Variations of her surname on official records are Hurley, Earley, Harley, Arily. Rachel was born on 23 April 1769 at Lambourne Berkshire England. Her mothers’ name is given as Christian Early, no fathers’ name is recorded. Rachel was unemployed of St Giles London, when she was tried at Reading on 24 July 1786 for stealing an ounce of tea, tabacco and sugar, 3 yards of silk ribband and a linen cap with a value of 3 Shillings, (30 cents today). Sentenced to 7 years transportation, she was ordered to the Dunkirk Hulk, and was received there on 27 October, aged 24.
In October 1787, while at sea on the Friendship, Rachel was put in irons with Elizabeth Pugh, for theft and dirtiness. She was transferred to the Prince of Wales at Cape of Good Hope to complete the journey to Sydney Cove. Rachel married convict John Price (Alexander) on 1 June 1788, with William Brown and Samuel Barnes as witnesses. They were both sent to Norfolk Island in the October of 1788 aboard the Golden Grove. There is conflicting information as to whether Price died on the Island or departed by Chesterfield on 30 March 1793 and then sailed in the May for Bengal.
Private Samuel Marsden (Surprize 1790) arrived on the Island in 1793, where he lived with Rachel Early. Their child Elizabeth was born in January 1794. In the March, the couple sailed for Port Jackson where Rachel and the baby remained when Samuel returned to the Island with the corps in July, but he returned again to Sydney aboard the Supply in November 1795. Rachel found herself back on Norfolk Island, arriving aboard Reliance in 1796; by 1798 her liaison with Samuel Marsden was over, as Samuel was living with Ann Harmsworth, the daughter of Alice (Harmsworth) Stanfield.
In a book titled 1788 The People of the First Fleet by Don Chapman. A daughter Rachel was born in 1796 as this is the same year Ann was born and I can find no record of Rachel. She may have been born Rachel Ann or Ann Rachel and preferred to use the name Ann, who knows.
(Mollie Gillen, The First Fleet wrote Rachel Early appears to have borne only one child on Norfolk Island. Jane Elly (Neptune 1790) was the mother of Catherine Elly (Yearly) born 1794). Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet wrote, Rachel is believed to have had two other daughters born in the 1790s, Catherine and Ann, but they have not been traced in victualling records and their identity has not been confirmed.
Rachel and her three children departed Norfolk Island on board the ship City of Edinburgh on 3 September 1808, arriving on the Derwent River on 2 October 1808. However, their names do not appear on the City of Edinburgh’s deportees list.
A report that I cannot confirm is that when a convict married she still had to use her maiden name. Name listings under City of Edinburgh, 3.9.1808, on the Memorial cairn in St David’s Park Hobart, titled The Pioneer Islanders, A Tribute to the First Fleeters and the Settlers from the First Norfolk Island Settlement to Van Diemen’s Land 1804-1820, Rachel’s children, Ann, Catherine and Elizabeth have the inscribed surname of Marsden. Rachel still had her maiden name of Early inscribed on the plaque indicating a First Fleeter.
In 1811 Rachel is listed as living in Hobart Town. Her death is recorded at Kangaroo Point on 25 April 1842 as Rachel Hirly aged 72 years. The burial took place at Rokeby Tasmania on 29 April, under the name of Rachel Herley, widow.
Rachel’s eldest daughter Elizabeth Early/Herley (Marsden) was aged 22, when she married the 50 year old Uriah Allender (Calcuttta 1803) on 25 September 1815 in Hobart Town.
This is how the Mills family line descends from the First Fleet convict Rachel Early. Names to follow through from Early are Allender, Moles, Wright, Bousie, Mills, Craig, Turner, Shenfield and Miller.
Compiled by Barry Mills