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John Wheeler

John Wheeler, one of 26 convicts transported on the Kitty, January 1792

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: John Wheeler
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1763
Occupation: Carpenter
Date of Death: 1838
Age: 75 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 60 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: Middlesex Gaol Delivery
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Kitty
Departure date: January, 1792
Arrival date: 18th November, 1792
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 29 other convicts


Primary source: John Wheeler, Death Notice, Sydney, http://www.trove.nla.org. Wheeler in Criminal Register Book, UK Archives. Lists of petition, National Archives, UK, [HO 47/15/44]. Raymond Nobbs, Norfolk Island and its First Settlement 1788-1814. C.J. Smee, comp. & ed., Fourth Fleet Families of Australia. Cathy Dunn, Norfolk Island Deaths, 1st Settlement 1788-1814, (2012) (CD-ROM). NSW Census 1828
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Beth Kebblewhite on 30th July, 2019 wrote:

John Wheeler was born on 15 June 1769 in London England, the son of Thomas Wheeler Snr. and Elizabeth nee Purdon.

In 1785 John Wheeler, aged only about 16, wed Sarah nee Soan at the St Giles without Cripplegate Church in London. The couple had two daughters born in London, Sarah in 1786 & Mary born 1791 (died young).

John was convicted at the Old Bailey Court in London of shoplifting 28 yards of calico material valued at 46 shillings in 1791 and sentenced to be transported for 7 years to NSW as a convict. He arrived in Sydney in November 1792 on the ship Kitty, listed on the ship’s indent as a carpenter by trade, aged 23. It is believed that his wife Sarah and daughter Sarah travelled on the Kitty as free settlers.

Within a month the Wheeler family were living on Norfolk Island, over 1,500 km off the coast of NSW. The island had been first settled in 1788 soon after the arrival in Sydney of the First Fleet. Wheeler was a free man by 1798 having served his 7 year term.

Nathaniel Lucas was the Master Carpenter on Norfolk Island but was suspended by Lieutenant-Governor Foveaux in September 1800 due to impertinence. Wheeler was appointed in his place until March 1802 when he was charged with embezzling public stores.

It is unknown what happened to their child Sarah jnr. but John & his wife appear to have separated and Sarah is linked to two other men on Norfolk island, John Aimsworth, & John Best. She died in Sydney in April 1814, aged 44 years, as Sarah Wheeler.

Meanwhile, John Wheeler in September 1809 bought one large block of land from Sarah Bell in Castlereagh Street (later sub-divided into Lots 3 and 4), on the eastern side, between Park and Market Streets. There was also another block at the rear, facing Elizabeth Street, Lot 5. It was possibly from this time that John Wheeler lived with First Fleet convict Susannah Huffnell.

Wheeler was appointed a Constable in 1810 and in 1814 his quarterly wages were shown as £12. John’s younger brother Thomas Wheeler arrived in Sydney in September 1811, a convict with a 14 year term. John’s partner Susannah died in April 1814 (as Wheeler), leaving a daughter Elizabeth, aged about 25. In July 1814, on the ship Broxbornebury, the wife (Jane) and two children of Thomas Wheeler arrived as free passengers from England, to join Thomas. Permission had been given because of his lengthy sentence. John Wheeler was a witness at the Sydney marriage of his niece Maria Jane Wheeler to James Morris Jnr. in 1820.

Sometime around 1822 John Wheeler’s brother Thomas took up with another woman, Sophia Langford. Mrs Jane Wheeler was absent from the Colony from about 1820 until her arrival back from England on the ship Asia in 1823. She was listed in the 1823-25 Muster as living with her brother-in-law John Wheeler as his wife! 

In 1823 Elizabeth Hayes (nee Baker) made a claim against the Castlereagh St. property. She was the daughter of Susannah Huffnell & William Baker. Elizabeth had married Michael Hayes, and the couple had 7 living children, but in 1823 Hayes was in prison and Elizabeth & her family were in financial difficulties. Elizabeth wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary claiming the property had originally been owned by her mother and passed to her on Susannah’s death, with Wheeler only living there because of her kindness. John Wheeler was able to show proof of his ownership from 1809, which he produced again in 1834.

John Wheeler sold one of the allotments (Lot 5) facing Elizabeth St. in 1826 to Miss Harriet Hanks. From 1828-1836 the household in Castlereagh Street seems again to have been a crowded one. As well as John Wheeler and his sister-in-law Jane Wheeler living as a couple, Thomas Wheeler moved back to work for James Morris Jnr. (his son-in-law) as a baker in 1828, after the death of Sophia Langford. John’s niece Maria Jane Morris (nee Wheeler) and her husband James were living there, with up to 13 children. James Morris Jnr. erected a new building on the block, behind the original one facing Castlereagh St. He worked as a carpenter, cabinet maker, possibly a baker, and later a publican c1837-8 of “The Leaping Bar” from this abode. John Wheeler was also listed as a carpenter at this time. In the 1830’s and 1840’s, Sydney’s residents had to make application to the Government and put notices in the NSW Government Gazette, to prove their ownership claims to any land. Mrs Jane Wheeler gave such a notice in the Gazette in 1834 for Lot 3 Castlereagh St. and her daughter Maria Jane Morris also claimed she was the owner of the smaller adjoining Lot 4. Maria’s claim was later amended to say that it should have read her husband James Morris Jnr.’s name.

