First Fleeters in your family history?

First FleetMany genealogists must have ancestors who made up the first fleet. For those who aren’t familiar with the term First Fleeter let me explain …….. The First Fleeter is the name given to the group of eleven ships which sailed to Australia in 1787. The purpose of the fleet was to establish a penal colony so that Britain could transport those who had fallen foul of the law, often the offences were minor, but that didn’t make any difference to the outcome.

The fleet consisted of two Royal Navy ships, three store vessels and six convict transporters. It is disputed exactly how many passengers were aboard the ships, but it is generally thought that about 1,500 people arrived in Australia after a long voyage. Along with the convicts there were also paying passengers who were keen to seek their fortunes on distant shores.

First Fleet database

TFirst Fleet Search resultshis University of Wollongong website offers a searchable database of the people who were part of the First Fleet. Also there are numerous links to other sites concerning these brave souls who were present at the birth of modern Australia. The search form has several options alongside the obvious surname and first name there is ship, crime, place of trial, age, sentence etc.

A good website that will enable those who know that their ancestor was a first fleeter to learn more, but will also prove to be valuable for those who have an ancestor who has mysterious disappeared from home around 1787.





Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828 – 1912

Irish Petty Sessions GenealogyFindMyPast Ireland has added to their Irish Petty Sessions Collection. This is a very interesting set of records that covers 1828 – 1912. Petty Session records can uncover all sorts of crimes that our ancestors got up to ! As the title says these are petty crimes, but crimes never the less and no doubt were taken very serious locally. As several of my ancestors were known to be a little light fingered a few hundred years ago I have got to know Petty Session records quite well and I can recommend that you run your Irish family names through this collection.

This addition to the collection covers 44 new courts in 19 counties of Irelands, a further 55 courts have beend added to with records from extra years. The new courts are from the following counties –

Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Westmeath.

Licences of Parole for Female Convicts 1853-1887

Licences of Parole for Female Convicts, 1853-1887. Gosh it’s hard to keep us with everything that is put onto the internet these days and it is easy to miss something. Today I was browsing the Ancestry Card Catalogue and found that sometime in 2010 Ancestry had put online a dataset of Licences of Parole for Female Convicts, 1853-1887.

This dataset contains the documents generated by the issuing of parole to female convicts. By being given parole the convicts were allowed to be ‘at large’, but if the authorities decided there was good reason the parole could be rescinded and the convict recalled to prison. The dataset contains some of these documents.

The records can be searched by

  • Year of the licence
  • Name
  • Estimated birth year
  • Court and year of conviction

The information that can be found varies, but can include next of kin, religion, literacy, physical description, a medical history, marital status, number of children, age, occupation, crime, sentence, dates and places of confinement, reports on behaviour while in prison, letters or notes from the convict, and (from 1871 forward) a photograph.

I did a search for Pottinger and found just one entry, the set of records for Elizabeth was 8 pages long and the information given was

Date of licence Name Age
Status Children Crime
Where and when convicted Sentence Which prison held
Literacy Occupation Next of kin
Health Previous criminal record if any Conduct
Description Conditions of parole

Elizabeth was sentenced to 3 years for fraud and was released on parole 13 days before the end of her sentence. One can only assume that they needed her bed !!

Even if you don’t have any female convicts on your family tree do go and look at some of these documents, they are just wonderful.




Founders & Survivors Tasmanian Convicts 1803 – 1920

Founders & SurvivorsA friend Cath Ferguson sent me a link to this website, Cath is an experienced local historian and I have been helping her recently with the genealogy part of two of her local history stories. I’m encouraging her to set up a blog/website because her work is amazing and deserves a much wider audience.

Anyway Cath sent me the link to and it is a gem of a site. The front page states Founders & Survivors is a partnership between historians, genealogists, demographers and population health researchers. It seeks to record and study the founding population of 73,000 men women and children who were transported to Tasmania. Many survived their convict experience and went on to help build a new society.

What more can a family historian with ancestors who were sent out to Tasmania want?!! There is a search facility and a forum and also the ability to become a volunteer for the project. I did a search for ‘my’ John Silcock from Bullington, Hampshire, this is what was found …

  • Estimated birth year & place of birth
  • Sentence, place of sentence, trial date
  • Ships name, Captain & surgeon, port of departure, duration of voyage, arrival date
  • Gaol & Hulk reports, offence details
  • Physical description, marital status
  • Muster dates, Ticket of leave date

There will be many researchers who will wonder if any of their ancestors got a free passage to Tasmania because of some misdemeanor and this site is the place to find out.

Criminal Records 1817 – 1931

Criminal Records 1817 - 1931

FindMyPast has just released a new collection of criminal records 1817 – 1931, additional records will be added in the coming months to make the complete dataset 1770 – 1934.

The original records are kept at The National Archives and among the records which will be available online today are:

  • Admiralty registers of convicts in prison hulks between 1818-1831 (ADM 6)
  • After trial calendars of prisoners from the Central criminal court between 1855-1931 (CRIM 9)
  • Calendar of Prisoners in Home Office records 1868-1929 (HO 140)
  • Criminal petitions 1817-1858 (HO 17)
  • Metropolitan Police records of habitual drunkards for the period 1903-1914 (MEPO 6)
  • Prison Commission records for 1880-1885 (PCOM 2)

A search for Henry Matkin gave the following details

Number 72
Name Henry Matkin (indicted with No. 41 in the Calendar)
Age 28
Trade Glazier
Degree of Instruction Imp.
Name & Address of Committing Magistrate J Vaughan Esq. Bow Street Court
Date of Warrant 5 May 1885
When received into Custody 13 May 1885
Offence Assaulting Joseph Payne, a police constable acting in the execution of his duty
Before whom tried J D Fletcher Esq.
Verdict of Jury Not guilty
Previous Convictions —–
Sentence or Order of Court —–

Depending on which type of record you get come up in a search depends on the information given. Some records have accompanying photographs of the accused, sadly there was no such photo of Henry (he is one of my ancestors).

A very interesting set of records to have at our fingertips especially for those who like me have more than their fair share of criminal ancestors!