Penal transportation records: Ireland to Australia, 1788–1868
Irish archives are a major source for Australians researching Irish convict ancestors, despite the fact that not all records from the Chief Secretary’s Office in Dublin Castle survive, especially from the period before 1836. Penal transportation to Australia, and later to Bermuda and Gibraltar, covered the years 1791 until 1853, when the sentence of penal transportation was commuted to a prison sentence in Ireland.
The National Archives holds a wide range of records relating to the transportation of convicts from Ireland to Australia covering the period 1788 to 1868, which are available on a the Transportation database. In some cases, these include records of members of convicts’ families transported as free settlers. While the collection of convict petitions dates from the beginning of transportation from Ireland to Australia in 1791, all transportation registers compiled before 1836 were destroyed in 1922. Therefore, if the person you are researching was convicted before 1836, but was not the subject of a petition, he or she will not appear on this database as the records from which the transportation database was compiled are incomplete. A successful search in the records may produce not just a bald official summary, but perhaps one of the thousands of petitions submitted by, or on behalf, of prisoners. The records relating to transported convicts comprise:
- Transportation Registers, 1836–1857;
- Prisoners’ Petitions and Cases, 1788–1836;
- State Prisoners’ Petitions, 1798–1799;
- Convict Reference Files, 1836–1856 : 1865–1868;
- Free Settlers’ Papers, 1828–1852; (f) Male Convict Register, 1842–1847;
- Register of Convicts on Convict Ships, 1851–1853.
The database index of transportation records is designed to be searched by surname, but may also be searched under place of trial, crime or date. Microfilms containing full copies of the records are available in the Reading Room and the index and microfilms are also available in state libraries in Australia. If the search of the transportation database and the microfilms has been successful there may be enough information to pursue the search in other National Archives’ sources, including the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers, which includes Outrage Reports, or in newspapers held in the National Library of Ireland.
Further information on Transportation records and the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers can be found in Research guides & sources.