Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON
Name Variations TOMPSON, THOMPSETT alias TRUSS, TRESS, CLARKE, JONES, RILEY, WILEY,1 THOMAS, GRUNSELL
Father unknown b. m. d.
Step-Father Peter THOMPSON b. m. d.
Mother Sarah A.2 BUDGE or BRIDGE alias TRUSS or TRESS b.c. 1828 or 18383 m. d. aft. 18734
Inmate Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON aka BUDGE or BRIDGE b. 18575 m. (see below) d. aft. 1884
Husband (1) unknown CLARKE b. m. none d.
Husband (2) unknown JONES b. m. none d.
Husband (3) Walter RILEY6 b. m. none d.
Husband (4) John David THOMAS b. m. none d.
Son George THOMPSON b. 18747 m. none - d.
Son Sydney Joseph RILEY b. 18858 m. none - d. 19029
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Distinguishing features
Mother Sarah THOMPSON10 32 5’ 1” brown brown read and write
Mother Sarah TRESS11 40 5’ 2” black a full face and dissipated appearance; wearing a light dress, shepherd’s plaid shawl and black hat
Inmate Elizabeth THOMPSON12 13 4' 5½" light brown blue fair thin make
Inmate Elizabeth13 30 5' 0½" brown blue fresh
Inmate Elizabeth CLARKE14 31 5' 0½" brown brown15 sallow medium nose, mouth and chin
Inmate Elizabeth THOMAS16 44 5' 1" brown blue

WARNING: Details of the story of Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON may cause distress to descendants.

Elizabeth’s life was difficult. The NSW Police Gazette in October 1868, about six months before her admission to Newcastle, reported that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Elizabeth's mother, Sarah TRESS, for committing an assault on the twelve-year-old Elizabeth.17 Sarah was arrested by constable KERR and appeared in court charged with assault.18 Elizabeth gave evidence in court and stated that on 23 September, after her mother had been discharged from the Court after an earlier appearance for assault, she had told her mother that if she beat her again she would run away.19 At about 7 o'clock that night, Sarah tied Elizabeth to the bedpost by a cord passed round her neck. Elizabeth was eventually released at about 9 o'clock and she then reported to a constable that her mother had tried to hang her. The constable took Elizabeth to the Benevolent Asylum where she remained until her court appearance and her admission there at the age of eleven occurred on 22 September 1868. Elizabeth was discharged from the asylum on 3 October.20 Arthur RENWICK, M.D., medical officer at the Benevolent Asylum, stated that when Elizabeth was admitted he had found a deeply indented mark round her neck, the result of 'friction by a ligature'. Sarah was found guilty of the assault and was fined £5 or alternatively she was to be admitted to prison and an assessment of her sanity was to be undertaken.21 No admission to gaol has been found after this court appearance so it seems likely that Sarah paid the fine. Six months later, in April 1869, Elizabeth ran away from home and Sarah placed an advertisement in the paper that stated:

I HEREBY CAUTION all parties from harbouring my daughter, ELIZABETH ANN THOMPSON – she having left her home without cause or provocation. Sydney, April 30th, 1869. Mrs. S. TRUSS.22

On Sunday night, 12 September 1869, Elizabeth was found by constable McALEER, lying near Balmain Road and was taken into custody under warrant for protection. She appeared in court on 14 September.23 McALEER stated that he had known Elizabeth for a couple of years and that her mother lived on her own property at Balmain. She often cruelly treated and beat Elizabeth resulting in her leaving home, wandering about the country and sleeping in the bush. Elizabeth’s body was described as being covered with marks of ill-treatment. The court was reminded of Sarah's trial the previous October when she had attempted to hang Elizabeth. Mary Ann LEO deposed that during the early part of 1869 she had lived in Sarah's house. She stated that Sarah used to beat Elizabeth unmercifully and sometimes fastened her to a chain in a cellar, leaving her for days without food. LEO further reported that Sarah had told her that she would willingly pay four shillings a week for Elizabeth’s maintenance if she were sent to the Industrial School24 and it was this arrangement that was agreed to by the court. Sarah was again found guilty of assault. This time she was fined £6.

