Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP)

Victorian convict ancestors

Convicts to the Port Phillip District were small in number compared to the other parts of Australia. These small numbers can be categorised into six specific groups of convicts.

  • Sullivan's Bay Settlement: 10 October 1803-15 May 1804.
  • Western Port Settlement: 24 November 1826-February 1828.
  • Port Phillip Settlement: 1835-1849
  • Exiles: 1844-1849
  • Convictions: 1841-1849
  • Free Settlers - former convicts 1835-

Further information: 

Convicts in Victoria

Sullivan's Bay Settlement.

A full account of the voyage and the convicts settlement in the Port Phillip District can be found in Marjorie Tippings, Convicts Unbound: the story of the Calcutta convicts and their settlement in Australia. While a personal account by 3rd Lieutenant, Nicholas Pateshall describes the voyage and the difficulties encountered at the settlement. One of the escapees, William Buckley from the Settlement, spent 32 years with the Wallawarro or Wathaurong people.

Western Port Settlement.

Captain Samuel Wright received orders in November 1826 to take a number of men and convicts from Sydney to form the settlement. Small numbers of convicts were added by later voyages but the settlement was abandoned by February 1828.

Port Phillip Settlement.

After John BatmanJohn Pascoe Fawkner and members of the Port Phillip Association arrived, Captain William Lonsdale was appointed the first Commandant of Port Phillip. The new settlement required labour and this was supplied by convicts. The main records of these convicts are held at Public Record Office Victoria, Register of Convicts 1842-1854.

Exiles 1844-1849.

Ships that landed in Port Phillip carried convicts that had been issued with a Ticket of Leave prior to departure from England. These convicts had a Conditional Pardon. Prisoners were from Pentonville, Parkhurst and Millbank prisons. The exile program was designed to help with the labour storage. Notification of exiles, 1844-1849 records are held at Public Records Office Victoria.


The Supreme Court was established for more serious cases of law infringement and a high percentage of these cases were convicts or former convicts in the Port Phillip District re-offending. 

Free settlers - former convicts.

These were convicts who received their Certificate of Freedom or Unconditional Pardon. The only way to know if a settler was a former convict is to search for their arrival into the Port Phillip District and records that identify a convict past.

Handbooks and Finding aids

You can use either the Handbook - a digitised version of the hardcopy is available online from the link on the right hand side of this page, or use the finding aid to search and browse the collection online.
See the Finding records page in this guide for more information on searching the collection. The Handbook provides piece level information, with a date range and description of the subject or responsible body for the documents.

To get to the online collection from the Handbook, search on the series number: HO 11, for example, and browse to the item of interest.

The online finding aid lists the various series of records and direct links to individual items in their hierarchical structure.
You can search this collection for words that are included in the file name or description, and browse to see the full list of records at the various levels and date ranges.

For example, here is a page with the search result for Patrick Madan including, Drafts of pardon for the condition of transportation for life:


Home Office records

Records from the Home Office that may be of particular interest are:

Fonds HO. Criminal Department, 1785-1882

HO 7 Minutes of the House of Commons Select Committee relating to the transportation of the convicts to west Africa, 1875. Correspondence and papers, 1823-1835 include reports of incidents on convict ships, and lists of deceased convicts in New South Wales. (1829,1833,1834).

HO 9 Convict Prisons, Miscellaneous Registers, 1802-1849
Register of convicts on hulks in Chatham, Devonport, Portsmouth and Woolwich.

HO 10 Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania, 1787-1859
Contains muster listing male and female convicts living in colonies of New South Wales and Tasmania. Lists are particular as to the ships on which the convicts transported by, date of arrival in the Colony, marital status, religion, a list of pardons granted, and if no longer a convict where they were presently employed. 

HO 11 Transportation Registers, 1787-1870
These registers contain lists of convict ships arranged by date of departure from Britain, and persons transported alphabetically by place of conviction. There are three types of registers: Lists of convicts transported in particular ships, 1787-1867, an index of colonies and a list of ships transporting convicts 1787-1870, an account of the number of convicts transported, 1787-1870.

