship in 1875 it was identified that he had friends in Newcastle.36

The Biloela transfer lists show that the girls were Protestant. Their names were all recorded on this document as FRITH.37 All three sisters were recorded as 'In the Institution' on LUCAS's April 1872 list.38

Family

The sisters were the children of John FIRTH and Anastasia (X) KING who had married in Kiama on 26 November 1855, by Peter YOUNG, the minister of the Catholic church of Kiama. Only Annastasia [sic]] was Catholic. The witnesses were Peter ALLAN and Margaret KING, both of Jamberoo.39 The couple later moved to Tamworth.

John was tried on 18 June 1867, and convicted in Tamworth for cattle stealing. Two depositions for John Wissett aka Wissell FIRTH in the Tamworth area in 1865 and 1867 for cattle stealing are available but they have not been viewed. John was sentenced to work on the roads for seven years, a sentence which was commuted to three years in Parramatta gaol.40 John appeared in Maitland records whilst in transit to Berrima Gaol.41 He had been born in London, England, in about 1828 and gaol records identify two differing ships of arrival but both records refer to the same crime of cattle stealing in Tamworth. He was transferred from Berrima after he had 'completed [his] term of separate treatment'.42 Parramatta gaol records record a clerical error as John's age was erroneously recorded as 59 rather than 39 years of age in some official Parramatta records. It is unknown whether a further clerical error has occurred regarding his ship of arrival or whether John provided the conflicting information. One record stated that he had arrived on the Columbia and another on the Europa in 1854. John was a protestant who could read and write. He was released from Parramatta in June 1870.43 He was located at Cope's Creek in New England in August 1876.44 John’s death was registered in Tamworth in 1895 and this death has been confirmed by numerous online trees.

Online trees identify Anastasia's arrival on 12 December 1854, with her parents, Thomas and Mary KING, aboard the Lady Kennaway. She was recorded on the indent as eighteen year old Statia KING. Her father's sister, Margaret KING, was his relative in the colony. She was living in Kiama.45 As Hannah FIRTH, Anastasia was convicted of assault and tried on 1 July 1869, in Tamworth QS.46 One deposition remains for Hannah for burglary and assault but it has not been viewed. Sympathy was given to her because of her large family. She was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment as well ordered to pay a fine of three pounds or receive twelve months imprisonment. The fine was paid immediately by the jurymen.47

There are no further confirmations yet found for Ann, Anna or Hannah as FIRTH after this court appearance until her death in Auburn possibly as Anastasia FIRTH on 3 May 1925.48 Although this death is confirmed by descendants in online trees and although her parents were recorded as John and Mary on her death registration which matches what is known of her, it must be questioned. There is no doubt that from about the time of the admission of her children to the industrial schools Anastasia was using the given name Hannah or Hannah Statia. Almost every researcher has missed the illegitimate births of two further daughters, Hannah and Johanna, to Hannah Stacia FIRTH in Tamworth in 1870 and 1875. In 1893 Hannah and Johanna HURLEY endeavoured to challenge the will of Alexander HURLEY and the land that he had once owned.49 No mention was made in this newspaper report about another child but that does not necessarily indicate that the child Hannah FIRTH had died. There is a strong possibility that in 1897 as Hannah S. HURLEY, either Anastasia or her daughter Hannah, married George BRACKAM. The registration numbers indicate that it occurred shortly before Johannah HURLEY aka FIRTH married Alfred B. CARMICHAEL in Tamworth also in 1897. No further trace of Hannah and George BRACKHAM can be located. George may have gone on to marry Annie E. SWAN nee GREEN in 1904 and the couple were recorded as having three children before 1914. It is still being investigated whether Ellen and Jane were reunited with their mother and subsequently assumed the surname HURLEY.

More information may be available when more New England papers are scanned. Nothing appropriate can be found on Queensland BDM.

Ellen FIRTH

Ellen was four years old when she was admitted to Newcastle. She remained on the island after her two sisters were apprenticed. J. DALE, the relieving officer, reported that Ellen suffered from a bout of the measles in his report on 15 February 1875.50 WALKER, the superintendent indicated in her report of 24 January 1876, that Ellen was again confined to hospital with scarlet fever51 which she had contracted on 18 January.52 She recovered and was discharged from the hospital on 24 January.53

On 6 December 1877, Mr Hanley BENNETT wrote to the Colonial Secretary.

