Australian PM Kevin Rudd’s ancestors were petty criminals: report

July 31st, 2008 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 31 (IANS) Many Australians are descendants of convicts and a research report presented Thursday to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reveals that his ancestors were petty criminals, including a street urchin sentenced for stealing a dress and underwear from another child. Rudd was presented two volumes of his ancestral family history produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at his Kirribilli House here. Church elder Terry Vinson said Rudd had a “true Aussie pedigree” that included free settlers and convicts.

About 162,000 men and women were brought to Australia as convicts from 1788 until penal transportation ended in 1868. The convicts were joined by free settlers coming in large numbers following the gold rush. While the vast majority of the convicts to Australia were English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish, some convicts had been sent from other British colonies such as India.

Rudd’s paternal fifth great-grandmother Mary Wade was a London street urchin, who swept streets and begged for a living. At the age of 12, she and an older girl named Jane Whiting coaxed an eight-year-old girl into a toilet and stripped her of her dress and underwear. They were tried at London’s Old Bailey court in January 1789 and Mary’s death sentence was commuted. She was sent to the colony of New South Wales in Australia.

Rudd’s paternal fourth great-grandfather Thomas Rudd was transported to Australia in 1801 to serve a seven-year sentence for “unlawfully acquiring a bag of sugar”. Another relative, Catherine Lahey, was convicted for forging coins to pay her rent. She was sent to Sydney in 1800.

Vinson told Australian Associated Press (AAP): “We regard today’s presentation as our gift to the nation. A study of our personal history helps us to respect the struggles that our ancestors endured - in a far different world than the one we live in today - to give us the prosperity we now enjoy.”

The research will be presented to the National Library of Australia early next month as part of National Family History Week.

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