Father John KEARNEY b. 18172 m. 1857 d. 18603
Mother Jane JOHNSTON aka JANGDEN b. 18274 m. 18575 d. 18946
Inmate Mary Jane KEARNEY b. 18577 m. none (see below) d. 19128
Brother James KEARNEY b. 18599 m. d.
Sister Elizabeth KEARNEY b. 186110 m. (1) 187811 (2) 188412 (1) Edward BARNETT (2) Richards CHAMBERS13 d. 189814
Husband unknown b. m. d.
Daughter Lillian A. KEARNEY b. 189215 m. d. aft. 1912
Daughter Irene KEARNEY b. 189616 m. none - d. bef. 1912
Daughter Florence G. E. KEARNEY b. 189917 m. d. aft. 1912
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Mary Jane18 16 5' brown blue fresh read and write; stout nose and mouth medium; chin [?] in chin; mark of burn slightly on back of right hand

Mary Jane was known about Sydney as the 'little fruit girl.'19 She appeared in court on 18 February 1871,20 under the Industrial Schools Act, charged with having no lawful visible means of support. She was sent to Newcastle where she was admitted on 21 February 1871.21 Her admission details were located in the missing section of the Entrance Book so no confirmation of her family, reading and writing abilities, discharge details or religion can be identified from this source. Mary spent only about three months at the school before the entire school transferred to Biloela on Cockatoo Island, Sydney, in May 1871.

It is almost certain that, as Maryann KEARNEY, LUCAS confined her to the quadrangle for fourteen days for going through the fence at low water and beyond the enclosure.22 She was recorded as 'In the Institution' on LUCAS's April 1872 list.23 Mary Jane was apprenticed to Pemberton PALMER of Queanbeyan on 11 November 1872, for three years. She was to be paid one shilling a week for the first year, two shillings a week for the second year and three shillings a week for the last year. LUCAS stated that she was 'fifteen years old and conducting herself well.'24

It is unknown whether this apprenticeship occurred as seven months later, in June 1873, Mary appeared in the Goulburn court where she and her master, identified as William McCARTHY, requested that her indentures be cancelled. Mary Jane had been working at Currawang and declared that she wouldn't run away if she were in the town rather than in the bush. Alderman WHITE said that he would employ her if she would promise to behave herself.25 By February 1874, Mary was in the employ of Mr WOOD but again she ran away and was eventually arrested in Towrang26 east of Goulburn. Mary agreed to return to her employment at a court appearance on 9 February.27 Before each court appearance Mary was held in Goulburn Gaol whilst awaiting her trial so appeared in Goulburn Gaol records in 1873 and again in February 1874, after having been arrested for protection. She was very likely to be the same Mary KEARNY who had been arrested for vagrancy in Goulburn in October 1876.28 These records confirmed that she was a Catholic and had been born in Sydney. Information about the 1876 appearance hasn't yet been found in the Goulburn papers.

Although no marriage for Mary Jane had been identified, Mary Jane delivered two, possibly three, illegitimate daughters in Sydney between 1892 and 1899. She was confirmed as being unmarried at the time of her death. Only her mother was recorded on the death registration which indicated that while she was unmarried she had had two daughters, Lily and Florence. A further daughter, Irene, died and is almost certainly also a child of Mary Jane but was omitted from the death registration. Mary Jane died at Montrose, Gordon Street, Paddington, on 15 May 1912. While the registration recorded that Mary Jane was forty-seven, rather than fifty-five years old, it is thought that this was an error made by the informant, her daughter, Lily, of 37 Cumberland Street, Sydney. Both Lily and Florence were alive in 1912 but no appropriate deaths or marriages for either girl can be confirmed.


Mary Jane was almost without any doubt the sister of nine-year-old James KEARNEY who was admitted to the Vernon on 10 October 1868, charged with wandering the streets of Sydney in no ostensible lawful occupation. The newspaper report of James's court case identified that his mother was Jane KEARNEY who lived in Brougham Place. Jane stated in court that James had been sent out to sell oranges but spent and gave away any money that he received.29 Further accounts of James' trial indicated that his mother was a widow and had three children.30 These are very good indications of a connection with Mary Jane who was called the 'little fruit girl' and the relationship is confirmed by the birth registrations of three children, Mary Jane, James and Elizabeth in Sydney. The registrations for Mary Jane and James match their known ages from the Industrial School records.

Mary Jane was the daughter of John and Jane KEARNEY. John KEARNEY had married Jane JOHNSTON in Sydney in 1857 and Mary Jane had been born in Brougham Place on 15 May 1857. Her birth was recorded both as a registration31 and as a baptism.32 The baptism record cannot be read but the registration identified that both her parents had been born in Ireland. Mary Jane was the eldest of the three children of John and Jane KEARNEY.33

Jane JOHNSON had been born in Ireland in about 1830. She was also identified on the NSW BDM Index when she married as Jane JANGDEN. It has not been ascertained if this was an alternate surname or a poor transcription of JOHNSON. Jane was unlikely to be the woman of this name who was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum in 1885 and 1892 as this woman was ten years younger but only these records are likely to confirm whether there is a connection. As Jane KEARNEY she died in Sydney in 1894 but her parents were not identified on the NSW BDM Index.

John KEARNEY had been born in Cork, Ireland, in about 1817. No indication of any arrival has yet been located. He died in 1860 in Sydney where his parents were recorded on the NSW BDM Index as John and Jane. Birth patterns and the birth registration of his eldest child, Mary Jane, indicated that there had been no child born to the couple named John.

James was described in the Vernon records as troublesome but was eventually apprenticed to Maclean on the Clarence River. These indentures were cancelled in March 1876 because he had absconded and had been missing for some time.34 No appropriate death has yet been identified in NSW BDM Index.

Updated January 2016

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