Was your ancestor transported?
From the early 1600s transportation was used as a means of punishment, with the shipping of convicts originally from the British Isles to the West Indies and America. In the late-18th and 19th centuries, overcrowding in British prisons led to the reintroduction of transportation, with the first prisoners travelling on the First Fleet of Convicts to Australia in 1787. Some 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia between 1787 and 1867, including during the Swing Riots of 1830-1831. Prisoners awaiting transportation were housed in prison hulks, which were decommissioned wooden ships initially moored in the River Thames. Transportation was largely replaced by penal servitude in 1853 and it ended completely in 1868.
The National Archives holds the transportation records, including quarterly returns of convicts in prisons and prison hulks in HO 8 (1802-1876), prison hulk registers and letter books in HO 9 (1802-1849) and registers of convicts on prison hulks in ADM 6 (1818-1831). Records in HO 10 include material about convicts’ pardons and tickets of leave from New South Wales and Tasmania (1834-1859), while HO 11 holds the Convict Transportation Registers. You can download both series for free using TNA’s Discovery catalogue at discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk.
TNA series HO 9 (1802-1849) can be accessed via ancestry.co.uk, and HO 8 (1824-1854) and ADM 6 (1818-1831) through findmypast.co.uk. TheGenealogist.co.uk also has the Convict Transportation Registers for 1787-1867.
There are many websites devoted to transportation records. A good place to start is the Convicts to Australia website at members. iinet.net.au/~perthdps/convicts. The State Library of Queensland has a searchable convict database at slq.qld.gov.au/resources/ family-history/convicts.
A farmer explains his act of arson to a clergyman during the Swing Riots