I do myself the Honor to Apply for a Girl named Frith an inmate of the Reformatory School54 Biloela to be employed in my own family as a General DOmestic Servant. The Girl is 12 years old on or about the 12th of this month. … I am prepared to receive the Girl at once.

The letter was sent to Selina WALKER for her comments and on 11 December she approved the apprenticeship but also responded that Ellen had not quite turned twelve. BENNETT agreed to wait until she could be sent to him. WALKER confirmed Ellen's admission details and that she had been conducting herself well. She was to be apprenticed to BENNETT for six years at the rate of a shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for years three and four and three shillings a week for the last two years.55 On 29 January 1878, Ellen was apprenticed to Hanley BENNETT, M.P. Numerical notations in the Biloela Discharge Book suggested that she completed at least three years of the apprenticeship.56 While no locations were recorded in the correspondence or the Discharge Book, BENNETT was the elected representative for the Liverpool Plains area.57 It is unknown whether BENNETT requested Ellen after an intervention from some member of her family but it seems very likely as she was returned to the area from whence she had been arrested and where her father was possibly still resident.

Where has She Gone?

While Ellen was young at the time of her admission and may have forgotten the names of her parents, the request for her apprenticeship to the Tamworth area strongly suggested that she returned to her family. Her older sisters, Mary Ann and Jane, had been discharged from Biloela before she left the island so there was nobody in a position to remind her of her ancestry but it is possible that one of these sisters may have approached BENNETT to apprentice Ellen. Online trees researched by descendants of John and Anastasia have attributed no marriage to Ellen but no trace of her death can be found. This may also indicate that a marriage was not registered.

The marriage of Ellen FORTH to Michael Francis TWOHIG in Broken Hill in 189758 is of interest because when Ellen Mary TWOHIG died in May 1935, she was 68, which is a very good match for the birth of Ellen FIRTH.59 Her parents were recorded as Michael and Annie A. at the time of her death.60 No obituaries identified any siblings. While there are births for Thomas and Annie A. FORTH in Broken Hill, they are nearly twenty years after the birth of Ellen so there is some concern that the correct family has been identified. There are no births for Michael and Annie A. and no deaths have been identified for Thomas. Annie FORTH married George ROSS in Broken Hill in 190761 but it is uncertain if this is a remarriage. Michael TWOHIG died eleven years after Ellen at Young.62 There is no indication that this is the girl admitted to Newcastle.

The woman of this name who married Edmund MASON was born in about 1850. Further the Newcastle admission was still on Cockatoo Island in 1876 so she can't have made this marriage. While the death of Ellen FIRTH in 1969 shows the correct parents, it would mean that Ellen died at the age of 103 which is considered only a very remote possibility.

Jane FIRTH

Jane transferred to Biloela on Cockatoo Island in May 1871. On 1 March 1875, Henry G. BENSON of 275 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, requested an apprentice from Biloela to work as a nurse and a domestic servant. The relieving superintendent, DALE, sought permission to apprentice Jane. She was recorded by DALE to be twelve so she was to be sent to BENSON for six years. Jane was to receive one shilling a week for the first and second years, two shillings a week for the third and fourth years and three shillings a week for the final two years of the apprenticeship. Permission was cautiously granted by the Colonial Secretary with the notation on the correspondence directing that the warrant be obtained to discover whether Jane was

of Sydney. It is not usual nor intended to apprentice girls in Sydney.63

There has been no indication found to indicate when this apprenticeship commenced nor whether Jane remained with BENSON in Sydney until she was 18. This was the only reference to Jane listed in the CSIL index.

Where has She Gone?

Jane was only six at the time of her admission. Her older sister, Mary Ann, had been discharged from Biloela at least three years before she left the island so there was nobody in a position to remind her of her ancestry.

Jane was not the woman named Jane Ellen FIRTH who married Ebenezer VICKERY in Sydney in 1879 as online trees indicated that this women had been born in Tonga to different parents. This birth location is very unusual so it is considered unlikely to be wrong and an exact date was provided so it is likely that at least some original registrations have been viewed. The death of Jane FIRTH in Waverley in 1926 is of a woman whose parents were recorded as John and Ellen but Waverley cemetery records indicated that this woman was born in 1839 in Rotherham, England. She is unlikely to have married as Ann J. FIRTH to Alfred HANKIN in 1891 as this woman's likely death in 1940 indicated very different parents.