Elizabeth was admitted to Newcastle on 18 September 1869, where her age was confirmed in the Entrance Book as twelve. The page recording her personal details is the first page of the section of the document that has not survived so no confirmation of her family, religion, education or discharge is available from this source.25 No reports of any kind have been found for Elizabeth until early March 1871 when she was involved in the third riot at the school. She subsequently appeared in the Newcastle Police Court26 with the other ringleaders on 13 March where, at the request of CLARKE the superintendent, she and Jane WINDSOR were reprimanded and returned to the school.27 After the next riot in early April 1871, and after the change of superintendents, Elizabeth, Jane and two other girls,28 appeared in Newcastle Court charged with wilfully destroying Government property.29 The four girls were sent to Maitland Gaol where they remained for a month. The Maitland gaol Entrance Book confirmed that Elizabeth was thirteen, that she had been born in Bathurst and that she was was a Catholic. Elizabeth was released from Maitland on 13 May 1871 and was returned to the school. Her age on this record was recorded as fourteen.30 This may have been an error but it is possible that she had had a birthday in prison.

On 31 May 1871, Elizabeth was one of those who transferred to the new school at Biloela on Cockatoo Island. She was listed as eligible for service by LUCAS in a letter to the Colonial Secretary on 23 June31 and was again mentioned by LUCAS in his report of 19 September 1871,32 where he noted that she had been punished for stealing and was placed in No. 3 Dormitory for fourteen days on a bread and water diet. Elizabeth continued to rebel. In a further report on 20 November later that year, LUCAS noted that she was one of seven girls33 who were 'confined in No. 3 Dormitory for the remainder of the day for holding conversation with some men in a boat cruising off the island.'34 Elizabeth's apprenticeship was finally confirmed by LUCAS in a further letter on 18 March 1872.35 This apprenticeship, arranged on 23 February 1872, was to last for four years. She was to be paid one shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for the next year and three shillings a week for the final year. LUCAS noted that Elizabeth had been 'conducting herself well'36 but it is unclear whether this was true or whether it was a standard response made by LUCAS on all his discharge correspondence.37 In his April 1872 list, LUCAS confirmed that Elizabeth had been apprenticed on 11 March to David HILL of Randwick.38 Subsequent records strongly suggest that Elizabeth didn't complete this apprenticeship but no reference has been located indicating how long she remained in HILL's employ.

Tracing Elizabeth after her apprenticeship ended is difficult and what follows is believed to be correct but in most cases hasn't or cannot be verified. Many aliases were adopted by her after leaving the industrial school and used throughout her life. Confirmation that these records referred to the same woman is possible by comparing the records themselves where her various names and aliases are linked. Those recorded descriptions that do exist consistently match. By using her given name, her approximate birth year and location, the NSW gaol records allow her to be tracked from 1874 to 1901. While she used the names Elizabeth TRUSS or TRESS, Elizabeth THOMAS, Elizabeth JONES, Elizabeth CLARKE and Elizabeth RILEY, her description and birthplace remain constant.39 Only gaol admissions that can be linked to the Elizabeth who had been born in Bathurst can refer to refer to the Newcastle admission but it is further believed that she also used names that are not recorded in the gaol records.

Although no ages are shown in the online index, it is believed that Elizabeth was the woman who entered the Sydney Benevolent Asylum about two years after the apprenticeship with HILL ended. On 30 March 1874 Elizabeth THOMPSON entered the asylum to deliver the child George THOMPSON. George had been born there on 16 April 1874 and he and his mother were discharged on 13 May 1874.40 Who cared for George is unknown but he very likely appears as a discharge from the Benevolent Asylum on 9 February 1886, at the age of 11. There was no admission date recorded.41 It is impossible to prove or disprove that George was the boy admitted to the Sobraon on 1893 at the reported age of 13. While it is difficult to imagine that an 18-year-old would pass as a 13-year-old, the story associated with his arrest is so coincidental that it may well have been completely contrived to cover the truth. George was arrested from a brothel at 216 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo, run by his reputedly adoptive mother, Elizabeth THOMPSON aka THOMPSETT. His Sobraon statement read:

I can't remember my father and don't know what his name was. My mothers name was Mrs Tafs [either TASS or TAY]. They both died when I was a little fellow. Mrs Rae a friend of my mothers took me to live with her. been living with my aunt named Mrs Thompsett for over 4 years. about 6 months ago I had typhoid fever. my aunt was away then. she lets rooms and takes in washing. I was sent here by the policeman who said I was living in a brothel but I wasn't. have never been locked up before. have no other relatives but my aunt. never slept out.

