Convicts in NSW – an overview of available records Part 3

ball_and_chain 300x225This is the final part of my brief overview of the available convict records in NSW. It has been necessarily brief and simplified – a whole book could be written on this topic, and State Records already has done; see Sources below. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in NSW convict research.

Permission to Marry

Marriage was seen as an indulgence for convicts still serving their sentence, and permission had to be sought from the Governor if one or both parties were still serving their sentences. Marriage usually meant better living and working conditions for the convict. Permission was not always granted. If granted and the spouse was free, the convict may then be assigned to the spouse.

The record of the marriage itself can usually be found in parish and civil registers with the statement “married with permission of the Governor”. Records of requests for permission to marry and the granting or refusal of that permission are available in most cases in NSW. Indexes for the Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence are available on the State Records New South Wales website; and from 1826 to 1851 on a CD – Convicts Permissions to Marry 1826-1851, Lesley Uebel, published by the author, 2000, which is in some libraries and can be purchased here. The correspondence and registers themselves are available on microfilm to 1825 and at the State Records NSW Western Sydney Records Centre after 1825.

Families

 

Convicts could apply to have their families brought out at the expense of the government, and had to show that they could support their families. A minimum of a ticket of leave was required to be able to support a family, as a ticket of leave meant that the convict could work for themselves instead of someone else. There is no specific index for these records, but a general search for correspondence to the Colonial Secretary to 1825 on the State Records New South Wales website will turn up any relevant documents. Correspondence after 1825 has been indexed on microfiche by Joan Reese, Index to Convicts and Others Extracted from the Colonial Secretary’s In Letters at the Archives Office of New South Wales, W & F Pascoe, Balgowlah NSW, 1994-2001, which is available in the State Records Reading Rooms and some libraries.

A Register of Applications for Passages to the Colonies for Convicts’ Families 1848-1873 has been microfilmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, where British records pertaining to Australia and New Zealand have been progressively microfilmed and distributed.

State Records NSW Wives and Families of Convicts on Bounty Ships 1849-1855 is available on microfiche and lists the families on the ships they arrived on.

Punishment

A convict who committed a crime in the Colony was punished, and there were many ways of doing this, from revoking a ticket of leave, to transportation to Norfolk Island or Van Dieman’s Land.

Records of the trial in front of a magistrate or Quarter Sessions court can give interesting information on the accused and accuser, and the nature of the offence. The Bench of Magistrates heard civil and lesser criminal charges, as well as issuing publicans licenses, appointing constables, etc. An index to the Bench of Magistrates cases 1788-1820 shows all cases heard and is being progressively updated. The actual records from the various benches around the state have been microfilmed and are available at State Records NSW.

Quarter Sessions cases (for more serious crimes) from 1824-1837 have been indexed and the index is available online at the State Records New South Wales website. indexes for Colonial Secretary’s correspondence mentioned above should also be checked. Some records have been microfilmed, and the others are available at the Western Sydney Records Centre. The depositions of the accused and witnesses are often included in the papers.

Gaol records may also be available. Sydney Gaol was replaced in 1841 by Darlinghurst Gaol, and Parramatta Gaol, destroyed by fire in 1799, was rebuilt in 1802 and rebuilt again by 1842. Records include entrance books, description books, discharge books, daily occurance books, weekly and monthly statements and returns, and contain information such as physical description, crime, sentence, discharge details. These, too, are available at State Records, and the indexes mentioned above should be checked.

And then there are the penal settlements, where misbehaving convicts were sent for most punishment short of execution. Norfolk Island, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Cockatoo Island were used in turn, as well as Moreton Bay and Van Diemen’s Land. Indexes to Colonial Secretary’s correspondence can give names of convicts moved to penal settlements.

Sources

State Records New South Wales, Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to Convicts and Convict Administration. Sydney: State Records Authority of New South Wales, 2006.

Cora Num, Convict Records in Australia. ACT:Â Cora Num, 2003.

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