HO 13 Criminal Papers. Entry Books, 1786-1871
Contains copies of out-letters, warrants and pardons from the Secretary of State for the Home Office. Letters include those to Justices of Assize Courts, Sherriffs, Mayors and private individuals who have presented petitions to the Home Office regarding certain prisoners. Letters have been copied chronologically. There is an index for Volume 5 only.

HO 16 Old Bailey Sessions, 1815-1849
Monthly returns by the Clerk of the Sessions concerning the prisoners committed for trial at the Sessions of Oyer and Terminer and Goal Delivery for the City of London and County of Middlesex, includes charges laid against them, the verdict and sentence. Age of prisoner is also included from April 1834. The arrangement of names is in order of the severity of the sentence, from death and transportation for life, to be delivered by proclamation.

HO 25 Criminal Entry Books. Public departments, 1850-1871
Contains out-letters chronologically to various departments, dealing largely with accounts and with matters relating to convicts.

HO 26 Criminal Registers Series I, 1791-1849
MiddlesexIncludes all persons charged with indictable offences. Information included is person's name, description, birthplace, the alleged crime, the sentence - whether death, transportation, or a term of imprisonment - and when the sentence was executed. Persons charged with indictable offences: shows trial result, sentence, execution date, and personal information. Note Offenders of Middlesex only. Persons charged with indictable offences information included is trial result, sentence, execution date, and personal information.

HO 27 Criminal Register Series II, 1805-1868
Other Counties. Contains similar information to Series I described above. Middlesex is included after 1850.

Fonds HO. Prison Department and Inspectorate, 1802-1869

HO 08 Convict Prisons, 1824-1869
Quarterly list of prisoners in British prisons and hulks. Information included giving name and details of age, offence, and convictions, surgeons' reports, and behaviour. Date of transportation included if appropriate.

HO 09 Convict Prisons, Miscellaneous Registers, 1802-1849
Registers of convicts on hulks in Chatham, Devonport, Portsmouth and Woolwich details included offence, conviction, character, behaviour in goal and on occasions date and place of transportation.

Other record series

Ministry of Transport

MT 32 Admiralty Transport Department Surgeon Superintendent's journals of convicts 1858-1867.
Medical records for the ships Lord Raglan, Lincelles, Norwood, Merchantman, Clyde, Clara, Racehorse, Vimeira, Corona.

Miscellaneous Series

Guide to the Transportation records (Ireland to Australia) held by the National Archives of Ireland 1788-1868
Records include transportation registers, convict register and register of convict on ships, prisoners' petitions and cases, convict reference files, Fenian photographs and free settlers' papers.


ADM 6 Admiralty and Secretariat: Register, returns and certificates, various, 1819-1834
Includes records that relate to the convict ships, and in particular the Cumberland, 1830-1833, and the Dolphin, 1819-1834.

ADM 101 Office of the Commissioners of Sick and Wounded Seamen (Sick and Hurt Board) and successors. Registers. Medical journals 1798-1856
Journals kept by surgeons on convict ships, travelling to Australia, 1816-1856, emigrant ships bound for Australia and New Zealand, 1825-1853, and selected journals from naval vessels.

Colonial Office

CO 207 New South Wales: Entry Books Relating to Convicts, 1788 - 1868
Copies of Colonial Office papers, concerning convicts in New South Wales, includes alphabetical lists of convicts 1788-1825, 1840-1849, saving books of convicts 1824-1868, and letters of Superintendent of Convicts 1824-1827, 1854-1867.

AJCP Handbook Part 3 - Home Office

Convict resources

(M Series) Transportation records (Ireland to Australia) held by the National Archives of Ireland

Archival terminology

Understanding the terminology and record hierarchy can help with identifying what you will find where, and with deciphering your results.

Fonds -  a group of documents that share the same origin and that have occurred naturally as an outgrowth of the daily workings of an agency, individual, or organization. e.g. General records of the War Office and predecessors and successors 1789-1858.
Series - the main grouping of records with a common function or subject, e.g. registers, unnumbered papers, correspondence.
Sub-series - a further grouping under series level.
Piece - a folder, file, volume or box of documents.
Item - can be a page or a bundle, stored within a piece.
Child - an item, or group of items at the next level below.

More here: National Archives - Glossary for discovery

Amanda Bevan. Tracing your ancestors in the National Archives