Images courtesy Patricia Walden Marsh
Great granddaughter of William David Kiss,
half brother of Wilhelmena Kiss Roberts


Information below of the Kiss Family History courtesy of Patricia Marsh.


James Kiss was a convict. He was the youngest of 7 children of Mary and William Kiss of Birmingham. In July of 1793, James, aged about 20, along with one Mary Howarth, aged 28, assaulted and stole a hat from a Mr. Jones of Birmingham. According to the Birmingham Gazette dated 5th August 1793, they were tried at the Warwick County Court of Petty Sessions on the 27th July 1793 and convicted of the crime. They were sentenced to death. James' sentence was commuted to life transportation and for about 4 years he was held on and worked from the infamous prison hulks at Portsmouth in England. During these 4 years he endured very harsh conditions. The convicts dredged the Thames to make embankments, repaired roads, worked on buildings and generally did whatever the local authorities wanted them to do. They had very little food and slept on cold damp floors. They were often flogged.

In early 1797, James together with other convicts, was transferred to the ship "Ganges" which departed from Portsmouth in England and arrived at Port Jackson on the 2nd June 1797. On his arrival in the colony he was assigned to Mr. Grimes, the Surveyor General, where he was employed as a servant and was given the title ' surveyor's man ". It is recorded that in 1801 he was " off stores" and living with Mr. Grimes in the Hawkesbury district.

In 1805, James was granted a Ticket of Leave in the Hawkesbury district where he rented 10 acres of land from a Mr. Palmer and according to the Muster had 2 acres under wheat, 3 acres under maize, 3 1/2 acres pasture, 1 acre fallow, 1/4 acre of orchard and garden. Ann Kelly, Catherine Hegarty and her son Henry had moved in and were living with him.

On the 29th February 1812, James Kiss was granted a Conditional Pardon and by 1814 was still listed on the Musters but recorded as being free, off stores and his occupation was given as a labourer. By 1820 he had moved to Sydney and had signed a letter requesting Governor Lachlan Macquarie to grant him a small piece of land in Sydney so that he could build himself a small cottage. Simeon Lord, a wealthy landowner who was sent to the colony as a convict for 7 years and also had a small part in the Rum Rebellion, co-signed James' application. William Cox was named as previously petitioning on James' behalf and also William Cowper, the Colonial Secretary at the time. James' occupation was listed as a horse dealer of Sydney. His request must have been granted because in 1822 his occupation was listed as a horse trader from 1823 to 1825 he was employed by a Mr. James Underwood in Sydney and according to the 1828 Census records, James Kiss, aged 61, was employed as a labourer for James Underwood's distillery at Botany and had been granted a Full Pardon.

The following is a story as related to me. The informant describes it as "the most confusing story I have ever read and tried to decipher ". It is hoped that someone may be able to contribute a solution to prove this story or to correct or discredit it. When James Kiss went to the Hawkesbury district he had dealings with James Ruse who was a convict and had arrived on the First Fleet in 1788. James Ruse had set up and run the first " Experimental Farm" at Rose Hill near Parramatta which he sold for 40 pounds in 1793. In early 1794 James Ruse was granted 30 acres of land at Mulgrave Place on the Hawkesbury River.

It is not known who the mother of James Kiss' children was, if indeed they were his children. There was an Ann Kelly who had a daughter Ann by John St. Leger and there was Catherine Hegarty, mother of Henry, who became bored and fed up with farm life and left for Sydney where she formed a new relationship with Benjamin Kelly, mate on the ship " Venus " on which he subsequently led a mutiny. Catherine and Kelly sailed to New Zealand where Catherine was killed by a Maori woman who "wanted Kelly for herself ".

In regards to the Kiss and Ruse children, it appears that at some time, James Kiss had cared for the Ruse children and Ruse had cared for 2 of the Kiss children - James, who was also known as William Ruse because Ruse already had a son called James, and Ann , also known as Ann Ruse or Ann Ruse Kiss.

At some time James Ruse' wife Elizabeth was left to fend for herself while her husband and older son were at sea and James Kiss supposedly was given responsibility for his own children, at this time William Ruse became James Kiss again, as well as some of the Ruse children - this part of the mystery probably will never be solved because someone directly involved would have to tell the story but maybe the story has been handed down and there is a solution. Suffice it to say that it appears from the researched records that James Kiss never married but is supposedly the father of 3 children, William born 1803 at Liverpool, James born 1807 and Ann Ruse Kiss born 1810 according to records other than the BDM records, at this early stage of the colony, births were only recorded by the christening records kept by the various churches and if the child was not baptised, there was no record kept of the birth. According to the BDM baptismal records, in 1836 two James Kiss's were baptised, one has the notation of adult and it can be reasonably assumed that the adult was James the convict and the other, his son. They were baptised in the Catholic church at the same time as his grandson William, born to his son William and Elizabeth Kennedy.

What is confusing about the history of James Kiss is that there does not appear to be any record of him having been married, or even applying for Permission to Marry, which all convicts needed to have to get married. Permission had to be granted by the Governor. The birth record of William Kiss on the BDM records does not list the father and mother, it just states he was born at Lower Abode, Minto and there does not appear to be any listing for James Junior or Ann Ruse. Maybe someone can provide the answers.

More About JAMES KISS:

Baptism: 1836, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Sydney NSW.

Occupation: Labourer,farmer, horse dealer, horse trader.

Report of John Wilson on 1 individual petition (Earl of Warwick) on behalf of James Kiss, convicted (with Mary Howarth) at the 'last' Warwickshire Assizes, for an assault on Benjamin Jones and stealing his hat in Birmingham Churchyard, on 8 June 1793. Evidences supplied by Benjamin Jones and James Kiss. There are also character testimonies from John Marson and Thomas Willdey. Grounds for clemency: acted under the influence of 'a bad Woman', a collective petition is already in existence (in Birmingham) and can be forwarded to the Home Secretary if necessary, both parents died when he was a child, previously honest and had been entrusted with valuables in the past. Initial sentence: death, commuted to transportation.
Recommendation:
no mercy.
Folios 262-267. See also HO 47/16/89
<http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/LinkFromEADRef.asp?CATREF=HO-d 9-c47-p16-i89> , folios 349-350. Covering dates 1793 Sep 23

Also:
5. James Kiss and Mary Howarth, for a highway robbery.
Recommendation:
transportation for life.
See also HO 47/16/64
<http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/LinkFromEADRef.asp?CATREF=HO-d 9-c47-p16-i64> , folios 262-267.



Hi Kate

The female lines from James Kiss are eligible for membership of the Pioneer Women Society of Australia. I have sent this via face book to all the women, girls who are the descendants of William David Kiss husband of Mary McKee and stepson of Mary Ann Breen, Kiss, McKee, half brother to Wilhelmena Kiss Roberts. You may be able to disseminate this information to other relatives

Patricia Marsh