Each biography is divided into either three sections and is an ongoing project. A fourth section is included if the inmate has not been found after her discharge from the industrial school. The date at which the biography was last updated is recorded before the references. If there is no updated date, the biography has not been edited since 2013. The first section of each biography records in tabular form the names of the parents, siblings, spouse/s and children of each inmate and may contain a photo. Any descriptions of family members that have been found have been transcribed. As records and sources are located the information that they hold is added to the appropriate biography. Note that sisters appear on the same page and their details are set out in a similar outline to girls with no siblings but individual sibling biographies are preceded by a general indication of the arrest details for each and the detailed information regarding their parents.
The second section describes when and how each girl arrived at the school and summarises her trial, admission details and any events occurring at the school to the time of her discharge – including whether or not she transferred from Newcastle to Biloela. This account is followed by details of any further life events that have been identified that were relevant to the inmate after she left the school. These events may include her marriage, marriages or liaisons, her children and her death – where they have been possible to locate. Many biographies show how difficult it was for women during the nineteenth century and it was often especially difficult if your appearance was not the norm.
The third section of the biography will identify a girl's place of birth and often specific details of her baptism, her family and the records that were used to confirm her father, mother and siblings. An aim of the project was to try to identify the maiden name of each girl's mother, so wherever possible parents have been traced to their ship of arrival. A set of statistics is being constructed reflecting the antecedents of the girls admitted to Newcastle and these statistics indicate the large number of girls who were descended from convicts. Tracking siblings has often led to the discovery of very elusive family members and inmates who attempted to 'disappear'. Generally, only the year of registration for NSW birth, marriage or death registrations of other family members has been recorded – especially if they are easy to find. It has sometimes been possible to use online sources created by descendants to confirm or refute information that has been found. In many cases communication and liaison with descendants has been possible to elaborate on the lives for families and to these descendants I am grateful. Occasionally independent researchers have made contact to confirm or refute difficult facts and for their assistance I am also grateful.
The final section, if it occurs, is conjectural and based only on supposition. This section suggests personal or family connections for girls who it has not been possible to trace. These conjectural birth, death and marriage details are often recorded in italics in the tables in each biography. Proof may never be found that these events or names are correct but they will remain in the biography unless evidence has been uncovered to conclusively prove that the details are incorrect. The section also may contain an account of research that has been undertaken to avoid reinvestigating a particular line of enquiry.
These biographies sometimes contain references to intimate or confronting events in a girl's history or her family's circumstance.
|Family historians should be aware that they may encounter information that they may find very distressing.|
A further warning appears at the beginning of any biography that contains a confronting life experience, usually sexual in nature, that had been reported in the newspapers.
Note 1: The number preceding each name indicates either the admission number to the industrial school recorded in the letter numbered CSIL: 72/4799 [1/2176] or the admission order to the Newcastle Reformatory (R) extracted from the letter numbered CSIL: 74/5050 [1/2279].
Note 2: A biography for each girl admitted to Newcastle appears online but numerous retrieved references from SRNSW are yet to analysed.
Note 3: The process of editing is ongoing.
The Reformatory Girls
Girls sent to the Newcastle – and later the Biloela – Reformatory were sentenced for a specific term – usually twelve months but occasionally longer. Admissions to the reformatory were not recorded in the Newcastle Industrial School Entrance Book.15 A second register was almost certainly commenced when the reformatory opened in January 1869. This register has not been located and is not thought to be extant, however a letter containing the names of the first twenty inmates has been located in the CSIL.16 This letter named the inmates, recorded their trial court and trial date, and provided a discharge date. This letter was compiled because a request was made in the Legislative Assembly on 1 April 1874, asking for information on the sentences passed on those in the Reformatory.17 Inconsistencies have been noted in some recorded discharge dates18 and some girls have no age recorded so it is unclear how this list was compiled.
