Convict assignment records

On arrival to the Colony of New South Wales, a convict was either retained by the Government or assigned to an individual

On arrival to the Colony of New South Wales, a convict was either retained by the Government or assigned to an individual. Assigned male convicts were generally employed as field labourers, or tradesmen; women became domestic servants.
Government convicts were most often engaged on public works projects. The majority of women convicts were engaged in the manufacture of wool and linen at the Parramatta Female Factory. A smaller number were employed as hospital nurses and midwives, as servants to officers, and in caring for orphans.

Please be aware that very few records of assignment have survived.

Search the Index c.1821-1825


Early Government employment

Under Governor Phillip most convicts were kept in government hands to construct buildings and roads and cultivate the land needed to establish the settlement and produce sufficient food. Once the bare necessities of life had been made available, convicts performed a broader variety of government tasks including administrative work.

Convict work gangs

Phillip's successors continued to make use of convicts. Macquarie, in particular, had an extensive public works programme that derived in part from his ambitious plans for the colony and partly from the fact that after 1815 the number of convicts arriving exceeded the capacity of private settlers to employ them. He employed convicts in supervised gangs, which were used to construct roads and public buildings in Sydney, Parramatta, Windsor and Liverpool. From 1819 convicts working in these gangs as well as those engaged on other public works at Sydney were housed in the Hyde Park Barracks.

The British Government viewed the retention of so many government convicts as an extravagance. As a result of Bigge’s Reports there was a reduction in public works and a marked increase in the number of convicts assigned to private settlers, especially in rural areas.

Stricter conditions for government convicts

Governor Brisbane tightened up the regulations for the employment of convicts and made government service more punitive. Non-labouring tasks for convicts were markedly reduced and only small numbers of the best behaved were employed as constables, hospital workers and domestics. (Australian Encyclopaedia, 4th ed., vol.3, p.48).

From 1823 clearing gangs, iron gangs and road parties carried out many public works thus contributing to the development of the colony. Government employment was now mostly regarded as a punishment to be endured by offenders, who had either been returned by private employers or whose bad behaviour made them unfit for assignment. Convicts engaged on the gangs were closely guarded by soldiers and housed in stockades. The worst of the secondary offenders were sent to penal settlements at Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island and Port Arthur.

Assignment on arrival

Upon arrival in the colony convicts were either assigned to a settler or kept to work for the government, which determined the manner of their employment and the area to which they were allocated.

Assigned male convicts were generally employed as field labourers or tradesmen; women became domestic servants. Government convicts were most often engaged on public works projects.

Work assignment for female convicts

The majority of women convicts were engaged in the manufacture of wool and linen at the Female Factory. A smaller number were employed as hospital nurses and midwives, as servants to officers, and in caring for orphans.

Private employers

After the opening years the majority of convicts were assigned to private employers who were responsible for their discipline and provided lodging, food and clothing in return for their labour.

Advantages of assignment

Assignment benefited government and private employers alike – the former was relieved of the cost of maintaining transportees while the latter were provided with relatively cheap labour. (Clark, Select Documents, vol. 1, p.130)

Treatment of convicts by private employers

The assignment system was far from uniform in its operation. Benevolent, wealthy employers treated their convict workers well and gave them the opportunity to improve their position and develop the skills needed to begin a new life. Such settlers commonly offered additional incentives such as extra rations, improved accommodation and wages, in order to keep the services of the best men.

By no means all of the wealthy settlers treated their servants well and some were noted for being harsh. The same mixture was to be found among small employers who were themselves often former convicts and lacking in means. They were known to have provided their workers with only the bare minimum of food and shelter and paid for their labour in goods that were of limited use.

Problems with the assignment system

Such variations pointed to major defects in the assignment system, which was by no means easy to administer given that many of the settlers lived in isolated areas. Complaints were also made of injustices in the actual distribution of labour with some settlers being favoured at the expense of others. As the demand for assigned labour grew these inequities became more apparent and contentious.

Tighter control of the system

Following Governor Macquarie's departure and acting upon the recommendations of Commissioner Bigge, successive governors brought the assignment system under closer supervision and endeavoured to redress some of its most glaring imbalances.

