Convicts transported to Australia in the first half of the 19th Century numbered approximately 40,000. The documents relating to such transportation were housed in the State Paper Office. Most valuable are the Petitions submitted by many of the convicts or their families seeking to reduce or change the sentence, these contain family and other details. These documents were microfilmed as a Bicentennial gift to Australia. They are now online and can be searched through the WWW at the National Archives.
In the aftermath of the American War of Independence a new destination was sought for the transportation of convicts from Britain and Ireland 'beyond the seas'. The first ship to sail directly from Ireland carrying convicts under sentence of transportation was the Queen, which arrived in Port Jackson on 26 September 1791. Transportation from Ireland to Australia effectively came to an end in 1853. During the 62 years of transportation from Ireland to Australia some 30,000 men and 9,000 women were sent as convicts to Australia for a minimum period of seven years; many more followed their lived ones as free settlers to a new life in the colony. In 1868 sixty three Fenians who had been convicted in Ireland were transported from England.
The records, in the order they have been microfilmed follow:
Transportation Registers, 1836-1857 (TR) Microfilms 1-5
The transportation Registers contain over 20,000 names of men and women sentenced to transportation or death in the years 1836-57. The entries are divided by year, by county and by sex, and sometime give details of name of transport ship, commuted sentence or place of detention.
The registers have been filmed and indexed in their entirety. Most of the convicts listed went to Australia, although some had their sentences commuted to terms of imprisonment to be served in Ireland, and others were transported to the penal establishments in Bermuda and Gibraltar. Of those sentenced to death, some had their sentences commuted to transportation, but others were hanged or were imprisoned.
Prisoners' Petitions and Cases, 1788-1836 (PPC) MF. 6-19
In his capacity as representative of the Crown, the Lord Lieutenant exercise the prerogative of mercy in Ireland. Many convicts submitted, or had submitted on their behalf, petitions for commutation or remission of their sentence. The petitions vary greatly in style and content but details to be found concern the crime, trial, sentence, place of origin and family circumstances of the convicts.
State Prisoners' Petitions, 2798-99 (SPP) Microfilms 20-25
The State Prisoners' Petitions are similar in content to the main series of petitions but concern those arrested for involvement in the 1798 Rebellion, for which many were sentenced to transportation.
Convict Reference Files, 1836-56; 1865-68 (CRF) MF. 101-4
The Convict Reference Files take over from the petitions series. In addition to petitions, they contain a variety of documents relating to individual convicts. These may include summaries of the evidence produced at trial, judges' reports and letters from officials and other persons concerned.
All files concerning transportation cases have been filmed up to and including 1856. In addition, the names of the 63 Fenian prisoners transported in 1868 have been searched for and 17 relevant files have been identified. These files have been filmed at the end of the Convict Reference Files on Roll 101. Also included with the latter files are four photographs of Fenians from the series of Fenian photographs (FP).
Free Settlers' Papers, 1828-52 (FS) Microfilms 101-104
Male convicts who had served a minimum of four years of their sentence in Australia were entitled to request a free passage for a dependent wife and family to join them in the colony. The papers comprise some lists of convicts who requested such a favour, giving details of date of transportation, name of transport ship, and name and address of wife. There are also petitions from the convicts and from their wives, as well as a small number of personal letters written by convicts to their wives at home describing life in the colony.
Male Convict Register, 1842-47 Microfilm 104
This is a single volume containing the names of all male convicts sentenced to transportation in the period 1842-7. In addition to the details contained in the transportation registers, some physical details are given. The register is arranged in chronological order by date of committal to prison after trial.
Register of Convicts on Convict Ships, 1851-53
This single volume register contains the names of convicts (with date and county of trial) who embarked on ships sailing in that period to Van Diemen's Land and Western Australia.
The names and other details of prisoners referred to in the five main series of records (TR, PPC, SPP, CRF, FS) have been entered in the computer database. In order to establish if there is any record of a particular individual, you should begin by searching the computer index. A successful search will produce one or more reference numbers which will enable you to identify the relevant record or records in the microfilms.
Using the computer index
As the principal users of the database will be genealogists and family historians, the index is designed to be searched by surname.
The search-by-surname option on the menu allows you to search for the name in two ways:
(1) by the surname with exact spelling and
(2) by surname with exact or similar spelling. The details on each prisoner entered in the database should allow you to identify the individual you are seeking. These details include name, age, date and county of trial, crime and sentence. Where there is no date of trial available, the field 'date if document' will have an indication of the date of conviction. Finally the document reference number is given to allow you to consult the text of the original record on microfilm.
Eighteenth Century Sources