The JOHNSON Sisters
Father Matthew JOHNSON b.c. 18221 m. 1849 d. 18692
Mother Mary Ann CHINNOCK aka SHANNICK aka SHANICK b.c. 18303 m. 18494 d. aft. 1875
Brother Matthew W. JOHNSON b. 18505 m. none - d. 18516
Brother Edward JOHNSON b. 18527 m. d.
Sister Martha JOHNSON b. 18548 m. (1) 18759 (2) 190110 (1) John McAULEY (2) William PIPER d. 192011
Inmate Sarah Jane JOHNSON b.c. 1854 m. (see below) d. aft. 1871
Inmate Amelia aka Emily JOHNSON b. 185612 m. 1875 (see below) d. 190013
Brother Matthew JOHNSON b. 185814 m. d. 189515
Sister Mary A. JOHNSON b. unknown m. unknown d. 186716

The sisters Amelia and Sarah Jane JOHNSON appeared before the Sydney bench on 8 October 1869, in company with Sarah BLAKE, Mary Ann O’HARE and Sarah McDUFF. Their surnames were recorded as both JOHNSTON17 and JOHNSTONE.18 Constable THOMPSON stated that between seven and eight o'clock the previous night he had found the five girls in York Street, Sydney. One of them complained to him that they were all leading bad lives and sleeping out at night. By their own account they had left their homes on Sunday night and had slept in a location in Sussex Street. On Monday and Tuesday nights they had stayed in a house in Hay Street. On Wednesday night they went to Ivory's stables in Bourke Street, Surry Hills, where they were going to sleep with a jockey but they were turned out by the police after which they promised to go home. Instead they went and passed the rest of the night in an empty kitchen in Kelly's Lane. Amelia and Sarah’s mother, who was unnamed in the newspapers, appeared in court and stated that she had no control over her children and that they had left their home and their situations and gone wandering about the streets in company with persons having no lawful visible means of support. The bench stressed that they were of the opinion that the whole of the blame of the girls' present position rested on their parents. Amelia and Sarah and the other three girls were sent to Newcastle and were admitted on 9 October.


The pages in the Entrance Book recording details of the sisters' family, religion, education and discharge details are missing from no details can be confirmed from this source. It is considered likely that Mathew's death was the catalyst for the behaviour that ultimately had the pair arrested and sent to Newcastle. Their family was identified when their mother, Mary Ann, applied to have both her daughters released from Newcastle.19 Amelia's ancestry can be confirmed on the Monaro Pioneers Database. Sarah and Amelia’s parents were Matthew JOHNSON and Mary Ann SHANNICK20 aka CHINNOCK who were married by John Eugene GOURBELLION in St Mary's Catholic Church, Sydney, on 12 November 1849.21 Both were residents of Sydney. Matthew was a member of the Church of England but Mary Ann was Catholic. Mary Ann signed the register as Mary An SHIMICK, suggesting that at this date she was just learning to write and it is believed that her skills in this area had improved considerably by 1870. The witnesses to the marriage were Richard and Catherine GALVIN of Newtown who were Mary's sister, Catherine SHINNICK and her husband, Richard GALVIN, who had married in 1842.22

The couple baptised two sons, Matthew and Edward, and was living in Union Place in 1850,23 Macquarie Place in 185124 and William Street in 1852.25 Matthew and Edward were both baptised Catholic and this religion strongly suggested that Amelia and Sarah were Catholic too.

Nine-year-old Mary Ann CHINNOCK and her 14-year-old sister, Catherine, had arrived with their parents, Michael and Ellen CHINNOCK nee MANNING,26 and their brothers, 11-year-old Andrew and four-year-old Pat, aboard the Navarino in 1839. As Maryann JOHNSON, she was identified in her letter to Charles COWPER, the Colonial Secretary, on 30 March 1870, when she sought to have her daughters, clearly identified as Amelia and Sarah, removed from the industrial school and returned to her. She had written the letter herself and her handwriting was fluent and her language superior27 indicating that her writing skills had improved considerably since she married. Mary Ann stated:

I beg respectfully to make application for the removal of my Daughters Sarah Johnson & Amelia Johnson from the Industrial School Newcastle, they were sent there about six (6) months ago at my request. I have means of keeping them at home comfortable and I require their assistance and wish them to come home I have two young children to take care of and being compelled to attend outdoor work viz. washing they would be very useful to me … Mrs. M. Johnson 39 Lower Campbell St Surry Hills.

