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Government Prisons Office Papers

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From 1850 the government office responsible for the management of convicts was known as the Government Prisons Office (GPO). The records of this office, like the CSO, include incoming correspondence and a series of bound annual volumes in which the details were recorded and which, like the CSO RP, act as finding aids to the papers themselves. Like the earlier CSO RP between 1818 and 1839, described above, the papers are simply indexed and the volumes act as annual indexes to the incoming papers.

The volumes are divided into subject matter cuts generally by name of convict prison or by the department within the civil service with which the GPO dealt. To call up a document in this series for consultation in the Reading Room, the reader must prefix the reference number with the letters GPO. When citing documents from this series in theses or publications, the author must prefix the reference number with the letters NAI, GPO.

The relevant volumes for research into transportation on open access in the Reading Room are as follows:

  • GPO CR 1 1850

  • GPO CR 2 1851-1852

  • GPO CR 3 1853

As in the other series, health is the predominant subject. The surgeon superintendent, when rejecting forty out of 225 females for embarkation on medical grounds in 1851, stated that the interests of the colony induced him to select carefully the young and healthy (NAI, GPO/1851/1215). Religion is another recurring subject revealing, in these later years, a belief held by some convicts that they could gain certain advantages by changing their religion. In June 1852, an enquiry was held into the case of a Protestant convict who wished to become a Roman Catholic.

She had heard that the Roman Catholic women were being allowed to bring all their children out with them to Van Diemen's Land. She had no doubts of the truth of her Protestantism, stating that if she could get her child out to Van Diemen's Land with her she would turn a Roman Catholic, I would have turned before if I had thought I could get my child out.

Hitchins refused her request because of her motive and because there was not enough time to comply with the regulations governing changes of religion. It transpired at the investigation that the woman had already been baptised by the Catholic chaplain and had attended mass. The rule however, stated that she must wait for two or three weeks before changing, which she had not done. Delia Lidwill, then deputy matron at Grangegorman, who had been present at the baptism, was punished by having her salary for the following year reduced from 60 to 50 (NAI, GPO/1853/Government 184).

There are also GPO letter books containing copies of outgoing correspondence replies and of other communications. The relevant volumes are as follows:

  • GPO LB 1 21 May 1846-3 August 1849

  • GPO LB 2 27 January 1849-20 December 1852

  • GPO LB 3 8 January 1853-30 January 1854

  • GPO LB 11 6 July 1846-10 January 1849

  • GPO LB 12 7 July 1849-14 December 1851

  • Irish Archives

    The following pages are an online version of the article, Sources in the National Archives for research into the transportation of Irish convicts to Australia (1791-1853) by Rena Lohan. The complete printed version with illustrative examples of the document types mentioned, appears in Irish Archives, the Journal of the Irish Society for Archives, Spring 1996.

    A large amount of related material may also be found in Sources in the National Archives for researching the Great Famine