Mary Ann FIRTH

Husband Richard Jonathan Joshua HUGHES b. 1855 m. d.c. 190064
Daughter Jane Ann HUGHES b. 187865 m. 189566 Henry Joseph STEY d. 195567
Daughter Mary Elizabeth HUGHES b. 188168 m. 190069 James George McSHANE d. 190870
Son John Robert HUGHES b. 188471 m. 191372 Pearl URQUHART d. 192473
Daughter Alice Louisa HUGHES b. 188574 m. (1) 190275 (2) 191076 (1) Robert Archibald REEVES (2) Robert Charles WILKINS d. 191277
Daughter Rose Emily HUGHES b. 188878 m. (1) 191179 (2) 193780 (1) Albert Stephens DIGBY (2) Robert WHITBY d. 197081
Daughter Minnie Agnes HUGHES b. 188982 m. 191183 Cyril John CREEK d. 194184
Son Richard G. HUGHES b.c. 1891 m. none - d. 189185
Son Richard86 HUGHES b. 189687 m. none - d. 189688

Mary Ann remained on the island at Biloela until 1873. In a letter to the Colonial Secretary on 24 March, LUCAS sought permission to apprentice Mary Ann to Mr. Patrick MANNION of Goulburn for six years at a rate of one shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for the third and fourth year and five shillings a week for the final two years of the apprenticeship. LUCAS reported that Mary Ann had been admitted to Newcastle on 16 January 1871, was twelve years old and was ‘conducting herself well.’ The apprenticeship was approved.89

Mary married Richard Jonathan Joshua HUGHES sometime before 1878 as the NSW BDM Index shows the registration of children firstly in Tamworth and then in Narrabri and Drake, north-east of Tenterfield. There is no marriage registration located on the NSW BDM Index however some online trees have provided a marriage date of 2 March 1877.90 This information may have been sourced from a birth certificate for one of their children but without a church record, it must be considered that the couple had never married. The church records for the New England area have not been viewed.

Online trees disagree on the date of Mary Ann’s death. Some state that her death was registered in Sydney in 190091 where her mother, Anastasia, was the only parent recorded on the registration. Others state that Mary Ann's death was registered in West Maitland in 1926 where her parents were recorded as John and Ethel E. This tree is adamant that the 1900 death is incorrect and records that Mary Ann lived far longer than 1900, became a nurse and served during the Great War. There is no doubt that Mary Ann died on 26 June 1926, as Mary Ann's daughter, Jane, placed In Memoriam notices on a regular basis from 1927.92 One thorough family researcher has checked both records and has recorded that:

[Mary Ann] didn't die in 1900 as I have that certificate. It is that of a baby.

Two photographs on this tree enable a visual comparison of the wife of Richard HUGHES and the WWI nurse. More information on the family may also become available after the further scanning of the Newcastle and further Maitland papers. Mary Ann's obituary appeared in The Maitland Daily Mercury on 28 June 1926.

Late Mrs. Mary Ann Hughes.
The funeral of the late Mrs. Mary Ann Hughes left the residence of her daughter, Mrs. H. Stey, Station-street, Homeville. Deceased was born in Tamworth, but had lived the greater part of her life in and around the West Maitland district. She was confined to her bed for the past 10 months. Yesterday the remains were interred in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Campbell's Hill. Father Flanagan officiated. Messrs. Passfield, Khrams, Fry and Haling acted as pall-bearers. The chief mourners were:— Mrs. M. Moylan (sister), Gloucester ; Mr. J. Firth (brother), Broadmeadow; Mrs. H. Stey, Mrs. A. Digby, Mrs. C. Creek (daughters), West Maitland.93

This sister was Mrs MOYLAN was Margaret Eliza MOYLAN who married Michael MOYLAN in West Maitland in 189094 and who died in 1944. She was Mary Ann's oldest sister who had first married Henry FITZPATRICK.95 No reference to the two younger sisters has been identified in connection with Mary Ann.

Updated October 2015

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