My Ancestors

Thomas Pearson the convict and his family

by Grahame and Rosslyn Thom


Thomas Pearson (11121) was born in about 1765, probably in London. England. He married Sarah Eglington (11122), aged about 22 years on 13 April 1793 at Shoreditch in London (1).

At his trial Thomas states he had a twenty month old child and that his wife was about to have their second child. This was in September 1795. From later events it can be deduced that their first child was :-

Thomas born about January 1794, probably in London

And their second child was Sarah baptised on 11 January 1796, at St Andrew’s Church, Holborn, London (2)

On 20 August 1795 Thomas was arrested for a crime for which he appeared in the Middlesex Court before Mr Justice Rooke on 16 September 1795. The following is a transcript of the proceedings (3).

THOMAS PEARSON, Violent Theft – highway robbery, 16th September 1795.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online

THOMAS PEARSON was indicted for feloniously making an assault, on the 20th of August, on Mary Butler, in a certain field, near the King’s highway, putting her in fear, and feloniously taking from her person, and against her will, a silk cloak, value 5s. and five shillings in monies numbered, the goods and monies of the said Mary Butler .(The case opened by Mr. Knowlys.)

Q. I believe you are a widow lady? – I am a widow; I live near Hampstead.
Q. Were you going to town on the 20th of August, and at what time? – Yes, at six o’clock in the evening.
Q. Whereabouts was it that you met with any interruption? – In the middle field between Chalk Farm and the Britannia.
Q. At the back of Camden Town, or some where thereabouts? – Yes. The prisoner came up to me and said, money.
Q. Were you alone? – Yes.
Q. When you say the prisoner, are you certain to the person of the man? – Yes.
Q. When he said, your money, what did you do? – I put my hand into my pocket, and gave him some silver and some halfpence.
Q. In what way was it he addressed you with money? – He came up to me and said, money.
Q. After you had given him this silver and halfpence, what past then? -He wanted some more, and I gave him some more.
Q. Were you at this time collected or alarmed? – Very much alarmed indeed.
Q. Had the prisoner any thing with him at that time? – I moved a little out of the road that I was in, and then I saw a stick in his hand and held over my shoulder.
Q. Do you know how much money you gave him the first time? – I cannot say. He then laid his hand on my cloak and laid hold of it, and said he wanted it; I said I would take it off; I took it off and gave it him; I untied it directly.
Q. He pulled it off, I think? – He did.
Q. After that had passed what became of him? – He went from me then.
Q. Had you any opportunity of giving information of this? – I immediately as he left me turned round and see two gentlemen, and I screamed out to them.
Q. Had you lost sight of him before you screamed out? – No.
Q. On your screaming, did they come up? – They did; they came up directly.
Q. Did you see him taken? – No, I did not; he was not taken in my sight.
Q. Did you tell the gentlemen what had happened to you? – I screamed out and said something, but they ran strait on after the man.
Q. How long after this was it that you see the prisoner again? – In a very little while, it might be ten minutes. I ran after him across the field, as fast as I could, into Chalk-lane, and there he was taken when I came up to him, when I came up a young woman had the cloak in her hand.
Q. How she came by it you cannot tell? – No.
Q. Where is the cloak now? – It is here.
Q. In whose custody has it been ever since? – Mine.(Produced.)
Q. Is that the cloak that you lost on that occasion? – It is.
Q. Have you any doubt of that being your cloak? – None at all.
Q. How long had you had it? – About two or three years.
Q. In justice to the prisoner, I would ask you, did he behave with any uncommon violence or severity to you? – No.
Q. He did the thing as mildly as the thing could be done. I don’t know whether you was ever robbed before? – No, I was not.
Court. He did not use any particular violence, nor did not swear at you? – No, he did not
Q. You see the prisoner run off, and you see the gentlemen run after him, but you did not see them lay hold of him? – No, I did not.

Q. Will you be so good as to tell my lord and jury what you know of this business? – I was walking in company with Mr. Bufford, on the 20th of August, across the field leading to Chalk Farm; when I got about the middle of the field, I heard Mrs. Butler cry out stop thief! the men has robbed me; and I and Mr. Bufford immediately pursued the man.
Q. Could you see the man? – He was at some short distance, within sight; we pursued the man as far as Chalk-lane, where he got over the stile, I suppose about a minute before me; when I got over the stile I found the prisoner at the bar in custody of Mr. Bufford.
Q. Was the prisoner the same man as you see in custody? – I cannot say that, because I am rather short sighted.
Q. You did not see the cloak taken from the prisoner? – I did not. When I came up the prisoner had a stick in his hand, rather a large one.
Prisoner. I never was in a trouble before, and I don’t know how to proceed; I always worked very hard for my bread.

– BUFFORD sworn.
I was walking across the field to Chalk Farm, and I observed the prosecutrix throw up her arms, and immediately I see the prisoner run off, and Mr. Collingbridge and me ran, and at the end of the field he got over the stile, and I got over after him first, before Mr. Collingbridge, and I found him on the other side of the ditch, and I got up to him and took hold of his leg, and he slid down, and there was this stick and this cloak, which I took from him. Mr. Collingbridge then came up.
Q. Where was the cloak when you came up? – He had it in his hand when I came up.
Q. Are you sure he is the person that you see running from Mrs. Butler? – That I can fastely say.
Q. Did you see that cloak delivered to Mrs. Butler? – Yes, I did; I gave it to her myself.