Agnes KING, the former matron of the Industrial School, was made responsible for the small number of reformatory admissions from its formation in January 1869. A letter written by CLARKE to the Colonial Secretary, on 13 January 1869, suggests that staffing for the entire school remain unchanged until the numbers in the reformatory exceeded fifteen.19 The reformatory was not completely separated from the Industrial School until at least May 1869 due to building works.20 Newspapers reported that there were 'eight girls and a Matron' in the Newcastle Reformatory21 but the letter to the Principal Under-secretary from the Officer in Temporary Charge, J. DALE, confirmed that there were only six. They were Jane LORD, Mary Ann MEEHAN, Elizabeth RANDALL, Jane TAYLOR, Louisa WINTER and Ellen YOUNGMAN.22 RANDALL, TAYLOR and WINTER transferred to the Biloela Reformatory in May 187123 with MEEHAN arriving some months after the others as she was completing a gaol sentence. It may be that the figure of eight inmates included some girls who were frequent escapees or who had been sent to gaol from the Industrial School and who then spent time in the Reformatory after their return. Two of these girls have been identified – Lucy AH KIN and Annie HOWARD – and CLARKE made a request that a further girl, Mary Jane McNEICE, be sent to the Reformatory after her return from gaol. It is not known whether this request was approved by Sydney. Without already discovering the names of the Newcastle Reformatory girls, the list containing their names could not have been been located as it was not identified by subject in the CSIL index.
Tracing the Inmates
The initial decision to attempt to trace the inmates seemed like a vain hope but by compiling the information in many scattered resources it became possible to create a complete list of the girls admitted to the Newcastle Industrial School and identify the Newcastle Reformatory inmates. Once a name was uncovered, Trove24 was used to 'cast about' for possible references to the girl or her family. In most cases, the girl's family was also identified even if their particulars were not recorded in or missing or omitted from the Entrance Book. It was surprising how often newspapers reported incidents involving the school and how often children were named in newspapers. Because the law was new, far more information was provided in newspapers than in the reports concerning later admissions to either Biloela and Parramatta. The major reference used was the Entrance Book, identified in SRNSW as the Register of Warrants. The two lists of inmates identified in the CSIL identified all the inmates to the two schools. The letters of the superintendent, letters relating to inmates in the CSIL, newspaper articles, the NSW Police Gazette and if relevant, the Vernon records, were also consulted to try to establish family details. An analysis of these references may be read in Sources.
Many inmates to Newcastle were born before 1856 when compulsory registration began in NSW and whenever it was possible the pre-1856 baptism records on the NSW BDM 'V' reels were transcribed. Because the age, parents and religion of the girls admitted to the school was often recorded, it was sometimes possible to use these records to confirm or refute names. If a girl was born or remained in the Hunter Valley, the Newcastle Anglican records and the Hunter Valley Parish Register Index (HVPRI) were able to be read and for Sydney records the Mutch Index was occasionally consulted. It is a sad fact that many of the girls were imprisoned before or during their time in Newcastle and some appeared in court or gaol records after their discharge. Gaol entrance books – especially those for Darlinghurst and Maitland – contain valuable birth or arrival details and sometimes this information was duplicated in the Police Gazette.
Few inmates would have wished to be associated with Newcastle, Biloela or Parramatta so after they had left the school, and as adverse publicity grew, a desire to hide their past became stronger for many. In addition to the stigma of an admission to Newcastle, a very large number of girls also carried the burden of having a family member who had been transported or imprisoned. Some families were also hiding their past and so their daughters grew up surrounded by a web of deceit, often never knowing the name they had been given when, or if, they had been baptised. Many girls 'disappeared' after they left the school. They either adopted an alias or used the name of the man or men with whom they eventually lived. Only descendants will be able to identify these girls by using the birth and death registrations at their disposal that can't be linked to names of the Newcastle girls on the NSW BDM Index or in the newspapers. This project identified who a girl was before she began to evade authorities but as time has passed, sometimes it is now only possible to identify who a girl wasn't – rather than who she was.
These girls have been listed in some document or resource as Newcastle admissions but do not appear on the list25 of inmates copied from the Entrance Book in April 1872 or on the list of the girls who transferred to Biloela.26 It is possible that letters containing more information on each girl may exist in the CSIL but these have not been retrieved.
Locating a birthplace for each inmate has not always been possible and the investigation into place of birth is ongoing.
Place of Birth
Updated June 2016