"Haybags, Wanton Widows & Discontented Old Maids"

[Dr. Liz Rushen]

Dr. Liz Rushen describes Early Female Migration

Liz Rushen has written several books about the early immigration of women to Australia. Were they the dregs of British society? Liz set out to discover just what sort of women migrated, and discussed what records she used to find her information.

It is harder to find information about women than men. Women didn't generally buy property of belong to associations. They changed their names if married, and often their names were not recorded properly.

Under a scheme operated by the London Emigration Committee, fourteen ships brought out women from Great Britain and Ireland between 1833 and 1837. Of the 4,000 passengers on these ships, 2,700 were bounty women. Liz researches the women whose names she found on the shipping lists. The London Metropolitan Archives provided some details of these women in its parish records.

Contrary to the belief of some, less than one quarter of women who emigrated under this emigration scheme were from workhouses and charitable institutions. Women were not scooped off the streets, but replied to advertisements. An advertisement for the "Amelia Thompson" was in the form of a poster, 3 feet by 2 feet in size, which was displayed in post offices and shops. Other advertisements which detailed sailing times, tonnage of ship, name of master and agent, were to be found in the newspapers.

Application forms filled out for immigration contained helpful details: name, age, and address, parish, trade or occupation, whether travelling alone or with others, whether able to read or write. They were also signed by two responsible people, such as a minister or physician. If the forms weren't filled in correctly, the application was refused. Copies of these were kept in six books which have been missing since World War 2.

There were at least four passenger lists for wach ship which came to Australia, and they all varied. These lists were made for financial reasons, so the agent could receive the Bounty payment. The first list was of embarking passengers. The original was sent to the Colonial Office in London and a copy, probably containing mistakes was carried on the ship. On arrival in Australia, another list was made. The fourth list was the Disposal List. These are the most difficult to read as they were written on a day when hiring was being done. It would have been busy and lots of errors were made.

Liz has researched, in particular, women who emigrated on the "Bussorah Merchant" and the "Lady Macnaghten." Details she has gathered on Elizabeth Goodenough and Emma Lycett demonstrate her genealogical skills.

She always starts with the Pioneer Indexes but gains additional information from other sources such as Early Parish Registers. Marriage transcripts indicate whether a marriage was by banns or by licence. They might indicate occupation, and names of witnesses. They might tell you if a person can sign their name and what religion they were. Births of children indicate where women lived, and directories such as the "Port Phillip Almanac" are helpful, as are trade and occupation directories. Biographical directories, including the "Australian Dictionary of Biography" can be useful although often women's names are not mentioned.

An index compiled by Joan Reese of letters to the Colonial Secretary concerning convicts, shows that many women applied to marry convicts, or a man with a 'ticket of leave.' Women applied to have their convict husband assigned to them. Many applied for land grants. These indexes, on microfiche, are at the Genealogical Society of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria.

Joan Kerr's "Dictionary of Australian Artists" helped Liz find information on Emma Lycett's father who was convicted of forgery. As a convict, he was a wonderful colonial artist between 1815 and 1822. After completing his sentence, he returned to England where he was again convicted of forgery. After his suicide, Emma returned to Australia.

Liz found that women immigrants were feisty, prepared to stand up for their rights and became good pioneers.

(The above is a report on Dr. Liz Rushen's address at the General Meeting on 13 September 2008)

Contributed by Jan Hanslow (PPPG Member No. 1057)

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