Sarah Ann KEELAN
Name Variations KEELER, KEILAN
Father John KEELAN b. m. d.
Mother Mary b. m. d.
Inmate Sarah Ann KEELAN b.c. 1862 m. (1) none (2) 1884 (see below) d. 19371
Husband (1) unknown b. m. none d.
Husband (2) Alfred BIGG b.c. 18512 m. 18843 d. 18984
Son Henry William KEELAN b. 18845 m. none - d. 18846
Twin Son Alfred BIGG b. 18897 m. none - d. 18898
Twin Son John BIGG b. 18899 m. none - d. 188910
Daughter Edith BIGG b. 189311 m. none - d. 189312
Son Alfred BIGG b. 189413 m. none - d. 189414
Son Arthur Oliver BIGG b. 189515 m. 192316 Alma E. BAXTER d. 197817

As Sarah Ann KEELER, Sarah was reported in the Police Gazette to be eleven years of age. She was arrested by senior sergeant PARKER of Wollombi Police under the Industrial School Act charged with having no visible, lawful means of support.18 As Sarah Ann KEELAN she was admitted to the school on 7 October 1869, after appearing in Ellalong Court. Her age was recorded in the Entrance Book as only six and this name and age, rather than the record in the Police Gazette, has been taken to be more accurate.19 The page containing Sarah’s family details is the first page missing from the register so no family, educational, religious or discharge details can be confirmed from this source.

Sarah transferred to Biloela in May 1871, and was recorded as 'In the Institution' by LUCAS on his April 1872 list.20 She was recorded on the transfer lists as a Catholic.21 John DALE, the relieving superintendent, in his report on 15 February 1875, indicated that Sarah had recovered from a bout of the measles.22

In January 1875 a request was made by William James MARSDEN of Campbelltown for a reliable girl to work as a nursemaid. Sarah was twelve so her apprenticeship was for six years. The relieving superintendent DALE negotiated that she was to be paid one shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for the third and fourth years and three shillings a week for the last two years. Sarah was apprenticed to MARSDEN in March 1875.23 This apprenticeship would have ended in early 1881. There is little doubt that in Sydney in 1884 Sarah became the mother of the illegitimate son, Henry William KEELAN whilst she was in the employ of Mrs. T. G. BLAXLAND of Hunters Hill. An advertisement on 6 February 1884 sought 'a woman to take a baby one month old to nurse at her own house.'24 To retain her job Sarah would have needed to make this arrangement or probably leave her employer. Sadly Henry William KEELAN died shortly after this date.

Later in 1884 Sarah Jane married Alfred BIGG in Ryde. The marriage was performed on 10 October 1884, by Philip Richard Spry BAILEY, the Church of England Minister at All Saints, Hunters Hill. Alfred was a carpenter and joiner. No places of birth or names of parents were recorded on the registration but both parties were residents of Hunters Hill. The witnesses were Joseph KENNINGS and Rose EGAN. The marriage registration hasn't been updated from the church record and the register filmed by the SAG is recorded to be available for viewing. Unfortunately nothing from 1884 was found on an initial search of the SAG reels but a second search might be worthwhile as records from 1886 were identified as being available. Sarah's surname was identified as KEILAN when her son married in 1923.25

Alfred died on 2 March 1898, at their home in Harrow Road, Kogarah.26 Sarah Ann was named as the beneficiary in his will.27 Probate was granted in January 1903 and Sarah was recorded as BEGG and was living at 127 Rose Street, Darlington, at this date.28 Sarah was unlikely to have married again, because when her son, Arthur, fought in France in 1917, she was still recorded as Mrs. S. BIGG.29 It was confirmed that Sarah was still alive in 1930 when, as Mrs BIGG, she and Arthur, placed an In Memoriam notice for Jane BAXTER, Arthur’s mother-in-law. Sarah died of chronic myocarditis and pneumonia as Sarah Ann BIGG on 5 October 1937, in Booth House, Wardell Road, Marrickville. Her usual residence was Russell Avenue, Sans Souci.30 The informant was her son, A. O. BIGG, who confirmed on the registration that she had only married once. Sarah was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Woronora, on 6 October 1937.31 A headstone remains.32


Sarah's parents are recorded on her death registration as John KEELAN and Mary. The certificate indicated that she had been born in Newcastle on Tyne, Northumberland and had arrived in Australia at about the age of nine.33 Her age at the time of her death suggested that she had been born in about 1857 but her age in the Entrance Book indicated that she was younger than this and had been born in about 1863. No arrivals have yet been verified and none have yet been located. It may be that the shipping lists for the A. A. Company may be of benefit in identifying an arrival but they have not yet been viewed. There are no records of any possible siblings on the NSW BDM Index and no trace of these parents can be confirmed anywhere in NSW. They do not appear as Queensland assisted arrivals.

There was an incident in Drayton, Queensland, involving a John KEELAN in October 1860.34

The surnames KILLIN and KILLEN are common in the Singleton and Maitland areas and it may be that this is the original spelling of Sarah's surname.

Because Sarah's surname was recorded as KEILAN when her son married in 1923, this may be the spelling of Sarah's surname. No trace of the family has yet been found using this surname but using the spelling KEILON, the CSIL unclovered a man named John KEILON living in Hargraves in 1866. This man is almost certainly the same man who died in Parramatta at the age of 56 in Parramatta in 1876. This death was recorded on the NSW BDM Index as John KIELON.35 In 1866 John KEILON was sent from Mudgee to Darlinghurst Gaol and was then sent on the Tarban Creek. Gaol records described him as a lunatic.36 Returns of Prisoners in Gaol (Parramatta, Port Macquarie, 1866-1869) recorded him as KAILON and indicated that he was a 47-year-old labourer who had been tried in Hargraves on 29 March 1866 and born in England. No record shows a ship of arrival.

Updated January 2019

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