Had John Wheeler given away his land to his relatives? It would appear so. Jane Wheeler, his sister-in-law (and his de-facto wife), died in Castlereagh St., aged about 60 years and was buried on the 2nd July 1836. John Wheeler died in September 1838 and was buried on the 27th. His age was incorrectly noted in the St Lawrence Church register as 42, when he was in fact 69 years old. He left no direct descendants and his brother Thomas Wheeler and his niece Maria Jane Morris (nee Wheeler) were his closest living blood relatives.

The Supreme Court does not contain a last will and testament from John Wheeler, although one “appeared” many years later in 1882 when a caveat was placed by John Thomas Neale. At this time, Lots 3 and 4 in Castlereagh St. were still in the hands of descendants of Maria Jane and James Morris Jnr. In these papers it was incorrectly stated that Maria Jane was the daughter (and not the niece) of the late John Wheeler (the former owner of the land), possibly to show their claim was a strong one. A copy of a will from 1837 was shown by the Morris’ to the Registrar General as evidence of their claim, but it was thought to probably be a forgery. The land at this time was valued at £10,000. What happened to the ownership of the land after this time is unknown.
Old Bailey Session Papers 14 September 1791
Guildhall, St Giles Cripplegate, Marriages, 1781 - 1798, P69/GIS/A/01/Ms 6421/2, Ancestry
NSW Church Parish Register V1805-101-4
Colonial Regiment, edited by Pamela Statham
Norfolk Island Victualling Book, 1792-1796, SRNSW Reel 2747
The People of Norfolk Island & Van Diemen’s Land 1788-1820 & Their Families, by James Donohoe
The forgotten generation of Norfolk Island and Van Diemens Land, by Reg Wright, p45
Sydney Gazette, 29 December 1810, p3
NSW Church Parish Register V1811-198-5
SRNSW Claims Court Papers 1834; Reel 1207, No’s 784 & 789
1823-25 Muster
1828 Census of NSW
SRNSW Colonial Secretary’s Papers – Memorial – Fiche 3065; 4/1834B; No’s 130A, 130B, pp797-804
SRNSW Claims Court Papers 1834; Reel 1207, No’s 784 & 789
NSW Lands Department - PA (Primary Application) 5395
NSW Church Parish Register V1836-382-20
NSW Church Parish Register V1838-2620-22

For further information email Beth Taylor hookey5609@yahoo.com.a

Sallie on 7th August, 2019 wrote:

John Wheeler was sentenced and sent to the convict hulk ‘Stanislaus’ located on the River Thames at Woolwich. In the Criminal Register Book, he is stated as a Carpenter, aged 26, born at Hackney. Height 5 feet 8 inches taken to Hulk ‘STANISLAUS’ moored at Woolwich.

In October 1791, eight people, the prisoner and other people of Portland Street and its environs, London, made an appeal on behalf of John Wheeler with a collective petition. John Wheeler was listed as number 11 on a petition list of people who asked to be pardon.  The grounds for clemency were: previous good character has a pregnant wife and three small children dependent on him and a former employer offers to re-employ him. In John Wheeler’s case it was his own father John Wheeler Snr. who petitioned on his behalf, but without success.

John Wheeler and his wife Sarah arrived at Norfolk Island on the 22 December 1792, with their two daughters Sarah and Mary. Records show two of the children on Norfolk Island but not the expectation of four children. It may be said that there were sons who were left behind with relatives due to the uncertain nature of the family’s fate.

John and Sarah Wheeler’s marriage certificate states that he and Sarah were married on the 29 May 1785. This would make John (b1763) 21-22 years of age and Sarah Soan (b1764) 20-21 years of age. Two sources that confirm his birth date are: NSW Census 1828 - John Wheeler of ‘Kitty’ as 65 years old; Death Notice, Sydney newspapers, Sept 1838 - Mr John Wheeler of Castlereagh Street, aged 75 years.

It was Sarah Wheeler, the daughter who had the relationship with John Harmsworth (also seen as Aimsworth), drummer with the NSW Corps, they married and had a daughter also named Sarah. They left Norfolk Island in 1810.

The John Best connection with the Wheelers is that he adopted Mary Wheeler born c1808 and was her guardian for the rest of his life. The association of Sarah Wheeler, wife of John Wheeler is an impossibility as she died on Norfolk Island either in 1792 as historian Cathy Dunn states or April 1804 as Dr CJ Smee states. Either way Sarah is buried in an unmarked grave on Norfolk Island and therefore was not alive to be associated, nor did she leave the island.

Mary Wheeler who was born in England after the court case came out with her parents. She left Norfolk Island in 1810 in a de facto relationship.

This John Wheeler is not Thomas Wheeler’s brother although Thomas did have a brother John who was born in 1769. John’s father was John Wheeler Snr.

Convict Changes History

Beth Kebblewhite on 30th July, 2019 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 174 Old Bailey Session Papers 14 September 1791 Guildhall, St Giles Cripplegate, Marriages, 1781 - 1798, P69/GIS/A/01/Ms 6421/2, Ancestry NSW Church Pa

Sallie on 7th August, 2019 made the following changes:

source: John Wheeler, Death Notice, Sydney, www.trove.nla.org. Wheeler in Criminal Register Book, UK Archives. Lists of petition, National Archives, UK, [HO 47/15/44]. Raymond Nobbs, Norfolk Island and its First Settlement 1788-1814. C.J. Smee, comp. & ed

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