A Colonial Australian Mystery

Benjamin Jacobs, Isaac Lev Lyons and William Shannon.


On 6th November 1810 Benjamin Jacobs made out his will leaving all his “goods, chattels, money and wearing apparel” to his “good friend” and sole executor Ann Taylor. The witnesses to the will were Isaac Lev Lyons and William Shannon and the address given was Parramatta, County of Cumberland, New South Wales. It is not known when Benjamin died but the will was proved in London on 7th April 1818 “by the oath” of Ann Taylor.

The names Benjamin Jacobs and Ann Taylor can be found among those sentenced to transportation during the late eighteenth century, for example Benjamin Jacobs (alias Abrahams, Jacob) was one of 301 convicts transported on the Royal Admiral, March 1800 (see Old Bailey Trials t17980912-45).This Jacobs otherwise Abrahams was born in Houndsditch occupation ‘dealer’, aged 53 at the time of conviction for receiving a watch stolen by Sarah, his partner or associate. He was sentenced to transportation for 14 years and delievered on board the hulk at Woolwich 17 Apr 1799.

However, there is no evidence that he is  the Benjamin Jacobs of the will. There is also no pre 1810 convict record for an Isaac Lev Lyons nor for a William Shannon.

If not convicts, then who were these people?

In 1809 the ship Aeolus arrived in Sydney carrying 79 female convicts and two teachers John Hosking and Isaac Lyons (Mrs. Lyons died during the voyage). It seems likely that this is  the Isaac Lev Lyons of the will. In which case the name should be read as Isaac Leo Lyon (1787-1850) . Isaac was a son of the Rev. Solomon Lyons of Cambridge. He subsequently returned to England and in 1822 re-married at the Western Synagogue (BSWSM105) (see especially, Naomi Cream, Revd Solomon Lyon of Cambridge, 1755-1820, Paper presented to the JHSE on 15 Feb. 2001).

As for Shannon, the only William Shannon recorded in the colony at this time was the William Shannon who married Rebecca Ferguson. This William seems to have been a Captain in the New South Wales Corps and is thought to have died between 1813 and 1821.

Article by: David Alexander

Sources: Ancestry, Old Bailey online, SynagogueScribes Secular records – Wills



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