Establishment of the Assignment Board

In 1826 Governor Darling set up an Assignment Board to which all applications for convicts had to be sent. Instructions were given to reject potential employers with a reputation for excessive indulgence or cruelty. (Hirst, Convict Society, pp.83, 89, Fletcher, Ralph Darling, pp.93ff). The number of convict clerks working in sensitive areas was reduced and convicts themselves were more frequently withdrawn from abusive work situations. The regulations governing applications for convict labour and the way in which convicts were employed were further tightened by Governor Bourke.

Responsibility for managing convicts

While the Principal Superintendent of Convicts overlooked convict management in general, day-to-day management prior to 1826 was the responsibility of the Chief Engineer.

A major re-organisation took place between 1826 and 1828 when the distribution of convicts was placed under a Board appointed by Governor Darling. (Fletcher, Ralph Darling, pp.93ff, McMartin, Public Servants and Patronage, pp.143ff). The Principal Superintendent of Convicts continued to handle detailed administration and correspondence.

A new Board was created in December 1831 and this, in turn was replaced by the Commissioner for the Assignment of Convict Servants in June 1836. The office of Commissioner was abolished on 1 February 1842.

Abolition of cessation of private assignment

Despite all efforts to improve convict management and redress obvious inequities the assignment system continued to come under fire. Following the highly critical report of the Molesworth Committee assignment to private service ceased on 1 July 1841.

The Convict Establishment was broken up at the end of 1855 and the remaining duties were transferred to the Convict Branch of the Police.

Indexes to the records

  • Convict Assignments, 1821-1825
  • Index of Convict Assignments in NSW, Vol 1, 1830-32 compiled by Nola M Mackey
  • Convicts and Employers (NSW) Index, 1828, 1832–33, Jan 1838–Jan 1844 compiled by Pastkeys
  • Convicts Index - certificates of freedom; bank accounts; deaths; exemptions from Government Labor; pardons; tickets of leave; and, tickets of leave passports.
  • Index to convicts who arrived in NSW, 1788–1842 compiled by the Genealogical Society of Victoria
  • Index to convict exiles arriving, 1846–50
  • Convicts to New South Wales 1788-1812 complete listings from the transportation records (compiled and edited by Carol Baxter)
  • Index to the Female Factory Parramatta, 1826-1848, Fiche 5290-5291 compiled by Norma M Tuck and Joan Reese
  • Index to the Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788–1825
  • Joan Reese's NSW Colonial Secretary's In Letters Index to convicts and others, 1826–96, available in the Reading Room
  • Index to letters sent re convicts, 1826–May 1855 (compiled by Joan Reese)
  • NRS-922 Colonial Secretary's Indexes and Registers, 1826–1900, available in the Reading Room

