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Catherine Johnson (1770–1838)

Catherine Johnson (c.1770-1838) and Ann Smith were found guilty on 18 April 1787 at the Old Bailey, London, of shoplifting: they stole 15 yards of printed calico from a shop. Sentenced to 7 years transportation, the women arrived arrived at Sydney aboard the Prince of Wales in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Johnson was sent to Norfolk Island on the Supply in February 1789. On 7 September 1789 she received 50 lashes for 'abusing the store keeper, and accusing him of theft wrongfully'. She lived with Edward Smith on the island. They had three children and by 1791 had settled on 12 acres at Grenville Vale. They may have been one of the many couples who were married in a mass wedding ceremony held on the island in November 1791. It seems they had separated by June 1794 when Jackson was recorded as free, married, off stores, with three children, supporting herself by her own means. She left Norfolk Island on the Daedalus in November 1794 with her two surviving children, Elizabeth (b.1791) and William (b.1792) for Sydney. Smith left the island on the Fancy in March 1795. 

By 1804 Jackson had started a relationship with Tristram Moore; they had three children. In 1809 Johnson was issued with a licence to sell beer, ale and porter at the Rocks with her daughter Elizabeth. By 1814 she was living with Moore on 100 acres — the property of Charles Cross, which was auctioned "by virtue of execution" — she had bought in August 1806 near Ebenezer; she transferred the title to Moore in 1807.

In 1827 a Catherine Moore, living at the Hawkesbury, was charged with conducting herself in an improper manner and was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment at the Female Factory. The Sydney Gazette, 3 September 1827, p 2 reported:

Catherine Moore was charged with having conducted herself in a very improper manner, boasting of the tricks and fancies which transpired between herself and the Government servants of the hut on the farm. Catherine Moore is a middle-aged woman, of slovenly and filthy appearance; who would answer Sydney people, because out of the way of temptation they need not lock the back gate. Female servants are so scarce among the settlers at the Hawkesbury, that ferocious dogs and pistols must be employed to keep the women within, and the men without the premises. If one hundred women, under 30 years of age, were exhibited in Windsor, on any fixed day, upon a short notice, they would all find husbands among the industrious labouring classes of the Hawkesbury, with little difficulty. Ordered to be placed in class No. 3 at the Factory for 9 months.

As Catherine Johnstone she died on 18 May 1838; her age was given as 67.

information from

  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 193-94
  • Cathy Dunn, People of HM Supply Norfolk Island March 1789 (2016), pp 24-29
  • Marilyn Long and Ron Withington, 'Catherine Johnson Moore', Fellowship of First Fleeters website, — accessed 17 September 2020

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Johnson, Catherine (1770–1838)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moore, Catherine
  • Johnstone, Catherine
  • Johnson, Catharine
  • Smith, Catherine

London, Middlesex, England


18 May, 1838 (aged ~ 68)
Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Passenger Ship
Key Events
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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years