Margaret POWELL
Name Variations alias Alice KENT
Father Joseph aka John POWELL b.c. 18281 m. 18482 d. 18853
Step-father Joseph POWELL b.c. 18034 m. 18485 d. 18856
Mother Mary Jane BECK b.c. 18327 m. 1848 d. 19068
Sister Selina aka Lena Jane POWELL b. 18499 m. 186910 William LOCKWOOD d. 193911
Brother Joseph POWELL b. 185112 m.13 Sarah14 Ann YOUNG d. 191815
Inmate Margaret POWELL alias Alice KENT b. 185216 m. none (see below) d. 189417
Brother Edward POWELL b.c. 1854 m. none - d. 189818
Brother Thomas POWELL b. 185719 m.20 Eliza aka Elizabeth GOLDSWORTH d. 193421
Brother George Samuel POWELL b. 185922 m.23 d. 193724
Sister Lucy S. POWELL b. 186125 m. 188026 John Johnstone GRAHAM d. 195927
Sister Emily Ann POWELL b. 186428 m. 188529 Lucius L. BUTLER or BUTTLER d. 189230
Sister Adeline Mary POWELL b. 186731 m. 189032 Thomas FOY d. 196633
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Margaret POWELL34 17 5' 2¼" brown brown
Brother Joseph POWELL35 18 5' 7" light brown

Margaret was recorded as fifteen-year-old Alice KENT, when she appeared in the Central Police Court on 12 October 1869. She had been charged with habitually wandering about in no ostensible lawful occupation. As she had no friends and no means of subsistence36 Alice was sent to the Industrial School at Newcastle37 where as Alice KENT, she was admitted to Newcastle on 16 October 1869.38 Her admission was recorded in a report written to the Colonial Secretary by CLARKE the following day where he stated that Alice 'has been received and is of unsound mind.'39 Her admission occurred during the period where the records of the school have not survived, so no confirmation of family, education, religion or discharge details can be made from this source.

Just over a year later, on 13 December 1870, Joseph POWELL, described in the correspondence as Margaret's step-father and living next door to the Paddington dispensary, applied to have Alice released into his care. He confirmed in this letter that Alice KENT's real name was Margaret POWELL. No identification of Margaret's mother appeared in the correspondence but the letters declared that Alice's father was dead.40 In his response to this application CLARKE said:

Alice Kent alias Margaret Powell was committed to this school in October 1869 for wandering about the streets of Sydney in no ostensible lawful occupation. Her father is dead her step-father Joseph Powell, is I believe a stonemason, and able to support the girl. Properly speaking this girl should not have been sent to this institution for being of weak intellect she never can be sent out to earn her own bread. I would therefore recommend that she should be released to the care of her friends.41

No explanation has been found concerning the use of the alias, Alice KENT but it must be considered that if Margaret was intellectually challenged, her parents may have deliberately had her committed to the school under a fabricated name to avoid either the stigma of her disability to the family or to ensure that she was cared for and provided with an occupation. It is believed that this is what occurred at the time of her arrest in 1869. It is equally possible that KENT was the surname of someone within her family – perhaps her father or mother but no such person or family has been identified. The exact date of a discharge for either Alice KENT or Margaret POWELL has not been found in the CSIL correspondence but her discharge was very likely to have occurred shortly after CLARKE's response to the Colonial Secretary.

Twice in December 188142 Margaret POWELL was admitted to Darlinghurst charged with being of unsound mind. This is the only confirmation of the inmate recorded either as Margaret POWELL or as Alice KENT that has been made after the discharge to her family in 1870 but it is considered likely that other appearances for Margaret POWELL in the court system do refer to the Newcastle inmate. The Margaret POWELL who was imprisoned for a month for having stolen property in her possession in March 187643 is almost certainly the same girl who appeared at the Quarter Sessions on 27 January 1879. She had been imprisoned for six months in Darlinghurst for the theft of two rings44 from Phillip SELFE of Paddington Street, Paddington.45 As Margaret POWELL she spent time in Wollongong Gaol46 for this theft. Gaol records identified that she had been born in Newtown in about 1861. While the ages don't match well it is conceivable that a girl with learning difficulties could be either mistaken about her age or considered to be a younger person due to her disability so this age is not an unreasonable match to be the Newcastle girl.47 No court records for this women have yet been identified.

The death of Margaret POWELL on 8 November 1894,48 was for the daughter of the sugar boiler, Joseph and Mary Jane POWELL. Margaret had died at the age of 43 at the Coast Hospital, Little Bay. Her year of birth calculated to be about 1851. Margaret had never been married and worked as a servant. This woman was the daughter of the family that has been very tentatively attributed to the Newcastle admission, Margaret POWELL aka Alice KENT. No Funeral Notice has yet been located for Margaret even though notices have been found for her sister Emily in 189249 and her brother Edward in 1898.50


Nothing is yet confirmed concerning Margaret aka Alice's family. All ages shown on documents connected with the industrial school indicated that Margaret had been born before 1857. The identification made on this site is based on information contained in the undigitised 1870 letter that provided authorities with the alias of Margaret POWELL connected to the admission recorded as Alice KENT. No mother was named in any correspondence yet found but Margaret's step-father was identified as Joseph POWELL. It is believed that both Margaret and Joseph lied to the authorities. It is likely that Margaret provided a false name at the time of her arrest or that a false name was provided by someone else and that Joseph lied about his relationship to her in 1870. There has been no evidence of a girl named Alice KENT yet found and where the surname KENT came from is unknown. There have been no appropriate marriages found for a Joseph POWELL to anyone with the surname KENT and no Sydney marriages for a Joseph POWELL occurred until 1874 which was after Alice's release to her step-father.

