CON­VICTS IN AUS­TRALIA

Laura Berry looks at the records avail­able for re­search­ing the life of a con­vict af­ter their trans­porta­tion

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FROM THE SHOW - Laura Berry

In 1787, the Bri­tish govern­ment shipped the first fleet of con­victs to Aus­tralia’s east coast, iden­ti­fied by Cap­tain James Cook as suit­able for habi­ta­tion in 1770. Hun­dreds of pris­on­ers, guards and mariners landed at Port Jack­son in Jan­uary 1788, be­com­ing the first Euro­peans to set­tle in Aus­tralia. Al­though the ter­rain was much harsher than had been ex­pected, they quickly set to work build­ing the first camp at Syd­ney Cove, New South Wales. Two more fleets ar­rived in 1790 and 1791, and by the time trans­porta­tion came to an end in 1868, more than 162,000 men, women and chil­dren had been forcibly sent Down Un­der.

In 1803-1804, the Bri­tish took a party of con­victs to build pe­nal colonies on an is­land off Aus­tralia’s south-east coast, named Van Diemen’s Land by Dutch ex­plor­ers (later known as Tas­ma­nia). It was here that ac­tress Anne Reid’s an­ces­tor John Reid was sent for com­mit­ting forgery. In the early 19th cen­tury camps were also raised in Queens­land and later in Western Aus­tralia and Nor­folk Is­land.

The lo­ca­tion of any sur­viv­ing records chart­ing the lives of con­vict an­ces­tors in Aus­tralia largely de­pends on where they were sent, and, as Anne Reid dis­cov­ered, con­victs in the mid-19th cen­tu­ryy were treated quite dif­fer­ently to the early trans­portees. rtees.

Anne Reid’s an­ces­tor John Reid

was sent to Tas­ma­nia on a con­vict ship af­ter com­mit­ting

forgery

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