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Michael Bryan

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Michael Bryan
Aliases: Breen, O'brien
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1776
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 17th August, 1862
Age: 86 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 57 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Sheep-stealing
Convicted at: Ireland, Queen's County
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Atlas
Departure date: 29th November, 1801
Arrival date: 7th July, 1802
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 199 other convicts


Primary source: http://www.nationalarchives.ie irish Prisoners Petitions CRF 1836 B31; NSW State Recrds - Convict ship INdents "Atlas1"; Colonial Secretary's records - incoming correspondence "Bryan"; Stevens, H 2000, 'The O'Hara story: John and Mary O'Hara and their descendants', Diploma thesis, Society of Australian Genealogists
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 2nd December, 2016 wrote:

Michael BRYAN - Stealing 2 sheep.
Tried Queens County in Spring 1801. Transported aged 25 years of age for 7 years on “Atlas I’, departing Ireland November 1801.

irish Prisoner Petitions Series CRF 1836 B31 has a document dated 1836 with the above information - it had thought this person’s real identity was Michael Bryan wrongly recorded as Breen because “ there is evidence that discrepancies existed among the prison records with regard to the convicts name”.  however, from the indents he was in fact correctly recorded as Bryan all along.

in NSW:

Aug 1806 - Prisoner, employed by H. Baldwin.Conditional Pardon number 575;

1814 October Muster - Convict, mustered at Windsor off stores. To have a Ticket of Leave.

1815, June - Conditional Pardon dated 6 June 1815   ( CP written on indent no 112 crossed out & replaced with 575)

1816 January - Michael Bryan per “Atlas I’ On list of persons to receive grants of land in 1816

1816 June - On lists of persons to be issued with horned cattle from the Government Herds;

1820, May 25th Memorial to Governor. Of Seven Hills.

Heather Stevens on 30th July, 2018 wrote:

National Archives Ireland. CRF 1836 B31: This record consists of letters written between September 1835 and June 1836 between Whitehall and Ireland and within Ireland including Under-Secretary for Ireland Thomas Drummond. The correspondence was in response to a request from Patrick Lalor M.P. for Queens County for confirmation that Michael Bryan and his brother in law Michael Caulfield were actually sentenced in 1801 for 7 years, not for life. Eventually the relevant documentation was found (in the ‘Crown Book’ with names ‘Michl Breen’ and ‘Michl Canfil’) and included the information that they were convicted of stealing two sheep from John Lawler. Finally Governor Bourke received a letter from Secretary of State Glenelg in December 1836 confirming that the sentence was for 7 years. The letter has the names ‘Michl Breen’ and ‘Michl Canfil’ and that they were convicted in the 1801 Queens County Spring Assizes, but unfortunately the letter does not give the name of the ship! Not all the records of the Superintendent of Convicts have survived so it is not possible to know for sure if any changes to the records were made. Michael O’Brien was serving a colonial sentence at Norfolk Island at the time, and there was no effort to use this information to mitigate his sentence, so it appears he was not informed. [Stevens, H 2000, ‘The O’Hara story: John and Mary O’Hara and their descendants’, Diploma thesis, Society of Australian Genealogists.]

Heather Stevens on 30th July, 2018 wrote:

He is Michael ‘Bryan’ in the Atlas I’s muster roll and in records in NSW up to his marriage in 1815, when he adopted the name Michael ‘O’Brien’, which is the name used in most records until his death. Michael ‘Breen’ is the name in the court record (‘Crown Book’) of the trial at Queens County Spring Assizes in 1801 - this was ascertained with some difficulty in 1836, when it was shown that the original court record had a sentence of 7 years, but by the time it had been copied into the ship’s muster roll, it had changed to ‘Life’. This must have been devastating news for Micheal Bryan when he staggered off the Atlas I, one of the worst convict ships to come to NSW.

