Father Edward or Francis SILVER b. unknown m. (1) none d. 18562
Step-father John THOMAS b. 18243 m. (2) none d. 18814
Mother Margaret HARE aka THOMAS b. unknown m. (1) none (2)none d. aft. 1870
Inmate Mary Ann SILVEY b. 18535 m. (see below) d. aft. 1880
Sister Isabella SILVEY6 b. 18557 m. d.
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Mary Ann8 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 WEBSTER9 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 Ann10 17 4' 11" black black dark
Inmate Mary Ann11 26 black dark sallow
Inmate Louisa JONES12 33 5' 1" dark brown sallow medium

A warrant was issued by the Sydney Bench in December 1868 for the arrest of Mary Ann SILVEY13 under the Industrial Schools Act and she was arrested by constable RILEY14 in early January and appeared in court on 14 January 1869. Mary Ann’s mother, Margaret THOMAS, stated that she was the wife of John THOMAS, second officer on board the steamer City of Brisbane.15 Mary Ann was recorded in the Empire as Mary SILVER.16 Margaret 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. She stated that she had no control over her daughter so Mary Ann was sent to Newcastle.17 Mary Ann was recorded as fourteen years-of-age when she was admitted to Newcastle on 21 January 1869, and this age was confirmed in CLARKES's report on 29 January.18 Her admission brought the total number of girls in the school to eighty-one.19 The Entrance Book names her mother as Margaret THOMAS but her father was recorded as dead so he wasn't named. Mary Ann was a recorded as a Catholic and could read the second book and write.20

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 recorded that Mary Ann had been in the school for a year and was currently aged sixteen.21 On 21 December, Margaret THOMAS wrote from 'Botany, Waterloo' stating 'I live out of town' and requesting that Mary Ann be permitted to return to her for 'domest perpises'. The colonial Secretary requested 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.22

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

… 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.23

Margaret sent an almost identical letter to the Colonial Secretary on 6 January requesting Mary Ann's release.24 Permission for Mary Ann's release was granted by the Colonial Secretary so on 15 February 1870, more than a year before the transfer to Biloela, Mary Ann was returned to her mother.25 She did not remain with her family long as in early June, she was identified as seventeen years of age when she appeared in court26 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.27

Mary Ann was committed to take her trial at the next Quarter Sessions. 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.28 In a further incident, also on 10 May, Mary Ann stole clothing valued at forty shillings from Jane COOK.29 She was tried as Mary Ann SILVEY and newspapers reported that she was imprisoned for three months.30 but she was reported in the Police Gazette to have used the alias of Isabella WEBSTER.31

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. … [description] … stated her stepmother resided at Botany.32

On 25 July 1870, Mary Ann, described as a prostitute,33 was tried at the Sydney Quarter Sessions.34 She received twelve months hard labour in Darlinghurst Gaol for the larceny against Eliza GRAY35 and was released in July 1871.36

Although the ages don't exactly match it may be that she was the Mary Ann SILVERA who was living in Newcastle before October 1879, took William SAMPSON to court for abusing her.37 SAMPSON submitted a written apology to the Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate before the trial so the charge against him was dismissed.38 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.39

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.40 RAINE was discharged but Mary Ann received three months in gaol. No appropriate gaol record has yet been found.

In about September 1889 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.41 This woman was recorded in the newspapers as 51 years of age42 but it must be considered that this is another appearance of Mary Ann and 51 may have originally been written 37. Biloela gaol records indicate that this woman, admitted as Mary Anne SYLVA, went by the alias Louisa JONES43 and had been tried on 18 September 1889.44 It identified that she was a Catholic and was married. 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 THOMAS45 was in some way connected to Mary Ann's step-father so may have been her 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.46


Confirming a father for Mary Ann has not been possible to date but it is very likely that the Catholic baptism recorded as Mary SILVER is this girl and this would indicate that her father was Edward SILVER and her mother Margaret HARE. The baptism is that of a girl the correct age and had a mother named Margaret and is supported by the CSIL where letters from Margaret THOMAS state that Mary Ann's correct name was SILVER. All petitions for Mary Ann appear in the CSIL index with the surname SILVER.

