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Archives In Brief 34 - Convicts' families

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Provides a brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to the families of convicts and their arrival in New South Wales. This AIB can also be used in conjunction with Archives in Brief 1, Archives in Brief 2 and Archives in Brief 24.

Online indexes

A collection of indexes, including indexes to assisted immigrants and the Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 1788-1825, is available on our website. Indexes of particular note to the arrival of convict families are listed in this AIB. We are progressively adding new indexes to this collection.

Historical background

Wives and families of convicts sometimes accompanied their convict relations or came out later. Children were placed on board the convict transports with their parent(s) often with no official record of their transportation or arrival being recorded. The children were supported and fed at government expense and orphan homes were established to accommodate those deserted or separated from their parents. Young children were permitted to stay with their mothers in the Female Factory until they reached the age of four when they were sent to the Orphan Schools and returned to their mother when she left the Factory.

Convicts could apply to have their families brought out at the expense of the Crown. Applications had to show that a convict would be able to support his family upon their arrival and not incur any further expense to the Government. In general, families were not permitted to reunite in Australia unless the convict applying had a Ticket of Leave. This indulgence allowed a convict to work for himself, thereby providing a means for supporting his family.

After a convict had applied to have his family brought out to the Colony, the application was assessed by the Government. On arrival the spouse often applied to have the convict assigned to them. This allowed the convict to serve out his sentence while living with his family.


Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Special bundles, 1826-1982
* Applications for Free Passages for Wives and Children of Convicts, 1824-35 [4/1112.1A-B, 4/1111.3] *ARK
Fiche 3285-3288, Reels 697-698
* Applications for free passages, 1832-4 [4/2188]
Reels 698-699
* Applications, 1835-42 [4/2550.1]
Reels 700-701

NRS 1191, List of convicts who have applied for their wives and families to be sent to New South Wales at the expense of the Government, 1 May 1843

Responses to applications

Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Special Bundles
* Returns of petitions for free passages, 1828, 1834-35 [4/1112.2]
Reel 697

NRS 1190, Returns of Convicts' applications for wives and families to be brought to New South Wales at Government expense, 1837-43, 20 October 1843-1 April 1850
Reel 699

The Governor

NRS 4518, Alphabetical list of 89 convicts recommended to have their families sent out at the expense of the Crown, 1823 [4/1637 pp.236-65]
Reel 697

Passage to New South Wales


Index to bounty immigrants, 1828-42 *ARK
Reels 30-37

Indexes to assisted immigrants, 1839-96

NRS 5321, Wives and families of convicts on bounty ships, 1849-55 *ARK
Reel 699, Fiche 837-838
This series is indexed as part of the online indexes to assisted immigrants.

Colonial Secretary

NRS 1155, Returns of the families of convicts on convict ships, and other papers, 1790-1849 *ARK
Reels 2417-2428
These documents form part of the series Musters and other papers relating to convict ships, 1790-1849. They are listed in the Convict Guide and in the Guide to using the Archives Resources Kit.

After arrival

Female Factory Parramatta, 1826-48: Index to inmates
Fiche 5290-5291
This index was compiled by Joan Reese.

Colonial Secretary

NRS 906, Special bundles
* Petitions from wives of convicts for their husbands to be assigned to them, 1826-27 [4/7084]
Reel 588

Principal Superintendent of Convicts

NRS 12196, Tickets of Exemption from Government labour, 1827-32
Reel 589

Births deaths and marriages

Indexes to Births, 1788-1918, and Deaths and Marriages, 1788-1945
Microfiche copies of indexes are available in the reading room. See also the indexes on the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages website.

TD Mutch Index to Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1787-1957
Reels 2125-2129

Index to convict marriage banns, 1826-41
Compiled by Joan Reese and Norma M Tuck.

Principal Superintendent of Convicts

NRS 12212, Registers of convicts' applications to marry, 1825-51 *ARK
Fiche 780-802
These registers record the names of the parties applying for permission to marry, their ages, the date of permission or refusal, ship of arrival, sentence, whether free or bond, and the name of the clergyman.

Children of convicts

Clergy and School Lands Corporation

NRS 782, Applications for admission into the Orphan Schools, 1825-33 *ARK
Reel 2776
Search the online index.

NRS 783, Applications for children out of the Orphan Schools, 1825-33
Reels 2776-2777
Search the online index.

NRS 793, Female Orphan School Admission books, 1817-32
Reel 2777
Search the online index.

NRS 796, Male Orphan School Admission books, 1819-47
Fiche 3307, Reel 2777
Search the online index.

Protestant Orphan School

NRS 12266, Admission book (female), 1827-86
COD 506
Search the online index.

Researchers should also consult the Male Orphan School admission register, 1850-86, on Reel 3702, COD 540.

The Female Factory, Parramatta: Index to inmates, 1826-41, and the Index to the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence may also be of interest when researching the children of convicts. Both indexes are listed elsewhere in this AIB.

Other sources

Index to Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, 1788-1825 *ARK

Index to Colonial Secretary's Correspondence, 1826+
Reels 1250-1251

Index to the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence: Convicts and Others, 1826-94
Fiche 5557-5559, 5736-5738, 5907-5909, 5955-5957, 5966-5968, 6069-6074, 6127-6129, 6433-6435, 6448-6450, 6453-6455
Compiled by Joan Reese.

Index to the copies of letters sent re convicts by the Colonial Secretary, 1826-55
Fiche 5912-5914, 5921-5925
Compiled by Joan Reese.

Other records may be identified in Archives Investigator, and the Guide to Convict Records known as the Convict Guide which is available in the reading room.

Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions to confirm the public availability of records. State Records' staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.

*ARK signifies that a copy of the record or guide is part of the Archives Resources Kit and is held by the community access points.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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