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Colonial Convictions

Did your ancestor arrive free but have a colonial conviction?

Early newspapers, many which have been digitised on the National Library of Australia web-site, and the ‘Guilty or Not Guilty’ Series of books are worth checking to see if your ancestor may have found himself, or herself, before a Colonial Court or a Magistrate. Trial accounts can give such a lot of detail. There are a number of other records at GSQ which may enlighten you as to whether or not your ancestor had a colonial conviction.

It was not only transported convicts who were sent to places such as Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay. The records of the hulk Phoenix which was moored in Lavender Bay in Sydney show that re-offending convicts as well as people who arrived free, and indeed some who were born in the colony were sent to the hulk to be transferred to other penal settlements.

The microfilms pertaining to the hulk Phoenix (which have been indexed by Convict Connections) contain a lot of names as well as some useful information regarding where the men came from. For example:

  • Robert Turnbull who came Free as a mariner – larceny 7 yrs, commuted to 3 years
  • Henry Coulthorpe, late a soldier
  • William Brown who stowed away - 2nd offence
  • Thomas James - seaman from America
  • Phillip Rells - from Jamaica
  • Francis Andrews - from Africa & tried London
  • Daniel McLeod - from Glasgow & tried Portugal
  • Patrick Collins - originally tried Bombay
  • Patrick Burnett - originally tried Madras
  • John Thompson who arrived 1819 having been tried Barbados, 14 yrs for desertion – absconded 5 times – 3yrs at Moreton Bay.
  • John Jones arrived 1829 - tried in India for desertion; jeweller by trade.

Convict or soldier

Did your ancestor arrive as a convict and also have a colonial conviction?

A colonial conviction for a transported convict meant that as a re-offender he/she would have been sentenced to one of the harsher penal colonies.

Was your ancestor a soldier or a marine who was court martialled?

Some soldiers and marines were tried and convicted in places other than England and were transported to the colony of New South Wales.



A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.

I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now.

When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image.

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