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 –

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