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Irish Resources for Family Historians: Irish Transportation

This State Library of South Australia guide highlights resources available at the Library as well as various databases and websites that may assist your search for ancestors in Ireland

Introduction

South Australia was the only colony in Australia not settled by convicts, however the State Library holds copies of the Irish Transportation Records.  These make up part of our Australian Joint Copying Project collection and are available for use in the Library.

The National Archives of Ireland have produced a FAQ page that may be of interest.

National Archives of Ireland - Ireland-Australia Transportation Records

In 1988 the Irish Government presented this information to Australia as a bicentennial gift.  Various libraries in Australia, including the State Library of South Australia, now hold copies.  The National Archives of Ireland has produced an index to convicts recorded in these records.  A link to this index can be located in the locating information box (on the right). 

Once you have located information in the index and noted the document reference number, use the information below to better acquaint yourself with the type of information you can expect to find. By using the Locating Information on Reels box you can establish on which reel of film the document you wish to view is located.

The collection is broken up into the following sections.

Transportation Registers 1836 - 1857 (TR)    Microfilm reels 1 - 5 (M 2125 - M 2129)

Each register is divided into male and female convicts, and each section is subdivided by county.  The registers give details of each convict, including name, age, date and county of trial, crime and sentence.  Other details such as name of transport ship, commuted sentence or place of detention are sometimes given.  Most of the convicts listed went to Australia, although some had their sentences commuted to terms of imprisonment to be served in Ireland or Gibraltar.  Of those sentenced to death, some had their sentences commuted to transportation but others were hanged or were imprisoned in Ireland.

Prisoners' Petitions and Cases, 1788 - 1836 (PPC)    Microfilm reels 6 - 19 (M 2130 - M 2143)

In his capacity as representative of the British crown, the Lord Lieutenant exercised the prerogative of mercy in Ireland.  Many convicts submitted, or had submitted on their behalf, petitions for commutation or remission of their sentence.  The petitions vary greatly in style and content but details to be found concern the crime, trial, sentence, place of origin and family circumstances of the convicts.

State Prisoners' Petitions, 1798 - 1899 (SPP)     Microfilm reels 20 - 25 (M 2144 - 2149)

These petitions are similar in content to the ones above but concern those arrested for involvement in the 1798 Rebellion, for which many were sentenced to transportation.

Convict Reference Files 1836 - 1856; 1865 - 1868 (CRF)     Microfilm reels 26 - 101 (M 2150 - 2225)

These files take over from the petitions series.  In addition to petitions, they contain a variety of documents relating to individual convicts.  these may include summaries of the evidence produced at trail, judges' reports and letters from officials and other persons concerned.

All files concerning transportation cases have been filmed up to and including 1856.  In addition, the names of the 63 Fenian prisoners transported in 1868 have been search for and 17 relevant files have been identified.  These files have been filmed at the end of the Convict Reference Files on Reel 101 (M 2225).  Also included with the latter files are four photographs of Fenians from the series of Fenian photographs (FP).

Free Settler's Papers, 1828 - 1852 (FS)    Microfilm reels 101 - 104 (M 2225 - M 2228)

Male convicts who had served a minimum of four years of their sentence in Australia were entitled to request a free passage for a dependent wife and family to join them in the colony.  These papers comprise some lists of convicts who requested such a favour, giving details of date of transportation, name of transport ship, and name and address of wife.  There are also petitions from the convicts and from their wives, as well as a small number of personal letters written by convicts to their wives back in Ireland describing life in the colony.

Male Convict Register, 1842 - 1847     Microfilm reel 104 (M 2228)

This is a single volume containing the names of all male convicts sentenced to transportation in the period 1842 - 1847.  In addition to the details contained in the transportation registers, some physical details are given.  The register is arranged in chronological order by date of committal to prison after trial.

Register of Convicts on Convict ships, 1851 - 1853     Microfilm reel 104 (M 2228)

This single volume register contains the names of convicts (with date and county of trial) who embarked on ships sailing in that period to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and Western Australia.

Corrections and additions to Convict Reference Files     Microfilm reel 105 (M 2229)

Locating Information

The National Archives of Ireland has produced a database to the Ireland-AustraliaTransporation records. 

Convicts may be located by surname.  If there are a large number of matches you can choose to use the Advanced Search and filter your search.    Also there may be multiple enties for the same person, so don't stop looking through the database once you find the first document reference.

The index will give details such as:

  • name
  • age
  • date
  • county of trial
  • crime
  • sentence
  • document reference number

Once you have located the document reference number(s), use the Locating Information on Reels box below.  This will allow you to locate the correct film quickly when coming into the Library.

SEARCH - Ireland-Australia Transportation Records Database

Locating Information on Reels

Once you have located documents and have their reference numbers, use the information below to determine which film reel in the State Library of SA's collection contains the documents you wish to view.

Background Reading

‘Sources in the National Archives for research into the transportation of Irish convicts to Australia (1791-1853)’ by Rena Lohan (.pdf format)

This article gives fascinating background to the Irish criminal  and convict system, including the transporation of children with their convict mothers and sometimes fathers, descriptions of the diet on board convict ships, the fitting of ships for female convicts and the increased numbers of convicts during the 'famine' years.