Elizabeth THOMPSON aka THOMPSETT was subsequently charged at the February Quarter Sessions with operating a brothel and spent three months in Darlinghurst Gaol. She was described only as 'middle-aged' and there are no ages recorded in either the newspapers, the Police Gazette or the gaol records that might assist in verifying whether she was the Newcastle admission. The consideration that George had lived with Elizabeth for only the previous four years can be explained by Elizabeth's frequent and extended periods in gaol.

In September 1874, four months after George had been born, Elizabeth TRUSS appeared in court charged with riotous behaviour.42 In February 1875 as Lizzy TRUSS she spent a month in gaol for drunkenness43 and again as Elizabeth TRUSS44 on 13 June 1875.45 Gaol records indicated that Elizabeth used the surname CLARKE between approximately 1874 and 1882. The origin of the use of this surname is unknown and it must be considered that this alias may have been used because of her association with the Newcastle Superintendent, Joseph CLARKE, who had, on at least one occasion, demonstrated his kindness to her. On 21 December 1881, Elizabeth again appeared in the Sydney Water Police Court for 'being a common prostitute and behaving in a riotous manner' and was again identified as Elizabeth CLARKE.46 At this appearance she was sentenced to three months with hard labour in Maitland Gaol. Her age in this record however, was recorded as thirty when she was in fact only twenty-five.47 At the time of her release after her transfer to Sydney in April 1881, she was recorded as Elizabeth CLARKE alias TRUSS.48 Very soon after this release and again as Elizabeth CLARKE, she was arrested and appeared at the Sydney Quarter Sessions on 30 May 1882,49 charged with stealing from the person. She was sentenced to nine months hard labour in gaol. The Police Gazette in May 1883, at the time of her discharge from Yass Gaol for this crime, confirmed her identity as Elizabeth CLARKE alias TRESS.50 The additional aliases of TRUSS and JONES were attributed to her. It is unknown how long Elizabeth stayed in the Yass area after her release and how she returned to Sydney. Might she have returned with a commercial traveller named Walter RILEY? It is also uncertain whether the aliases of either TRUSS or TRESS were ever used by her again.

It is essential that cross-checking of court appearances and gaol admissions to match names is undertaken for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth CLARKE and Elizabeth JONES continue to appear after 1883 in the Sydney courts for prostitution and theft and these incidents may refer to the Newcastle admission but they are still being investigated and cross-referenced. In December 1880 she appeared in court as Elizabeth CLARKE alias WILEY and was sent to gaol for three months.51 There are many appearances for Elizabeth as Elizabeth JONES and THOMAS but it is unclear whether there was a relatively calm period in Elizabeth's life as the period between 1883 and 1895 is still being investigated but in the mid-1890s, Elizabeth appeared again in gaol records. In April 1899 she was sentenced to twenty-one days for breaking a window.52

The 1901 Biloela Gaol records indicated that the Newcastle admission lived at 17 Abercrombie Lane, Redfern, and was the sister-in-law of Mrs SHORT of Bonus [probably Bonar] Street, Rockdale. She was identified as the wife of John David THOMAS and this man married Elizabeth BYRNS in 187753 so it is unknown whether BYRNS was a further alias used. Elizabeth was again admitted to Biloela Gaol using the name Elizabeth RILEY who lived at Forest(?) Road, Hurstville. The record still indicated that Elizabeth's sister-in-law was Mrs SHORT of Bannan Street, Rockdale, which could still refer to Bonar Street. A further admission to Biloela in November 1901 provided the name Elizabeth THOMAS alias RILEY. A John SHORT was living in Bowmer Street, Rockdale, in 1890, 1895 and 1900 so it is possible that this man was connected but no person with this surname lived in Bonar Street, Rockdale, and this is the more likely address for Mrs SHORT. No suitable marriage has yet been found for any John SHORT. Elizabeth was very probably the woman appearing in court on 25 October 1901, for using obscene language.54 A Joseph J. RILEY lived in Abercrombie Street, Redfern and Randwick, between 1895 and 191555 but this man is unlikely to be directly connected to Elizabeth as his first child was born in 1870 although he may be connected through Elizabeth's marriage.

