Australian Transport Records - National Library of Ireland 1791-1853
NOTE: This index is available to paid subscribers only. Results are immediately available, and DO NOT count toward weekly page limits.
UPDATE: The links on these pages no longer work, if you find a name listed, copy it and search at the National Archives of Ireland.
Full Name Index, Alphabetical:
These records are derived from various lists of Irish prisoners sentenced to transportation to Australia. It is a common misconception that these records are of value only to those with Irish ancestors in Australia -- nothing could be further from the truth. For many of the convicts listed, transportation was commuted to imprisonment or even voluntary exile to America. Also, many records include information about persons other than the transportee, including family members, crime victims, witnesses, petioners, character references, etc. Of the convicts who did get transported, many served their time then emigrated to America.
For example, here is part of one record:
Even if the convict had been transported to Australia, such records clearly include clues of value to researchers who may descend from one of his brothers or sisters, such as the exact location of their ancestral home.
There are more than 37,000 records in the Transport database, representing 21,029 different names. There are often several records for one person, but it also occurred that more than one person of a common name might be included, so it is impossible to tell exactly how many individuals are represented. We went through the records and extracted out persons other than the convict that were mentioned in the records, adding another 2,131 distinct names. Because many of the people mentioned were relatives of the convicts with the same names, and due to the occurance of multiple convicts with the same names, we believe the 23,160 names in our index probably represent about 30,000 individuals. About 1/3 of these persons never went to Australia.
Many of these records stem from 'petitions' and name the petioner(s). Petitions can represent either side in the court case -- the majority are in support of the prisoner, recommending leniency or requesting permission for family members to join the convict in exile. Other petitions were presented by the victims or officials who tried the case, and may warn against allowing the convict bail or any sort of leniency.
The crimes for which people were transported are diverse, but include some amazingly minor offenses, such as stealing a handkerchief or ribbon. Stealing food to prevent one's family from starving was apparently no incentive to leniency. Several of the records refer to prisoners being executed, so it is not only transportees who are listed. Others died in prison before they could be shipped off.
It was a common practice for women convicts to take their children with them. For a time, male prisoners -- including those already in Australia -- were allowed to bring family members out to join them for free. Many of the petitions are from wives asking to be allowed to join their husbands. Most of these refer to the woman's maiden name, so we have added them to the index both under their maiden name and with the maiden and married names both shown, such as Margaret Brown Cagney, where 'Brown' is the maiden name.
There are several reasons why an index is preferable to using a search engine to find individuals. These records include numerous typographical errors, and several mis-readings of the orignal script. Those are apparent in an index, but may be missed entirely when relying solely on a search engine. If I were looking for Catherine Hagerty McGill, for example, I'd be unlikely to enter 'MC GUIL, CATHERINE EUGERTY' in a search engine, but that is how the listing appears in this database.
Everyone with Irish ancestry should check this database. You needn't have a criminal ancestor to have someone listed here!
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