The Convict Transportation Registers 1788-1868 include records for most of the 163,021 convicts transported to Australia. The collection – the originals for which are held at The National Archives of England and Wales – includes the four transportation registers spanning the 80 years of convict transportation.
Information contained in this important convict collection includes name, date and place of conviction, term of sentence, name of ship, departure date and colony to which convicts were sent. Also included can be occupation, physical description and religion.
Some notable figures from the collection include:
- 39% of male and 35% of female convicts had no prior convictions
- 70% were English, 24% Irish, 5% Scottish and 1% from other parts of the Empire
- The oldest convict transported was over 60 years of age and the youngest just nine years old
- 85% were male and 15% female
- The majority of convicts were illiterate and convicted for crimes of poverty (theft)
- When transportation ended, 40% of Australia’s English speaking population were convicts
Numerous convicts of note, or whose descendants have gone on to enjoy success or notoriety in Australia, are listed in the records:
- John ‘Red’ Kelly, the father of Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous bush ranger. An Irishman, Red was sentenced to seven years for stealing two pigs and was sent to Tasmania. Upon release, Red settled in Victoria, married and in 1855 had a son, Edward (aka Ned) who became a folk hero for his defiance of the colonial authorities. He was hanged at Melbourne Gaol in 1880.
- Elizabeth Thackery, the first female convict to have set foot in the country, was sentenced to seven years for the theft of five handkerchiefs, arriving on the First Fleet. She eventually settled in Tasmania, living to the age of 93.
- John Caesar also arrived on the First Fleet, having been convicted for stealing 240 shillings. Caesar originated from the West Indies and was the first black convict to arrive in Australia.
Murderers, pirates, money swindlers and handkerchief thieves – all are listed in detail in this colourful and important collection, which reveals as much about how meticulous the British were in their record keeping as it does about those sent to serve out their sentence in Australia.
Australia’s convict history has always been at the very core of its modern cultural identity, and so it is important that all Australians, whether or not they have convict ancestors, have access. Components of the collection have been available for many years in various state libraries and archives, but Ancestry is pleased to have brought all these records together, and in such a way that they are now easy to access and search.