Transportation Records

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Transportation to Australia & Tasmania

Transportation to Australia began with the First Fleet in 1787 and ended in about 1870. Most of the convicts were tried at Assizes, held twice a year in each county, usually in the County town. The Judges of the Assizes were sent out from Westminster on circuits, and returned with the records of trials to Westminster. The records which survive are now in the National Archives in Kew. Unfortunately the records of trials on the Midland Circuit, which comprises the counties of Northampton, Rutland, Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Warwick, were destroyed by a clerk in the 19th century and do not exist earlier than 1860. Enquiries concerning other circuits, and the Midland circuit after 1860 should therefore be addressed to the National Archives.

Records of the Assizes

The Assizes were reported in local newspapers. The Warwick Advertiser started in 1806, and most trials after that date are mentioned, though often very briefly. This office holds a complete set of the Warwick Advertiser. For cases tried at Warwick before 1806, the best newspaper is Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, and although it reports only a few selected cases at each Assize, it is worth trying. A set is available at the Birmingham Reference Library.

The Assizes dealt with all cases where the defendant was liable to be sentenced to death (nearly always commuted to transportation for life). The Quarter Sessions, held 4 times a year, could also impose sentences of transportation for 7, 14 or 21 years, and did so at Warwick between 1801 and 1857. The records of these trials, including indictments, the evidence of witnesses, and calendars of prisoners (amongst other records) are held in the County Record Office. A database of the Calendars of Prisoners from both Assize and Quarter Session Courts has been completed and is available online.

Lists of convicts at the National Archives

The National Archive at Kew has lists of convicts in Australia, giving particulars of sentence, employment, where settled, etc., 1788 – 1859 (class H.O.10). It also has lists under the names of ships of convicts transported in them, with the dates of conviction and personal details, 1787 – 1870 (class H.O.11). We understand that these classes have been microfilmed and are available at the National Library of Australia in Canberra and at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. A detailed census in 1828 has been edited by M.R. Sainty and K.A. Johnson: ‘New South Wales Census, November 1828’, Sydney 1980. The Society of Australian Genealogists may also be able to help.