Electronic Gadgets Part 2

The story so far: I want to reduce the number of electronic gadgets I carry around with me on genealogy research trips. Instead of carrying a mobile phone, a PDA, a digital camera and an MP3 player, I’d like to carry something that combines at least 2 or 3 of these functions.

Well, I’ve got a new phone. It’s a Nokia E65 that I’ve bought as part of my new contract with Vodafone. I use Vodafone because it gives me reception in my house, which is down in a valley which other networks don’t reach. It has PDA functions, an MP3 player, and a digital camera. It’s my favourite toy!

The phone has enough PDA functions to make me happy, many of which I am still learning about. I can download my calendar appointments, to-do list and notes from MS Outlook, update them when they’re done and upload them back to my laptop. Of course, I can’t get Gedstar Pro to work on it, but I will be looking at creating reports in my family history software, The Master Genealogist (TMG) or creating HTML pages using Second Site to download to my phone, so that I have the relevant facts and dates with me if I need them.

The MP3 player has already proved itself useful on the train. The phone came with a 256MB microSD card, onto which I downloaded some music and some podcasts. I listened to a very interesting lecture about Oliver Cromwell from The National Archives on the way home from the city on the train. I bought I bigger card, 2GB, on eBay so that I can get more music and podcasts on there without having to replace them too often.

The camera is useless for real genealogy work; there would be no point trying to use it to photograph documents out at the State Records Reading Room in Western Sydney. It says it can manage 2 megapixels but it is only good for happy snaps of family and friends. It is very good at that, though! They just can’t be enlarged to full-screen size on the laptop without looking very grainy. So the real digital camera will be accompanying me on research trips. There were very expensive phones with 5 megapixel cameras, and I test-drove one that I think had a 3.2 megapixels on a brochure in the shop and it was unreadable.

So that’s a maximum of two gadgets I have to carry – the phone and the camera. Not bad. Plus I have the added convenience of having music and podcasts, and my calendar and other information, with me all the time even if I haven’t thought I would need the PDA or the MP3 player, because I always carry my phone.

I’m very happy with my new phone! I just need to get my family tree on it now. Stay tuned!

Electronic gadgets

I’ve been considering the gadgets I carry around with me that have been proliferating over the years. They are all very useful, even indispensable, but they do contribute rather heavily to the weight in my bag. How many of these do you have?


Of course, I have a mobile phone, as so many of us do. That’s where it all started, I guess. I think this is the 4th one I’ve had over the years, or perhaps the 5th. The phones get smaller but I think they are probably now as small as they can be while still being usable by human fingers – there’s a lot of sliding and folding in phones these days. A mobile phone is essential these days for being picked up from the train station or meeting others in crowded places, among many other functions.


I could write a whole blog just on PDAs, for genealogy and for other things! They are little computers in their own right, and can carry your family tree around with you in a little metal box instead of a folder or 10 of reports and charts. Your calendar, address book, research notes, and even games can all be conveniently carried. Add a portable keyboard and you can type lecture notes and upload them to your PC. You can also record interviews on many of them.

Digital camera

Who would have thought that the simple change from film to digital would make such a difference! We can now take photos in libraries and archives without using a flash, and we can check them to see if they are in focus before moving on to the next one.

MP3 player

Not really necessary for genealogy, I admit, but very useful for long dull train trips. I bought one that would fit my whole music collection – classical, rock, Latin American – and I find that what I use it for most is podcasts – downloaded radio programs. There are some genealogy-related ones – the one from the The National Archives is always interesting. I often listen to Richard Fidler’s Converation Hour from ABC Sydney, and even James Valentine’s Form Guide when I want something light. I can also record interviews with it and upload them back to my laptop.

All these bits and pieces need to be recharged and synchronised with my laptop. I have a line of little cradles on my desk with cables hanging out everywhere – for the PDA and the MP3 player, and chargers for the phone and the camera. It is all getting very complicated, and quite heavy to carry them all around, so I am looking at consolidating a few of the functions performed by these separate gadgets into one. My mobile phone needs replacing and so I’m looking at so-called smartphones – a phone with bells and whistles such as an MP3 player, camera and some PDA functions.

Some of these look more like chunky PDAs with full keypads, and that’s not what I’m after. I just want one that looks like a phone, isn’t too big and heavy, and does a lot more than my current phone does. So that’s what I’m shopping for, as part of my quest to find a reasonable phone contract with a network that gives reception in the valley where my house is.

