#16 Sarah Bird – Convict, Publican and Mother

Sarah Bird

b. abt 1770 Surrey, England

d. 9/23/1842 Sydney, Australia

This is the second time I’ve written about Sarah Bird, my convict ancestor. Sarah was sentence to seven years in Australia for Grand Larceny.

25 years old Sarah was transported from England on October 1795 on “The Indispensable”, a female convict ship bound for Sydney, Australia. The travel was less interesting then some ships with only 2 deaths during the voyage. On April 30, 1796 the women arrived and were sent to Botany Bay where work duties where assigned.  Sarah worked hard and was smart about trading her valuables for the right price. She stayed out of trouble and within a short amount of time was allowed certain freedoms within the community. One of the freedoms was to engage in her own business. Sarah applied and was granted a license to open her home as a “public house”. She was still “unpardoned” however the application was granted in 1797 and Sarah Bird was the first women granted a Publican License in Australia. The “Three Jolly Settlers“ was the name on the sign that hung on the small whitewashed structure made of timber shingles, four walls, a few chairs and tables and in the back latter to the loft where Sarah slept. It was important the Sarah kept what the government called “a moral character”; otherwise the government would remove her license claiming she was of “unfit character” for the community.

A short time after she opened The “Three Jolly Settlers”, Sarah became involved with a convict by the name of John Morris. We will never know the relationship between the two, however, in 1798, just one year after she opened the “Three Jolly settlers”, John convince Sarah in leaving her home and business and move with him to Hawkebury, where he was granted a license for an Inn. During this time in Hawkebury, Sarah and John had two daughters, Sarah born 1801 and Anne born 1803. John was not a strong business man and went bankrupt and lost the Inn shortly after Anne was born. The family then moved to Norfolk Island to start fresh.

Things were never the same, John reverted back to his convict ways and became more violent with time. In 1804 he attempted to kill Sarah by slitting her throat. John was sentence to thirty years hard labor.

Sarah and her daughters returned to Sydney and there she raised her girls with the surname Bird. Sarah died in 1842, there is no obituary that has been found or death record or grave site. Sadly, the first female publican of Australia dies without a mark.

Sarah is one of my favorite ancestors, so brave and strong, sent half way around the world to a place very different from her home. She endured and clever wits and strength was passed to her daughters. Her daughter Anne became a published writer and printer for the ‘Syndey Gazzette” and Sarah married and had a large family that help build and shape New South Wales, AU.


3 thoughts on “#16 Sarah Bird – Convict, Publican and Mother

  1. Schalene Dagutis May 14, 2014 / 8:05 pm

    I love reading about strong women. Sarah Bird endured a lot, but what a woman!

  2. Ian Beckett February 28, 2015 / 3:56 am

    Hi Jenna
    My name is Ian Beckett. I work as a volunteer at the Castle Hill Library. I do investigative research on local study matters and help patrons with their family history research.
    I am currently researching Sarah Bird and John Morris (who was a First Fleeter).
    Edna Boyd, a descendant of both Sarah and John has asked me to assist her with her application to be admitted to the Fellowship of First Fleeters.
    Their admittance requirements are fairly strict and I have hit a “brick wall” trying to locate parish records for the marriage of Sarah and John (they probably did not get married) and also the parish records for their daughters Sarah and Ann.
    I would appreciate any assistance you may be able to give me. I will pay for any copying and postage costs.
    Ian Beckett
    (02) 9634 8852

    • jmfennell March 5, 2015 / 4:57 am

      Hi Ian, I’m not sure if I have anything that would help with the application for the Fellowship of First Fleeters, however I would be happy to share any information I have or where I found my information. You can email me at Fennell2474@aol.com

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