Name Variations Marian, SILVER, SILVERA, SALVEY,1 SILVI, SILVY alias Mary Ann WILLIAMS, Isabella WEBSTER
Father Francis SILVA or SILVEY aka SELBY b. 18242 m. (1) 18523 d. 18564
Step-father John THOMAS b. 18245 m. (2) none d. 18816
Mother Margaret RUTTER aka THOMAS b.c. 1833 m. (1) 1852 (2) none d. 1905
Inmate Marian SILVA aka Mary Ann SILVEY b. 18547 m. 1872 (see below) d. aft. 1880
Sister Isabella SILVEY8 aka THOMAS b. 18559 m. 1878 Thomas Samuel LAWS d. 193010
Husband William AHA b. 1839 m. 187211 d. unknown
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Mary Ann12 15 short black dark round features hair worn in a large chignon; was wearing a muslin dress, black jacket and black hat trimmed with three feathers
Inmate Isabella WEBSTER13 16 low size black Jewish features dark heavy eyebrows; dressed in light green striped print dress, black cloth mantle, and white straw hat trimmed with black velvet and blue flowers
Inmate Mary Ann14 17 4' 11" black black dark
Inmate Mary Ann15 26 black dark sallow
Inmate Louisa JONES16 33 5' 1" dark brown sallow medium

In December 1868 a warrant was issued by the Sydney Bench for the arrest of Mary Ann SILVEY17 under the Industrial Schools Act. She was arrested by constable RILEY18 in early January 1869 and appeared in court on 14 January. Mary Ann was recorded in the Empire as Mary SILVER.19 Margaret THOMAS, Mary Ann's mother who had requested that the warrant be ordered, stated that since 10 November 1868, Mary Ann had been habitually wandering about the streets and associating with girls who she believed to be prostitutes. Margaret added that she had no control over her daughter so Mary Ann was sent to Newcastle.20 When she was admitted to Newcastle on 21 January 1869, Mary Ann was recorded as a fourteen-year-old and this age was confirmed in CLARKES's report on 29 January.21 Her admission brought the total number of girls in the school to eighty-one.22 The Entrance Book confirmed that her mother was Margaret THOMAS but her father was recorded as dead so was therefore unnamed. Mary Ann was recorded as a Catholic who could read the second book and write.23 This level of attainment was one of the better levels achieved by the inmates.

Mary Ann was in the school for a little over a year when, in a list in his letter of 13 December 1869, CLARKE informed the Colonial Secretary that she was eligible to be either returned to her family or to be apprenticed. He confirmed that Mary Ann had been in the school for a year and was now sixteen.24 On 21 December, Margaret THOMAS wrote from 'Botany, Waterloo' stating 'I live out of town'. She requested that Mary Ann be permitted to return to her for 'domest perpises'. The Colonial Secretary instigated a police report which stated:

The father of the girl Mary Silver (not Silvey) has been dead about twelve years and her mother is remarried to John Thomas a mate of one of the Queensland steamers. He and his wife are persons of good repute. I recommend the release of the girl and if authorised the mother would go to Newcastle and take her home.25

On 5 January 1869, CLARKE wrote to the Colonial Secretary:

… in my report … I had the honor to recommend Mary Silvey for discharge to the care of her parents, they being in comfortable circumstances. This girl is not smart enough for service and her mother is anxious to have her home.26

The following day, while CLARKE's letter was in transit, Margaret sent a further, almost identical, letter to the Colonial Secretary again requesting Mary Ann's release27 and permission for her release was subsequently granted by the Colonial Secretary. On 15 February 1870, more than a year before the transfer of the school to Biloela, Mary Ann was returned to her mother in Sydney.28

Mary Ann did not remain with her family for long and very soon began to appear in the courts of Sydney. In early June 1870, she was identified as a seventeen-year-old when she appeared in court29 charged with a larceny committed against Eliza GRAY on 10 May.

