Bridget Tahny – My Convict Granny

My convict 3 x great granny – and brick wall.

Bridget Tahny was born in Co. Leitrim in north-western Ireland around 1828. On 20 October, 1847, having previously served time in jail for assault, she was sentenced to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years.

Charged with stealing £10 8 6 from a person, Bridget left Dublin on 24 January 1848 on the John Calvin and arrived in VDL on 18 May 1848. On arrival, Bridget served a six-month probation period on the hulk, Anson, a former British naval warship that had served as a hulk for convict women since 1844.  It was moored in the Derwent River off Queen’s Domain. Up to 500 women were kept on the Anson at any one time where they worked making women’s clothing, men’s shirts and straw hats. Bridget’s conduct in jail was described as bad and in January 1849 she was sentenced to three months’ hard labour for disorderly conduct after silence hour.

The Probation System was introduced in 1843-1844 for female convicts, whereby convicts were required to serve a six-month probation period before they were classified as probation passholders and hired out for an annual wage to employers. Bridget was classified as a Class 3 passholder on 14 December 1848. Regulations for hiring probation passholders, including the provisions for providing food and lodging, medical assistance, pay etc. were issued on 1 July 1844.  As a Class 3 passholder, Bridget was entitled to collect the whole amount of her wages from her master.

Details from Bridget’s Convict Record. TAHO.

Bridget was described as being a house servant, 5ft 2inches, of fresh complexion, with brown hair and blue eyes, a small nose, medium mouth and a large chin. Her indent lists her living relatives as her father Bryan, brothers Michael, James and Patrick, and sister Catherine Mary, all residing in Co. Leitrim.

In 1849, Bridget was working for William Ashburner of Carrick, and in that same year, permission was granted for her to marry John Gibson per Louisa. Although no marriage record has been found as yet, there is a note on her records stating that she married John Gibson on September 20, 1949. There is some confusion, requiring further investigation, as to whether Bridget was also called Mary or Mary Ann, and whether she used some aliases or whether John Gibson may have had another woman in his life.

On 3 June 1850, their first child, Hannah, was born.  Hannah’s parents were listed as Bridget TURNER now Gibson and John Gibson employed as a compositor at Woolmers. When she was around three months pregnant, Bridget was sentenced to four days in the cells for pike/refusing to work.

On 14 September 1851 an unnamed male child was born to Bridget TIERNEY in Hobart. It cannot be confirmed at this point as to whether this is ‘our’ Bridget.

On 21 June 1852, a son John was born to John Gibson and Mary Ann Moreton. The birth was registered at Morven. However, on 12 April 1853, a son James with parents listed as John Gibson and Bridget Morton, was baptised.  The baptismal record shows that James was born on 21 June 1852. So it appears that John Jnr became James and Mary Ann became Bridget (or was Bridget originally).  James died aged 33 and his death certificate shows that he was born in Tasmania, to father John Gibson a compositor (thereby making the connection) and his mother’s name is shown as Mary Whitehead.

On 18 November 1856, a child Frances GIPSON, was born to John Gipson and Bridget THANY. The birth was registered at Westbury. Approximately, one month later on 16 December 1856, Bridget TAHNY received her Certificate of Freedom, also at Westbury.

It appears from the birth, marriage and death records of some of John and Bridget/Mary’s children that the family returned to New South Wales and lived in and around the towns of Goulburn, Yass, Gunning and Binalong. However, at time of writing, records have not been found for Bridget departing Van Diemen’s Land or her death.


TAHO, CON52/1/3 page 168, Marriage Permissions, Bridget Tahny and John Gibson
TAHO, CON41/1/16 Convict Records, Bridget Tahny.
Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, Convict ID 6940, Bridget Tahny.
Damian King and Liz Schroeder, Catherine McMahon: A Remarkable Convict Woman (Australia: Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012).
Edwin Barnard, Exiled. The Port Arthur Convict Photographs (Canberra: National Library of Australia,2010).
Female Convicts Research Centre, ‘Probation System’, accessed 20 June 2016.
TAHO, CON9/1/5 Description List, Bridget Tahny
RGD33/1/27, Longford 1850/1146 Birth record for Hannah Gibson
Peter Gunn and Rebecca Kippen, Household and Family Formation in Nineteenth-Century Tasmania Dataset, (Canberra: The Australian National University, 2006).
TAHO, RGD33/1/30, Morven 1852/384 Birth record for John Gibson
Dianne Allen, Lenah Valley, letter to Rhonda Newell, 16 December 1987.
NSW Death Certificate 6922/1885 James Gibson
TAHO, RGD33/1/34, Westbury, 1856/1758 Birth record for Frances Gipson.
NSW Marriage Certificate 4536/1875 James Gibson and Harriet Rendell
NSW Birth Certificate 4726/1882 John James Gibson
NSW Death Certificate 6922/1885 James Gibson
NSW Marriage Certificate 3766/1870 Hannah Gibson and Francis Reynolds.


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