List of main record series

Records of assignment

Colonial Secretary
NRS-898[5/3821.1] Reel 587, Fiche 3293
Special bundles, 1794-1825Assignment of convictsPapers re convict servants in the employ of T.R. Townson, John Campbell, and G.F. Palmer, 1822–23Nominal return of Bonded Mechanics and to whom they were assigned, 28 Apr 1824List of Defaulters in Payment for assigned convict Tradesmen and of those tradesmen up to 30 Jun 1824
NRS-898 [2/8283], Reel 6028 
Special bundles, 1794-1825Miscellaneous convict returnsAppin district: Returns of convicts received, assigned and returnedJan–Apr, Jun, Jul, Oct–Dec 1824 pp.49-76Emu Plains: Returns of labourers selected from and distributed by the Benches at Penrith and WindsorOct–Dec 1823 pp.165, 173, 175, 181Northumberland and Durham, counties of: Monthly returns of convicts assignedFeb–Nov 1824 pp.77-97
 Oct 1823-Dec 1824
NRS-898[4/1917.3], Reel 594
Special bundles, 1794-1825Emu Plains: Weekly returns of prisoners employed at the Government Agricultural Establishment
 Aug–Dec 1826
NRS-898[4/7028C], Reel 6031
Special bundles, 1794-1825Weekly returns of men employed at the Government Stock Establishment on the Cowpastures
 Oct 1822, 28 Dec 1823–31 Dec 1825
NRS-898[X53], Reel 587, Fiche 3296
Special bundles, 1794-1825Alphabetical list of persons to whom convict mechanics had been assigned under the Government and General Orders of 22 Dec 1821 The list shows master's name and residence, number of payments due, mechanic's name, trade and ship.
 31 Mar 1822–30 Sep 1823
NRS 898[4/1841A pp.151-153], Reel 1078, Fiche 3126
Special bundles, 1794-1825Alphabetical list of convicts who have mustered in the service of Mr Robert Crawford
NRS-898[4/1775], Reel 6060
Special bundles, 1794-1825Work undertaken by convicts at various Government EstablishmentsEmu Plains pp. 164-165Baulkham Hills p. 167Rooty Hill pp.168-170Grose Farmpp. 171-172Longbottom p.173
 Oct 1824
NRS-898[4/2772.2], Fiche 3289, COD 226 pp.1-2
Special bundles, 1794-1825Miscellaneous convict papers, 1810–62 – Lists of men employed at Wallis Plain
 May–Aug, Dec 1826
NRS-905[4/1791 p.237], Reel 702
Main series of letters received, 1826-1982Report of Board on minimum rate of allowance for convict servants
NRS-905[4/2011.1], Reel 2801
Main series of letters received, 1826-1982Proceedings of the Board appointed to reconsider the estimate of the expense of work performed by convicts and to ascertain the current price of workmanship and materials in the colony,
 12 Nov 1828
NRS-905CSIL 30/8248 in [4/2085]
Main series of letters received, 1826-1982Mechanics and tradesmen on road gangs
 2 Nov 1830
NRS-906[4/7029A], Reels 593, 6031
Special bundles, 1826-1982Bathurst - Returns of men employed at the Government Stock Establishment, noting station, name, ship and how employed
 June 1823-Oct 1827
NRS-906[4/1916], Reel 593, Fiche 3300
Special bundles, 1826-1982Returns of the Government Establishment, Bathurst:Weekly returns of public labour performed by the Government Gangs at Bathurst, 2 Jan–19 Aug 1826 showing names, trade or calling and nature of employmentMonthly returns of prisoners received and discharged, Jan 1825, Jan–Jun 1826Monthly returns of convicts assigned, Jan 1825, Jan–Jul 1826Return of mechanics employed at Bathurst, 17 Nov 1826Returns of runaways, Jan–Jul 1826Miscellaneous accounts and correspondence
 1825, 1826
NRS-906[4/7084], Reel 588
Special bundles, 1826-1982Petitions from wives of convicts for their husbands to be assigned to themIndex in the Reading Room on Reels 1250-1251.
NRS-906[SZ79], COD 182 and COD 242;another copy Mitchell Library A1381 pp.235-238
Special bundles, 1826-1982Printed circulars re assigned servants
 29 June 1831
NRS-906[4/2180.3], Reel 590
Special bundles, 1826-1982Assignment of female prisoners per Buffalo, 1833
NRS-906[X645-X646], Reel 591
Special bundles, 1826-1982Petitions for reassignmentIndex in the Reading Room on Reels 1250-1251.
NRS-906[SZ1015], COD 210
Special bundles, 1826-1982List of convicts on account of whose maintenance Mr Thomas Icely claims exemption from payment of quit rent (Jan 1826–Sep 1850) Gives name, ship and period of employment.
 13 Sep 1850
NRS-906[4/7323], Reel 829
Special bundles, 1826-1982ReturnsThese returns record persons employed in the Principal Superintendent of Convicts department and Hyde Park Barracks giving position, date of appointment and salary.
 1831, 1833–1855
Special bundles, 1826-1982Papers re transfer of convicts and convict establishment
NRS-937[4/3493-3520], Reels 1028-1041, Reels 6004-6016
Special bundles, 1826-1982Returns of convicts sent to various districts after being disembarkedThese returns show to which district a convict was assigned and frequently the master's name. For completeness a couple of additional entries from NRS-1155 have been included in the list.These are are included in the Colonial Secretary's Papers and form part of the Archives Resources Kit. A. General1822 List of 97 men forwarded to Penrith, Windsor, Airds and Evan to assist with the harvest [4/3506 pp.461-462], Reel 6009B. By vessel of arrivalView the list »
