We’re excited to announce the launch of New South Wales Gaol Description and Entrance Books 1818-1930.
Just in time for Christmas, this collection reveals details of more than 25,000 prisoners from New South Wales prisons, many of which have now closed and are being used as museums or schools. The collection also contains an estimated 34,572 images from 1875 onwards, providing a detailed description and photograph of each inmate – as well as a record of their crimes and sentences.
Details about the inmates include each prisoners’ number, their name, aliases, date when portrait was taken, native place and year of birth, details of arrival in the colony – including ship and year of arrival, trade or occupation, religion, standard of education, height, weight (on committal and on discharge), colour of hair, colour of eyes, marks or special features, portrait, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks and details of previous convictions (where, when, offence, sentence).
Upon reviewing the stories buried within the collection, we’ve uncovered some interesting stories in the collection, including that of Ethel Herringe.
Herringe was just 22 years old when she was incarcerated as the result of an unconventional shotgun wedding in 1902. Maurice John Lee, who was the licensee of the Clubhouse Hotel at Cowra and Herringe’s boss, had promised to marry her until he discovered she was carrying his twins. Herringe arranged for a clergyman and witness to be present one night after the bar closed and then attempted to ambush Lee into wedlock. When Lee reneged on his promise, Herringe drew a pistol and shot and fatally wounded him. Lying in the hospital, Lee made something of a death bed confession, suggesting to others that perhaps he got what he deserved.
There was a significant community support for Herringe, including a petition for leniency, which attracted more than 5000 signatures. As a result, the crime was reduced to manslaughter and she was released from prison two years later.
The collection was created in accordance with the ‘Gaol regulation’ proclaimed in the New South Wales Government Gazette, dated 19 February, 1867. The collection’s starting year of 1818 predates the end of transportation, which was officially abolished by the Government in 1868 therefore a significant number of inmates recorded in NSW prisons would have previously been transported.
Combining these records with others in Ancestry.com.au’s Australian Convict Collection, the New South Wales, Queensland, and Victorian Passenger Lists, the England and Wales Criminal Registers and the UK Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books indexes, family historians are presented with a rich tapestry of information into their ancestors.
The new collection, the originals for which are held on microfilm by the State Records Authority of New South Wales, provides searchable indexes linked to images of the original records. It is available to UK Heritage Plus and World Heritage subscribers.