Discover more about your criminal ancestor sent to Tasmania, or as it was originally called Van Diemen’s Land, between 1800 and 1893.
This collection of convict records comprises several different record types; a full list is provided below under Discover more about these records. Depending on the type of record, transcripts may provide you with a combination of the following information:
Year – transit year(s)
Document ref - includes any/all descriptions for the images where your ancestor is found. Please note that in some cases, we do not have all or any of the images for a given entry.
Images may be able to provide you with additional information. Depending on the type of register or book your ancestor’s name is found in, you may learn details regarding their physical appearance and occupation. Description lists, for example, provide great detail into your ancestor’s physical description. Other records will include details about when and where your ancestor was convicted and the sentence given. Certain registers provide details about marital status, children, religion, and literacy.
In cases where multiple images related to your ancestor are found, we have included them in the image results. Use the next arrow on the right-hand side of the image viewer to browse all related images.
Tasmania, then part of New South Wales, was originally set up as a penal colony in 1803 by the British Empire. It was then called Van Diemen’s Land and it is estimated that some 75,000 convicts were shipped there up until 1853 when transportation ended. In 1856, following the passing of their constitution the year prior, the name was changed to Tasmania.
The influx of convicts created a very cheap labor pool, which was attractive to wealthy free settlers who came in droves during the 1820s. By 1830, Van Diemen’s Land was home to one-third of Australia’s total non-Indigenous population.
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO) has provided this collection. The series included in this collection are as follows, with the start and end dates in parentheses:
CON13 Assignment lists and associated papers (1 January 1810 – 12 August 1859) – Assignment lists, or nominal lists, often include name, when and where convicted, and the sentence given.
CON14 Indents of male convicts (27 July 1824 – 26 May 1853) – Indents were volumes created to provide “pre-arrival” information before disembarkation. The information usually provided in these volumes is as follows: name, number, where and when convicted, the sentence given, trade, native place, details about physical appearance, and details about the crime and relatives. Entries dated after 1828 will often include information regarding a convict’s religion, children, and literacy. The volumes are arranged by ship’s name with each convict’s entry spanning two pages. The basis of information provided appears to have been copied over from the Assignment List with additional details being added after personal questioning on the convict.
CON15 Indents of female convicts (9 May 1831 – 24 February 1853)
CON16 Indents of convicts locally convicted or transported from other colonies (1 February 1835 – 30 November 1853)
CON17 Indents of male convicts arriving from Norfolk Island (6 June 1844 – 7 September 1852)
CON18 Description lists of male convicts (1 January 1828 – 31 December 1853) – Before disembarkation, convicts were examined (both male and female convicts had to strip to the waist) and the following details were usually provided: age, height, complexion, hair, eyes and eyebrows, nose, mouth, forehead, chin, tattoos, scars or deformities, trade and native place.
CON19 Description lists of female convicts (1 October 1828 – 31 December 1853)
CON20 Description lists of convicts arriving on minor ships or convicted locally (1 January 1832 – 31 December 1853)
CON21 Description lists of convicts arriving from Norfolk Island (26 July 1845 – 28 December 1851)
CON22 Comprehensive registers of convicts (1 January 1804 – 31 December 1853)
CON23 Alphabetical registers of male convicts (1 January 1804 – 30 June 1840)
CON27 Appropriation lists of convicts (1 January 1822 – 31 December 1846) – Appropriation lists were created for recording a convict’s trade and how a convict’s skills were used. The records may also include the name of the settler to whom a convict was assigned or the government department/group taking on the convict. Additional details may also be provided, such as age, native place, or sentence. The lists are arranged alphabetically by first letter of the last name.
CON31 Conduct registers of male convicts arriving in the period of the assignment system (1 January 1803 – 31 December 1843) – Included in these records are both details about the convict’s history before arrival (such as crime, trial details, sentence, marital status, and convict’s statement/confession) and details about the convict’s work in the colony after disembarkation (such as place of employment, master’s name, sentence, comments on good conduct, and grant of emancipation).
CON32 Supplementary conduct registers (1 January 1828 – 31 December 1853)
CON33 Conduct registers of male convicts arriving in the period of the probation system (1 January 1840 – 31 December 1853)
CON34 Conduct registers of male convicts arriving under the assignment system on strength in Nov 1844 (1 January 1844 – 31 December 1892)
CON35 Conduct registers of male convicts arriving under the assignment system on non-convict ships and on strength (meaning still within the convict system) in Nov 1844 (1 January 1844 – 31 December 1844)
CON36 Index to conduct register of male convicts arriving under the assignment system on non-convict ships and on strength in Nov 1844 (1 January 1844 – 31 December 1844)
CON37 Conduct registers of male convicts arriving on non-convict ships or locally convicted (1 January 1840 – 31 December 1893)
CON38 Index to conduct registers of male convicts arriving on non-convict ships or locally convicted (1 January 1840 – 31 December 1893)
CON39 Conduct registers of male convicts whose records were transferred from the probation series, and of certain others (1 January 1840 – 31 December 1846)
CON40 Conduct registers of female convicts arriving in the period of the assignment system (1 January 1803 – 31 December 1843)
CON41 Conduct registers of female convicts arriving in the period of the probation system (1 January 1844 – 31 December 1853)
CON42 Conduct register of female convicts reconvicted in the colony (1 January 1854 – 31 December 1892)
John “Red” Kelly, sentenced to seven years on Van Diemen’s Land for stealing two pigs, can be found within this collection. Red is the father of Edward “Ned” Kelly, the infamous bushranger. A bushranger refers to armed robbers who used the Australian bush as their base-of-operations. Bushrangers thrived in the 1850s and 1860s, with numbers dropping as policing and technology advanced. It was Ned Kelly’s execution in 1880 that sounded the death knell for the bushranger way of life.
In the records, we read that Red sailed from Dublin on 7 August 1841 on the Prince Regent. He arrived in Tasmania on 2 January 1842. From the image of the original register, we see that Red was listed as being 5 feet 8.5 inches tall, with a large head and nose, reddish hair, and blue eyes.
Learn more about Red Kelly in our Ireland Roman Catholic parish registers.
William Smith O’Brien, the Irish revolutionary and founder of the Young Ireland movement, was convicted and found guilty of high treason after he led a rising in three counties of tenants and landlords, culminating in a battle in Tipperary against police. Initially sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to transportation and he was sent to Van Diemen’s Land in 1849. From the records in the collection, we see that he arrived on 27 October 1849 on the ship Swift. By looking at the image of the original record, we learn some additional facts: he was married; his trade is listed as “gentleman”; he was aged 46; he’s recorded as having a dark complexion, round head, and dark brown hair and light brown whiskers; his height is noted as 5’11” and his eye color is recorded as being grey; his native place is recorded as County Clare. Furthermore, some dates are given regarding his work on the island.
After five years, he was released on the understanding that he never return to Ireland. However, two years later, in 1856, he was granted an unconditional pardon, allowing him to return to Ireland.
Findmypast has the William Smith O’Brien petition, signed by thousands, which resulted in his sentence being commuted to transportation. You can follow the link to this petition in the Useful links and resources section.