The seventeen-year-old man Sydney Joseph RILEY who was killed in a fall from a horse56 at Norwood and who had been a state ward since the age of four, was possibly Elizabeth's son. His mother was identified at his inquest as the widow Elizabeth RILEY from Underwood Street, Paddington.57 The inquest was held at Goulburn Hospital on 30 August 1902 and Sydney's death registration was made in Goulburn. Sydney's father was recorded as James on the NSW BDM Index and the informant was almost certainly the coroner who had been provided the information by Elizabeth.58 The Register of Coroner's Inquests gave Sydney's birth location as Macdonaldtown near Sydney. He was not the Sydney Charles RILEY who was admitted to the Vernon on 1900 as this admission's mother was identified as Annie WILSON. Sydney's birth was registered in 1885 as Sydney Reginald RILEY and his father was recorded as Walter on the birth registration. Walter was a commercial traveller and was the informant. The couple were not married. Sydney's mother was recorded Elizabeth Mary GOLD. Walter stated that she had been born in Sydney and was 28.59 It is believed that this was an alias as it is considered very unlikely that an unmarried Elizabeth Mary GOLD born in 1857 who by 1902 was living as a widow could exist in NSW at this time and reach the age of 28 without featuring in the NSW BDM Index, the Sydney Benevolent Asylum or court reports. It is considered a strong possibility that Walter was the man who was often in gaol during the late 1800s and early 1900s and who used a number of aliases.60 It may be that the following incident also indicated a further appearance of Elizabeth appearing in Parramatta Court in July 1905 as Elizabeth THOMAS.61

In 1900 a W. S. RILEY lived at 19 Underwood Street. A W. B. RILEY was there in 1910 and William B. RILEY lived there in 1915.62 This man was William Bernard RILEY who died in 191563 and is considered unlikely to be connected to Elizabeth.

It is possible that Elizabeth was the woman who was fined for not registering her dog on 20 October 1903 but she was not the woman who married John Richard RILEY in 1885 in St Leonards64 as this woman was only 23 years old and was the daughter of the mariner, Andrew THOMPSON, and his wife, Agnes, and had been born in Ballarat, Victoria.

Family

Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of Sarah THOMPSON aka TRUSS née BRIDGE or BUDGE and her birth was registered as Elizabeth A. THOMPSON in Bathurst in 1857. She had been born in Howick Street, Bathurst, almost certainly in the house of her grandfather, James BUDGE.65 Elizabeth's father was not recorded on the NSW BDM Index but the location of her birth registration connects her with the Bathurst area of NSW. At the time of her arrest for assaulting Elizabeth, Sarah was reported to have formerly lived in Petersham and it was thought that she had gone to Sydney.66 Darlinghurst gaol records for Sarah A. TRUSS in 1873 identify that she had been born in the colony in Sydney in about 1828. She could read and was a member of the Church of England. Elizabeth's court appearances disclosed that Sarah live don her own property at Balmain67 but no woman who might match this description can be located in either Sands Directory or the City of Sydney Archives.