NRS-1189[4/4524], Reels 592, 901
Index to convicts holding some indulgence, permitting them, or otherwise, to travel with their masters between New South Wales and Van Diemen’s LandThe index notes for each convict: name, ship to NSW and ship to Van Diemen's Land, master's name, with a reference to the authorizing letter. The letters referred to are part of the series Colonial Secretary: Letters sent re Convicts, CGS 962.
NRS-1192[4/4570D], Reel 586, Fiche 3290-3291 
Alphabetical list of assigned convicts who were not mechanicsThe list notes date, name, ship, to whom assigned, residence and remarks.
NRS-1193[2/8208], Reel 2664
Memoranda book, 1829–37, and record of applications for assigned servantsThe volume contains copies of letters sent regarding the landing, disposal and assignment of convicts off convict ships, 13 Aug 1829–11 Dec 1833, and other matters relating to convicts. Included is a list of persons not to receive assigned servants c.1831–1833, and a register of applications for assigned servants, 1838-1841.
Commissioner for Assignment of Convict Servants
NRS-1346[2/8209], Reel 2664
Commissioner for Assignment of Convict Servants: Register of persons prohibited from receiving convict servantsThe volume records names of persons prohibited, residence, date of Colonial Secretary's letter requesting prohibition which belong to series Colonial Secretary: Copies of letters sent re Convicts, NRS-962 [4/3664-94] and occasional references to letters cancelling it.
31 Mar 1826-26 Dec 1833
Courts of Petty Sessions
NRS-3397[SZ767 pp.155-57], Reel 655; COD 77 and COD 197 pp.61-65
Judge Advocates Bench, Sydney; ProceedingsList of women servants in the employ of officers or other house-keepers furnished to the Judge Advocates Office, Sydney, 7 Nov 1798. The list notes name of house servant and number of children, who they were in service to, and sometimes husband's name.
19 Feb 1788-18217 Nov 1798
NRS-2774[4/7554], Reel 593; COD 219
BathurstAnnual alphabetical returns of applications for assigned servantsThe returns show: name of applicant, name of property, total number of acres, number of acres cultivated, where situated, nature of tenure (whether by grant, purchase or lease), number of convicts applied for, number at present in service and date of application.
NRS-3341[4/5650], Reel 594
Queanbeyan Deposition book for assigned persons
 June 1838-Oct 1844
NRS-3067[4/5675], Reel 2652 
Vale of ClywdRegister of applications for convict labour and mechanics
 Sep 1836–Sep 1838
NRS-3072[4/5675], Reel 2652
Vale of ClywdRegister of convicts returned to the Government
Executive Council
NRS-4242[2/8166], Reel 2652
Miscellaneous Papers, 1832-1834, 1857Return of convict mechanics at the Lumber Yard
Police, Convict Branch
NRS-10981[2/8395], Reel 2800
Daily work record of convict farm gangThe volume records convict's name and ship, date, class, nature of employment, amount of work performed, conduct, industry, reference letter, and overseer's signature (H. Skinner). In front of the volume there are instructions as to how the Work Book was to be filled out and definitions of 'Degrees of Conduct' and 'Degrees of Industry'. The volume is believed to relate to a farm gang employed on land at Elizabeth Bay, now belonging to the Kincoppal Convent of the Sacred Heart.
May-Dec 1864
Principal Superintendent of Convicts
Convict IndentsThe bound manuscript indents record 'how disposed of' which usually gives assignment on arrival.See Item list Appendix I of the Guide to Convicts and Convict Administration »
NRS-12193[4/4520], Reel 586, Fiche 746
Register of artificers and other labourers assignedThe register shows date of bond, to whom assigned, residence, prisoners' names, ship, occupation, date of payment commencing, date and cause of return and occasionally, additional observations.
24 Dec 1821-1825 
NRS-12194[4/4521-4522], Reel 586, Fiche 747-748
Registers of prisoners who were not artificers and who had been assignedThe volumes record date of assignment, to whom assigned, residence, prisoners' names, ship, remarks, date and reason for return.
24 Dec 1821-31 Dec 1824, 1825
NRS-12195[4/4525], Reel 587, COD 241
List of absconding convicts and assigned servantsThe list records the prisoner's name, vessel, where absconded from, date last advertised, number of weeks advertised, number of weeks absconded, and occasionally further remarks.
NRS-12196[4/4282-4286], Reel 589, Fiche 1002Search the Online Index »
