Stephen Gray and Mary Burns

Stephen Gray, alternatively spelt Grey, was born about 1806, potentially in Sheffield, his stated native place. He was ultimately tried for stealing rope for which he was transported to Van Diemen's Land, but he also had a short history of petty offences, detailed on his Convict Conduct Record:

GRAY, Stephen
Persian Nov. 7 1830
York 19 April 1830 14
Trans[orte]d for "St[ealin]g Rope" Gaol Report "Conv[icte]d before of Felony". Hulk report "orderly". Stated this Offence "Steal[in]g Rope, once for Warehouse breaking 6 months - again, for Vagrancy, twice - one month each time. "Single"1

Stephen was transported aboard the Persian on its second voyage to the colonies. The ship departed Falmouth 28 June 1830 and arrived in Van Diemen's Land on 7 November 1830, a sail of 126 days. Robert Plunkett was the Master and Thomas Galloway the Ship's Surgeon. 1 convict died on the journey so they embarked 198 souls and disembarked 197.2

Stephen's convict description record notes that he was a labourer, native to Sheffield. He was 5 feet and 5 1/4 inches tall, age 23 with a dark complexion, round head, dark brown hair, no whiskers, and an oval visage. His forehead was described as "ppendic" which doesn't appear to be a word so was probably accepted shorthand, his eyebrows were dark brown and overhanging. His eyes were grey, his nose medium large, broad at the nostrils. His mouth was medium wide, his chin medium large, and he had a scar on his right arm.3

According to the Appropriation List, Stephen Grey, 24, labourer, was assigned to Thomas Browne at Oatlands.4 The Founders and Survivors website has the following assignments:

  • 1830-12-31 Muster: Public Works
  • 1832-12-31 Muster: Assd. to Mr. John Ramsdale
  • 1833-12-31 Muster: Assd. to Mr. John Ramsdale
  • 1835-12-31 Muster: Assd. to Mr. J. Ramsdale5

John Ramsdale and his wife Elizabeth had arrived in Circular Head in 1828 on the "Caroline", with their children. John Ramsdale became an overseer for the Van Diemens Land Company at Highfield. According to some reports Ramsdale's tenure at Circular Head ended "on January 18, 1833 and that they all sailed by the next available passage to Launceston, where John purchased land on the North Esk at Vermont, as he is listed in the 1833 census as "Farmer" of "Vermont"."6

Stephen's Convict Conduct Record shows only minor offences while in the colony:

March 3 1835 Ramsdale / Disob[ienc[e] & assulating his fellow Serv[an]t, 30 lashes / W.L. / Dec 26th 1835 Ramsdale / Drinking, reprimanded / H. Wilman / June 4th 1839 T. L. / Misconduct, Adm[onishe]d / A.G. / Dec 28 1839 T. L. / Absented himself from XXXX Muster, Adm[onishe]d / D. W. / T. L. 11.36 Dec 5 1840 T. L. Unlawfully riding on his Cart Horse. 5 / D. W. Jan[uar]y 17 1841 T. L. Misconduct in being absent from church Muster - admonished and ordered to pay for summons 5 / D. W.
Conditional Pardon No. 2899 20th Feb[ruar]y 1841
Free Certificate No. 23/18447

Stephen was granted his ticket of leave in November 1836:

Tickets of Leave.
...Stephen Gray, Persian;...8

Stephen Gray per the Persian sought permission to marry Mary Burns, free, dated 8 December 18379 which is odd as the couple had married on 5 July 1837 in Launceston, Van Diemen's Land. Mary Burns was born about 1817, calculated from the age stated when she died, and her arrival in the colony has not been found at this point.10

In February 1838 it was reported that Stephen Gray had been punished for insolence:

Stephen Gray, for insolence to his overseer, received a lesson on the necessity existing for persons in his situation behaving with civility to those under whose control they happen to be placed.11

Later that year Stephen and Mary's first child was born, and Patience Gray was baptised on 2 September 1838 in Avoca.12

Another daughter followed in quick succession, and Mary Anne Gray was born on 24 March 1839 in Campbell Town.13

In February 1841 the Courier advertised Memoranda of Condition Pardon had been issued for the named convicts, including Stephen Gray, but what this amounted to is unknown:

Colonial Secretary's Office, 20th February, 1841.

Memoranda of Conditional Pardon have been issued to the following convicts until Her Majesty's pleasure be known; viz.
...Stephen Gray, Persian;...14

Charles Gray, Stephen and Mary's first son, was born on 6 July 1841 in the Launceston district. Charles was listed as an Unknown male (M.) at birth.15

Census Returns 1842 and 1843...

Stephen Gray was eligible for his Condition Pardon as advertised in the Courier on 14 October 1842:

Colonial Secretary's Office, 30th September, 1842.

The Lieutenant-Governor directs that the following list of persons who have received absolute or conditional Remissions of their Sentences, and of which Her Majesty's gracious allowance has been notified, shall be published for general information.

