Research Guides

Convict Ships

These resources in the museum library and elsewhere will help you research convict ships and convicts.

Books

The convict ships

Charles Bateson. Sydney. Library of Australian History, 1983.
REF 910.45 BAT
Includes chronological lists of convict ships to arrive which can also be found online at Convict ships to Australia.

Merchant sailing ships 1775-1815; 1815-1850; 1850–1875

David MacGregor. London. Conway Maritime Press, 1984-1985.
623.8224 MAC
The three volumes include useful general information and pictures of merchant sailing ships.

The old East Indiamen

E. Keble Chatterton. London. Rich & Cowan, 1933.
387.50941 EAS
Many early convict ships to Australia were East Indiamen.

Bound for Australia

David T. Hawkings. North Sydney. Library of Australian History, 1988.
REF 994.02 HAW
A comprehensive study for the genealogist wishing to trace records of convict ancestors.

Bound for Botany Bay: British convict voyages to Australia

Alan Brooke and David Brandon. Kew, Surrey. National Archives, 2005.
REF 910.45 BRO
A well-illustrated book on the social history of transportation to Australia. Includes excerpts from logs, diaries and official documents.

Bound for Botany Bay: Impressions of transportation and convict life

J.D. Shearer. Sydney. Summit Books, 1976.
994.4102 SHE

The intolerable hulks: British shipboard confinement, 1776-1857

Charles Campbell. - Bowie, Md. Heritage Books, 1994.
910.45 CAM

The English prison hulks

William Branch Johnson. London. C. Johnson, 1957.
910.45 BRA

Looking to buy books? Shop online at the museum store.

Registers of Shipping

Tips for using registers

It's often difficult to identify a vessel with a common name when searching registers, so information such as the approximate tonnage and the name of the master can be very useful, especially when using the British Register of Ships. Finding out the (approximate) year that the vessel was built will also help considerably. Searching two or three years after the build date will probably yield results if the approximate year search does not. Even searches five years on can be useful.

Lloyd's Register

A yearly alphabetical listing of mainly British owned vessels by name compiled by Lloyd's of London. Gives technical specifications of each vessel, dates and place of build, names of owners, masters and details of voyages made (up to the 1850s).
Library holds 1776-1880 on microfiche and 1880 onwards in hardcopy on the reference shelves.

For a fee, Lloyd's Register Historical Research Service will search ship histories and yacht plans/survey reports. Its website says: "We can provide information on Lloyd's Register classed ships from 1784 and on merchant ships of more than 100 gross tons, regardless of class dating from the mid-1870s."

A good run of digitized Lloyd's Registers can be searched or browsed at Hathi Trust.

Registre Veritas

A similar listing to Lloyd's for vessels registered with the Bureau Veritas. Contains a mixture of European, British and some American vessels. A good source to try if the ship you are researching doesn't appear in Lloyd's.
Library holds 1829-1980 (microfilm)

Logs

The library doesn't hold official logs however it does have some copies of logs, letters, journals and diaries of voyages to and from Australia. These are mainly diary transcripts and indexed under the ship's name in the subject index of the catalogue (and by the author's name). A short summary of the diary also appears in the catalogue record.

The three-volume publication below is a very useful reference point when sourcing logs, diaries and letters held in Australian collections.

Log of logs: A catalogue of logs journals shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of voyage narratives 1788 to 1988 (3 vols)

Compiled By Ian Nicholson. Yaroomba, Qld. Ian Nicholson, [1990-1998]
REF 387.5099 NIC

Illustrations

Contemporary illustrations of convict ships are very rare. You may be able to uncover useful images and/or drawings of ships with similar tonnage, rig and place of build using the sources below.

In addition, an image of the Charlotte is engraved on the museum's Charlotte medal.

Archival Sources

Directory of archives in Australia

Canberra. Australian Society of Archivists, 1992.
REF 025.17102594 DIR
This is a guide to the collections of archival repositories around Australia. An online guide is also available at Archives of Australia.

Finding families: The genealogists guide to the National Archives of Australia

Compiled By Margaret Chambers. Sydney. Hale & Iremonger, 1998.
REF 929.934 NAT

Internet Sources for Convict Ships and Convicts

The ShipsList website has a List of vessels carrying convicts from Great Britain 1839-1846 transcribed from the British Parliamentary Papers.

Convicts to Australia: a guide to researching your convict ancestors produced by The Perth DPS Society contains transcriptions of the chronological lists of convict ships arriving in Australia from Charles Bateson's book Convict ships. There are also lists of First, Second and Third Fleet convicts and other useful information for researching convicts.

The State Library of New South Wales website includes a convicts bound for Australia research guide and State Records of New South Wales has information on convicts under Archives in Brief 1 - Shipping and arrival records and a whole section called Archives in Brief 2 - Convict records.

A very good source of background reading and links to resources on convict hulks can be found in the Basics on convict hulks guide on the Society of Australian Genealogists website. Its Basics on convicts to NSW is also very useful.

The National Archives UK have undertaken a major digitization program of records relating to convict Transportation to Australia with major genealogical websites as partners. Included are The Convict Transportation Registers and other related convict records can be searched online at ancestry.com.au. or Findmypast.co.uk. State Library of Queensland also has a free searchable index to the convict transportation registers.

Some of these UK records can also be found on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project which is held at State Libraries and the National Library in Canberra.

A new digitisation initiative from the State Records of NSW is Sentenced beyond the Seas: Australia's early convict records, 1788-1801. This is a searchable index to early convict records.

State-based records

Many state-based archives keep microfilm copies of records of interest to family historians (some of which are related to convicts, including arrivals information).

Useful Links