These two 'young children' were not identified by either sex or age but it seems unlikely that Martha was one of them as by this stage it is not believed that she would be described as 'young'. The police report by senior sergeant WATERS investigated Mary Ann and her circumstances and stated:

that the mother of these girls is industrious and works hard for the maintenance of her two children now at home with her and solely dependent on her for support. There is nothing against her general character but she showed a certain amount of carelessness in regard to the welfare of the two girls in question … The mother occupies a home containing but two small rooms … there is great doubt that she would be able to control them …

A response from CLARKE was also requested and he stated:

when those two girls arrived at this Institution they presented a most miserable appearance it was really painful to see their starved condition, they are finally improved both mentally and physically and if they are allowed to remain in this Institution I have every hope of seeing them turn out good useful girls but I fear their mother's house if not the place for them.

Mary Ann's application for her daughters' discharge was subsequently rejected.

Approximately five weeks before the transfer to Biloela in May 1871, Mary Ann again petitioned for the release of Sarah and Amelia. Her petition has not been located but her query and the response from LUCAS remain. Mary Ann requested that Mr HALLORAN inform her of the result of her petition and this note was dated by the government as received on 19 May. LUCAS's response stated:28

It would be advisable to allow the eldest girl, Sarah Johnson, at present apprenticed to Mr Evan James of Muswellbrook, to complete her apprenticeship, and that the youngest girl Amelia Johnson, to remain some time longer in the Institution, she does not evince sufficient self controul to induce me to recommend her immediate discharge.29

Mary Ann's testimonials, included in the file, suggested that her husband had been gone for at least four years and identified that Amelia and Sarah had been in service prior to their arrest. It is known that Mary Ann had been taking in washing for at least four years. Mary Ann, as JOHNSTON, was admitted to Darlinghurst gaol for three days on 7 April 1874, at the age of 44.30 No names were recorded in the newspaper report of that court on that date.31

Mary Ann is not thought to be the woman who appeared in the Sydney Quarter Sessions in February 1874 for a larceny against William Luke SHEARD for which she received six months hard labour.32 Darlinghurst Gaol records provide no date but the woman convicted of this larceny had many earlier convictions so this is unlikely.

Online trees for Matthew provide conflicting ancestries. There are two possible deaths ten years apart that may refer to Matthew but neither have been cited. The 1859 death33 is possible. The NSW BDM Index recorded this man's parents as Matthew and Susan. However, it was also reported that Mary Ann had two young children and the 186934 death at the age of forty-seven may also fit her circumstances if Matthew had been ill or incapacitated. Online trees attribute the 1869 death to Matthew. One tree identified that he had been born in NSW in about 182435 but others indicate that he was a native of Yorkshire, England. All trees agree that he had been born in about 1822. It is believed that as Mathew JOHNSON his death was recorded in Sydney in 1869.

It may be that the death of the infant Edward JOHNSON in 185436 was that of Sarah and Amelia's brother. This record will be read to see if the death may be appropriate.

The fate of other members of the family are still being investgated. Matthew who had been born in 1858 did not die in 1893 as this death was an engineer aged 57.37 He may have died in 1895. No Funeral Notice has yet been found for this man.

Martha married twice and was seriously injured in an accident in January 1917 when she broke her thigh.38 She died in September 1920 and the funeral left from her home 51 Edward Street, Pyrmont. There are no other family members mentioned in her Funeral Notice.39


Husband Peter RICHMOND b. 184940 m. 187541 d. 192842
Son Samuel RICHMOND b. 187643 m. d. 193644
Daughter Helen or Ellen RICHMOND b. 187845 m. 189846 William H. PARKER d. 196847
Daughter Amelia RICHMOND b. 188048 m. 190049 Leslie J. ALEXANDER d.
Daughter Mary A. RICHMOND b. 188450 m. 190151 Walter H. LUCAS d. 196252
Daughter Christina RICHMOND b. 188653 m. 190554 James J. STONE d. 193455
Son Arthur Henry RICHMOND b. 188856 m. d. 197057
Son Peter William RICHMOND b. 189058 m. 192859 Florence E. WAARNO d. perhaps died in France 1916
Daughter Florence RICHMOND b. 189360 m. none - d. 189561
Son Joseph RICHMOND b.c. 1895 m. none - d. 191762

Newspapers report that Amelia was thirteen when she appeared in court in October 1869. Her birth is unregistered in NSW as Amelia but it is almost certain that her baptism was recorded under the name Emily JOHNSON. Both girls shared the same parents and were approximately the same age. This baptism is not available to be read but has been attributed to Amelia. Before her arrest Amelia had been in service with Mrs LOGAN of 701 George Street South, but had left this position and was arrested after being found wandering the streets of Sydney. Mrs LOGAN wrote63

