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 ( bit.ly/1KbRC8L) and Australia Convict Conditional and Absolute Pardons 1791-1867 ( bit.ly/1NjyDKb), 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.ancestry.co.uk/search/group/auconvicts.
Certificates Certifificates of Freedom were proof that a convict had completed their sentence