The Convict and the Orphan

During my family research project a number of convict ancestors were discovered. Five were discovered in all; one of which belongs to this (my maternal grandfathers) line of my family ancestry. The others belong to the Whittington/Noakes Line (a post on those four convicts can be found here). Below is a quick snapshot of the Alchin/Wheatley Line convict, Joseph Johnson and his Irish orphan wife, Margaret Wall.

Joseph Johnson arrived Australia as a convict in 1826, the only member of the Alchin/Wheatley line to hold such a dubious title. He is convicted of stealing a horse at the Warwick Assizes Court in England and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrives Australia in 1826 aboard the ship Sesostris. On convict records Joseph is described as being 5 foot 10 in height and of ruddy completion (meaning a reddish glow). He had tattoos on both arms, on his right he had a picture of a mermaid. According to  author Simon Barnard, mermaid tattoos represented love and peril on an ocean voyage. Many Australian convicts had similar tattoos that represented their fear of the unknown ahead.

Sesostris convict shipping record showing Joseph Johnson (highlighted at bottom)

Details have not yet been discovered on Joseph’s assignments in the new colony on arrival however he later receives a Ticket of Leave (not a pardon) in 1838 which allowed him to work and live in Penrith with more autonomy than some others were afforded. Joseph is allowed to marry Margaret Wall (my 4x great-grandmother) in 1834 in Narellan while still serving his life sentence. Margaret Wall had arrived in Sydney in 1831 as a 15 year old orphan from Cork, Ireland. She was one of 50 such young girls who were loaded aboard the Palambam from the Foundling Hospital in Cork and sent to New South Wales. The newspapers of the day recorded the arrival and noted that “the free girls are to be indented to persons of respectability for the period of three years, who were bound to find them in board, lodging and clothing and to send them to Church once a week; each master is also to pay into the savings bank at the expiration of every year the sum of two pounds, which will be given to the girl on the expiration of her service. The girls are for the most part strong and in excellent health”. (The Sydney Herald, 1831)

Three years after arriving in Sydney, and at the expiration of her indenture to an unknown family in New South Wales, Margaret was given permission to marry the convict Joseph Johnson. Joseph and Margaret have a number of children, their first Martha Matilda Johnson (my 3x great-grandmother) in 1837 at Mulgoa, near Penrith, New South Wales. There is a brief note in the records that suggests Joseph died of an ‘accident’ on 21 Aug 1849.

In 1852 Margaret remarried Edward Alchin (son of Ambrose Alchin, the early Dalton settler and pioneer). One year after this marriage Margaret’s first daughter (from her marriage to Joseph Johnson) marries her new step dad’s brother, John Alchin*. This make mother and daughter step-sisters with mother Margeret marring the younger of the two Alchin Brothers! After Mother and Daughter marry the Alchin brothers they both move to the Dalton district where they later died and are buried.

Joseph Johnson - family tree
Joseph Johnson and Margaret Wall – abridged family tree. Highlighted members indicating direct ancestors

*John Alchin (b.1821) was actually the biological son of a man named John Gaynes, however after his mother married Ambrose Alchin, John took the surname of his new adopted father.

For more details see; Alchin Family Tree

Selected references
Featured Image: Sesostris and Morley piloted through the Torres Straits by the little Britomart, Captn [i.e. Captain] Stanley [picture]. National Library of AustraliaRetrieved from
Convict Tattoos: Marked men and Women of Australia by Simon Barnard
Domestic Intelligence.The Sydney Herald (1831), p.4. Retrieved from
Sesostris convict shipping records

Mentioned in this post
Joseph Johnson b.1797 d.1849
Margaret Johnson (nee Wall) b.1816 d.1899
Martha Matilda Alchin (nee Johnson) b.1837 d.1922
John Alchin/Gaynes b.1821 d.1901
Edward Alchin b.1825 d.1862
Ambrose Alchin b.1801 d.1877



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