Butts of tickets of exemption from government labourEach butt gives the following information: number; date; prisoner's name; number; ship (with master's name) and year of arrival; religion; native place; trade or calling; offence; place and date of trial; sentence; year of birth; physical description; with whom and where prisoner was to reside. Notes of alterations or cancellations of tickets are on all the butts.27/30 - Date 21 Jun 1827-3 Dec 1827 [4/4282]30/68 - Date 1 Jan 1828-2 Jan 1830 [4/4283]31/154 - Date 2 Jan 1830-1 Jun 1831 [4/4284]32/200 - Date 30 Jul 1831-24 Sep 1832 [4/4285][4/4286] This volume has not been used and is blank.The butts are indexed from 1 Jan 1828-24 Sep 1832, in front of the respective volumes and on Fiche 1001.
21 Jun 1827–24 Sep 1832
NRS-12197[4/4061-4062], Reels 590 & 890, Fiche 1006Search the Online Index »
Registers of exemption from government labourThe registers show date of issue, name of holder, ship and year of arrival, with whom and in what district the prisoner will reside.They are indexed in front of the volumes of butts of tickets of exemption, 1828-1832 [4/4283-85], see series above.1 Jan 1828-8 Oct 1830 [4/4061]15 Nov 1830-24 Sep 1832 [4/4062]
NRS-12198[4/4519], Reel 592
Register of assignment bonds of convict servants to military and naval officersBrief details are noted alphabetically by officer's name in the register. Convicts' names are not given.
NRS-12199[4/4287-4288], Reel 592; COD 214
Butts of tickets of private employmentThe tickets records the following information: number, date, name, ship, year, native place, calling, place and date of trial, sentence, year of birth, height, complexion, hair, eyes, general remarks, who is to employ him, for what purpose, how much the employer is going to lodge in the savings bank, Sydney, per month to the credit of the prisoner, how much he is to give prisoner in wages besides providing him with board and lodging. (Each ticket expired after six months, but notes on the butts indicate that they could be renewed if required).Almost invariably the name of the prisoner assigned denotes that he has French ancestry. All the prisoners arrived aboard the ship Buffalo in 1840 after having been convicted at Montreal, Canada, in late 1838 or 1839.There is an index in front of the volume [4/4287]. Volume [4/4288] was not used and is blank.
Surveyor General
NRS-13733[2/1626.1], Reel 586
Certificates stating that the necessary bonds for the maintenance of convicts had been entered intoThe certificates were sent by the Colonial Secretary to the Surveyor General.
NRS-13811[2/1626.2], COD 224
Papers re quantities of land cleared by clearing parties for various settlersThese papers record names of land holders, date and method of land clearing, such as timber felled, burnt off.
NRS-13792[9/2689], Reel 590
Road gang reportsReports, usually monthly, of the various road gangs, detailing place stationed and overseer; and for each convict, his number, name, ship, job, casualties, discharge. There are also weekly reports of road parties under the direction of the Surveyor General, 1830.
NRS-13946[4/8367], Reel 2652
Register of prisoners employed and of government stock at the Government Stock Station, Mulgoa,This volume was a record kept by a convict overseer, Timothy Cusack, whose chief responsibility was the working oxen employed by the various road gangs being rested at Mulgoa.The monthly returns record the number or name of each gang, the district where it was working, the name of the overseer and where he was stationed, and details of the oxen. There are also detailed returns of the stock being depastured at Mulgoa.The register includes returns of convicts employed at Mulgoa noting name, ship and how employed.
Apr 1838-Jan 1839
NRS-13949[2/1626.4], Reel 592; COD 227
List of prisoners assigned to surveyors and the Surveyor General’s DepartmentIndexed in Convicts and Employers (NSW) Index, 1828, 1832–37, Jan 1838–Jan 1844 compiled by Pastkeys
Surveyor of Roads and Bridges
NRS-13960[2/1626.5], COD 227 pp.1-18
Warrants to discharge prisoners to assist in harvesting, 1828The warrants were issued by the Superintendent of Police, Parramatta, to the Surveyor of Roads and Bridges in order to discharge prisoners from the road gangs to assist the settlers named in the warrant in harvesting, under the terms of the Government notice of 1 Oct 1828.Indexed in Convicts and Employers (NSW) Index, 1828, 1832–37, Jan 1838–Jan 1844 compiled by Pastkeys
Other sources
Australian Joint Copying ProjectH010/29 PRO Reel 70, COD 7
Alphabetical return of convicts who arrivedRecords name, age, ship, year of arrival, sentence, religion, employment and residence.
Nov 1828-Dec 1832
Australian Joint Copying ProjectH010/30 PRO Reel 70, COD 8
Alphabetical return of convicts who arrivedRecords name, ship, sentence and how disposed of.
Sources held elsewhere
Mitchell LibraryA2086-88
Returns of public labour, Lumber Yard, Parramatta. Superintendent of Carpenters
12 Jan 1811-1821
Mitchell LibraryML Mss 2480
Yass District - Musters of ticket of leave men
c. 1843-1850