This is to certify that Amelia Johnson has been in my Employ for 8 months and during that time I have found her a honest, Steady, Industryous girl.64

Amelia's mother's attempts to have her discharged from Newcastle were unsuccessful and in May 1871, Amelia transferred to Biloela. She was listed in a letter to the Colonial Secretary by LUCAS on 23 June 1871, as eligible for service.65 In a further letter on 18 March 1872, LUCAS reported that she had been apprenticed66 and his April 1872 list67 indicates that this occurred on 11 March 1872. On 13 November 1871, LUCAS sought permission to apprentice Amelia to Mr Percy SCARR of Wagga Wagga but SCARR took only one of the apprentices – Jane WHITE (2) – that he had requested, so LUCAS arranged an apprenticeship with Maurice COLLINS of Collector. She was to be paid two shillings and three shillings per week for her first and second years apprenticeship respectively. The indentures were not completed – perhaps fortunately68 – and she was returned to Biloela.69

On 5 March 1872, LUCAS requested permission to apprentice Amelia to Mr Richard WILLIAMS of Delegate.70 The apprenticeship was for two years at the same rate of pay as had been arranged with COLLINS.71 Amelia, described as a servant, married Peter RICHMOND, a labourer, in Delegate on 15 November 1875. While no parents are recorded on the certificate, Mary Ann JOHNSON, the mother of the bride, gave her permission for the marriage as Amelia was under the age of twenty-one. The witnesses to the marriage were William and Caroline McKAY and the ceremony was performed in their house at Wollondibby. Amelia remained in this area until her death on 2 January 1900. Her death was registered in Bombala but Amelia was buried in Delegate Cemetery,72 probably beside her son, Arthur, who died in 1970.73 A headstone remains which reads

RICHMOND, Amelia, wife of Peter, died 2 Jan 1900, aged 43 years.

Peter RICHMOND outlived Amelia and his death occurred in 1928. It is likely that he is buried with her but is not recorded on her headstone. The Delegate Argus on 7 February 1929, recorded that

(T)he late Mr. Peter Richmond, an old resident of this district, who died recently, was a native of Darling Downs, Queensland. He could recall that when he was a boy he attended a black's corroboree with his father. Blacks took men across a river in a canoe to see the corroboree.74

There is no doubt that this is Peter's death as it is confirmed by his descendants and supported because his granddaughter, Irene Amelia LEWIS nee LUCAS, Mary Ann RICHMOND's daughter, contested his will.75 The RICHMOND family was an old Bombala and Delegate family. It is interesting to note that the deaths of two men named Peter RICHMOND were recorded on the NSW BDM Index – one in 1861 and the other in 1928. The 1861 death had been identified by descendants as Peter's father but The Bombala Times on 11 May 1917, recorded that

Mr. Peter Richmond, aged 73, died on Thursday of last week, and was buried on Friday. He was a very old resident of this district, and up to the last three years had lived at Delegate. He then came to Bombala and lived here till his death. For the last two years he had been a complete invalid.76

This man was therefore born in about 1844 and was almost certainly related in some way to the man Amelia married. There is no registration for this death yet located.

Sarah Jane JOHNSON

Husband b. m. d.
Son b. m. d.
Daughter b. m. d.

There has been no baptism or birth yet identified for Sarah and her age remains uncertain. She was older than her sister, Amelia, as she was identified in the newspapers77 as a 15-year-old in October 1869 when they were charged under the Industrial Schools Act. It is unlikely that she was, in fact, Martha, who had either assumed another given name at the time of her arrest or was known in the family as Sarah as her mother referred to her by name in her petitions and Martha was not known to have ever used the name Sarah. Before her admission to Newcastle Sarah Jane had been in service with Mrs CARRUTHERS in Sydney but had left and was wandering the streets of Sydney. Mrs CARRUTHERS wrote78

This is to certify that Sarah Johnson has been in my Service for the past seven months during which time I have found her a clean hard-working girl and expresly kind to children.79

After her mother's first unsuccessful attempt to achieve her discharge from Newcastle, Sarah remained at the school and was apprenticed by CLARKE to Mr Evan80 JAMES on 14 January 1871. Subsequent submissions indicated that Sarah had then been apprenticed to Muswellbrook.81 This apprenticeship occurred before the school transferred to Biloela so Sarah didn't travel with her sister to Biloela on Cockatoo Island. Sarah was erroneously recorded by LUCAS as Sarah Jane SOLOMON on his list compiled in 1872 showing the total number of admissions to Newcastle.82

Where has She Gone?

