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​Knowledge Base

Each year we are asked thousands of questions related to information we have in our libraries and archives about Tasmania.

To support your research we are posting our responses below to the most topical and interesting enquiries.

We make sure to remove personal information from the enquiries, answers, related data and search tips.

How can I access surgeons' journals or reports? Front cover of convict register vellum CON78-1-1

​You may be interested in particular convict ships to arrive in Tasmania or Van Diemen's Land such as Chapman 1824, 1826; William Miles 1828; and Northampton 1836.

The Surgeon's journals, 1816-1856 are available on microfilm in the Hobart Reading Room.

Surgeons oversaw the welfare of the convicts and the health of the crew. The aim was to keep them as healthy as possible in the conditions. Journal entries vary but can include immunisation lists, sick lists, case histories of patients, date and cause of death, nosological synopsis (or list of diseases or conditions), and general remarks on a voyage.


  • Transcriptions of some of the Surgeon's journals on ships carrying female convicts are available on the Female Convict Research Centre website at the following link –


​Search tips

You should use resources in the Hobart Reading Room, including the Microspace and the History Room

Step 1. Search the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) Handbook 7 (Pages 75-77) to see if there is a Surgeon's journal for the ship your convict was transported on. The AJCP handbooks are shelved on the Family History (FH) shelves at Dewey no. Q 016.994 AUS.

You may prefer to use the volume behind the desk in the History Room – Convict ships to Van Diemen's Land with a select list of associated convict records.

It is good to note the sailing dates because some ships did multiple trips.

Step 2. When you find a journal, note the AJCP reel and piece number.

Step 3. Find the AJCP reel in the Microspace to search for the relevant entries.

Step 4. Use the piece number to find the correct section on the microfilm. The piece number is indicated in a reference tag, which appears before a ship's records on the microfilm. For example, piece number 8 would appear on the tag as ADM 101/8. There may be several ships within each piece.