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Convict records - explanation of format and frequently used abbreviations

Conduct records of male and female convicts arriving under the ‘assignment system’CON31 CON40 Convict tramway from a sketch by Colonel Mundy

Format

  • Top left hand corner Name of convict
  • Name of ship and date of arrival
  • Place and date of trial
  • Length of sentence

Terms used

  • “Transported for” = Sentence
  • “Gaol Report” = Any previous convictions
  • “Hulk Report” = Behaviour on prison ship (in U.K.)
  • Marital Status
  • “Stated this Offence” = Convict’s statement of his or her offence including previous convictions
  • Conduct while serving sentence Date o​f offence - place of employment or employer - offence - sentence - magistrate’s initials.

Notes on bottom of page indicate the areas to which the convict was assigned.

Abbreviations (frequently used in most records)

  • T.L. = Ticket of Leave
  • C.P. = Conditional Pardon
  • abs = Absconded
  • miscondt = Misconduct
  • appd = Approved
  • mos = Months
  • b & w = Bread and Water
  • n.p. = Native Place
  • casc = Cascades [female factory]
  • P.B. = Prisoners’ Barracks
  • conf = Confinement
  • Pr = Prosecutor
  • convtd = Convicted
  • P.W. = Public Works
  • disobce = Disobedience
  • sol/solity = Solitary
  • hd lab = Hard labour
  • witht = without
  • impt = Imprisonment
  • s.v. = supplmenetary volume - more information usually in supplementary conduct rgisters (CON32)

Conduct records of male and female convicts arriving under the 'probation system'(CON33 & CON41)

Format

Top left hand corner: name

length of sentence

Terms used

  • "Tried" = Place of trial - Gaol Delivery, Assizes, Court of Justiciary, Central Criminal Court, Quarter Sessions
  • “Embarked” = date of sailing
  • “Arrived” = date of arrival at Hobart
  • marital status
  • “Stated this offence” = convict’s statement of what he was transported for, includes any previous offences
  • “Hulk Report” = behaviour on ships used as prisons in England
  • “Surgeons Report” Doctor’s report of convict’s health and behaviour during the voyage.
  • “Description” M:H = medium height; M:W = medium width; Bro = Brown
  • “Marks” = tattoos, scars and other distinguishing marks
  • “Station of gang” = Town in which convict is employed
  • “Class” Probation Pass Holder [P.P.H.] - 3 classes of pass were issued varying in degrees of restriction and wages.
  • “Offences and sentences” = conduct in the colony.
  • Date of offence - place of employment or employer
  • offence - sentence - magistrate i​nitials
  • “vide Lieut Gov’s Memo/Decision” [these memos have not survived].
  • “Remarks” refer to place and name of employer and any notable events during convict’s period of transportation, e.g. capture of a bushranger.
  • "On strength" = still within the system, in this case, the convict system.

Indents of male and female convicts (CON14 & CON15)

Abbreviations (frequently used in most records)Adieu Adieu my native land

  • N.P. = Native Place
  • F = Father
  • M = Mother
  • S = Sister
  • B = Brother
  • W = Wife
  • Jas. = James
  • M.A. = Mary Anne
  • Wm = William
  • Geo = George
  • Jno = John
  • Hy = Henry
  • Jos = Joseph
  • Elizth = Elizabeth
  • Saml = Samuel
  • Margt = Margaret

Description lists of male and female convicts CON18 & CON19

Abbreviations (frequently used in most records)

  • M.H.= Medium height
  • M.S.= Medium size
  • M.W.= Medium width
  • M.L.= Medium length
  • Dk= Dark
  • Bro Brown
  • perpen’ perpendicular
  • lt light
  • pointd pointed
  • Do Ditto = as above
  • Redh Reddish
  • Remarks distinguishing features such as tattoos, scars, and moles are noted here
  • ins inside
  • rt right
  • blk black
  • Plo’ Plough
  • Fars Farm servant
  • Lab Labourer

Some definitions

Assignment

On arrival in the colony, the government assigned many convicts to work for free settlers. The free settlers provided accommodation, food and clothing. Others were ‘assigned’ into government service.  The probation system replaced the assignment system for males in 1840. Female convicts continued to be assigned.

Certificate of Freedom

A certificate of freedom certified an ex-convict’s “free” status when his or her sentence had finished. Not all convicts collected a certificate of freedom, and some collected them long after their sentence had expired.

Conditional Pardon

The Lieutenant-Governor could recommend the Crown grant a conditional pardon to a convict.  The pardon stated what the convict could and could not do. It often limited the convict’s movement to the United Kingdom or other colonies.

Free by Servitude

When convicts had served their sentence they were ‘free by servitude’ Men and women sentenced to life could never be free by servitude. In time they could be granted a pardon.

Probation System

The probation system replaced the assignment system for male convicts in 1840. When they arrived, the government no longer assigned them to free settlers. Instead convicts worked on government gangs for a period ‘on probation’. In time, and depending on their behaviour, they passed through stages of the probation process. Restrictions reduced as they moved towards ‘Ticket of Leave’ status.

Ticket-of-Leave

A Ticket of leave was an indulgence given at the Lieutenant-Governor’s discretion. It entitled convicts to work for wages. They still had to report for regular musters. Convicts could only get a  ticket of leave when they had served a certain proportion of their sentence.