1806: in the 1806 muster Michael Bryan is an assigned convict for Henry Baldwin, a farmer (and former convict) at the Hawkesbury (Willow Farm, Freemans Reach)

1809: The authorities appear to have given him some leniency because he later writes that he has been working independently from about 1809. [Memorial to Governor 1822, SRNSW Colonial Secretary fiche 3051 4/1831 p278]

1812: Michael Bryan buys 35 acre ‘Wheelers Farm’ at Castlereagh near the Nepean River, also 5 cows & a chestnut gelding named ‘Taffey’. He is paying for it in installments to Thomas Wheeler who was also on the ‘Atlas’ 1 (‘Thomas Whelan’ in the ship’s muster roll). [LTO Old Register, Book5]

1814: He is Michael Bryan in William Cox’s road gang building the road over the Blue Mountains. He is mentioned in Cox’s journal as a carter. In the 1814 muster he is at Windsor, and there is a note that he is to have a Ticket of Leave. However Bryan with the other members of the road gang were given Conditional Pardons on 5 June 1815.  [Whitaker A ‘The convicts who conquered the Blue Mountains’, Descent, Vol 23 March 1993]

1815: Soon after receiving his Conditional Pardon on 5 June, he married on 14 Jun 1815: Michael “O’Brien” & Mary O’Hara (nee Jones, widow of John O’Hara) at Castlereagh Church. Witnesses Thos Wheeler, G K Nicholls, Ann Carver. He starts using the surname “O’Brien” from about this time.

1818: Land Grant at Seven Hills: Por 63, Gidley parish, 40 acres, recommended by William Cox.

1823: Having sent memorials to the Governor in 1820 and 1822 asking for a grant of land, a Ticket of Occupation was issued to him for 500 acres at Castle Hill [SRNSW Colonial Secretary fiche 3051 4/1831 p278]

1828 census: At Seven Hills, Michael O’Brien 50 CP Atlas 1801; his wife Mary O’Brien 60 AP Mary Ann ‘1787’; Mary’s grandchildren John O’Hara (18 BC servant) and Mary O’Hara (14 BC servant); Michael Cantwell 51 CP Atlas ‘1810’ settler (Michael O’Brien’s brother in law, he is Michael ‘Caulfield’ on the Atlas in 1801). Employees are John McCarty 60 FS Canada 1798 laborer; John Still 40 TL Fanny 1815 laborer residence Castle Hill; John Eaton 39 GS Mangles 1822 servant residence Castle Hill. He had 35 acres of his 500 acre farm ‘Sheep Yard Hill’ at Castle Hill cleared, 30 acres of which were cultivated. He and his wife Mary lived at his Seven Hills property where all 40 acres were used for farming. He had 11 horses and 120 head of cattle. Michael Cantwell had 30 acres at Seven Hills and 50 acres at Castle Hill.

1830: O’Brien gets another 40 acre grant to the east of his 500 acres at Castle Hill

1830: in August, the bushranger Jack Donohoe and his accomplices William Webber and John Walmsley appear at the sliprail at the back of the house at Seven Hills and offer Michael O’Brien’s wife Mary some cloth (from the MacQuade robbery and already hidden on their land) in exchange for hide-out and provisions. On 1 September Donohoe is shot dead by mounted police near Bringelly. Webber and Walmsley escape and 2 or 3 weeks later they return to the house and introduce themselves to Michael O’Brien. They will hide-out there a few times including Chistmas Eve 1830 to 3 January 1831. [Depositions, Supreme Court SRNSW T149 No 56]

1831: In January, Michael O’Brien is arrested for receiving stolen goods and harbouring bushrangers.  On 28 June he is convicted with his wife Mary and most of the O’Hara family, sentenced to 14 years transportation, and transferred from Sydney Gaol to Phoenix Hulk. On 20 September, he was sent to Norfolk Island on the ‘Louisa’ with his wife’s grandsons John and James O’Hara. In July the three Seven Hills properties were sold (O’Brien’s 40 acres; O’Hara’s 60 acres; and Cantwell’s 30 acres). The description and entrance books of Sydney Gaol and Phoenix Hulk tell us more about Michael O’Brien: born 1779 in the townland of ‘Clanana’ (probably Clonenagh), Queens County, five feet four and a half inches, slight make, ruddy complexion, grey hair, grey or hazel eyes, cataract in right eye.

