Claim a Convict
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Bill Thompson (Old William Thompson) by John Watt Beattie (1859–1930) (State Library of Tasmania) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bill Thompson (Old William Thompson) by John Watt Beattie (1859–1930) (State Library of Tasmania) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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  • Name of convict
  • Which transport and voyage number
  • Date of departure and date of arrival
  • Obtain a copy of the ships Indent. It may contain some or all of the following information
  • From port sailed
  • Tons
  • Master Surgeon
  • Where tried and type of court i.e. Assizes / Quarter Session etc
  • When tried
  • Sentence received
  • Offence
  • Age
  • Native Place
  • Calling
  • Remarks
  • Physical Description eg hair colour, eye colour, complexion, height, scars, tattoos etc
  • Marital Status
  • Number of children
  • Education eg could read &/or write
  • Religion
  • Number of previous convictions
  • Ticket of Leave, Conditional Pardon : Absolute Pardon; Certificate of Freedom
  • Assigned to, on arrival
  • Is there a drawing of the convict transport available?
  • How many other convicts on board?
  • Did your convict (male or female) bring children with them ?
  • Were both males and females transported on this ship?
  • Was there sickness on board ?
  • Any lost overboard?
  • Type of trip eg was there a mutiny?
  • Ships Log – Surgeons Report available
  • Where built ?
  • By whom owned ?
  • Where registered?
  • What else did it carry?
  • Which route did the vessel take and which ports did it visit
  • What did it carry on return voyage?
  • Newspaper reports of transports arrival eg Sydney Gazette, Sydney Herald Is there a mention in the Historical Records of Australia Is there a mention in the Log of Logs

The Court and Crime

  • Were other convicts tried at the same court on the same day for the same crime
  • Did he/she spend time on a Hulk before embarkation?
  • Are there Prison Hulk Records available?
  • Is there a drawing or photograph of the court available?
  • Are the prison records available?
  • Obtain the Trial Records
  • Did the convict Petition for clemency?


  • On arrival to Government or private employer?
  • If Government – how long, which department?
  • If Private – to whom assigned? for how long? – What type of work did he/she perform?
  • Other assignments – same as above

Ticket of Leave:

  • Ticket of Leave. How many? For which districts?
  • Obtain copy of the Butt
  • Any interesting notations on these Butts?
  • Did they lose the indulgence of a TOL? Why?


  • Were they issued with a Passport to move temporarily to another district?
  • Why and for what reason
  • Obtain copy of the Butt

Certificate of Freedom:

  • When obtained?
  • Was it on completion of sentence or for some special assignment for the government?
  • Obtain copy of the Butt

Certificate of Exemption

  • Date?
  • With whom were they allowed to reside?
  • What was the relationship to the person they were allowed to reside?
  • Obtain Butt of Certificate of Exemption

Absolute Pardon:

  • Date received
  • Why received?
  • Recommended by ?

Conditional Pardon:

  • Date of recommendation?
  • Date of receipt?
  • Recommended by ?
  • Did he/she petition the Governor for a Pardon?

Colonial Secretary Letters:

  • Any mentions? Why? What for? Obtain copies


  • Follow through with each one available and if listed, and check under every spelling variation possible.
  • Are the children also listed?
  • Were they listed as being On/Off Stores?
  • Are they listed as having property? Stock? Grain? Number of cattle etc

Good guy/bad guy:

  • Any colonial crimes? For what? When? Where sent? Any newspaper reports?
  • Any punishments received eg lash, solitary, death by hanging.
  • Were they sent to another settlement eg Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island, VDL?
  • Did they achieve anything remarkable? Any newspaper reports? Any citation from the Governor?
  • Did they become Constables or join the Loyal Association or military?

Where born:

  • Is native place mentioned on Indent, TOL or any Pardon received
  • Country and County Birth certificate
  • Parents names
  • Siblings names
  • Did parents, siblings or cousins arrive as convicts
  • Did parents or siblings arrive as free settlers
  • Did the convict or parents or siblings petition to travel to NSW
  • What religion were they


  • Prior marriage at home.
  • Did that spouse join him/her?
  • Marriage in Australia.
  • Did he/she obtain permission?
  • Was it by Banns or Licence? When, When and by whom married.
  • Who acted as witness?
  • If both still under Bond, were they both employed by the same Master?
  • If living in a de facto relationship, why? For how long ?
  • Did the convict have multiple partners?
  • Did the husband or wife leave the marriage for any reason?
  • Petition for family to join convict?


  • Did they have children before they were transported?
  • What happened to them?
  • Children born in Australia. Name, date of birth, where born, Baptism record
  • Were they all born to the same partner?
  • Were they educated ? at home ? at school ? Sent back to the UK or elsewhere for their education?
  • Who did the children marry
  • Did the children marry someone within the same community or perhaps a child of a fellow convict ?
  • Were the children sent to an orphanage at any stage?

Land Grants & Leases:

  • Did they purchase or obtain their land through a free grant or lease ? Where, when, how?
  • Were they squatters? Where? When? Why?


  • Did they own a house? From what was is made eg stone, timber, wattle and daub, mud?
  • Location of residence / Farm
  • Does it still exist?
  • When did they live there from – to?
  • Did they move around? Why?
  • Did they own a farm? What did it produce? Who did they sell their produce to?
  • Any major setbacks? Eg. floods, drought?


  • Did they arrive with money that was deposited on arrival? How much? For how long?
  • Did they acquire a bank account when free?
  • Were they declared bankrupt?
  • Were they wealthy or poor? Why?


  • When tried When living in Australia
  • Did they have any professional training ?
  • Did they work in a trade or any specialised field ?
  • What do the various musters and census state

Home life in general:

  • Do you think they were successful?
  • What did they do for leisure?
  • Did they attend church?
  • Who were their friends?
  • Did either escape? abscond ?
  • Did they travel back to their homeland? how, when, why and if so, did they return?


  • When? Where? Why? Obtain death certificate if possible.
  • Are they recorded in the Convict Death Index?
  • Where buried? With whom? Anyone else in the grave?
  • Was there a headstone? Does it still exist?
  • Did they leave a Will? How was the property distributed & to whom
  • Is there an Obituary available
  • Did the children or parents die from any particular disease prevalent at the time?

Photographs / Portraits / Drawings:

  • Any photographs available of person? Children? House? Grave/Headstone?


  • Follow through – say each 5 or 10 years of the life of the convict
  • What was going on in the colony during each of these time periods?
  • How did the different Governors affect their lives?
  • How did other things eg weather, impact on their lives?


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