Australia Day Blog Challenge: My Earliest Australian Ancestor

Australia Day is here, and I’ve just finished working on my post for the 2013 Australia Day Blog Challenge which is to write about my ‘earliest Australian ancestor’ as suggested by Helen V. Smith.

So I’ve spent two weeks pondering just WHO to write about. And you know when you get married the whole “what’s-yours-is-mine- thing”, well that means I’ve adopted all of my hubby’s reli’s too, so I’ve decided to write about Mr Lonetester’s earliest Australian ancestor, his 5x great grandpa (which makes Mr Lonestester a 7th generation Aussie). Anyway meet …

JOHN WARBY (c1770-1851)
Convict, Landowner, Farmer, Superintendent, Guide to Governor Macquarie

John Warby was born around 1770 (there seems to be birth dates varying from about 1767 to 1774) in Hertfordshire, England to John and Ann Warby. John (jnr) was convicted of stealing two donkeys and was sentenced to transportation to Australia for seven years. He arrived in Sydney on board the “Pitt” (see link below for a picture of this ship) in February 1792, which was part of the what is sometimes referred to as the Fourth Fleet.

reference for John Warby on the “New South Wales, Australia and Convict List, 1787-1834” on

At the end of 1792 (during his sentence), John had been granted 50 acres of land at Prospect, about 5 miles from Parramatta (in New South Wales).

In September 1796 John married Sarah Bentley. She was a sixteen year old convict who was transported for theft.  She arrived in Sydney in April 1796. John and Sarah are reported to have had 23 children, with many dying young, but records do not seem to exist to validate this claim, and I can only (so far) find details of 14 of them.

After his sentence ended, John worked as a farmer, and later acted as a guide to Governor Macquarie when he travelled. In 1814 he was assigned to lead several expeditions looking for a group of murderous aborigines.

references for John Warby on the “New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1825” on

In June 1816 Governor Macquarie granted John Warby 260 acres in Campbelltown (New South Wales). John died on 12 June 1851 at Spring Valley (near Campbelltown), and was survived by his wife and eleven children.

Known children of John & Sarah Warby
1. Edward (1800-1804)
2. William (1801-1885)
3. Elizabeth (1802-1894)
4. John (1803-1826)
5. Benjamin (1805-1880)
6. Jane (twin) (1806-1876)
7. Sarah (twin) (1806-1895)
8. Charles Cable (1810-1876)
9. Mary Ann (1812-1904)
10. Robert George (1814-1853)
11. Eliza (1815-1896)
12. James (1817-1849)
13. Joseph (1818-1899)
14. Richard (1821-in infancy)

There are many references to John Warby (which has been known to be spelt Warbey or Walbey at times), but here’s a just few:
Image of the convict ship, ‘Pitt’
Referece to John Warbey on Convict
Biography of John Warby on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website
Biography of John Warby of the Journeys in Time website
John Warby is mentioned in the Leumeah, New South Wales wikipedia entry
Anyone that’s interested in the family, might be interested to know about the book “Warby: My Excellent Guide” by Michelle Vale, 1994.

As a side note, previously I have done a blog post listing all of mine and Mr Lonetester’s convict ancestors, but for some unknown reason, I totally omitted John Warby (**throws hands in the air, and wonders how could I do such a thing**). Anyway now John gets a whole post to himself, and I do believe he was worthy of it. Not all convicts were bad boys, and John Warby proves that.

13 Responses to “Australia Day Blog Challenge: My Earliest Australian Ancestor”

  1. Pauleen says:

    Hands in the air but you’ve redeemed yourself now;-)

    “only” 14 children not 23. Good grief! it’s possible given how young she was.

    • Alona says:

      Yeah I know “only” 14 kids – that’s a busload. 4 sounds heaps these days. I do have a reli that had 25, but that was with 2 wives which is kind of acceptable. But for Sarah to have 23 herself, I’m kinda hoping not. That’s a lot of years of being pregnant, and changing nappies. And thankyou for the ‘being redeemed’ comment. I have no idea how I missed him!

  2. What a fascinating story! I agree with Pauleen – ‘only’ 14 children. Our foremothers spent a lot of time being pregnant and looking after the little ones, but I’m sure the eldest children became the younger ones’ carers when they were old enough.

    Guide to Macquarie sounds as if he was greatly trusted. I bet he had some stories to tell.

  3. Catherine says:

    Good for you Alona… seems that Mr Lonetester’s Mr John Warby was destined to stand out from the rest 🙂 ooohhh… I try not to get jealous of those of you who have all these rather “exotic” sounding Convict Ancestors {chuckle} Cheerio, for now…

  4. Bryan Wetton says:

    A small typo for you Alona

    ‘Anyway now now John gets a whole ‘

    See just above


  5. vxz434 says:

    Hmmm… John Warby is one of my great grandfathers, too. There’s not that much info on him, but thanks for this little article you created. 🙂

  6. Claire Warby says:

    Stumbled across this blog when researching my family tree. John is my Great Grandad’s (x6) brother’s son. Quite a distant relative but still. I’m still in the UK. This was a fascinating read. Thank you!

    • Malcolm McDonald says:

      Claire, I am also an ancestor of John Warby – 6 generations on. At last count he has over 3000 in Australia. I have written a family history but had little information about his English family. I’d like to compare notes.

      • Gail Patrick says:

        Hi Malcolm, it seems John Warby was about 5 times my great grandfather. I would love to know more. I think my line comes down from his son William. Do you have much information about Johns descendants. Cheers, Gail Patrick

  7. DES GREENE says:


    • tim rawlinson says:

      I am Tim Rawlinson john and sarah are my gr gr gr gr grandparents how can I get a copy of the book? 0434357285

  8. Amy says:

    Just stumbled across this blog, great article. John Warby is one of my great grandfathers too. I have the book Warby: My Excellent Guide, very hard to find nowadays but a great read with the family tree at the back.

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