Archives for January 2010

Australian Convict Records now online


Press Release from……….

New Convict Records Now Online Enable 2m Brits to Trace Aussie Ancestors From Arrest to Release

Largest online collection of criminal and convict records – 2.3 Million – FREE to search from the 24-30 January
  • Records detail convicts transported to Australia and pardoned for their crimes
  • Over two million living Brits have convict ancestors1
  • Convict Registers of Conditional and Absolute Pardons and Certificates of Freedom ‘complete’ convict journey, the UK’s Number One family history website2, today launched online the Convict Registers of Conditional and Absolute Pardons, 1791-1846 and the New South Wales Certificates of Freedom, 1827-1867, which ‘completes’ the journey from arrest to release of almost one third of all convicts transported to Australia.

These two important collections bring the total of criminal and convict records available in’s Australian Convicts Collection to more than 2.3 million, making it the most comprehensive online convict resource. estimates that more than two million Britons are descended from convicts, meaning that there is a one in 30 chance that they will have ancestor included in the records.

To celebrate this milestone four-year project, the 15 collections which comprise the Australian Convicts Collection will be available for FREE on for seven days from Sunday the 24th of January3.

The Convict Registers of Conditional and Absolute Pardons, 1791-1846, contain details of more than 21,000 pardons granted to convicts transported to New South Wales. A conditional pardon entitled a convict to their freedom but not to return home, while an absolute pardon gave them full citizen rights, in and out of the colony.

The New South Wales Certificates of Freedom, 1827-1867, contain details of more than 34,000 certificates granted to those who had completed a fixed seven, 10 or 14 year term. Convicts with a life sentence could receive a pardon but not a certificate.

Other collections FREE to search from January 24th include England and Wales Criminal Registers, the Convict Transportation Registers, Convict Muster Rolls, Convict Applications to Marry, Convict Death Registers, and a variety of other record sets documenting the trial, journey, working life, release and death of the majority of convicts transported.

English criminal and Australian convict records are a cornerstone for UK researchers with Australian ancestors and contain a variety of personal information such as name, date and place of conviction, crime and trial details, term of sentence, name of ship, departure date and colony to which convicts were sent.

Also included can be occupation, a physical description and the convict’s religion – and most records are fully searchable and include links to original document images.

Between 1788 and 1842 more than 80,000 convicts were transported just to New South Wales4, which became a British colony after it was discovered in 1770 by Captain James Cook.

Australia became the most convenient location to transport the many convicts who could no longer fit into Britain’s overcrowded prisons following the American Revolution in 1776, which made transportation there impossible. In 1787, the first 11 ships carrying convicts to Australia – known as The First Fleet – set sail for New South Wales, arriving eight months later.

Among the thousands of convicts detailed in the collection are a number of famous names and infamous criminals, including:

  • Israel Chapman – Also known as the ‘George Street Runner’, Chapman was convicted of highway robbery and transported to Australia in 1818. After receiving a conditional pardon he became one of New South Wales’ first police detectives and earned an absolute pardon six years later in recognition of his services.
  • George Barrington – Also known as the ‘Prince of Pickpockets’, Barrington was a gentleman thief transported to New South Wales in 1790. Famed for attempting to escape his arrest disguised in his wife’s clothes, he helped quell a mutiny during the voyage, resulting in a conditional pardon in 1792 and an absolute pardon in 1796.
  • Joseph Backler – Backler was a British artist who was sentenced to death for forging cheques in 1831, though his conviction was commuted to transportation. He continued to paint after receiving a conditional pardon in 1847, and today is regarded as the most prolific oil painter of early colonial Australia.

Study of the records reveals a number of significant increases in convict transportations linked to key events in British history. For example, the number transportations rose dramatically between 1845 and 1847 as the Great Famine ravaged Ireland and left thousands starving.

The famine catalyzed Irish immigration to England, but extreme poverty forced many new arrivals to turn to crime; and many were subsequently transported to Australia.

An estimated 90 per cent of all convicts appear in the England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, which includes all 1.4 million criminal trials which took place in England and Wales from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries and is included in this promotion. International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “The new convict records now online will finally enable up to two million Brits to trace the full journey of their convict ancestor from arrest to release.

“While Australia’s convict history itself has been well documented, there are thousands of individual stories in the collection just waiting to be told.”

