James Williams was born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, c1760.  

The U.K., Registers of Duties Paid for Apprentices, 17101811, records    

8 June 1774   Daniel Roberts of Wrexham, edge tool maker    Apprentice,  James Williams. Unfortunately Daniel Roberts, now or late of Wrexham in Denbighshire, Edge Tool Maker, is in the list of bankrupts published in 'The Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer' Vol. 49 1780.


James would have been looking for another job, so perhaps this is the reason he joined the marine corps on 16 March 1782.  James was about 21 years of age and soon left Great Britain to serve in the East Indies from 17831785.  He then returned to England and became a private marine of the 23rd Portsmouth Company.

When James was near 27 years of age, he joined Sirius as part of the ship's complement on 24 February 1787.  He was described as being 5ft 8ins (173cm) tall, with a long, dark complexioned face, black hair and hazel eyes.


Sirius was the Flagship of the First Fleet and was under the command of Captain Arthur Philip, who was to become the first Governor of New South Wales. It sailed out of Portsmouth along with the other ten ships on 13 May 1787 in what was to become an historic voyage, arriving into Port Jackson after an eight-month passage on 26 January 1788.


James may have wondered if he would survive the harsh life in the early days of the Colony, because he made a Will, signed by him and witnessed by John Hunter and John Palmer, which is kept in the National Archives in Britain.  It states:


In the Name of God Amen.  I James Williams Private Marine onboard His Majesty's Ship Sirius, No. on the Marine List 12, being in bodily health and of sound and disposing mind and memory, and considering the danger and perils of the seas and other uncertainties of this transitory life, do for avoiding controvercies after my decease, make publish and declare this my last Will and Testament in manner following (that is to say).  First I recommend my Soul to God that gave it, and my body I commit to the earth or sea, as it shall please God to order, and as for and concerning all my worldly estate, I give bequeath and dispose thereof as followeth, that is to say, all such wages, sum or sums of money whatsoever, as shall be any ways due owing or belonging to me at the time of my decease, for my service onboard His Majesty's Ship Sirius I do give devise and bequeath the same unto my beloved friend William Standley, Private Marine onboard His Majesty's said Ship.  And I do hereby nominate and appoint the said William Standley the sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all former and other wills, testaments and deeds of gifts by me at any time heretofore made.  And I do ordain and ratify these prescents to stand and be for, and as my only last will and testament.  Revokable from and in my name, in witness whereof to this my said will, I have set my hand and seal the thirtieth day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and eighty eight, and in the twenty eighth year of the Reign of his Majesty King George the third over Great Britain etc.

Signed, sealed, published and declared in the presence of

Jno. Hunter  2nd Captain      Jno. Palmer, Purser.        (signature)  James Williams


James was sent to Norfolk Island soon after, on 2 October 1788 by Golden Grove.  He was one of the marines who guarded the convicts to ensure law and order in the settlement. All was going well for James until 26 April 1789, when he became involved in a quarrel with a convict and then fought with another marine.  He received 24 lashes by order of Lieutenant King and was given extra duties.  The following month James had his shirt stolen by the convict Thomas Watson.


He left Norfolk Island on 11 February 1791 by Supply and on 14 March was discharged from the ship's books to the Port Jackson detachment. Deciding to become a settler he returned to Norfolk Island by Atlantic on 26 October 1791 and was granted 60 acres on the left side of Cascade Road, Phillipsburg, selling grain to the stores.  James again left the island in September of 1792 on Atlantic and joined as a soldier in the NSW Corps. He soon returned to Norfolk Island with the Corps, leaving Port Jackson on Kitty on 21 January 1793.


James met Rachael Watkins, convict, on Norfolk Island, and they probably had a common law marriage, as no marriage record has been found.  Rachael was born in Hereford c.1759, but little of her early life is known. Aged near 26 years, Rachael was convicted and found guilty of breaking and entering and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She sailed on Neptune in the Second Fleet, arriving in Sydney on 28 June 1790.  One month later, Rachael was placed on board Surprize and transferred to Norfolk Island on 28 July 1790.


Rachael bore two children, Susannah and Ann, on Norfolk Island and left there with them sometime between 1795 and 1798. After returning to Sydney, James and Rachael had two more children, Sarah and Michael, making a family of three daughters and one son.  They lived at 28 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, in a house James had earlier acquired. It was sold in 1803, when they moved to another residence.


James enlisted in the 102nd Regiment and joined the Invalid Company, also known as the Royal Veterans, on 25 March 1810. He continued working for this Company until he died on 16 March 16 1820, aged about 70, whilst on guard duty at South Head.  After a Service at St Philip's Church of England James was buried in the Sydney burial ground.


Rachael survived another twenty years, dying on 10 February 1840, aged about 80, at Botany, where she lived with her daughter Susannah and son Michael. Following a Service at Christ Church St Laurence C of E in Sydney, Rachael was probably buried with her husband, James Williams, at Sydney Burial Ground.


Joan Phipps

FFF Member 6854




'Howard and Hines Descendants' by Michael Vickery (B App Sc, Grad Dip Ed)

National Archives, London

Ancestry records

The Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer Vol. 49 1780



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