Friday, 13 March 2015

Fearless Females - March 13 - moment of strength

Blogging prompt for March 13 is - a moment of strength, where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

Today I will write about Mary Fitzgerald, my 4th great-grandmother. Mary was convicted in Waterford, Ireland in 1801 and transported on the notorious 'Atlas 1' that sailed from Cork on 29 November of that year. There were 151 male convicts and 28 female convicts embarked and 65 died on the voyage. Mary arrived in Sydney, New South Wales on 7 July 1802. Mary had already shown strength in surviving the journey.

However, that was only the beginning of  Mary's story in Australia. She married Peter McCann, a fellow convict from Ireland, at St John's Parramatta by the Rev Samuel Marsden on the 9th January 1804. Her first child, Nicholas, was baptised on the same day. Mary had another child, Catherine, on 1st July 1805 and was widowed on 21st October 1806 when her husband Peter was swept away in a flood on the Hawkesbury River. His body was not recovered.

So Mary was left to provide for two small children. She quickly married James Neale on the 2nd November 1807 and had two more children, James in 1809 and 1810. Unfortunately, James Neale was killed by an Aborigine on the 25th February 1811 at Richmond Hill. Once again, Mary was left with young children.

Mary married John Hill on the 24th May 1813 at Windsor. Mary had two daughters with John Hill, Eleanor born on the 12 March 1812 and Elizabeth born on the 25th August 1815. Mary continued to have bad luck with her husbands as John Hill disappeared by 1820.

I think Mary showed great courage and strength to survive in the early Colony of New South Wales at a time when there was no protection for women without a husband. Mary went on to open a small shop in Church Street, Parramatta where she could provide for her small family. Mary died in December 1870 in the Benevolent Society Asylum in Sydney aged 85.

South View of Parramatta, New South Wales, from the Great Western Road near Turnpike house 1820

By Lycett, Joseph. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales [a128864 / V1B/Parr/23] (Mitchell Library)

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