Constable Wilmot apprehended [Mary Ann] on the charge, and she gave to him a pawn ticket in respect of a watch and chain, pledged at Madden's. John C. Madden, of Sussex-street, pawnbroker, produced a watch and chain which were yesterday pledged to him by the prisoner for 30s.; she said that she was sent by John Armstrong to pawn them, Eliza Gray, the wife of William Gray, residing at Camperdown, deposed that two or three days ago the prisoner represented that she had been ill-used by her mother, and begged to be allowed to stop with her until she found a situation, witness consented for her to do so; yesterday, showed her an advertisement in the paper, which she said she would look after, and, some time in the afternoon, left the house professedly for that purpose; about 9 o'clock witness missed her watch and chain – the watch and chain produced by the last witness are the same – from its place in the bedroom; the property is her husband's, and is worth £5. The prisoner offered no defence.30

Mary Ann was sent to Darlinghurst Gaol31 and was committed to take her trial at the next Quarter Sessions. The newspaper articles clearly indicated that Eliza had known Mary Ann and therefore almost certainly knew her mother. Eliza SHIELDS and William GRAY had married at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney on 11 April 1853. One witness was a woman named Margaret JACKSON of Sydney who may be connected.32 In a further incident, also on 10 May, Mary Ann stole clothing valued at forty shillings from Jane COOK.33 She was tried as Mary Ann SILVEY and newspapers reported that she was to be imprisoned for three months.34 The Police Gazette noted that she had used the alias of Isabella WEBSTER at this time.35

Stolen between the hours of 6 & 7 P.M. the 10th instant, from the residence of Jane Cook, No. 3, Castlereagh-street South, – a black cloth mantle trimmed with beaded braid; a green striped stuff dress, and two print dresses, one with dark stripes the other with small green stripes; Value 20s. Identifiable. Suspicion attached to Isabella Webster, a lodger, who has absconded. … [Mary Ann] … stated her stepmother resided at Botany.36

On 25 July 1870, Mary Ann, now described as a prostitute,37 was tried at the Sydney Quarter Sessions for the theft.38 She received twelve months hard labour in Darlinghurst Gaol for the larceny against Eliza GRAY39 so was only released in July 1871.40 Mary Ann's 1870 gaol records indicated that she had been born in either Melbourne41 or Bendigo.42

On 8 April 1872, at the Scots Church, Sydney, and as Mary Ann SILVEARA, J. D. LANG married Mary Ann and the Chinese storekeeper William AHA. Mary Ann was a domestic servant and both lived in lower George Street. The registration confirmed that Mary Ann's parents were Francis SILVEARA and Margaret RATTA. William AHA had been born in China in about 1839. The witnesses were James CHAPMAN or Margaret FUN or FAU.43 No children from this marriage have been identified and it is not thought that the marriage lasted. This marriage does not appear to assist in locating Mary Ann as it is believed that she had reverted to her maiden name by the late 1870s.

It is considered very likely that the three-month-old child, Isabella SILVER, who left the Benevolent Asylum in November 1876 is connected and the 22-year-old Isabella SYLVAR who also left the Asylum in October 1878 may be a reference to Mary Ann although it is possible that this woman was her sister, Isabella.

Although the ages of the two women don't exactly match, it must be considered that this was the Mary Ann SILVERA who was living in Newcastle before October 1879, and who took William SAMPSON to court for abusing her.44 Mary Ann's mother had been born at Morpeth, up the river from Newcastle, so there may have been extended family living in the Newcastle and Hunter areas.45 SAMPSON submitted a written apology to the Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate before the trial so the charge against him was dismissed.46 She was possibly recorded again as Mary Ann SILVERA when she stole:

a velvet dress trimmed with white silk, one white worked skirt, three pairs of stockings, one white comb and brush, and sundry articles of underclothing marked F. L'Estrange, identifiable, the property of Fanny L'Estrange Darby-street, Newcastle. … [description] … likely to be wearing some of the stolen clothes. Supposed to have gone to Sydney.47

Some months later, in early 1880, the Police Gazette identified that Mary Ann had been arrested in company with John RAINE for a theft of the L'ESTRANGE clothing. At this time she provided police with her second alias of Mary Ann WILLIAMS.48 RAINE was discharged but Mary Ann received three months in gaol. Her gaol record for this incident is yet to be found.