The individuals in whose favour the Pardons have been granted will, therefore, apply at the Office of the Muster Master, Hobart Town, or, if in the interior, to the Police Magistrate of the District, that they may receive the proper documents.

...Stephen Grey, Persian;...16

Cornelius Gray, their fourth child and second son, was born on 29 August 1843 in the Horton district.17 The change in location could reflect a desire on Stephen's part to start again in a new area without the convict stain.

A third son and fifth child, Stephen Gray, was born on 2 July 1845 in the Horton district. He was listed at birth as an Unknown Male (M.).18 He died two days later on 4 July 1845.19 An Inquest was held on 5 July 1845:

Inquest to be entered here.20

Stephen Jnr. was one of twins, his brother Thomas Gray was also born on 2 July 1845. He was also listed at birth as an Unknown Male (M.).21. He died the following day on 3 July 1845 in the Horton district.22

Hannah Eliza Gray was born on 6 July 1846 in the Horton district.23

Stephen was noted as a returning passenger from Melbourne in August 1847 but the purpose of the journey is unknown:

CIRCULAR HEAD SHIPPING. ...August 12 - Arrived the schooner "Shamrock," 86 tons/Winchester, master, from Melbourne, on 11th Instant ; 150 sheep, Borrodaile—passengers, Messrs. Borrodaile and Stephen Gray.24

Stephena Gray, their eighth child, was born on 30 June 1848 in the Horton district.25

In the VDL Tenenanty Return for 31 August 1849 Stephen Gray is recorded with 1 wife and 10 children, 1 free servant and renting 79 acres from the Company. 44 acres were cultivated, 10 were planted with potatoes and 30 with wheat. Stephen had 4 cattle and 2 pigs.26

In June 1850 Mary Gray was charged by Stephen with assault, a most unusual development:

Mary Gray the wife of Stephen Gray, appeared on the complaint of her husband, charged with assaulting him; a part of the evidence is unfit for publication, and the Bench considered under all the circumstances that the ends of justice would be served by fining the defendant in the sum of 5s. remitting the costs. The green-eyed monster evidently holds dominion in the bosom of Gray, who left the office advised by the magistrates to act upon the advice of Mr. Douglas and allow a separate maintainance.27

Stephen and Mary's ninth child, a son, was born on 15 July 1850 in the Launceston district. He was recorded as an Unnamed Male at birth (M.) and his mother was listed as Mary Bevans.28

On the 15th instant, at Allenwad, Mrs. Stephen Gray, of a son.29

In February 1852 Stephen is again recorded as a steerage passenger on the Gem from Launceston to Melbourne, stating he had arrived by the Persian and was free by servitude.30

Patience Gray married Michael Burnes on 14 April 1852 in the Launceston district. Michael was recorded with the surname Barnes.31 In the paper the surname was rendered as Bearnes:

MARRIED. At the Wesleynn Chapel, Patterson's Plains, on Wednesday, 14th inst., Michael Bearnes, eldest son of Mr. Thos. Bearnes, East Tamar, to Patience Grey, eldest daughter of Mr. Stephen Gray, St. John-street, Launceston.32

In February 1856 the whole Gray family were arriving back in Circular Head from Launceston:

CIRCULAR HEAD. ARRIVALS. January 20.-Schooner Mary Stewart, 73 tons, John Tyack, from Launceston. 80 bags flour, 8 half chests tea, 4 ditto black ditto, 10 boxes tea, 10 bags salt, 1 bundle leather, 12 deals, 32 bags sugar, 4 ditto fine ditto, 2 cases porter, 2 cases pickles, 9 head of cattle. Emmett; 3 cases sundries, S. It, Emmett; 2 bulls, 1 bedstead. 3 packages book case, Ford; J case. Faun; 1 hhd. beer, } cask ditto, House; 2 bags s.air, 1 case, 1 parcel. 1 boa soap, 1 parcel ckleles, 1 chest tea, 1 cask whiing,. Latimer; 1 case, Laws 1 bag nuts. 1 bag coffee, 1 case gin, 1 cask vinegar, 1 case beer, 3 small cases, 1 toll sugar, 1 dry cask, Boys; 4 cases and packages, Anderson; 4 cases beer, 3 cases geo. neva, 1 parcel. 1 dry cask, 1 parcel harness, 1 bx raisins, 3 tins paint, 2 baIs sugar, Deass ; 3 cases beer, 1 hhd. beer, Webb. Passengers: Master Baldwin, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Gray, Miss Gray, Mr. Gray and family....33

The following year in August 1857 Stephen Gray was meeting with others to elect a member of the Church of England Synod:

DIOCESAN SYNOD. A MEETING was held at Mr. Church warden Walsh's, Stanley, Circular Head, on the 22nd August, to elect a member to represent the parish in the Church of England Synod. Present - C. J. Emmett, merchant; C. Johnston, barrister-at-law ; and Messrs, Ford, S. B. Emmett J. Parsons, S. Atkins, W. Woodgate, R. White, James Ferguson, Thos. House, John Edwards, W. H. Walsh, F. Holmes, C. Lowe, and Stephen Grey...34

Stephen Gray died on 20 August 1858 in the Horton district at the reported age of 52.35 Cause of death, informant etc.