Iron’d gangs and road parties

Colonial Secretary
1828 Census: Householders' returnsDistrict of Prospect # 9 Iron Gang, District of Botany Bay #11 Road Party, District of Kissing Point #14 Road Gang, District of Liverpool Prisoners Barrack, District of Concord #26 Road Gang #22 Road Gang #7 Road Gang.
1828 Census: Householders' returnsDistrict of Melville #10 Iron Gang - Barnard Larogy, Melville
1828 Census: Householders' returns - District of Parramatta Parramatta Hospital, #23 Road & Bridge Party, #13 Road Gang. District of Baulkham Hills #13 Road Gang.
NRS-906[SZ79], COD 182 and 242;another copy Mitchell Library A1381 pp.239-241
Special bundles, 1826-1982Printed circular re custody and management of convicts sentenced to work in irons on the roads or public works,
 10 Sep 1832
NRS-906[4/2772.2B], Reels 2800 and 1901
Special bundles, 1826-1982Monthly return of work of road and iron’d gangs
 Aug 1835
NRS-906[4/7026], Reel 822
Special bundles, 1826-1982Phoenix Hulk– weekly returns
 25 Jun, 6 Aug, 3 Sep 1836
NRS-906Letter No.48/5523 with LC51/7 in [4/3025],Reels 709-710; COD 226 pp.44-47
Special bundlesList of prisoners attached to Blackheath Stockade, recording name, ship, condition when tried, offence, sentence and date, previous character, character since received at the gang and remarks
1826-198218 Apr 1848
Courts of Petty Sessions
NRS-3367[7/6692], Reel 711
SconeList of convicts in the road gangs at SconeRecords date, name, ship, period rationed, number of days, who assigned to if assigned, and details of discharge or transfer.
 Jun 1841-Dec 1843
NRS-13236[4/6271], Reel 708
Miscellaneous returnsList of men in irons from Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay, 1839-1840List of prisoners discharged to country iron'd gangs
NRS-13238[4/6271 part, 4/6273], Reel 708
Journal for the report of the chaplain, surgeon and other public functionaries visiting the iron’d gangsRecords officer's name, date and remarks (if any).Woolloomooloo Stockade [4/6271 part]Carter's Barracks [4/6273]
NRS-13239[4/6271 part, 4/6273 part, Document Nos. 95-96], Reels 687 and 708
Index of prisoners sentenced to work in irons tried at Quarter Sessions, the Police Office, and Hyde Park BarracksTwo items have been extracted from [4/6273] and are separately located at Document Nos. 95-96.1.[Document No. 95] is a list of persons serving under Colonial sentence in irons at the Woolloomooloo Stockade, 18 January 1848 which, gives the convicts' name, ship arrived in, original sentence, iron'd gang sentence, time served in iron'd gang and remarks; it has been annotated to show convicts from Blackheath, 27 January 1848.2.[Document No. 96] is a report of the Board of Survey of the Woolloomooloo Stockade, 25 February 1848.
1840, 1842-1848 
Surveyor General
NRS-13792[9/2689], Reel 590
Road gang reportsReports, usually monthly, of the various road gangs, detailing place stationed and overseer; and for each convict, his number, name, ship, job, casualties, discharge etc. There are also weekly reports of road parties and iron'd gangs under the direction of the Surveyor General, 1830.
NRS-13946[4/8367], Reel 2652
Register of prisoners employed and of government stock at the Government Stock Station, Mulgoa

Runaways and absconding assigned servants

Search the Colonial Secretary's Index, 1788-1825 using terms such as absconding, escape and runaways.

NSW Government Gazettes

English newspaper Hue and Cry, and Police Gazette 30 Sep 1797-22 Dec 1810, 18 Jan 1828-30 Dec 1840 (1829 missing) includes lists of escaped convicts. Printed in London every three weeks and contain information relating to convicts in New South Wales and Tasmania, including lists of escaped convicts, lists of deserters from the armed forces and notes of committals in the City of London and country areas Mitchell Library X343.42/1, and MDQ352.205/2.