After this date no further reference to Mary Ann has yet been confirmed although the woman involved in a theft in 1889. In about September a Mary Ann SILVER or SYLVA was charged with the theft of a watch from Edward THOMAS and was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour.49 She was recorded in the newspapers as 51 years of age50 but it must be considered that this was another appearance of Mary Ann and 51 may have originally been written 37. Biloela gaol records indicated that this woman, admitted as Mary Anne SYLVA, went by the alias Louisa JONES51 and had been tried on 18 September 1889.52 It identified that she was a Catholic and was married. She stated however that she had been born in Portugal and was thirty-three years old but could not recall her ship of arrival. No further references for this case has yet been located. It must also be considered that Edward THOMAS53 was in some way connected to Mary Ann's step-father so may have been a step-brother. No descriptions of Louisa JAMES who was admitted to Darlinghurst and then Goulburn gaols are available to ascertain whether she is the same person. This Louisa JAMES had been born in about 1854. She stated that she had arrived on the Indus and had been born in England.54


The surname, SILVEY, is very variable, almost certainly due to the foreign origins of Francis, and is not the spelling that was used when Mary Ann's birth was registered. Accents, pronunciation and the Anglicising of Mary Ann's surname would account for these variations in spelling. All petitions for Mary Ann appear in the CSIL index with the surname SILVER.

Mary Ann’s mother, Margaret THOMAS, was responsible for taking out the warrant applying for Mary Ann's arrest. She appeared with her daughter in court in January 1869 where she stated that she was the wife of John THOMAS, the second officer on board the steamer, City of Brisbane.55 Mary Ann stated in Darlinghurst in 1870 that she had been born in Bendigo, Victoria, in about 1853.56 The Victorian BDM birth registration in 1854 of Marian SILVA is that of the Newcastle admission. This record named her parents as Margaret RUTTER and Francis SILVA. This record, read in conjunction with the Catholic baptism of Isabella SILVER aka SILVEY in 1855, confirmed that her family had returned to NSW by this date as Isabella's parents were also recorded as Francis SILVEY and Margaret RUTTER. This record has been transcribed on the NSW BDM Index as Isabella SILVER but the actual document recorded Francis' surname as SILVEY. The family lived in King Street, Sydney, and no occupation was recorded in the register for Isabella's father.57 While it would still be possible for Mary Ann to have been born in Victoria and baptised in NSW, the information on an 1853 NSW baptism for Mary Ann SILVEY cannot refer to the Newcastle admission as it had occurred before the identified birth and the maiden name of the two mothers differed. Margaret RUTTER had married Francis SELBY in Sydney in 1852.58 This record is yet to be read.

Margaret RUTTER was the daughter of Thomas RUTTER, who had arrived aboard the Henry (1) and Isabella FARRIER who had arrived aboard the Edward.59 She had been born in Morpeth60 on the Hunter River in about 1833. No baptism record has been found for her birth. Margaret was still living in the Maitland area in 1848 when she appeared in court charged with assault. This case was dismissed.61 Margaret and Francis married in Sydney at St Andrew's Scots Church in 1852. For a short time they moved to Victoria where Mary Ann was born before the couple returned to Sydney. It was likely that it was after this return that Margaret made the acquaintance of the woman, Eliza GRAY, who had been robbed by Mary Ann in 1870. Eliza SHIELDS had married William GRAY in Sydney in 1853.62 After Francis died Margaret began a relationship with John THOMAS63 who, at the time of Mary Ann's arrest was the was the second officer on board the steamer, the City of Brisbane. It is significant that John was a seaman as this suggests that her first husband was also a sailor. Margaret and John THOMAS were residents in Botany Road, Waterloo, in 187064 and Margaret wrote from 'Botany Waterloo' in her letters in 1869 and 1870 requesting Mary Ann's release from Newcastle.65

Margaret cannot be found travelling with John THOMAS when he worked aboard the City of Brisbane but he was often recorded aboard this ship as boatswain until 1867. From 1868 he appeared on the crew lists as second officer and from 1875 he was the chief officer of the same ship. His last recorded voyage as Chief Officer was in December 1877 at the age of 52. He then appeared as the first mate of the City of Brisbane from 1878 but had ceased to sail by August 1878.66 John's year of birth ranged from 1820 to 1826 but the most consistent age puts his year of birth in about 1824. He may be the mariner who was living in 33 Margaret Place but it is considered more likely that he was the Master Mariner living at 96 Elizabeth Street in 1867. His retirement by 1879 was confirmed because in the Sands directory of 1878 he was recorded as a Master Mariner at 102 Kent Street and by 1879 he was at the same address but had no occupation listed.67 John died in March 1881. John THOMAS of the ASN company died at about the age of 56 and his parents were identified as Martin and Jane on the NSW BDM Index.68

