Hiding Your Convict Past
Because of embarrassment and the desire to gain status in their community, there was a widespread cover-up involving ordinary families and officials to keep their convict past secret. During the early nineteenth century some families who had aquired wealth thought their convict antecedants were a handicap to them attaining status and respect. A case in point is Mary REIBY, nee HAYDOCK 1777-1855, the first female retailer in Sydney. At 13 she was transported to New South Wales for dressing up as a boy and stealing a horse. She arrived in 1792 on the 'Royal Admiral' and spent two years as a nursemaid. She married Thomas REIBY 1769-1811, an irish officer she had met on the voyage from Britain. Mary and Thomas set up a store near Sydney Harbour. Thomas spent a good deal of time buying ships and travelling and Mary looked after the business and their 7 children.
Thomas died in 1811 and Mary was left with the lot including a new warehouse in George Street. Mary was one of the earliest settlers of Hunters Hill. She built a cottagelater known as Fig Tree Houseon land that fronted the Lane Cove River; Reiby Street is named after her.
In 1821 She travelled back to England and bought valuable property and buildings over there, She lived off her investments and died a very wealthy woman.
Mary was far-sighted and when a sequence of official musters culminating in the census of 1828 came around she recorded the ship on which she had returned on after her visit to England, thereby appearing in the 1828 muster as came free on the 'Mariner' in 1821.
If Mary had not been so well known this stratagem would have created a huge puzzle for her decendants and family researchers.
*The full story of Mary REIBY as Mary REIBEY 1777-1855 can be obtained online.
**Dr.Alison Alexander an academic historian at the university of Tasmania asked 127 of her students if they were decended from convicts. Of nearly 20% who knew they were. 60% had only, discovered the information through research done by a family member.