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Matron's Diary

Matron Susan Austen was chaperone to 98 single females on the 'Fitzjames' which arrived in Sydney on 1 April 1857. Her diary records the dramas which unfolded during the voyage, the sea-sickness suffered during stormy weather, the tantrums and shortcomings of many of the young women, and the despair felt by the Matron at their behaviour.

The diary (from NRS 5239) provides a glimpse of what it was like for young women to make the voyage from Plymouth to Sydney in the 19th Century. Matrons were chosen by the British Ladies Female Emigrant Society which was founded in 1849 and whose aim was to assist young women emigrating to the colonies by improving their social and moral condition [1]. The matron was responsible for supervising the young women for the duration of the voyage and was expected to make daily entries in a diary of the work given out and done, as well as her observations of the behaviour and general conduct of the young women.

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A full transcript of the diary is also available.

Notes on Transcribing

  • The transcription is to represent the original manuscript as closely as possible to the way it appears in the manuscript
  • Obvious misspelling remains uncorrected
  • Obvious lapses in phrasing and sentence structure are to left as is
  • Stricken material - what the writer puts down and then strikes out - is always included as part of the transcription
  • A dash was commonly used to indicate a full stop at the end of the sentence and are to be shown were they are in the text
  • All punctuation marks are shown as they appear in the text
  • Text inserted by the author in the margins or by interlineation is shown as part of the running text in the order apparently intended by the author
  • Words that are not clearly legible are treated as follows: if unreadable, the word in question is represented within square brackets as [illegible]. If there is a good indication of what the unreadable word might be, the likely word is shown, followed by a question mark in square brackets [?]

Related information

This passenger list has been made available in digital format as part of a pilot project to digitise the microfilm copies of the Persons on bounty ships (Agent's Immigrant Lists), 1838-96 (NRS 5316); Persons on bounty ships arriving at Port Phillip, 1839-51 (NRS 5318) and Germans on bounty ships, 1849-52 (NRS 5320)

See more about the project »


[1] The Charities of London, by Samuel Low, Jun., London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, Milton House, Ludgate Hill.1861.