Stephen and Mary's second eldest daughter Mary Ann Gray married on 27 August 1859 in Launceston to Robert Dunn.36

MARRIED. On Saturday, 27th Angust at St. John's Church, Launceston, by the Rev. Dr Brown, Robert Dunn, Esq., of Melbourne, merchant, to Mary Ann Sophia, second daughter of the late Stephen Gray, Esq., of Circular Head, Tasmania.37

Michael Burns died on 22 September 1860 in the Emu Bay district.38 Cause of death: drowning, to be followed up...

Patience Gray as Patience Burns, widow, married Charles O'Connor, also widowed, on 3 May 1862 in Black River, Forest, in the Horton district.39 Patience, like the rest of her family, alternated between the two spellings of her surname for her children's birth registrations.

Charles Gray, 27, married Rosetta Hannah Smith, 20, on 25 November 1868 in the Horton district.40 Charles was recorded as Charles Grey at marriage. All his children's births were registered under the Grey variation of the name.[3]

Mary Gray (nee Burns) died on 14 September 1883 in the Horton district at the reported age of 66. Mary was recorded as Mary Grey at death.41 Cause of death and informant...

GREY - On 14th September, at her son's residence, Montagu, Mary Grey, aged 66 years, relict of the late Stephen Grey, of Circular Head. (Melbourne and Sydney papers please copy.)42

Charles O'Connor died on 13 December 1907 in Stanley, Tasmania:


Profound sympathy was expressed throughout the town on Friday, when it became known that Mr. Charles O'Connor had breathed his last at his late residence at Forest. Deceased had reached the ripe age of 92 years, and had been a resident of the district for 60 years.43

Patience O'Connor (formerly Burnes, nee Gray) died on 17 May 1908 in Forest, Tasmania.44

Mrs O'Connor, sen., aged 71 years, died suddenly on Sunday night at Forest. Deceased was held in high respect by all. Her husband predeceased her by five months. The funeral took place on Tuesday at the General Cemetery, Stanley, the rector (Rev G. W. Ratten) conducting the first portion of the burial service, at St Paul's Church, and concluding it at the burial ground.45

There was an inquest into Patience's death as it was so sudden.46

  • 1. AOT Convict Conduct Record CON31/1/16
  • 2. Bateson, Charles: Convict Ships...
  • 3. AOT Convict Description Record CON18/1/2 p. 219
  • 4. AOT Convict Appropriation List CON27/1/4
  • 5. Founders and Survivors: Stephen Gray;
  • 6. Janson, Elizabeth: Pioneer Families in Victoria;
  • 7. AOT Convict Conduct Record CON31/1/16
  • 8. The Hobart Town Courier Friday 11 November 1836
  • 9. AOT Convict Permission to Marry CON52/1/1 p67
  • 10. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1837/3869
  • 11. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 3 February 1838
  • 12. AOT Baptism Registration RGD 1838/9050
  • 13. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1839/562
  • 14. The Courier Friday 26 February 1841
  • 15. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1841/664
  • 16. The Courier Friday 14 October 1842
  • 17. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1843/389
  • 18. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1845/435
  • 19. AOT Death Registration RGD 1845/7
  • 20. AOT Inquest Date 5 Jul 1845 SC195/1/16 (Inquest 1295)
  • 21. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1845/436
  • 22. AOT Death Registration RGD 1845/6
  • 23. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1846/460
  • 24. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 21 August 1847
  • 25. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1848/499
  • 26. AOT VDL Company Records VDLXXXX
  • 27. The Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 5 June 1850
  • 28. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1850/2815
  • 29. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 20 July 1850
  • 30. AOT Shipping Departures POL220/1/1 p. 588
  • 31. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1852/896
  • 32. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 17 April 1852
  • 33. Launceston Examiner Tuesday 5 February 1856
  • 34. The Cornwall Chronicle Saturday 29 August 1857
  • 35. AOT Death Registration RGD 1858/274
  • 36. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1859/390
  • 37. The Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 31 August 1859
  • 38. AOT Death Registration RGD 1860/XXXX
  • 39. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1862/129
  • 40. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1868/351
  • 41. AOT Death Registration RGD 1883/413
  • 42. Launceston Examiner Saturday 13 October 1883
  • 43. The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times Monday 16 December 1907
  • 44. Davies, John: Circular Head Pioneers - Charles, Agnes and Patience O'Connor; Circular Head Local History Journal; Circular Head Historical Society, P. O. Box 333, Smithton, 7330.
  • 45. "Personal." The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times (Tas. : 1899 - 1919) 21 May 1908: 2. Web. 1 Apr 2014;
  • 46. AOT Inquest SC195/1/78 Inquest 12284