As yet no confirmation of Sarah has been made after she began her 1871 apprenticeship but because this apprenticeship occurred in 1871, no appearances for a woman of this or a similar name before this date can refer to her. No appropriate appearances in court have yet been identified and the following incidents have been left to avoid repeating the research concerning them. It is believed that Sarah married but the identity of her husband remains a mystery.

Sarah was not Sarah JOHNSTON admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol on 1 January 1874. This woman was a 21-year-old Catholic who had been born in Windsor. Newspaper reports of her trial indicated that she and her brother, William WARD, were charged with assaulting their sister, Rebecca WRIGHT.83 This then almost certainly identified that she was the wife of Alfred George JOHNSON who she had married in 1873.84 This woman though, cannot be responsible for any court appearances before 1873.

The girl who was approximately the correct age, who was a witness in a murder at Camden in January 1872, but she appeared to be the niece of James WRIGHT85 and the man, Robert BOYD, who had died.86 This woman is unlikely to be the Newcastle admission.

Sarah was not the woman, Sarah JOHNSON, who was charged on warrant with stealing a petticoat and a pair of earrings valued at 25 shillings from Julia REEDY. The petticoat had been left by REEDY in the mangle-room and the earrings were stuck in the bed curtains. These girls were fellow servants at No. 3, Lady Young Terrace, and had shared the same room. Earlier, Sarah had been dismissed from the house and the articles were found to be missing after she had left. She appeared in court in February 1873 where she was remanded for seven days.87 She was placed in Darlinghurst Gaol and her details, recorded as Sarah JOHNSTONE, identified that she was a 25-year-old Catholic who had arrived on the Lady of the Lake.88

Sarah may be the girl described as a servant who in Novemeber 1873 was in the employ of Richard Albert WATSON at the Paragon Hotel, Circular Quay, when she was taken to court for smashing chairs.89

Sarah may be the girl who on 29 March 1874, was fined ten shillings or sentenced to four days gaol for riotous behaviour in Jenkins Street (SMH:WPC 30 Mar 1874) or the Sarah JOHNSTON who appeared in the QS for stealing on 30 August 1874. The PG or gaol records may identify the ages and these women are yet to be identified.

The Sarah JOHNSON who was tried90 and imprisoned in January 1880 was described in the records as a common prostitute. It has not been possible to identify this woman's age as Darlinghurst Description books for this time have not been found.

The woman who assaulted Margaret SHIELDS has not yet been identified and seems not to have gone to gaol. There is nothing about this incident found in either the newspapers, the gaol records or the Police Gazette that identified Sarah. It is believed that as there were so many women of this name misbehaving in Sydney at this time that this incident was likely to have involved one of those women rather than the Newcastle admission.

Other Darlinghurst records are either inconclusive or record an admission for a woman who was seventy and who possibly died in gaol in 1871.

The Sarah JOHNSON alias KING alias CROZIER who was recorded in the Police Gazette in 1880 had been born in 1852, was 5' 6" tall and was supposed to have gone to Bathurst with a man named George CROZIER.91 She was wanted for abusing Elizabeth BOLCHER.

The 1878 Presbyterian marriage registration of Sarah Jane JOHNSON to Hans Christian JOHNSON in Tamworth cannot be her as although no parent names were provided on the registration, this woman was described as 'residing with her father' and one of the witnesses was a G. M. JOHNSON who was presumably her parent.

No appropriate marriage has been found on the NSW BDM Index for a Sarah JOHNSTONE and she would be too old to be having children long after 1900. It is very unlikely or impossible that Sarah was the woman who married:
1. Edmund GERSHON, as her parents do not match.
2. John James DODD in Scone in 187692 This marriage is not in the HVPRI or in the St Luke's, Scone, register but online trees suggest that this woman had been born in 1846 and had the middle names Emma Rosina.
3. John JOHNSON as Sarah JOHNSTON on 18 September 1873, at Gerringong, and who died on 25 December 1944, at Albion Park. She was identified on online trees as the daughter of Charles and Mary Ann MOFFITT who had arrived on the Telegraph. These parents matched those on her death registration and she was slightly older than the girl sent to Newcastle. Yet another tree identified this same woman as Mary Ann GILL suggesting that she was a widow when she married and also very strongly suggesting that parents were not identified on the marriage registration. This tree provided no parents for Sarah Jane.93
4. Henry Edward BEDWELL in Sydney as descendants have identified this woman's parents were Robert and Ellen.
5. Charles GRAY at Bombala in 1873 as the probable death of this woman in 1884 indicated the wrong parents and that she probably had a middle name of Ann. There are no online trees for this couple.

Updated March 2018

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