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Mary Williams was born circa 1768 in Wales and died 24 December 1805 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia of unspecified causes.

Mary Williams - convict in Second Fleet on the Neptune in 1790

Which Mary Williams?

Mary Williams, who was illiterate, married Edward Humphreys/Humphries on 14 February 1791 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and died on 24 December 1805 as Mary Humphries. A witness to the wedding in 1791 was another Mary Williams, also illiterate. There are 4 Mary Williams who are known to have arrived in the Colony of New South Wales, all convicts, between 26 January 1788 when the first European settlers arrived in Sydney and 14 February 1791 the date of the wedding. The question then becomes which Mary Williams was the bride at this wedding, and which Mary Williams was the witness?

  • Mary Williams (1), born about 1749 according to the age recorded during transportation, arrived on the Lady Penrhyn on 26 January 1788. She had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at the Old Bailey, Middlesex, in 1786. Dennis Bruce Gosper stated in his book "The Pragmatic Pioneers", 1991, that perhaps she had a daughter who came out on the Lady Penrhyn with her on the basis that it was "relatively common for children to accompany a parent", and that perhaps this daughter married Edward Humphreys/Humphries. This supposed daughter would also have had to be in her teens in 1788 to marry in 1791. Children are known to have accompanies their mother on later transports but this does not mean that the same occurred on the 1st Fleet. These children on later transports did include teenagers but they were more likely to be younger. It is improbable to conjecture a teenage daughter traveling with her mother in the 1st Fleet is as a wife for Edward Humphreys/Humphries.
  • Mary Williams (2), born about 1754 according to the age given in the 1828 census, arrived on the Lady Juliana on 6 June 1790. She had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at Maidstone, Kent in 1789. This Mary Williams was transferred to Norfolk Island on the Surprise on 7 August 1790. Her husband-to-be received a grant of 60 acres on Norfolk Island. 5 April 1791 which he sold in 1795. In November 1791 Rev. Richard Johnson visited Norfolk Island and married all those who wanted to be married. At that time this Mary Williams, literacy unknown, married Richard Knight the man with whom she was already co-habitating, a marine who had arrived on the Scarborough in 1788. The 1806 muster records her as Mary Williams (people were recorded with the name that they had been transported under) married to Richard Knight. The 1811 muster records her as Mary Williams (people were recorded with the name that they had been transported under) having been sentenced at Maidstone in 1789. She died in 1832 in Sydney as Mary Knight. She could not have been the witness at the wedding of Mary Williams and Edward Humphreys/Humphries as on 14 February 1791 she was on Norfolk Island.
  • Mary Williams (3) arrived on the Lady Juliana on 6 June 1790. She had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at the Old Bailey, Middlesex, in October 1787.
  • Mary Williams (4), born about 1768 according to the age of 21 recorded in a gaol document on 26 May 1789, arrived on the Neptune on 28 June 1790. She had been sentenced in Monmouth, Wales on 19 July 1788 to death by hanging commuted to transportation for Life. She had been caught on 17 July 1788 for the burglary at the house of David Hoskin, where a bundle of clothing, a pair of buckled shoes and some ribband were stolen. She was victualled in the country goal until 5 November 1789. She was then transferred from county gaol to the embarked on the Neptune in November 1789. The Neptune left England with the Second Fleet on 17 January 1790. Dennis Bruce Gosper stated in his book "The Pragmatic Pioneers", 1991, that records exist in London to show that this Mary Williams died in prison in England and that she therefore was not embarked onto the Neptune, and did not arrive in Port Jackson. This, however, disagrees with the 1802 muster of New South Wales which records a Mary Williams (people were recorded with the name that they had been transported under) who arrived on the Neptune in 1790.

There was a Mary Williams who married William Whiting, a convict from the First Fleet in Sydney on 28 June 1798. This is co-incidentally the day that the ship carrying Mary Williams (4) sailed into Port Jackson, so the Mary Williams who married William Whiting was not Mary Williams (4). She also cannot be Mary Williams (2) as she is known to have married Richard Knight in 1791 on Norfolk Island. Nor can she be Mary Williams (3) as there was not enough time between the day that she sailed into Port Jackson on 6 June 1790 for her to have met William Whiting, have decided to marry him, and to have obtained permission from the Governor. The only Mary Williams available to marry William Whiting was the fellow 1st Fleet convict Mary Williams (1). Mary Williams (1) was about 20 years older than her husband William Whiting. She was also illiterate, and died as Mary Whiting in Sydney in 1801. She also could not have been the witness at the wedding of Mary Williams and Edward Humphreys/Humphries on 14 February 1791 as, from 28 June 1790, with the exception of records to do with her transportation, she was Mary Whiting.

