Convicts in WA


A question that comes in for Q & A column is, ‘what period does convict transportation cease’.

This is the story of their convict history.

The 1st of June 1850 was the day “SCINDIAN” ARRIVED AT Fremantle to offload her 75 British convicts, this was to start the 18years of convict transportation into Western Australia after all other States had ceased. This was followed by the “HASHEMY” also in 1850.

The only difference between the western convicts and the eastern convicts was, no women
were ever transported to the west/ The 9,669 men were from Britain and Ireland.
In May 1853 the ‘PYRENEES’ arrived, very quickly followed on the 19th August 1853 and the 30th August 1853 by two ships, ‘ROBERT SMALL’ & ‘PHEOBE DUNBAR’ who alone unloaded 589 Irish convicts. All together there was a total of 43 ships which entered Fremantle with their human cargo. 1853 was to see a total of 1,106 convicts landed with 1867 and 1868 combined, landing another 1,666.
More British convicts arrived in 1855 per the ‘STAG & ADELAIDE’. Another 268 British men arriving per ‘NILE’ on the 1 January 1858.
The last two convict ships to enter the Port of Fremantle was the ‘NORWOOD’ on the 14th July 1867 with 253 on board and the ‘HOUGOUMONT’ early in 1868. This then truly ended convict transportation into Australia after a long period of 80 years.
As we may know, a ‘lifer’ convict, unless he received a pardon, was a convict till the day he died. Many of the WA convicts with a life sentence were still convicts into the early 1900’s. Wow, what an eye opener!
After arriving at the Port of Fremantle they were marched to their old clothing which was then given to the Aboriginals on Rottnest Island. This Island being named Rat’s Nest Island in earlier days because the small rock wallabies, Quakkas, were mistaken for large rats.
The convict was then issued with what was called a ‘Duck Suit’. This was a dark grey fustian jacket, waist coat and trousers, stamped with the broad arrow: a pair of flannel under-drawers, a flannel shirt and two cotton shirts, socks, handkerchiefs, a leather belt, a pair of boots and a cap. These clothes they would surrender at the end of winter, to be issued with summer jacket, waistcoat and trousers of white duck, shaped-less and sloppy with small flat metal buttons. Their hair and whiskers were then cut as close as possible and they were detailed off to their cells.
A set of part-coloured (different colours or tints) clothes were worn by runaway prisoners on their recapture. These were made of a stout felt like material. The font of the coat and waistcoat was black, and back mustard yellow, stamped not very liberally with broad arrows. The sleeves of coat are part-coloured as well as the trousers.
Their starchy diet would consist of breakfast, 10 oz of bread, 1oz of treacle,1 pint of tea with sugar: dinner, 14 oz of meat, 12 oz of potatoes: supper, 8 oz of bread. Soup was allowed twice a week.
In summer the amount of tea was lessened and lime juice, vinegar and more vegetables were issued.
As these convicts; terms expired or they had been granted a Conditional Pardon (which meant they could not return to ‘Mother England’), they left the Swan River Colony, mainly leaving through the port of Albany.
According to records kept between 1863 and 1893, 801 ex-convicts departed and of these, only 47 returned.
This then brings me to the point where I ask you, the researcher, who has said so many times, ‘ I can’t find my ancestor coming into the country, he must have swum’. Maybe a thought should be given to the fact, he may have been a Western Australian convict and after gaining his freedom came to the eastern states, arriving by coastal shipping of which not many of the records have survived. 
If your ancestor did come to the Eastern States from Western Australia during the period of 1850 to 1900, maybe he was a little tired of hearing the jeers coming from the FREE person as they said, ‘ Ah, he didn’t choose to come out here’.

September 3, 2020 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

Researching Abroad: Finding European & British Isles Ancestors

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On 26 August, I attended my first Unlock the Past Roadshow, with Lyn Diepeveen and Liz Kelly at the State Library of Western Australia. Perth was the final destination in this roadshow for the key note speakers, Chris Paton (Scotland) and Dirk Weissleder (Germany) and ran dual streams. This meant our key note speakers were giving talks in parallel so Lyn & I attended the British Isles Stream to hear Chris and Liz Kelly attended the German/European Stream to hear Dirk.

After being welcomed warmly to the seminar by Alan Phillips in the State Library Theatre, attendees for the German/European Stream relocated to the Geographe Room with Dirk. Chris kicked off with his first power talk on Discovering Scottish Land Records.  It was packed full of information as to why land ownership was so different in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, resources, records and web links.  As much as what I tried my pen simply could not keep up with the very funny Irish born Scottish based professional family historian, author and tutor. Thank goodness for Chris’ online handout to help get your head around the complicated records concerning land and property based research in Scotland. He also gave reference to his book, Discover Scottish Land Records” for further information.

Chris did three other talks throughout the day: Scottish research resources before 1800, Discover Irish Land Records and Scottish burgh and trade incorporation records. These talks were also jammed packed full of information and resources so I was bursting by the end of the day to put some of this new knowledge into practice.

WAGS President, Ian Simon also gave a talk on the British resources available at Western Australian Genealogical Society, followed by Leonie Hayes on British Resources at SLWA and Rosemary Kopittke did a presentation on using the MyHeritage website which was very informative. The unexpected surprise/bonus of the day was that I won a subscription to MyHeritage delivered in person by the funny man himself.

Thank you to all the speakers, the State Library of Western Australia, the Western Australian Genealogical Society, Unlock the Past Roadshows and the sponsors for a very wonderful day.

Nicole Edwards

November 7, 2017 at 7:12 pm 2 comments

Useful Websites & Resources for Western Australian Research

Resources for WA Research




WA Births Deaths and Marriages

“Reverse” Western Australia Marriage lookup

State Records Office of Western Australia –

State Library of Western Australia

Dead Reckoning: how to find your way through the Genealogical Jungle of Western Australia –

The Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc

The Western Australian Post Office Directories 1893 -1949

WA Police Gazettes

Western Australian Newspapers

The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians pre 1829 – 1888 Volumes I – IV

Perth Dead Persons’ Society –

Metropolitan Cemeteries Board’s Cemetery Records –

East Perth Cemeteries

200 Voices from the Oral History Records Rescue Group Project

Convict Records of Western Australia –

Fremantle Prison Convict Database

The Biographical Dictionary of Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs

Oz Burials Western Australia

Online index of early motor vehicle registrations throughout Western Australia

Databases $$$

Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963 –

Western Australia, Australia, Crew and Passenger Lists, 1852-1930

Perth, Western Australia, Australia, Rate Books, 1880-1946

Rockingham, Western Australia, Australia, School Indexes, 1830-1970

Western Australia, Australia, Convict Records, 1846-1930

Western Australia, Railway Records, 1879-1986

Western Australia, Australia, Land Leases, Licences, Applications and Selected Images, 1821-1938

The Cyclopedia of Western Australia Vol. 1 –

The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, Vol. 2

Western Australia, Public Service Lists, 1871-1905

April 14, 2017 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment

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