The following POWELL family is an ongoing investigation but circumstantial evidence currently suggests that Margaret's parents were Mary Jane BECK and Joseph POWELL and that POWELL was her father rather than her step-father. Joseph POWELL and Mary Jane BECK had married in the St Augustine's Catholic Church in Singleton in 1848.51 This original record has not yet been viewed. From 1848 three baptisms were recorded for John and Mary Jane POWELL. Baptisms for Thomas and George appear on the NSW BDM Index and a baptism for Margaret was recorded in 1851.52 Because these are likely to be Catholic baptisms Mary Jane's surname should be recorded to confirm the family. From 1857 more children were subsequently registered to Joseph and Mary Jane POWELL in Sydney. The 1867 birth registration of Adeline Mary POWELL confirmed that her parents were this couple and that they had married in Murrurundi near Singleton. While the registration did not name her siblings it confirmed that her four brothers and four sisters were alive at the time of her birth. Margaret was baptised as one of these children although her baptism identified that her father was John POWELL. The 1894 death registration for Margaret POWELL confirmed that Mary Jane POWELL's maiden name was BECK and clearly identified that her parents were Joseph POWELL and Mary Jane BECK.

At the age of 16 Mary Jane BECK had arrived in NSW with her married sister, Catherine NELSON, and Catherine's husband Robert, aboard the Margaret in 1842 as bounty immigrants. She was a Protestant house servant from Dromore, County Down, Ireland and on arrival both she and the NELSONs went to the Hunter River.53 Mary's parents Thomas and Selina, arrived aboard the Lady Amherst in 1849.54 Mary Jane POWELL died on 15 October 1906 and her funeral left from her residence, 178 Henderson Road, Alexandria. A Funeral Notice was placed by her daughter, Mrs LOCKWOOD.55 The NSW BDM Index confirmed that her parents were Thomas and Selina J.56 In 1919 an In Memoriam placed by her daughter, Mrs T. FOY, and her son, George, indicated that she had died on 6 October 1906.57 Note that some online trees identify that Mary Jane died in 1880 but this is incorrect as a Family Notice for this Mary Jane POWELL identified that she was 26 years old and that her maiden name was SMALL58 so she was far too young to have married in 1848.

Joseph's identity is uncertain. He may have been a transportee but identifying him is difficult due to conflicting names, ages and birth locations. On three early baptisms he was recorded as John. It may be that his arrival was under the name John POWELL and it was this name that he decided to change. When Joseph died the Family Notice confirmed that he had sons named Joseph, Edward, Thomas and George59 and that at the time of his death he was either 8260 or 84 years old.61 These ages give a year of birth of about 1805 however in 1867, Joseph was the informant when Adeline was born and he recorded on her birth registration that he was 'about 39'. This gives a year of birth of about 1828. It is believed that Joseph's year of birth was somewhere between these two years. Other registrations in the family may assist in clarifying a birth year in order to confirm whether his age at death as reported by the informant in 1885 was correct. Joseph further identified in 1867 that he had been born in Limerick, Ireland. His accent would have made it difficult to lie about his birth location so this is considered to be true.

There is little doubt that in March 1872 the Joseph POWELL who was charged with wounding his sister-in-law, Adeline POWELL, the wife of Edward POWELL62 was connected. Edward POWELL had married Adeline JERRAM in Sydney in 1865 so this marriage cannot refer to any of the sons of Joseph and Mary Jane as they would have been no more than 15 in 1865. The appearance of the given name, Adeline, two years before the birth of Adeline the daughter of Joseph and Mary Jane very strongly suggests that this connection refers to this family. Joseph had been living with Edward and Adeline but it is unknown whether this was a temporary or more permanent arrangement. This case very strongly suggests that Joseph was suffering from some severe mental illness.63 Edward died in 1908 at the age of 6764 giving a year of birth of about 1840 which is a much closer match to the age stated on the birth registration of Adeline POWELL in 1867. It is almost impossible to imagine two brothers could have been born over forty years apart and this very strongly suggests that the age of death of Joseph POWELL in 1885 was wrong unless this man was the father or some other relation to both these men. The man charged with the assault on Adeline had reportedly arrived aboard the Winifred. His year of arrival was recorded as either 1868 or 187165 but the Police Gazette contributes the details that he was a sailor who had been born in about 1839.66 This man cannot therefore be the husband of Mary Jane BECK but the coincidence of the names suggests that this POWELL family requires further investigation.

Joseph is considered unlikely to have been the convict born in about 1805 who had arrived on the Clyde in 1832 because this man was a Protestant who could read.67 He had been born and tried in Nottingham.68 It also must be questioned why, if this was Joseph's correct arrival, the couple married and baptised children in the Catholic Church when both he and Mary Jane were Protestant.

Updated March 2018

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License