I’ll let you know how I go.

Convict numbers

ball_and_chain 300x225I’ve been reading a classic book on the transportation of convicts to Australia called Convicts and the Colonies by A.G.L. Shaw (Melbourne University Press, 1977), who was Professor of History at Monash University in Melbourne. I’d like to share some numbers with you.

Numbers of convicts transported

From May 1787 to March 1792 4077 males and 769 females were transported from England, an average total of about 1000 per year. The transportation process was interrupted during the Napoleonic Wars, as convict labour was needed in the dockyards and in the services. Only 5263 males and 1810 females sent between 1793 and 1810, an annual average of only 292 men and 100 women over 18 years.

From 1811 to 1815 tranportation steadily rose but only after the end of the Wars in 1815 did the crime rate increased and the transportation rate likewise was increased. From 1816 to 1825 the annual average was 2600 per year. In 1827 the new Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, reformed the penal laws and as a result the annual average rose to 4160 per year due to more police and changes in punishments for different crimes.


The most popular transportation sentence was for 7 years, applying to over half of all those transported. “A quarter were sentenced for life, but the proportion of lifers alowly declined as time went on. Nearly all the remainder received fourteen years until 1840; after that ten-year sentences became fairly common.” (p. 149)

Before 1818 only a third of those sentenced or respited from a death sentence to transportation were actually put on a transport ship; the rest got no further than the hulks – old, unseaworthy ships acting as prisons. In the 1820s at least two-thirds were actually transported; about three-quarters declining to two-thirds in the 1830s; and back to three-quarters in the early 1840s. “Lifers” were usually sent, as were most prisoners in their twenties. In general the old and the sick were not, although there were exceptions.


So many crimes carried a sentence of death or transportation in those days that once one crime was proven at trial there was no real need to prove any others. So although the convict may have been “known” to local authorities and suspected of a great many crimes, only one, perhaps the easiest to prove, was needed to send him or her away. A bad reputation could result in a harsher punishment. Estimates have been made by Shaw and others that show that approximately two-thirds of convicts had had previous convictions. Before 1840 most first-offenders were sent to New South Wales with the more hardened criminals being sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

Most transported convicts came from the cities – London and Middlesex, and the industrial towns in Lancashire. The most common crime by far was larceny. A disproportionate share of first offenders came from these large cities, as an attempt to discourage this type of crime. Many rural offenders were convicted of poaching – not from threat of starvation, but well-equipped organised poaching for profit. They were often guilty, or suspected, of violence or other types of crimes such as “making free with their neighbours’ property” (p. 158). Only about 300 convicted poachers were transported during the whole period of transportation. A third of transported convicts tried in rural counties were born elsewhere, indicating a high level of wandering.

Fewer than a thousand transported convicts from England were political prisoners, including trade unionists and rioting agricultural labourers.


About one-sixth of transported convicts were women. Predominantly single, from the cities, especially London and in Lancashire, and on average three years older than the men. Two-thirds were found “guilty of larceny or stealing wearing apparel” (p. 164). It is difficult to know how many were actually prostitutes, although it must be remembered that contemporary attitudes branded almost any woman a prostitute who did not conform to the strict moral standards of the day.

The Scots

“Per head of population, the Scottish rate of transportation was less than a quarter that of England between 1810 and 1821, and only about two-fifths after 1830; as a result Scottish criminals were far less common in Australia than English or Irish…” (p. 165). 85 per cent were sentenced for theft of some kind, but were, in general, more serious offenders. The Scots were first sent to the hulks at Portsmouth or Woolwich, and from there were sent together with the English to Australia.

The Irish

The Irish convicts are given a whole chapter in Shaw’s book. I will only give a few details. Nearly 30,000 men and 9000 women were transported directly from Ireland, about a quarter of the total numbers. In general they were two years older than British convicts; more were married; less were juveniles; and far more were from the country rather than the cities. Far more were first offenders except for those from Dublin and Cork. Probably one-fifth were nationalists and social rebels fighting against English domination. In addition about 6000 had settled in England and been convicted of similar crimes to the native English offenders – namely larceny.

That’s enough for today. I highly recommend this book to you if you want to know more about the convict system in NSW.

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