The Gaffey Family
(parents of Joan Gaffey):
The first of our ancestors to set foot in Australia was William Williams, a 22 year old soldier, who probably could have done without the honour since he arrived in irons on a convict transport in 1799. His crime was in the glamorous sounding category of “highway robbery”, but in reality, it was a mugging using his soldier’s bayonet as a weapon, violent enough for the judge at the Old Bailey in London to sentence him to death - fortunately for us, a sentence commuted to life in exile.
William was the first of six convicts in Joan Gaffey’s family tree to be transported to Australia, but his was by far the most serious sentence. The other five were all sentenced to “transportation beyond the seas” for seven years for, in the main, crimes against property, with one being transported after the abortive Irish rebellion of 1798.
early ancestors were joined by one brave family, the Hancys, who made the
journey as free settlers in 1800, a mere 12 years after the arrival of
Captain Philip and the First Fleet, to take up a land grant at Castle Hill
in Sydney’s northwest.
early convict ancestors all settled in the Windsor district on the
Hawkesbury River and intermarried with other convicts and a member of the
Williams family, in the way of many emancipists at the time, became
respectable farmers. All were,
to use today’s phrase, “upwardly mobile”, and within two generations, attempted to put their
convict past behind them. William William’s great grandson completed the
transition by becoming a member of the New South Wales parliament
(although some might question whether or not this is a big improvement).
the convicts and the Hancys, the next to arrive was an Irish seamstress
Ellen Quin, who met and married John Hyde, a English soldier in Hobart in
the 1840s. The Hydes had a
daughter Mary Ellen born in Melbourne at the height of the Victorian
goldrushes. It’s probable
Private Hyde was at Eureka in 1854 with the 40th Regiment,
battling with diggers such as Felice Pobar, an ancestor of Peter Byrnes.
John and his family made the move to Sydney in 1860s, where he
became a jail warder, and daughter Mary Ellen married into the Williams family.
of the later convict arrivals feature in the other side of Joan’s
family, the Gaffeys from County Down in Ulster.
Four Gaffey brothers arrived in Australia c1860 – and one
of them, Joan’s grandfather James, married the Australian-born daughter of one of these later convicts (her
grandfather was also a
Gaffey branch of the family settled in the New England area of New South
Wales, until Joan’s father Tom made the move south to Sydney during
World War 1. There, he met
and married Joan’s mother Stella Williams, the great-granddaughter of
that first convict William Williams.