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Author: Christine O'Donnell
I was searching VPRS 521 (Register of Names, Particulars and Personal Descriptions of Prisoners Received 1850-1941) as an alternative method of finding Irish Famine Orphans who were convicted of a crime. The Series records Names, Ship and date of arrival into Victoria, personal description and particular scars, marks, tattoos etc.
One entry caught my eye - Ann Brown arrived on the "Derwent" in 1850 and was born in 1825, was 5ft1 inch with a stout build, fresh complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. She was burnt on the right side of her face and was "deficit of her right ear". Pretty unique and distinctive, right??
Imagine my surprise when I discovered the description of Ann Hall - "arrived on the "Derwent" in 1850 and was born in 1825, 5ft1 inch with a stout build, fresh complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. She was burnt on the right side of her face and was "deficient of her right ear". What a coincidence!
Then both Ann Beaty and Margaret Beatty had exactly the same description - "arrived on the "Derwent" in 1850 etc. ..... burnt on the right side of her face and was "deficient of her right ear".
What was going on? Was this early evidence of cloning? Or was it an epidemic of short, careless Irish girls who consistently fell into fires at the same angle and received the same horrific injuries? I came to the (obvious) conclusion that one woman had been arrested multiple times and was using an alias each time but which was the correct name? I checked the passenger list for the "Derwent" - no Ann Brown, Ann Beaty, Ann Hall or Margaret Beatty was listed. There was, however, a Sarah Beatty listed on the 1850 voyage of the "Derwent" whose age was listed as 25 - making her born in 1825 and considerably older than the usual Irish Orphan. On further investigation of VPRS 14/P0000 (Nominal Disposal List), Sarah Beatty was listed as a Sub-Matron who assisted in the supervision of the Orphans whilst on the "Derwent".
In Inward Correspondence (Immigration Board) - VPRS 115 / P0000 / 0004 ref 50/ 71 dated 07 March 1850 - Sarah Beatty, one of the sub-Matrons, was reported to the Immigration Board by the Surgeon Superintendent for inefficiency in the discharge of her duties. On investigation, the charges were found to be correct and the Board recommended not paying her the gratuity expected.
Again in Inward Correspondence (Immigration Board) - this time in VPRS 115 / P0000 / 0005 ref 50/310 and dated 19 July 1850 - there is a description of how, prior to leaving Ireland, Sarah suffered an epileptic fit and fell into a fire, receiving burns to the right side of her face and entirely losing her right ear.
So, Sarah Beatty is clearly her correct name but I have been unable to find any conviction under her correct name or a marriage for Sarah or her death or even a committal to a Lunatic Asylum.
Her story remains a mystery to me and although technically she is not an "Irish Orphan", I would love to discover her fate because she was obviously a character. If you are descended from Sarah or your research has uncovered more of Sarah's story, please contact me through this Blog so that I can satisfy my curiosity.
See the digitised records held by the Public Record Office Victoria and read more of Sarah's story at Records relating to Sarah Beatty