THE FRIENDS of the deceased Mr. JOHN THOMAS, for many years chief officer in the A. S. N. Company's service, are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral; to move from his late residence, 144, Kent-street, THIS AFTERNOON, at quarter to 2 o'clock,69 to the Necropolis.70

To distinguish between the men named John THOMAS buried in 1881, Rookwood Cemetery online search71 confirmed that the John THOMAS who was buried on 2 March was that of the man whose death resulted in an inquest as he was crushed to death during the construction of St Mary's Cathedral.72 He was about forty with a wife. His registration was the first appearing on the NSW BDM Index and both his parents were unidentified.73

Margaret THOMAS died on 23 August 1905. No reference to her eldest daughter, Mary Ann, appeared in connection with her death. She was identified as the 'relict of the late John THOMAS, formerly chief officer in the A.S.N. Co., and beloved mother of Mr. and Mrs. T. S. LAWS, of 19 Edwin-sheet, Croydon, aged 72 years and 10 months'.74 Isabella SILVER had married Thomas LAWS in 1878.

Mary Ann's father was identified as Francis SILVA on the Victorian birth registration for Mary Ann and as SILVEY aka SILVER on the NSW baptism of Isabella. Descendants indicated that he had been born in the Western Islands, now known as the Azores. Descriptions of Mary Ann identify that she had a dark complexion and this supports Francis' birth location and potential nationality. It seems very likely that the birth of Mary Ann in a gold mining area of Victoria at the height of the gold rush indicated that after their marriage Francis and Margaret travelled to Victoria as prospectors. While there was no occupation for Francis shown on Isabella's baptism he was recorded as both a ferryman and a waterman when he died and also at the time Mary Ann married. No arrival in NSW has been confirmed for him and descendants of his daughter, Isabella, have also not identified a ship. It must be considered that he had arrived as a seaman and had then deserted. The Sydney constables reported in 1869 and Margaret's petitions confirmed that Mary Ann's 'father had died about twelve years ago'.75 Francis died in 1856 outside the front of his house at 1 King Street, Sydney, as the result of a burst blood vessel.76 An inquest was held that confirmed that his death and identified that he worked as a ferryman.77 The NSW BDM Index indicated that he had been the son of Antonio and Mary Ann SILVEY.78

Mary Ann's sister, Isabella SILVEY had been born on 10 October 1855, and had been baptised on 5 November 1855, by J. McGINN at the Catholic Church in the St. James Parish, Sydney.79 Isabella married in Sydney in 187880 as Isabella THOMAS and died in 1930.81

Where has She Gone?

Mary Ann's final fate has not been discovered.

Because the Police Gazette identified Isabella WEBSTER and perhaps Mary Ann WILLIAMS as aliases of Mary Ann, it is possible that she may have used a combination of these names in her later life.

She was unlikely to be the woman who:

  1. married Henry HALLS in Paddington as online researchers have identified that this Mary Ann SILVER was the daughter of Joseph and Susan SILVA.
  2. married Joseph DUFFY as this couple was having children regularly until 1909 and it is considered that this circumstance was highly unlikely for a former prostitute born in about 1853.
  3. was having children from 1870 with a husband named William as this woman was eighty when she died in 1914.
  4. as Isabella SILVAR, married Theodore Thomas DE VACEY in 187682 as this woman's parents were almost certainly recorded as Samuel and Rebecca when she died in 1925.
  5. married Edmund Hepplewhite WATKIN in 1893.83

At St. Joseph's Church, Woollahra, on November 30, Mr. E. H. Watkin, auctioneer, of Pitt-street, was married to Miss Mary Silva, daughter of the late Captain Silva, of Watson's Bay. The ceremony was performed in the presence of a large congregation by the Rev. Dr. Mullen. The bride, who was attired in a neat cream crepon dress with lace and gold trimmings, had for bridesmaids Misses Leddre, Ethel Watkin, and Lily Watkin, and the groom was attended by two old friends, Messrs. E. Moss and Norman McDonald. After the service had been completed, the wedding party, which numbered about 50, adjourned to Paris House, where an excellent breakfast had been provided.

This marriage registration identified that this Mary Ann was too young to be the Newcastle admission. E. H. WATKIN appeared before the courts for perjury at about the time of his marriage.84 The divorce of this couple was finalized in September 1912.85 Mary may have gone onto remarry Leonard H. ROBINSON in 1915.86 E. H. WATKIN died in 1946.87

Updated December 2019

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