Origin of the surname
The surname Kessey (an adaptation of "Casey") was adopted by the family of Thomas Casey in the 1850s. He arrived in Australia as a convict in 1818 and several of his sons also fell foul of the law and spent time in gaol. It was common, at that time in Australia's history, for ex-convicts to hide their origins as much as possible, even from their own descendants. It is likely that this was the main reason why Thomas Casey adopted the surname Kessey for his family.
There are no "Kessey" birth records in NSW prior to 1857. The birth record for Thomas' son William, born in 1853, uses "Casey". From 1857 onwards, however, the "Kessey" spelling is used almost invariably. It was used on the marriage certificate when Thomas' son John married Mary Ann Hanrahan on 27 August 1857 and on their pre-nuptial agreement dated two weeks earlier. Perhaps the change was prompted by the stigma implied by that agreement; it was designed to ensure that Mary Ann, not her future husband, would retain ownership of the land given by her parents as a wedding gift.
The new spelling was used a few months later when the birth of Thomas' granddaughter was registered - Mary Ann (daughter of Thomas junior and his wife Sarah Ann Grose). The new spelling thereafter became the norm. The only subsequent aberration was the spelling "Kasey" on the 1858 birth registration for James (eldest son of John and Mary Ann Hanrahan).
Thomas Kessey was born Thomas Casey and was transported to Australia as a convict under his birth name in 1818. He had been convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing two sheep. The court transcript indicates that he was living on his father's farm but does not give his father's name. Oral history records that his mother's maiden name was Langford.
He was transported to Australia on the convict ship General Stewart under captain Robert Granger, arriving at Sydney on the last day of 1818. Also aboard was another of my ancestors: Isaac Kemp.
Robert Granger was an incompetent and cruel captain. The voyage of the General Stewart was a nightmare for all on board, particularly the convicts. Many convicts died and many more were hospitalised in Sydney after the ship arrived on New Year's Eve after five and a half months of misery.
Thomas was described on the ship's indent as just 5 feet tall, round face, fair to ruddy complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was 20 years old.
Two years later he was working as a storekeeper at the NSW Commissariat. He was later promoted to Overseer of Town Carts, for which service he was allocated one convict helper.
In 1826 he started a carrying business in partnership with an ex-convict, William Boyle. They carried goods between Sydney and Bathurst, a very difficult journey over the recently-conquered Blue Mountains. He met his future wife, Judith Grady, during this time and they were married at Kelso, near Bathurst, on 22 December 1832.
After serving his time, Thomas settled in the Bathurst district of NSW near Rockley and raised a large family of four sons and eight daughters.
Our Kessey ancestors include:
The following Kessey family stories are published on this website.
The Kessey clan is descended from Thomas Cassey and his wife, Judith Grady.