To search the world’s largest online collection of convict records FREE this Australia Day, log onto

1 163,021 convicts were deported between 1787 and 1867, with the midpoint and peak of deportation being the early to mid 1830s. The average convict had five siblings meaning convicts left behind 800,000 brothers and sisters. The population at this time stood at approximately 15,700,000, meaning relatives of convicts made up around 5.1 per cent of the population. Taking into account emigration and migration since the end of convict deportation, this sample of 800,000 people will have grown into a population of around two million (1.95 million) or 3.33 per cent of the current population (one in 30). This is a broad estimate. Sources include ONS trends data, Papers of the Royal Commission on Population, and the 1841-1901 Censuses
2 Based on market share of visits among UK websites in the Hitwise Lifestyle – Family Industry, January-June 2009
3 Access to the convict records will be free from 24th until 30th January 2010 (GMT)
4 Figures from the New South Wales Government –

Auckland New Zealand online resources


Auckland City libraries have a digital library on their website. There are several unique databases available such as passenger lists, police census, cemetery indexes and 30,000+ images from the photographic collection. A must see for those with NZ ancestors.

Forest of Dean Family History Pages


clip_image002Oh….I want some ancestors from the Forest of Dean so that I can use this wonderful web site!!! 

90% of the parish registers and non conformist registers have been transcribed and are online, plus they have transcripts of parishes bordering on the Forest of Dean. There are photos, emigration lists, maps, articles and much, much more.

Congratulations to David Watkins on a magnificent site.

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When is a relation not a relation?


I have my family tree on as well as keeping it on my home computer using Family Tree Maker. The trees on Ancestry are arranged so that I have 4 trees, one for each grandparent and I have opted to keep the trees accessible to guests only. That means that if anyone does a search for one of the names on my tree they will be informed they need to email me via Ancestry for further information. I like doing it this way as it means I get contact with fellow researchers rather than them just going in and grabbing my research and wandering off into the sunset!

I have made several very useful contacts this way and we have exchanged information to everyone’s benefit. I allow these people access to my trees and they can then take whatever research is missing from their own trees. I must say the odd time I have got an email along the lines of “I want all your research” without any indication of what their connection is with my families tend to get deleted without replying, so Mr. B from New York that is why you haven’t heard from me!

Just lately I have had a couple of emails which asked for information and the connection between their family trees and mine is that one of their ancestors siblings married one of my ancestors siblings so there was no blood connection. With the advent of so much information available online, particularly the GRO indexes and census, it has become relatively easy to research family members back in time, forward and sideways. We can now gather up siblings and cousins of all degrees removed and place them on our family histories, but when does adding a person and their extended family to your family tree become irrelevant?

In my opinion the point when you should stop adding in names is when that person isn’t a blood relation to you. On Family Tree Maker the programme has a facility to calculate the relationship of an individual to the “Home Person” which in most cases will be you. I am sure other genealogy programmes have similar facilities and the use of this will stop you adding hundreds if not thousands of people to your family tree that bear no relationship to yourself. The obvious exception is one name studies or parish reconstruction when everyone sharing the surname or living in the particular parish are of interest.

This is just my opinion and of course genealogy is done for the pleasure and enjoyment it give to us so if you want to go ahead and add the pedigree of your 5th cousin 10 time removed wife’s sister husband then who am I to stop you!

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Consolidation & New Year Resolutions



In the ‘old days’ of genealogy progress from one generation to the next was a slow business. Letters were written and daily hopes of a reply were dashed until finally a reply was received which either told you that nothing had been found or something had been found in a dusty old register, but it produced one answer along with five further questions. A day spent at a record office or Somerset House was dreamed of and planned weeks sometimes months in advance and was the highlight of the genealogist’s year.

How things have changed, now most of us sit at home, log onto or some such website and away we go. Ancestral information tumbles out of our printers, stores itself onto our hard drives and collates itself onto our family trees. Regular additions to the websites databases satisfies our hunger for more, but not for long. Give us the 1901 census and we want the 1911, give us the 1911 and we want the 1939 registration information. We want more and what’s more we want it NOW!

However having more and having it now isn’t always a good thing, How many of us have acquired screeds of printouts, discs of information and family trees of names, but not actually put the whole things together to tell the story of our ancestors? The reasons for doing genealogy are as varied as the people who indulge in it, but a common thread that runs through the reasons is that we want to find out the story of our ancestors. Who were they, what did they do, why did they do it and what was going on around them whilst they did whatever they were doing!

To achieve this the family historian has to take the time to look at what she/he has and to appraise, confirm and consolidate everything that she/he knows about that particular ancestor. So this year I have resolved to spend as much time consolidating my research as I spend on chasing more information and more ancestors. I shall work family by family and check that my information has been sourced, that my notes make sense, that all the different bits of information are pulled together and that the links from one generation to another are solid. I want to hand onto my descendants a family history that they are proud of and not one that is so shambolic that it gets consigned to the bonfire.

What about you, are you handing on to your children files and boxes of disconnected information or a genealogy that will stand the test of time?