The baptism of Isabella SILVEY who was born on 10 October 1855, and was baptised on 5 November 1855, by J. McGINN at the Catholic Church in the St. James Parish, Sydney. Her parents were recorded as Francis SILVEY and Margaret RUTTER. No occupation was recorded for Isabella's father and they family lived in King Street, Sydney. This record appeared on the NSW BDM Index as Isabella SILVER.47

Mary Ann's gaol records vary. Some state that she was a native of the colony48 suggesting a birth in NSW rather than any other state. Petitions from 1870 further record that 'her father had died about twelve years ago,'49 information that would match with her mother being Margaret HARE, the name recorded on the 1853 baptism, and her father being Edward SILVER. Her baptism information is complicated by Mary Ann's 1870 gaol record50 that indicated that she had been born in Melbourne but it is still possible that this her baptism as it would still be possible for her to have been born in Victoria and baptised in NSW.51 That she was born in NSW is supported by Eliza GRAY in Camperdown in 1870 who stated when Mary Ann requested to stay with her that she 'had known prisoner as a child'. Eliza SHIELDS had married William GRAY in Sydney in 185352 and the witnesses to this wedding will be interesting to read.

Margaret wrote from 'Botany Waterloo' in 1869 and 1870 when requesting Mary Ann's release from Newcastle53 and it is unknown whether she was still living with John THOMAS.

John THOMAS does live in 1870 at Botany Road, Waterloo.54

Margaret cannot be found travelling with her second husband, 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 1878.55 John's year of birth ranges 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 is confirmed because Sands directory in 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.56 John died in March 1881.

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,57 to the Necropolis.58

It is unable to be ascertained which death registration is the correct on for John THOMAS. Two men died within a fortnight of each other during March 1881. The death59 of the first man resulted in an inquest as he was crushed to death during the construction of St Mary's Cathedral. He was about forty with a wife. It seems more likely that this man's parents, identified as Martin and Jane, would have been known so the second registration60 is considered a better match for the younger
man. John THOMAS of the ASN company is probably the first registration61 as a man aged about 56 with a wife who he met later in life is less likely to have had his parents recorded. Only by purchasing the registrations would John's background and possibly information on Margaret be available. The parents on the first registration were unidentified.

No trace of anyone named Edward SILVER (or variations) living in Sydney have been found in either the City of Sydney Archives, Sands Directory or Trove and this in turn suggests that he was not a resident and that Mary Ann's birth was very likely to be illegitimate. The only deaths for a SILVEY or SILVER 'about twelve years ago' in NSW are Francis SILVEY, the son of Antonio and Mary Ann, and James SILVEY who was 78. There is a Catholic registration of a possible sibling, Isabella SILVEY, who was baptized at V1855545 72/1855 whose parents were Margaret RUTTER and Francis SILVEY. There is no occupation for this man written on the record. Mary Ann may be the daughter of the Francis SILVEY, ferryman, who died in 1856 and this is a very good match for the date of death stated by Margaret in her letter.62 There were two men in NSW named Francis SILVEY. A Margaret SILVEY married George PEDDER in 476/1856 but no appropriate marriage to a THOMAS has been found in NSW. It is possible but considered unlikely that Margaret married Mary Ann's father in another state.

There are no deaths of Edward SILVER/SILVEY/SILVY/SILVA/SILVI in the NSW BDM Index but it may be that he died at sea or overseas. No further children have been positively identified. Because descriptions of Mary Ann indicate that she had a dark complexion, it is possible that her father was an Italian or Portuguese seaman – especially as Margaret’s next relationship was also with a seaman. Edward may have died in some other state. Accents, pronunciation and Anglicising of Mary Ann's surname would account for variations in spelling. No marriage has been found for Edward and Margaret in NSW so it must be considered that Mary Ann was illegitimate.

Where has She Gone?

Online researchers have identified that the Mary Ann SILVER who married Henry HALLS in Paddington was the daughter of Joseph and Susan SILVA so this can't be her. The marriage to Joseph DUFFY is also unlikely 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. Because the Police Gazette identified Isabella WEBSTER and Mary Ann WILLIAMS as aliases of Mary Ann, it is possible that she used a combination of these names and this also lends weight to her being the daughter of Francis as this man almost certainly had a daughter named Isabella. She was not the woman who was having children from 1870 with a husband named William as this woman was eighty when she died in 1914. She was not the Isabella SILVAR who married Theodore Thomas DE VACEY in 1876 as her parents were almost certainly recorded as Samuel and Rebecca when he died in 1925.63 An Isabella SILVER aged three months left the Benevolent Asylum in November 1876 and an Isabella SYLVAR left the Asylum in October 1878. This woman was 22 years old.

The following wedding in 189364 needs further investigation as it may very well be that of an older couple and it may be that a past had been fabricated by Mary.

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.

While a Captain DE/DA SILVA was operating in vessels prior to this marriage, he was still a captain after the marriage so cannot have been the father of this woman. E. H. WATKIN was Edmund Hepplewhite WATKIN. He appeared before the courts for perjury at about the time of his marriage.65 The divorce of this couple was finalized in September 1912.66 E. H. WATKIN died in 1946.67 Mary may have gone onto remarry Leonard H. ROBINSON in 1915.68

Updated July 2015

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