Runaways and absconding assigned servants

Colonial Secretary
NRS-898[2/8283 p.141], Reels 593 and 695
Special bundles, 1794-1825Miscellaneous convict returns - Return of convict absentees from Emu Plains, apprehended in different districts and sent to Port Macquarie
 1 Apr 1822-31 Mar 1823
NRS-905CSIL 26/885 in [4/1883]
Letters received, 1826-1982Nominal list of convicts who are supposed to have escaped from the colony in 1825
NRS-906[4/1916], Reels 593 and 599
Special bundles, 1826-1982Bathurst – Returns of runaways
 Jan-Jul 1826
NRS-906[2/8319 pp.19-23], Reel 2278
Special bundles, 1826-1982Weekly returns of runaways absconded and apprehended at Parramatta
 9 Jul-9 Aug 1827
Special bundles, 1826-1982Rewards for the capture of bushrangers, runaways etc.Includes papers laid before the Executive Council in 1835 re rewards for the apprehension of runaways, 1833.
NRS-906[4/7103], Reel 828
Special bundles, 1826-1982Papers re runaway convicts from Port Phillip in South Australia
NRS-905Originals with CSIL 29/9732 in [4/2056], COD 197 pp.21-59
Letters received, 1826-1982Quarterly returns of runaways,Both returns are in alphabetical order and contain a good description of the convict. The first is printed.
 1 Apr-1 Jul 1829, 1 Jan-31 Mar 1830
Courts of Petty Sessions
NRS-2773[9/2640], Reel 2652
BathurstSummons case registerIn the back of this volume there is a list of rewards granted for the apprehension of runaway convicts. This shows date, to whom the reward was granted with amount of reward, the name of the prisoner and from July 1836 onwards the ship of arrival.
Principal Superintendent of Convicts
NRS-12195[4/4525], Reel 587; COD 241
 List of absconding convicts and assigned servantsRecord of convicts and assigned servants who absconded and were advertised for in the Sydney Gazette, showing: name, vessel, where absconded from, date last advertised, number of weeks advertised, number of weeks absent and remarks. See the Index to the Sydney Gazette in the Mitchell Library.

Records of exiles

Principal Superintendent of Convicts
NRS-12192[4/4546], Reel 706
Copies of shipping lists of Exiles and TransportsList of convicts, "exiles" or transports, recommended for conditional pardons, embarked on various vessels, stating the prison they were sent from and arranged by ship. The following details of the individual prisoner are noted – name, age, literacy, trade or profession, marital status, specific description of crime, sentence, when and where convicted, when and where received and occasionally additional remarks. There is an index in front of volume.Lists of exiles for the following ships are included: Anna Maria, Eden, Joseph Somes, Maitland, Marion and Thomas Arbuthnot. The list of 90 boys embarked from Parkhurst Prison on board the convict ship, Thomas Arbuthnot for Port Phillip, 11 January 1847 gives name, age, trade, disposition and character. Index on State Records' website.
NRS-12223[4/4526], Reel 704
Convicts on Hashemy — Register of assignment and historyPrincipal Superintendent of Convicts. This volume records the history of the individual convicts landed off the Hashemy, noting tickets of leave, passports and pardons received, assignments, any later convictions, death etc. There is an index in the front of the volume.
Sources held elsewhere
NRS-1374Held at the Mitchell LibraryA1764-1 CY 789
Darling Downs — Returns of persons occupying Crown lands and description of runs 
Reel 2905
Darling Downs - Returns of exiles employed in the district
Original held in the Public Record Office of Victoria.​Photocopy COD 115 in the Reading Room.
Lists of ExilesConcerning those convict exiles transported on the Royal George (1844), Sir George Seymour (1845) and Strathenden (1846). The lists record name, age, trade or calling, native place, by whom engaged, wages, remarks and additional information such as crime, where convicted and sentence my also be given.

Other sources

  • Musters and Census Records »
  • Butts of ticket of leave passports, 1835–69 in the Convicts Index »
  • NSW Government GazettesNSW Government Gazettes, 1832–50 have been indexed in the Australasian Genealogical Computer Index (AGCI) available through the Society of Australian Genealogists

How to access the records covered in this guide

  • None of the files can be viewed online
  • Visit the Reading Room to view the original documents
  • Copy service - choose paper photocopies or digital delivery
  • Hire a researcher. We cannot undertake research for you. Please see our referral list of professional researchers