Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

We will likely add further FAQs to this page over time. If you have a query  not answered here, you might like to ask the question on our project forum (all you need to post there is a Google Account), or contact the project directly (see below).

About the Project

1. Why Tasmania? Are you covering any other States?

Tasmania has a very full set of convict records, as well as extensive civil records (such as births, marriages, and deaths) so it’s a very good place to situate our research. However, we are also taking in records from other sites of transportation (New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia) where we can and they are available.

2. Why London and the Old Bailey?

The Old Bailey Proceedings, detailed reports of trials held at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1913, have been digitised and are freely accessible on the web. This is a unique source that provides us with the records of about 66,000 convicted persons who were either sentenced to transportation or imprisonment between 1718 and 1875. Additionally, there are many records that can be used to supplement the Proceedings, from government-created registers to newspapers.

Because people were drawn into London in this period, we are able to take in a cross-section of society, in order to try and understand the impacts of different punishments on the offenders themselves (over the course of their lives), and also their children.

3. What records are you using? Are you digitising new material?

We will primarily use sources that are already available in digital forms – from highly structured datasets and indexes to full-text sources – but we will also be digitising a number of London and Tasmania sources. 

The core datasets provided by the project partners are:

Other datasets we hope to obtain, dependent on negotiations with rights holders, include:

Records we plan to digitise include:

About Getting Involved

1. I’m a researcher with many years of experience studying transported convicts / I’m just finishing my PhD studying Victorian prisons. Are you hiring?

We are assembling a team of researchers and research students, and any positions available will be advertised when available, including announcements on this website. We also hope to develop a user group made up of people who are interested in these issues.

2. I’ve been researching my convict ancestor(s) for many years and have lots of information about him/her/them. How can I help with the project? / I have compiled a database/dataset/biographies from my research into prisoners/convicts. Would you be interested in this data?

We are currently investigating the possibilities of crowd-sourcing information, and we hope that many people across the world will be able to add information about convicts in the near future.

3. Are you involving genealogists/family history societies in the project?

In the future we will develop a user group made up of interested people. We will also produce web-talks which may be of interest to genealogists/family history societies.

4. How can I volunteer?

We are in the process of planning how best to work with volunteers. You are very welcome to email the project manager Sharon Howard (sharon.howard@sheffield.ac.uk) to find out what’s happening, and we also recommend that you sign up to the project mailing list to get news and to our Twitter feed (@digipanoptic).

About Prisoners and Convicts

1. Do you have any information about my ancestor Harry Smith who was tried at the Old Bailey in 1850 / transported to Australia / imprisoned in Pentonville Prison?

Unfortunately, we can’t help with personal research. Ultimately, we hope that many people will be able to find out information about their convict ancestors when the data has been assembled, processed, and made available on the website.

As the website develops, in the meantime, it will include resources you may find useful, and we also recommend visiting our partner websites Old Bailey Online and Founders and Survivors for information. The National Archives in London is also an excellent starting point for researching convict ancestors.

Getting in Touch

If you have a question relating to one of our Research Themes, please contact the project team leader directly – you can find team members’ email addresses via their institutional links in their profile pages.

You can also contact the project manager, Sharon Howard, with general queries or questions about the website, at sharon.howard@sheffield.ac.uk.