Thursday, July 26, 2007

Records of transported convicts published online

According to an article published on VNUNet.com, entitled, "Records of transported convicts published online," the records of around 160,000 deportees sent to Australia have been placed on the Ancestry.co.uk web site. The transportation records date from 1788 to 1868 and include all but a few thousand of the 163,021 convicts who were sent to Australia. Information contained in the records includes name, date and place of conviction, length of sentence, name of ship, departure date and the colony to which they were sent. Additional information in some cases includes occupation, marital status, religion and the date on which freedom was finally granted. Josh Hanna, a spokesman for Ancestry.co.uk, estimated that more than two million Britons are directly descended from the deportees, meaning that there is a one in 30 chance of Britons having a convict ancestor listed among the records.

A related article in Scotsman, "No mercy shown in the prison ships era," provides insight into the those who became prisoners, often as mere children, "poverty struck young servants who dared to steal a trinket from their wealthy masters' family silver, desperate men who snared livestock to feed their families, young husbands banished for years and leaving behind penniless wives, middle-aged women torn from their children and those who would today be classed as pensioners. All were condemned to a journey in conditions so harsh it would claim many lives." Many such prisoners were shipped to the U.S., as well.

The article adds: Criminal records - dating from 1800 to 1994 and including those of people transported to the penal colonies - are held at the National Archives of Scotland, West Register House, Charlotte Square. Online searches at www.nas.gov.uk, or go to www.ancestry.co.uk.

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