Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary

of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles


Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine


Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?


Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.


In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available,  the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.



Feature Story:

McKenzie, Janet

Janet McKenzie (1817 –?)

by Maureen Mann


Janet McKenzie was born in Quebec, America (sic). She was convicted at the Edinburgh Court of Justiciary 24 February 1840 for ‘theft, habit and repute’ and was transported for 7 years because of her own confession. She had previous convictions. On 23 June 1837, as Jess McKenzie, she was found guilty of stealing a pair of carpet shoes, a hymn book and an old almanac from Margaret McGregor and for this, she served three days in Bridewell prison. On 9 August 1837 she was found guilty of stealing a twilled bed sheet from Robert Meikle and served thirty days in Bridewell and on 18 May 1839, again as Jess McKenzie, she was again found guilty of stealing several pairs of shoes and a dust shovel from Alexander Lumsden and Ann Polson and spent another twenty days in Bridewell.

At the time of the 1840 trial, Janet was living with her husband, Donald McKenzie, at Couper Street, North Leith. Over the period that her crimes were committed, Donald was a sugar boiler and labourer. In Hobart when describing her crime, Janet stated that she stole one shawl from a dwelling house. Her victims were named as Julia Munro and her husband Alexander Munro, private, 78th Regiment of Foot, both of Couper Street, North Leith; Elizabeth Chisholm or Sutherland, widow, Water Lane, South Leith; Patrick Minto and his wife Margaret Minto, both of St Andrew Street, near Leith. It appears from the trial records that Julia Munro and Janet McKenzie were at least acquaintances, if not friends, and their evidence is conflicting. The items, which were said to be stolen, were a muslin cap, two side combs and three pawn tickets. Janet denied these thefts. From Elizabeth Chisholm she stole a flannel petticoat and admitted this theft. From Patrick Minto she admitted to stealing a shawl.

Janet McKenzie’s birth name was not recorded on her trial records. There is another trial record for Janet McKenzie, wife of Donald, in September 1840 which also resulted in 7 years’ transportation. However it is very close to the departure of the Navarino and there is no firm link to this woman.

Janet McKenzie was one of 183 women who left Downs 12 October 1840 on the Navarino under the captaincy of Chris A Warning and with Jas L Clarke as ship’s surgeon. Only 178 women arrived in Hobart 17 January 1841, after a voyage of 107 days. Janet had two medical issues recorded in the surgeon’s journal. The first, from 19 October 1840, was for scabies and she was discharged as cured 2 November 1840. The other, for menorrhagia, was over the period 12—16 December 1840.

She was described on arrival as having a florid complexion, a round head with red hair, light brown eyebrows and hazel eyes. Her face was oval-shaped with a high forehead, a long nose, medium mouth and short chin. She had a scar on the top of her nose. She stood 5 feet 2 and half inches (158.75 cm) tall. Her trade was given as milliner and servant.

Her conduct record lists seven offences. The first, in March 1841, was for being drunk and then in May 1841 she was absent without leave combined with drunkenness. Both these offences resulted in terms of solitary confinement: of ten days and seven days, the latter on bread and water. In July 1843, she was again absent without leave and drunk, but this time she was only reprimanded. Her fourth offence was in March 1844, holding the status as PPH 1st class, when she was again absent without leave and this led to one month at the washtub. She reached 3rd Class in August 1844. In January 1845, she again was on a charge of drunkenness and served three days solitary confinement. On 4 March 1845, she was charged with larceny under £5, resulting in her existing sentence of transportation being extended eighteen months, and she was bound to spend six months in the Launceston House of Correction and deprived of her ticket of leave which was dated 25 March 1845.

On 3 February 1847, she was charged with misconduct—being in bed with a man. The punishment was four months’ hard labour and a recommendation that one-half of that period be passed in the solitary working cells. Her ticket of leave was re-issued 16 February 1847 and no other offences were recorded before her certificate of freedom was issued 26 August 1848.

On 28 March 1843, Janet gave birth to a child in Launceston. The entry in her conduct record is the only reference that has been found for this child, so there is no information as to whether it survived or not. On 30 June 1843, she applied for permission to marry James Toll (per Emperor Alexander 1833); no reason for refusal was given. In October 1844, Janet McKenzie and Thomas Lyons (per Lady Raffles 1841) successfully applied for permission to marry and their marriage took place at St Matthews Church New Norfolk on 18 November 1844. Thomas was 30 years old and a bachelor; Janet was 26 and a widow. 13 September 1845 Caroline McKenzie was born in Hobart. She died at Dynnyrne Nursery 14 January 1847 and the cause of death was listed as Catoothus, perhaps teething.

Thomas Lyons was listed as leaving Launceston for Melbourne on the Clarence 25 December 1852. Janet was not included in the list of passengers so it is not known whether she went with him. There are two possible deaths for Janet. There is the death of a Janet Lyons 2 July 1889, aged 71, wife of Thomas Lyons, in Adelaide. As we have no confirmation of her birth name, her fate remains uncertain. There is also the death of a Janet Lyons, widow and 78 years old, in Launceston Tasmania, on 5 October 1892 of fatty degeneration of the heart. No other details are available. Both of these deaths are possibilities for this woman. 

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