The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother

The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother

I came across this article entirely by accident when using the National Library of Australia’s Trove to search the digitised newspapers for something different entirely.

The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 5 Aug 1859

The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 5 Aug 1859

This incident occurred in Howick (now Hay) Street on 27 July 1859 and Maria appears before the Police Magistrate Mr TN Yule Esq. JP on 5 August.  Maria is represented by Nathaniel Howell, a young Solicitor then aged 27 who had been in the Colony 6 years.

Evidence is adduced that Maria pockets two ribbon reels while Mrs Dickson is getting change; on being accused of have something in her clothing she is accosted by Mr Dickson who, with ribbon in hand, summons Senior Constable Male.  Taken into custody, Maria confesses to Police Sergeant Dunmale, offers to pay for the ribbons and tells him she took them for a “lark” and asks to be returned to school.

The newspaper account tells us that:

A Mrs Robinson was then called upon by Mr Howell to state to the Bench what she knew about the accused. She said that she had been in Perth only a few weeks, and was placed in the school of the Sisters of Mercy a few days before her father returned home. Her father was a very respectable settler and lived at Kojonup ; and that she was never in a town before, and consequently was very ignorant in many things.

In summing up his defence of Maria, Mr Howell:

… urged upon the Bench the extreme youth of the accused, and her utter ignorance of the usages of society and the customs of shops. They had heard that she had been brought up in great ignorance, and had hitherto lived apart from all but the members of her own family. That that was the first or second time she had ever been in a shop, and he felt certain she did not know that she had done anything very serious. She had broken the laws of her country through ignorance, and contended that she was not by any means guilty of felony in the proper meaning of the term. He felt assured that no Jury would convict her upon the evidence that had been adduced, and therefore urged the Bench to dismiss the case.

The reference to the school of the Sisters of Mercy is that school established by the order in Victoria Square in 1846.  Initially two schools – the free co-educational St Josephs and the Ladies College – they continue to operate today as Mercedes School.

St Joseph's College; c. 1896

St Joseph’s College; c. 1896

Ladies College; c. 1896

Ladies College; c. 1896


Mercedes College; c. 2010.

Mercedes College; c. 2010.

Maria is Anna Maria Norrish born in Hobart in Van Dieman’s Land 7 November 1846 to Richard and Honora (Regan) Norrish.  Richard was a Corporal in the 96th Regiment of Foot which transferred to the Swan River Colony aboard the Java to relieve the 51st Regiment in 1847.  After spending nearly two years in Kojonup, Richard Norrish was transferred to Perth and when the Regiment was slated for transfer to India he sought and obtained a discharge in 1849.  After a period working in Perth, including on the construction of the Canning Bridge, the family returned to the Kojonup district and established the Warkalup farm.

Ann Maria Norrish married Edward Treasure at Warkalup on 17 February aged 16 years.  Edward was 21 years Anna Maria’s senior and had established Martinup in the East Broomehill district.  The farm was stay with the Treasure family for more than 100 years until 1984 and was placed on the Heritage Register in 2011.  Anna Maria and Edward had 12 children although twins born in 1881 and a daughter 1872 did not survive.  Edward took over the Old Semblance of England Hotel in Kojonup and died there in January 1886; the Coroner found the cause of death to be “excessive drinking”.  Notwithstanding this unseeming end, Edward Treasure was a respected community member, pioneering farmer and contributor to the development of education facilities and services. At this time, Anna Maria was left with seven children aged 14 years and less and later in 1886 she marries William House by whom she has one daughter.  This marriage takes place in the Bunbury district and for a time it appears she lived at Noralup (present day Nornalup) but eventually returns to Kojonup.  Anna Maria dies in 1902 and her obituary notes that she was highly respected and had been under medical treatment for the previous two years having been thrown from a carriage.

Of the stealing charge against the youthful Anna Maria, she was found ‘not guilty’ in the Quarter Sessions on 6 October 1859.  With some irony however, her future husband Edward had arrived in the Colony in 1848 as Convict No. 802 having been convicted of Larceny in 1848.  Edward received his Ticket of Leave in 1851 and his 10 year transportation sentence was ‘expired’ in 1855.  Their third child, Matilda Mary Treasure married William Thomas Jones and so they were my great grandparents.  The young thief of 1859 was my second great grandmother.

Anna Maria (Norrish) Treasure with her brother George Norrish (1844-1911)

Anna Maria (Norrish) Treasure with her brother George Norrish (1844-1911)


A Young Thief 1859 ‘Perth Police Court’, The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), 5 August, p. 3, viewed 21 October, 2012,

v  The Mercedes School images were sourced from the public domain and are free of copyright.

v  Erickson, Rica (Comp.) Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914: Volume 2, BOND 1850-1868, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979

v  Erickson, Rica (Comp.) Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914: Volume 3, FREE 1850-1868, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979

v  Hollier, Michael GN, The Norrish Family 1847 to 1979, private publication.

About njsresearch6

Although raised in Western Australia, I have lived in the Northern Territory most of my life. Memberships include the NT Genealogical Society (Committee), Australian Museum and Gallery Association (NT Chapter Committee), and Chung Wah Society (NT Chinese Museum Coordinator).
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4 Responses to The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother

  1. Bev says:

    Great story Neville….I would love to find out more about the “ins and outs” of my lot! I am sure there is nothing as colourful as this stuff!!! It’s very interesting to learn about the compassion shown to young Maria by the court. She obviously wouldn’t have recieved that if she was born in England and caught…she would have been “shipped” out here!!! Hehe….

  2. Michael H says:

    Pleased you have found out more on this event in Anna Maria’s life. I came across it some years ago and enjoyed the little bit in the paper. I found her baptism in Tasmania a while ago too.

    Michael H

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