1831: On 13 October 1831 his 500 acres ‘Shamrock Lodge’ at Castle Hill was sold by order of the Supreme Court to David Maziere to recover a debt owed by O’Brien in a civil suit. However on 19 October, because of a mistake by the bureaucracy, the land was officially granted to O’Brien. Later he will try to get the land back after he returns from imprisonment at Norfolk Island.

1835: Someone with influence, Patrick Lalor of Tinakill, Abbeyleix, Member of Parliament for Queens County (known as ‘honest Pat Lalor’, father of Peter Lalor of Eureka Stockade fame) gets Whitehall to check the court records in Ireland, which reveals that the original sentence in 1801 is 7 years, not life (see above). Governor Bourke is informed in December 1836, just before he leaves office. No-one informs Michael O’Brien.

1840: He is back in Sydney but he is still a prisoner, at the Woolloomooloo Stockade, building the new Darlinghurst Gaol. His wife Mary (who had been transported to Moreton Bay in 1831 and had a mitigation of sentence in 1838) is now with her son James O’Hara at ‘Little Dural’ (Kenthurst) and she writes a petition to Governor Gipps. Michael O’Brien himself writes one in 1841, but there is no answer from the Governor as there is no recommendation from anyone.

1842: Finally he is free (I have not found the exact date). Then he has a battle through the courts to get back his 500 acres at Castle Hill. This ultimately fails due to corruption by the clerk of his solicitor. [Letter, David Maziere, in Col Sec Letters re Land SRNSW Reel 1157 2/7917]

1845: Death of his wife Mary (Burial 5 Jan 1845 in St Patricks Parramatta burial register ‘abode Dural’).

1847: On 25 May 1847 at St Patricks, Parramatta, Michael O’Brien married Elizabeth Theresa Quinn. She had three daughters, Bridget Ready, Catherine (Kate) Hogan and Mary Ann Hogan. Michael O’Brien came into possession of his brother in law Michael Cantwell’s farm at Little Dural after he died in 1839. O’Brien and his wife Elizabeth lived at the Cantwell farm for fifteen years until Michael O’Brien died. In his will, he left the land in trust to Elizabeth’s three daughters who conveyed it in 1870 to James O’Hara junior. [LTO Primary packet 33846]

1862: Michael O’Brien died 17 Aug 1862, age 90, of old age, and was buried at the RC Cemetery at Parramatta. [O’BRIEN MICHAEL 5261/1862 AGE 90 YEARS DIED PARRAMATTA]

Source: Stevens, H 2000, ‘The O’Hara story: John and Mary O’Hara and their descendants’, Diploma thesis, Society of Australian Genealogists.

Convict Changes History

Eric Harry Daly on 26th December, 2012 made the following changes:

convicted at, term 99 years, voyage, source, firstname, surname, alias1, alias2, alias3, alias4, date of birth 0000, date of death 0000, gender, occupation, crime

Robin Sharkey on 2nd December, 2016 made the following changes:

source: http://www.nationalarchives.ie irish Prisoners Petitions CRF 1836 B31; NSW State Recrds - Convict ship INdents "Atlas1"; Colonial Secretary's records - incoming correspondence "Bryan" (prev. http://www.nationalarchives.ie), alias1: Breen, alias2:

Heather Stevens on 30th July, 2018 made the following changes:

source: http://www.nationalarchives.ie irish Prisoners Petitions CRF 1836 B31; NSW State Recrds - Convict ship INdents "Atlas1"; Colonial Secretary's records - incoming correspondence "Bryan"; Stevens, H 2000, 'The O'Hara story: John and Mary O'Hara and

Heather Stevens on 30th July, 2018 made the following changes:

date of death: 17th August, 1862 (prev. 0000)

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au