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Orphan Number: 1739
Orphan: Jane EYLES
Mother:EYLES, Hester/Esther
Mother's ship:
Father's ship:
Age when admitted:6yrs
Date admitted:10 Nov 1831
Date discharged:20 Apr 1837
Institution(s):Queens Orphan School
Discharged to: mother
Remarks: mother prisoner assigned to Jennings
References: SWD24p352, 28, CSO5/86/1885

This orphan has been claimed by: Cathy Dowden

Jane Watkins nee Eyles or Iles or Isles

Jane was born 1824-1826 but I think it must have been 1826.

I can find no record of birth or baptism for Jane Eyles or Iles etc in Tasmania or England – or not yet. The two records of age I have found are firstly on Jane Watkins' death record in January 1894 and secondly on her Queen’s Orphan School admission record in Nov 1831 as 6 year old daughter of Hester Eyles, convict.  The Death record states that Jane Watkins was born in Hobart, and was aged 70.  This sets her birth around 1823 or 24. The admission record sets her birth at around 1825.

However, Jane’s mother Hester Eyles arrived in Hobart on convict transport ship Providence 2 in May 1826. This Ship’s Surgeon’s journal is unusually detailed about which convict women had children on board and who gave birth on board, providing names of babies including date and time of births where most surgeons mentioned only the sex of baby if they made any comment at all. It seems unlikely that the Ship’s Surgeon would have failed to mention Hester’s child if there had been one. But it is possible that Hester being assigned on arrival in Hobart to the Hospital because “sick” was a euphemism for her being pregnant.

A birth year of 1826 means that Jane’s age is wrong on both the records that include her age. This is possible also. In summary, the truth about her birth remains a mystery.

It is also unclear where Jane spent the first 5 or 6 years of her life. The Cascades Female Factory did not open until 1829. She was at the Queens Orphan School from 10 November 1831 until 20 April 1837. Children of convicts were not released to their mothers until their mother had been granted a Ticket of Leave. Hester Eyles was granted Ticket of Leave in June 1834. A year later the 1835 Muster of Female Convicts records her as “Marrd to John Eyles”. Hester had married John Iles in Bath, Somerset in 1822. He was transported for life to Van Diemans Land the following year, arriving two years before Hester Eyles was transported, also for life. He cannot have been Jane’s father. Possibly Hester & John resuming their marriage is a reason Jane stayed in the Orphan School for another 2-3 years until she was 11 or 12 years old.

Next evidence of Jane is as Jane Isles on an application for approval to marry by George Watkins, convict. Permission was required for convicts to be allowed to marry. George Watkins arrived in Hobart aged 20 in 1831, on Strathfieldsaye. Marriage permission was approved in April 1840 for his marriage to Jane Isles, Free (ie not a convict). Their wedding took place two months later. George Walkers (Free) married Jane Isles at Clarence Plains 22 June 1840. Both signed with their mark X.  Jane must have been only 14 or 15 in 1840. George Watkins' conditional pardon was published in papers in 1844, so he was not free in 1840. That may explain the Walkers instead of Watkins?

Jane & George had 11 children according to birth registrations. Their first child Esther was born 1842 at 19 Murray St Hobart and was registered by her grandmother Esther Hartless (a recent 2nd marriage for Esther or Hester Eyles). Babies were born around 2 years apart between 1842 and 1861 at Murray, then Harrington, then Warwick Streets, Hobart. Three babies at least died in infancy. Jane Watkins' former surname is listed variously as Hartless/Iles/Isles/Eyles/Hyles.

Jane’s mother Esther Hartly died aged 70 at Warwick St in 1869. Jane’s husband George Watkins died aged 70 at Warwick St, Hobart. Jane Watkins left a Will with £170 to her spinster daughter, which said she lived at 130 Warwick St. Probably the daughter was carer for all these family members. Jane’s own death was also aged 70, in 1894, died at Warwick St, born in Hobart.

Jane’s children George, Louisa, Sarah and Charles married and had large families, William married and had one son. Charles perpetuated his mother’s surname Eyles and Iles which was one of his middle names - a tradition he passed on when naming his own children. Jane had around 40 grandchildren and many more great grandchildren and great great etc grandchildren. I am one of her ggg granddaughters in direct maternal descent.

As the daughter of a convict, raised largely without her mother, Jane Eyles has a triumphant story of survival and resilience.


Cathy Dowden, Melbourne Australia. 8 Feb 2016

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