I am headborough of Hampstead.
Q. Have you any thing more to prove, than that this man was delivered into your custody? – No, nothing more than I searched him, and found about him this gimblet and this knife.
Q. Any money? – He had returned all the money to Mrs. Butler.

Prisoner. I have nothing to say, I never was in any trouble before in my life; I am a shoe-maker; I have got a wife and family, and never was in trouble before in my life, and know not how to proceed.
Q. What number of children have you? – I have one child twenty months old, and my wife is big with another.

GUILTY. Death . (Aged 30.)
Recommended to mercy by the Jury, because he used no violence; and also recommended by the prosecutrix .
Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice ROOKE.

Thomas was held in London waiting for confirmation of his sentence which was handed down on 17 February 1796 (5) when his death sentence was changed to life with transportation beyond the seas to the colony of New South Wales.  He received approval for his family to travel with him. They boarded the ship Ganges in early December 1796, departed on the 10th, arrived Sydney 2 June 1797.

Their daughter Rosetta (1112) was born about this time. Some researchers say she was born during the voyage and others soon after arrival.  There appears to be no record of her baptism, which seems to indicate the possibility of birth occurring on the Ganges.  Although the 1822 Muster and the 1828 Census both indicate she was born in the colony.

Next reference to Thomas and Sarah is in a list headed Settlers’ Muster Book 1800 where 298 people are listed as Off Stores in about 1801. The list only states their ship was the Ganges and they were resident in Sydney, with Thomas working for himself and Sarah was with Thomas. This is interpreted as it was likely Thomas had a ticket of leave (6).

On 7 October 1805 Sarah gave birth to Elizabeth in Sydney (7).

The fact that Thomas had a ticket of leave is confirmed by his entry in the General Muster of NSW for 1806, where he is listed as a shoemaker with a Ticket of Leave (8).

By 1811 it is likely he had received a pardon as he is not listed in General Muster and in the 1814 General Muster he is listed as being in the Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh area, free and off stores (9).

Daughter Rosetta married Edward Devine on 18 August 1819 at Richmond, see Devine page.

As recorded in the 1822 General Muster, Thomas senior appears to be in poor health as he is listed as being a resident in the Benevolent Asylum, while there is a Sarah Pearson is listed as a servant of A Solomon of Windsor (10). This could be his wife or daughter.

On 21 February 1822 their daughter Elizabeth married Irishman James Hill, convict, who had arrived on the Guildford in 1816 (11). On 26 January 1823 Thomas died in Sydney (12).

The General Muster List of NSW for the combined years 1823, 1824 and 1825 (13), lists

James and Elizabeth Hill, with son William (b 1823), at Richmond
Rosetta Pearson and Edward Devine, with son Thomas (b 1824), at Wilberforce
Sarah Pearson, lives with Samuel Solomon at Richmond
Thomas Pearson (son), labourer of Richmond.

It is possible that the above Sarah is their daughter as this Muster also has this entry (note married women of convicts tend to be recorded in Musters under their maiden name)

Sarah Eggleton (sic), came free, ship Ganges, 1797, living with John Solomon, Richmond

By 1828 when the Census was taken, the only family members with the surname Pearson appear to be mother Sarah and son Thomas together(14):-

Thomas, age 34 years, arrived on the Ganges, free, 1796, Protestant, lives at Thos Summers, Evan
Sarah Pearson, age 57 years, arrived on the Ganges, free, 1796, Protestant

Some time later it is likely that Sarah moved to live with her daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law James Hill at Kurrajong, NSW, for on 19 May 1842 she died there aged 70 years (15).

We are uncertain as to what happened to children Thomas and Sarah, although there are two burial entries in the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages online index that could be them, namely Thomas Pearson died 1831, adult, (ref 9768/1831) and Sarah Pearson died 1848, aged 54 years (ref 877/1848).


1. England Marriages, 1538–1973, database, FamilySearch, httpss:// : accessed 9 November 2015.

2. England Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch httpss:// : accessed 13 November 2015

3. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 08 November 2015), September 1795, trial of THOMAS PEARSON (t17950916-40).

4. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 214

5. Bateson, Charles – The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, NSW 1974, page 157,, accessed 9 November 2015

6. Baxter, Carol J, editor, Musters and Lists, New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1800-1802, book, North Sydney, 1988

7, Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages NSW online births index, accessed 8 November 2015 – reference 2233/1805

8. Baxter, Carol J, musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 1805-1806, book, Sydney 1989

9, Baxter, Carol J, General Musters of New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land, 1811, and General Muster of New South Wales, 1814, book, Sydney 1987

10 Baxter, Carol J, General Muster and Land and Stock Muster of New South Wales, 1822, book, Sydney, 1988

11. Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages NSW online births index, accessed 8 November 2015 – reference 197/1822

12. Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages NSW, burial certificate – reference 810/1823

13. Baxter, Carole J, General Muster List of New South Wales, 1823, 1824, 1825, book, Sydney, 1999. Interestingly there were two other Devine children, namely Philip born 1819 and Rebecca born 1821, not listed in this muster.

14. Sainty, Malcolm R, and Johnson, Keith A, Census of New South Wales, November 1828, book, Sydney, 1980, and Australian Joint Copying Project, Home Office 10/25, mfm reel 68.

15. Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages NSW, burial certificate – reference 936/1842

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