Elizabeth's birth registration identified that her mother was Sarah A. THOMPSON née BRIDGE.68 The registration appears on the index under three surnames, THOMPSON, BRIDGE and BUDGE so the handwriting of her surname is likely to be inconclusive. It seems likely although it cannot be confirmed whether the registration accurately recorded Sarah's details. The NSW Police Gazette identified that Sarah's surname was TRUSS when she was charged with the assault on her daughter in 1868.69 It is uncertain where the use of the alias TRUSS originated and it is thought that this name was a surname acquired by association. The NSW BDM Index very strongly suggests that Sarah was the woman who married Peter THOMPSON in Bathurst in 1852 as Sarah A. BUDGE70 not BRIDGE which is believed to be variation of the surname caused by an accent. Peter and Sarah THOMPSON had one son, Frederick THOMPSON who was born in 1854. This baptism is yet to be viewed.71 Sarah A. BUDGE was the daughter of James BUDGE and Mary Ann HUNT who had married in Bathurst as James BUDGE and Ann GREG or GREGG. James had been transported for life aboard the Hooghley (2) but it was recorded that Ann had arrived free. In depth investigation of the refusals in the Permissions to Marry very strongly suggested that Ann had also been transported as Ann GREY and had arrived on the Lucy Davidson. She had stated on arrival that she was already married and had two children.72 This secret may very well explain why she changed her name to Mary Ann once she married. Sarah was very likely to have been the Sarah Ann THOMPSON who was assaulted by William HING in August 1866.73 She was also likely to have been the Sarah A. THOMPSON admitted to Darlinghurst in 1871 who stated that she had been born in Bathurst.74 Sarah has disappeared from the records and cannot be verified after 10 April 1873, when she completed a four day sentence for drunkenness in Darlinghurst Gaol.75 Police court records rarely recorded the names of drunks and this seems to be the case as no newspaper report for this date in this court mentions her. No traces of any other marriages for Sarah have yet been found. Researchers of the BUDGE family identify that Sarah A. BUDGE died in 1878. No reference for this death is provided on the tree and no appropriate death has yet been identified in NSW let alone in Sydney where it is believed that Sarah lived. There is a death of Sarah BUDGE in Coonamble where her parents were identified as James and Sarah76 but as this death occurred before the deaths of either of her parents, it must be questioned why one parent was incorrect on the record. Online trees of a completely different family identified that this death refers to that of the daughter of Henry and Sarah BUDGE nee WHITWORTH. There are two deaths for Sarah THOMPSON in 1878 and neither shows parents of James and Ann or James and Mary Ann. Where Sarah was after 1873 has not been ascertained but she had certainly been in Sydney in the years immediately before this and it is believed that she remained there. When Mary Ann BUDGE died in 1887 only four children, her sons John and James and her daughters Elizabeth ASHWORTH77 and Catherine BRUCE78 were identified in her obituary.79 It is believed that Elizabeth was dead by this even though she was likely to be the black sheep of the family and unlikely to be mentioned in newspaper reports.

Sarah's sketchy description from Darlinghurst in 1873 loosely matches that of Sarah TRESS but the ages do not match well as this woman was approximately ten years younger than Sarah TRESS. This can however be explained by the fluid state of ages at this time and poor record keeping. Because of the use of the surname JONES, Sarah may have been the woman admitted to Biloela Gaol in 1888. The surname JONES was used also by Sarah's daughter, Elizabeth, so this lends weight to this being Sarah. This inmate, Sarah JONES alias THOMPSON, was described as having come to the colony young. She was 5' 2" with grey hair and blue eyes and had been born in England and was a member of the Church of England. It is believed that after this date she almost certainly assumed a surname and so cannot be traced.

It is not thought that Sarah was connected with the woman named Sarah THOMPSON who had been transported aboard the Diana in 1833.80

Sarah is not thought to have been connected to the family of the Sarah TRESS (c.1810-1895) who married James Ramsay KAY/KEAY (d. 1864) at Queen Charlotte Vale at St Stephen’s Bathurst Episcopal Church other than through the remote possibility that a member of this family may have been Elizabeth's father. This couple were married by K. D. SMYTH on 26 April 1847. Both were from Bathurst and neither had been married before. The witnesses were William Richard TRESS and Mary Ann CROKER who had married in 1832.81 William was a brother to this older Sarah.82

Sarah was not the Sarah BUDGE aka BRIDGE who married William INGALL in Sydney in 1874 as when this woman died her parents were identified as George and Mary and the couple had a large number of children.

Where has She Gone?

No trace of Elizabeth has been confirmed after 1902. It is not considered likely that she was the Elizabeth TREES who was recorded as a landlady living at 49 Pitt Street, Redfern, in 1928.83 There are no marriages registered for Elizabeth TRUSS or TRESS on the NSW BDM Index but there are many for Elizabeth THOMPSON although none can be matched to any of the known aliases of Elizabeth THOMPSON.

Updated June 2019

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