Convicts in Tasmania
the southernmost state of Australia being separated from the mainland
states by Bass Strait. The area of the state including the lesser islands is 68 300
square kilometres. It is the second oldest state in the country and was
first settled in 1803. At
that time it was known as Van Diemens Land.
From 1812 until 1853, convict ships were sent direct to VDL rather
than stopping in Sydney. In
the fifty years of transportation about 67,000 convicts arrived in VDL,
around 22% of them Irish.
fear of French colonisation of Van Diemens Land led to the small
settlement on the Derwent River in 1803. Of the 49 people in the group, 33
were convicts. In 1804 they were joined by the 307 'Calcutta' convicts.
Until 1812, all the convicts in Van Diemens Land had been re-shipped from
New South Wales or Norfolk Island. The arrival of 200 convicts direct from
Britain on the 'Indefatigable' in 1812 was a solitary act as it was not
until 1818 that the beginning of steady shipments from Britain began. In
the intervening years, convicts from other parts of New South Wales kept
1822, a penal colony was established at Macquarie Harbour (Sarah Island)
on the west coast of the island to house repeat offenders from New South
Wales and its reputation for cruelty and barbarism spread throughout the
Empire. In 1825 the British Government separated Van Diemens Land from New
South Wales. As it became increasingly obvious that Macquarie Harbour was
too hard to control from Hobart, it was closed down and a new settlement
called Port Arthur was established. Like its predecessor, the new
settlement's reputation for brutality soon spread throughout the world.
1835 a special settlement was established at Point Puer near Port Arthur
to house and rehabilitate the growing number of young male convicts who
were being transported to the colony during the 1830s.
convicts were sent directly to the Female Factory although some did not
actually live in the factory, but nearby and came in every day to work.
Many also remained only for a day or so as they were sent to work for free
settlers, or even convict settlers, and many also married very quickly.
The idea was that any man wanting to marry one of the girls would apply.
The girls were lined up at the Factory and the man would drop a scarf or
handkerchief at the feet of the woman of his choice. If she picked it up,
the marriage was virtually immediate.
of convict women either stayed with their mothers or were moved to an
orphanage. Young convict girls were also employed in the Female Factory
and young convict boys were sent to Point Puer.
1842 the worst offenders from Van Diemens Land began to be transported to
Norfolk Island which had an even worse reputation for brutality. As the
number of convicts transported to New South Wales decreased, the number
arriving in Van Diemens Land rose and by 1846 around 5000 convicts were
arriving each year. Britain yielded to public pressure and implemented a
two year moratorium before resuming transportation once more. The last two
ships arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1851 amid public outcry and as a
result, Britain finally ended all transportation to the colony in 1853. On
November 26, 1855, the colony officially became known as Tasmania.Ē
are quotations from http://www.convictcentral.com/index.html
which has more information about convicts within Australia and is one of
Genís links under General Australia, Convicts
records in Tasmania
looking at convict records, you can see many of the crimes would just get
a slap on the wrist nowadays but
in 1788, in England, there were about 160 crimes punishable by hanging.
They included stealing sheep, cattle, clothes and goods worth £2 or more. Because
the hulks and gaols in England were overflowing with convicts, many
sentences were changed to transportation for 7, 10 or 14 years.
you know you have a Tasmanian Convict in your family, there are many
pieces of information you can gather about that ancestor. If you look at the Tasmanian Convicts CDROM, which is
available from the Tasmanian
State archives, you
will be given the place where the convict was shipped from, the date
shipped, arrival date in VDL and finally what records to look up here in
convict records begin with CON or MM.
The main records include:
information about history before arrival and details of work in the
colony. The early history includes offence, date and place of trial and
sentence. From 1816, a gaol report, hulk report and marital status are
also included. By 1821 relatives and religion were also added. Convict
confessions or statements of their crimes were recorded and often give
clues to previous offences. When reading the conduct record and the
working life of your ancestor, the information is written in the following
form: Date of offence,
name of employer or initials, the offence and finally the punishment.
receive these papers, they find there is a knack to reading all the
information contained especially that on the conduct record.
Many abbreviations are used, even some unknown to the present day
archivists. Below is a list of a few of the more common abbreviations
H of C
Names of places mentioned in southern
Tasmania as probation stations include:
Darlington (Maria Island), Cascades (near Port Arthur), Impression Bay
(near Port Arthur), Salt Water River (coal mines near Port Arthur), Browns
River (present day Kingston) and in Hobart itself
Barracks, Cascades Female Factory, Old Wharf, Brickfields, Dynnyrne and
In the middle 1800ís there was only
one main road in Van Diemens Land leading from Hobart in the south to
Launceston in the north. Many
convict chain gangs were used to build the roads so there were many
probation stations along the way including (in order from Hobart to
Launceston): Anson (an old
boat housing female convicts), Bridgewater, Green Ponds, Lovely Banks,
Spring Hill, Jericho, Oatlands, Antill Ponds, Tunbridge, Ross, Campbell
Town, Snake Banks, Perth, Westbury and in Launceston itself a prisonersí
barracks and a female factory.
list - just as you would think, this gives a description of the
convict. It includes
trade, height (without shoes), age, complexion, head, hair, whiskers,
visage, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, chin and other marks
including tattoos, scars and speech impediments.
From the 1840ís the description was often included in the conduct
Description lists also include MW=medium wide, Dk Bro
=dark brown, Do=ditto
list - These were
documents written to formally transfer prisoners from the custody of the
master of a transport ship to the Governor of the colony receiving them.
They were kept for each convict and up till the mid-1800s they recorded
names, date and place of trial and sentence. Later indents went into more
detail and gave name, age, date and place of trial, sentence, former
convictions, marital status, number of children, crime, religion, height,
colour of eyes, hair and complexion, visible marks, scars, tattoos and
other such identifying information. Often
included were names of parents and siblings.
the indent papers, there are different sets of abbreviations used.
These include many shortened forms of names for brothers, sisters
M=mother, H=husband, W=wife, B=brother and S=sister
William, Hy = Henry, Jno=John or Jonathan, Tho=Thomas,
other important convict documents included musters, appropriation lists
(employers) and whatever documents the Colonial Secretaryís Office (CSO)
might have on your ancestor.
are many sites on the web dealing with convicts in Australia, but one of
the best has been mentioned above http://www.convictcentral.com/index.html
is also a mailing list AUS-TAS-CONVICTS-L@rootsweb.com
receiving these conduct records can find out so much about their past
relatives and their offences while still a convict by understanding the
many abbreviations used by the clerks filling in the paperwork for the
recently published titled Transcribing Tasmanian Convict Records
is written by Susan Hood ISBN 0
9579394 3 4 Published by
Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority