25 January 2010

Australia: New convict records free for 7 days

Britain transported more than 160,000 convicts to Australia. New records for more than 55,000 sent "down under" in the 18th and 19th centuries are now online for the first time.

Ancestry.com.au is making these records accessible for free for seven days from today (January 24-31) in the Australian Convicts Collection of 15 registers. Data includes personal information, place of conviction, name of ship and departure date.

Click here to get started.

The new records are the convict registers of conditional and absolute pardons (1791-1846), and New South Wales certificates of freedom (1827-1867).

The history of Jewish convicts sent to Australia has been detailed in other Tracing the Tribe posts (use the search box in the right sidebar to find them).

In the late 18th century, Australia became a penal colony to empty crowding in British jails. The first group of 780 convicts arrived in 1788, and the last group arrived in 1868.

The journey took eight months, most of the convicts were men, but there were women as well - some 20%. The youngest convict transported was only 9 years old, the oldest 82. Crimes included petty incidents such as stealing bread, although some had committed major crimes.

Ancestry estimates more than 2 million Britons have ancestors among these convicts.

The launch coincides with Australia Day, on Tuesday, January 25.

Among the thousands of convicts detailed in the collection are a number of infamous criminals including Israel Chapman (1794-1868), a Jewish highwayman who later became one of New South Wales's first police detectives. He is buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Haslem's Creek (Rookwood).

See that link for much more about this criminal turned policeman in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB).

There are other Jewish transported convicts listed in this online resource. Search for "Jewish convicts" to see several listings, such as that for Edward Davis (1816-1841). who is buried in the Jewish section of the Devonshire Street cemetery.

Who knows what you will find?

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