The Byrne Family of Appin and Lake George (via Wicklow)

The story of our Byrne family starts with James Byrne (born about 1769 in County Wicklow), who was tried in County Wicklow, for treasonable and seditious practices. According to his Certificate of Freedom, James was Court Martialed in 1800 in Wicklow, and was sentenced to 7 years, and arrived in Australia in 1801 on the "Anne". Nothing further about his court martial has been found at this time. The details of his life prior to his arrival in Australia are not clear. His early years in Australia are also unclear, as there was another James Byrne who arrived on the "Anne" in 1801. The other James Byrne was tried in Carlow in 1800 and sentenced to life.

Little is known about the first few years that James spent in Australia. The first confirmed record of him is contained in entries in Rowland Hassall's "Day Sales Book", during 1803-1804. This places him in the Parramatta district, and lists his occupation as a sawyer. The entries have been confirmed, as he signed his name as James Byrne, and the signature matches the signature that appears on 3 surviving letters that James wrote to his daughter in the 1840s. Over a 19-day period in May 1804, he bought 41 lbs (nearly 19 kgs) of sugar. Did he have an illicit still on the side? During this time, James also purchased significant quantities of material, thread and buttons. It is possible that he may have continued with his tailoring, as well, but this still needs to confirmed. One interesting point is that he settled his account with ONE lump sum payment of 81 pounds 12 shillings 2 pence. At a time when a cook was earning 20 pounds pa, where did he get the money for that? In the 1806 Muster, James is listed as assigned to Mr Hobby.

In 1812, James married Sarah Franklin (per "Minstrel" 1812). James and Sarah had nine children. Children of the marriage were:

  • Anne (1813 - 1889)
  • Thomas (1814 - 1894)
  • John (1817 - 1890)
  • Mary Therese (1818 - 1896)
  • Frances Matilda (1820 - 1901)
  • Susannah (1823 - 1913)
  • Catherine (1824 - 1893)
  • Patrick (1826 - 1899)
  • James (1828 - 1852)

A James Burn (sic) was a guide on the expedition of Blaxland Lawson and Wentworth in 1813 to cross the Blue Mountains. Family legend had always said that this was our James, however, I have had contact with a descendant of another James Burns who claims her James as the guide. This is still being investigated. As a result of this expedition, Governor Macquarie commissioned Surveyor George Evans to conduct a survey later that year to ascertain the plausibility of constructing a road. James Byrne was again selected to assist. In 1814, William Cox offered his services for the road's construction. Included in the workforce was James Byrne as superintendent. Also in the party was a Thomas Hobby (could this have been the Mr Hobby to whom our James was assigned?).

In the 1814 Muster, James is listed as a sawyer. There is a reference to a James Byrne supplying "saw'd timber" (sic) in Gregory Blaxland's accounts (AANSW Reel 6043 (4/1727) pp 187-190).

Our James was allotted 40 acres at Appin on on 8th October 1816. On the same day, land was allotted to five other men, in the Bringelly area, who had accompanied Evans in the 1813 expedition. One of the five was the mysterious James Burn/Byrne, who received 100 acres. It has still to be determined if this was our James or not.

The family appears to have moved to Appin in 1817 to occupy the land granted to James. At some point, James moved his family into The Rocks, while still maintaining his land at Appin, so that his children could receive a Catholic education. It has been stated, though not verified, that James taught at the school for a time. This will require further investigation. A Thomas Byrne (unrelated) did teach at the school, so this may have led to some confusion.

In the 1822 Convict Muster, James is listed as a farmer at Appin, and that he was Free by Servitude. During 1822-1824, James had at least four convicts assigned to him.

In 1824, he petitioned the Governor, requesting that he be granted a piece of "waste land" adjoining his present farm in Appin. In his memorial, James states that:

  • he arrived in the colony in 1801 under sentence of transportation for seven years;
  • as a result of his indents having been mislaid, he did not obtain a certificate [of freedom] until 14th November 1809, having served the Government two years over his sentence;
  • he obtained a farm in the District of Appin in 1817, consisting of 40 acres, the whole of which was clear and under cultivation, and that he was in possession of 33 head of horned cattle;
  • he had seven children wholly depending on him for support

The fact that he states he had 40 acres of land could mean that he wasn't the James Burn/Byrne who received 100 acres at Appin (see above). I haven't yet found if his petition was successful, but by 1828 he had acquired additional land. According to the 1828 Census, James was a settler at Appin, he owned 200 acres of land, 100 acres of which was cleared, 35 acres were cultivated, and he owned thirty head of cattle.

In 1834 James Byrne, together with James Warrington (Worthington) and Thomas O'Shaughnessy (his sons-in-law) , was charged with trespass against Mr Kenny (father of John Francis Kenny, who later married Catherine Byrne). The case was proven, and James was ordered to pay damages of 20 shillings. The case was reported in the Sydney Herald of 23 October 1834/ For further details of the court case, click here.

According to "The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser" of 4 August 1849, James died "at 8 o'clock on the morning of Aug. 1st... aged 80 years".

With thanks to Joe Fulton for his research on the Byrne family, and his willingness to share