Jane Roberts of Crediton: Third Fleet Convict

It seems fairly certain she was sent to Australia but there appear to be no records of her in that country. Did she have a daughter during the voyage?

On 1st October 1787 Jane Roberts was sentenced at the Exeter Quarter Sessions to be transported for seven years. Her offence was that she was a vagrant found wandering and begging in Exeter.


The newspaper reports covering this say that she was in possession of a vagrant’s pass to Crediton, which would have been her place of settlement, most probably her birthplace. Under George II’s act of 1744 relating to “Rogues, Vagabonds and other Idle and Disorderly Persons” vagrants convicted of a repeat offence were deemed guilty of a felony and liable to a sentence of transportation for up to seven years.


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She was not transported until February 1791 when she was put on board the “Mary Ann”, part of the Third Fleet taking convicts to Australia. The ship arrived in Sydney in July that year with 141 female convicts on board. Nine others were said to have died during the voyage.


On 1 March 1758, Jane the daughter of John and Elizabeth Robert (sic) had been baptised in Crediton Church. It is probable that this is the person sent to Australia. If so she was probably 29 when convicted.


There are records of a Mary Ann Roberts being born in New South Wales in about 1792. No baptism records exist but there are details of her marriage to another convict, Richard Lewis, in 1825. They already had seven children born between 1810 and 1824. Richard Lewis died in 1828; the following year she married another convict, James Evans by whom she had three more children. She died aged 76 in 1868 in Sydney.


It is possible that this Mary Ann might be the illegitimate daughter of Jane Roberts of Crediton, and that she was born just before or just after her mother’s arrival in Australia in the convict ship also called “Mary Ann”.


In 1815 Richard Lewis, despite his criminal background, was appointed to be the “Superintendant (sic) in the new-discovered Country to the Westward of the Blue Mountains, under the Orders of William Cox,  Esq. with a Salary of Fifty Pounds Sterling per Annum”. He later became the overseer of Bathurst NSW, and chose the location of Mudgee.

Link to blog article about the 1791 voyage of the Mary Ann.