Tuesday, 2 April 2019


Grave of Eliz Steele Old Sydney Burial Ground
See*reference at end of page


The burial of convicts was something that at times seemed to be considered as an afterthought. Many were buried where they fell, especially if they were in a labour gang, as they were often well away from any settlement. If in a prison compound, then often a section inside the area, or very nearby, became their grave. 

There were some folk in the settlements who weren't going to have convicts buried in their resting grounds, so there were some areas set aside for the burial of convicts, often well away from 'normal' folk, perhaps buried alongside paupers. Little thought was given to ensuring graves were marked in many of these places, so searching for the graves of convict ancestors doesn't always lead to a named grave. The exceptions include those who had completed their sentences, or who had been pardoned, but even then, not all were afforded a headstone, sometimes a wooden cross or a name scratched onto a stone. Few of those survive.

There are marked convict graves in some cemeteries...

First Fleet convict Thomas Eccles's grave at St. John's, Parramatta 

 Not everyone agreed with this practice as can be seen below... 

Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 - 1880), Saturday 6 May 1854, page 5
National Library of Australia   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65713765
Click to enlarge .. 
If you still find these items a little hard to read, you can use the URL 
at the top of the clipping and that will take you directly to the article.

It seems that this man at least was given a Christian burial.

Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 - 1880), Saturday 21 March 1868, page 4
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66462476       EXCERPT

Not so this convict, whose evil deeds were not pardoned.

Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), Thursday 26 May 1892, page 2
National Library of Australia    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204479618

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 
Monday 5 September 1892, page 4  National Library of Australia  

Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), Wednesday 24 September 1902, page 6
National Library of Australia    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9588591

Convict graves- A small patch of convict graves in a cemetery in Tasmania (photograph/ Nick Franklin February 2011)

 Photograph - Maria Island - Unmarked convict graves in old cemetery  
part of Libraries Tasmania's Online collection
More on Maria Island


Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), Saturday 26 May 1917, page 41
National Library of Australia    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22339001

Posting all of this, as it there is so much of general interest as well as convict burials... 

though maybe not what one would expect.

National Library of Australia      http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51628455
Smith's Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 - 1950), Saturday 15 February 1930, page 17
National Library of Australia   http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234426763

This has to be one of the most prominent convict graves..

Monument carved by stonemason Daniel Herbert for his own grave in the Old Burial Ground at Ross, Tasmania
Elizabeth Barsham Own work  CC BY-SA 4.0

You can read Daniel Herbert's story at the link below...


 Smith's Weekly is also full of interesting items...including mention of what was thought to have been a convict cemetery.

News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), Monday 21 July 1930, page 1
National Library of Australia  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130252983

From The Sun Sydney... with reference to possible convict graves in the Blue Mountains...

The Sun Sydney   20 Aug 1933

Convict graves, Katoomba
Not given
Black and white glass lantern slide. Title in ink on lower edge label.
Frank Walker 1861-1948
Glass lantern slide 8.2 x 8.2 cm
burial grounds; convicts; graves; historic sites
Blue Mountains (NSW); Katoomba (NSW)

Copyright expired. Permission to reproduce image from RAHS.
Clearing with stone mounds commonly held to be the graves of convicts working on the Western Road. Lower edge inscription: Convicts graves near Explorer's Tree. Katoomba, Blue Mts.
Presented to RAHS by Frank Walker
Frank Walker glass lantern slide collection

The Frank Walker Crossings Collection

You can download a leaflet from this site with more information about the mounds above... https://library.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/client/en_AU/search/asset/1017541/0  

World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), Saturday 2 May 1953, page 32
National Library of Australia    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131643492

Further reading...

Sydney's Historic Cemeteries

Old Sydney Burial Ground 1792 - 1820 NSW

Convict Brisbane... Jennifer Harrison

Norfolk Island .. some convict graves

Visitors Guide to the Old Adaminaby Cemetery

Port Macquarie Penal Settlement | NSW State Archives

* Reference to first photo...
In Memory of
Eliz Steel died
1795 Aged …
Elizabeth Steel arrived in Sydney Cove as a convict on board the Lady Juliana on the 3rd June 1790, as part of the Second Fleet, aged 23 or 24. At the time of her sentencing authorities described her as being ‘mute by visitation of God’, which is the earliest record of a deaf Australian, but there is no historical evidence that she used a sign language. Her charge at the Old Bailey was for stealing a silver watch from George Childs, who was a customer at the public house she worked at as a prostitute. After two months in Sydney, Elizabeth Steel was transferred to Norfolk Island. In November 1791, Steel married a fellow convict, Irish born James Mackey. Together they successfully farmed a 10-acre farm until the end of their sentences. Elizabeth returned to Sydney in 1794, but died the following year aged 29. Her burial at the Old Sydney Burial Ground was recorded on 8 June 1795.

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