This leaves Mary Williams (3) and Mary Williams (4), one of whom was the bride, and one of whom was the witness. Mary Williams (3) is not recorded in the 1802 muster but Mary Williams (4) was. We also know that the wife of Edward Humphreys was still living in 1802. The conclusion to be drawn is then is that the Mary Williams who married Edward Humphries was Mary Williams (4) from Wales, and the witness to the wedding was Mary Williams (3) from London, Middlesex.

On 18 December 1791, the day that her son William was baptised, Mary Humphries (nee Williams) was a witness at the wedding of William Mashman and Margaret Clarke at Sydney. Margaret Clarke had also arrived on the Neptune in 1790.

Fictitious Newspaper report (based on historical accounts) about the arrival of the Second Fleet in Port Jackson

From the "SYDNEY COVE CHRONICLE", 30th June, 1790.
At last the transports are here
DIABOLICAL CONDITION OF THE CONVICTS THEREON
278 died on the fearsome journey to Sydney Cove

. . . The landing of those who remained alive despite their misuse upon the recent voyage, could not fail to horrify those who watched.

As they came on shore, these wretched people were hardly able to move hand or foot. Such as could not carry themselves upon their legs, crawled upon all fours. Those, who, through their afflictions, were not able to move, were thrown over the side of the ships; as sacks of flour would be thrown, into the small boats.

Some expired in the boats; others as they reached the shore. Some fainted and were carried by those who fared better. More had not the opportunity even to leave their ocean prisons for as they came upon the decks, the fresh air only hastened their demise.

A sight most outrageous to our eyes were the marks of leg irons upon the convicts, some so deep that one could nigh on see the bones. . .We learn that several children have been borne to women upon the Lady Juliana, the cause for which were the crews aboard African slave ships which met up with the transport at Santa Cruz. . .So the Guardian is lost and with it our provisions. What, in the name of Heaven, is to become of us ? . . .

Historical Accounts

David COLLINS: An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1: 1798:

We had the mortification to learn, that the prisoners in this ship ('Surprize') were very unhealthy, upwards of one hundred being now in the sick list on board. They had been very sickly also during the passage, and had buried forty-two of these unfortunate people. A portable hospital had fortunately been received by the ‘Justinian’, and there now appeared but too great a probability that we should soon have patients enough to fill it; for the signal was flying at the South Head for the other transports, and we were led to expect them in as unhealthy a state as that which had just arrived. On the evening of Monday the 28th, the ‘Neptune’ and ‘Scarborough’ transports anchored off Garden Island, and were warped into the cove the following morning.

Letter from a female convict: published London Morning Chronicle 1791:

Oh! If you had but seen the shocking sight of the poor creatures that came out in the three ships it would make your heart bleed… they were almost dead, very few could stand, and they were obliged to fling them as you would goods, and hoist them out of the ships, they were so feeble and they died ten or twelve a day when they first landed; but some of them are getting better… They were not so long as we were, but they were confined and had bad victuals and stinking water. The Governor was very angry, and scolded the captain a great deal, and, as I heard, intended to write to London about it, for I heard him say it was murdering them. It, to be sure, was a melancholy sight. What a difference between us and them...

David COLLINS: An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 1798:

All this was to be attributed to confinement, and that of the worst species, confinement in a small space and in irons, not put on singly, but many of them chained together… On board the other ships, the masters, who had the entire direction of the prisoners, never suffered them to be at large on deck, and but few at a time were permitted there. This consequently gave birth to many diseases. It was said, that on board the ‘Neptune’ several had died in irons; and what added to the horror of such a circumstance was, that their deaths were concealed, for the purpose of sharing their allowance of provisions, until chance, and the offensiveness of a corpse, directed the surgeon, or some one who ad authority in the ship, to the spot where it lay...

Rev. Richard Johnson: Letter to Mr. Thornton 1789:

The landing of these people was truly affecting and shocking; great numbers were not able to walk, nor to move hand or foot; such were slung over the side in the same manner as they would a cask, a box or anything of that nature. Upon their being brought up into the open air some of them fainted, many died upon deck, and others in the boat before they reached the shore. When come on shore many were not able to walk, to stand, or stir themselves in the least, hence some were led by others. Some crept upon their hands and knees and some were carried on the backs of others.



Children


Offspring of Edward Humphreys and Mary Williams (c1768-1805)
Name Birth Death Joined with
William Humphries (1791-1863)
Edward Humphries (1793-1796)
Elizabeth Humphries (1795-1830) 11 December 1795 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia August 1830 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia John Turner (1792-1867)
Edward Humphries (1798-1838)
Mary Humphries (c1801-1892) 1801 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 24 January 1892 Upper Colo, New South Wales, Australia Thomas Gosper (1798-1864)
Susannah Humphries (1803-1877)


Siblings


Residences

Footnotes (including sources)

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