Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONVICT ANCESTORS -

Few con­victs served out their full sen­tences. Good be­hav­iour could be re­warded with a ticket of leave, al­low­ing the per­son to live and work close to their colony un­til their sen­tence had ex­pired. Cer­tifi­cates of Free­dom, in­tro­duced in 1810, were is­sued as proof that a con­vict had com­pleted their sen­tence. Con­di­tional par­dons granted free­dom to live as an ex­ile on the con­di­tion that they didn’t re­turn to Bri­tain. An ab­so­lute par­don meant they could re­turn home if they wished, and their sen­tence was to­tally cleared. Copies of th­ese doc­u­ments may be found in the state ar­chives where your an­ces­tor was last held. The Tas­ma­nian Con­vict Muster Roll of 1849, held at the Tas­ma­nian Ar­chives, recorded John Reid as a free man. Many of the sources de­scribed at www.whodoy­ou­thinky­ouaremagazine. com/tu­to­ri­als/over­seas/aus­tralianances­tors can be used to track what hap­pened to freed con­victs if they re­mained liv­ing in Aus­tralia.

The re­turn pas­sage to Bri­tain was too ex­pen­sive for most peo­ple, if in­deed they were al­lowed to re­turn, so many built new lives as re­spectable cit­i­zens in Aus­tralia. Over half the pop­u­la­tion had a crim­i­nal past in the mid-19th cen­tury, so ex- cons were not stig­ma­tised in the way they might have been at home.

Find­my­past holds the New South Wales, Cer­tifi­cates of Free­dom 18271867 ( and Aus­tralia Con­vict Con­di­tional and Ab­so­lute Par­dons 1791-1867 (, plus other re­lated records. Ances­try’s Aus­tralian Con­vict Col­lec­tion in­cludes par­dons, cer­tifi­cates of free­dom and tick­ets of leave among other records. For a round-up, go to: search.ances­­con­victs.

Cer­tifi­cates Cer­ti­fifi­cates of Free­dom were proof that a con­vict had com­pleted their sen­tence

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