Using Convict Records to Go Back

‘Male and Female Convicts’ (via

The wonderful Tasmanian Archives site has a wealth of records available online – particularly for those researching their convict ancestors.
My ancestor, Elizabeth ALLEN arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) aboard the convict ship, Margaret in 1843.  The details given by her where recorded upon her arrival.
Coming from a large city like Birmingham, with a relatively common name, I had lost hope of finding who Elizabeth ALLEN’s parents were. For some strange reason – perhaps I was having trouble reading the handwriting or deciphering the code used – I didn’t realise how much family information was contained on my ancestor’s arrival record when I first viewed it. After looking again at her arrival record, I could now see that the information I needed was there waiting for me.

Allen, Elizabeth
Height: 5/2 1/4
Age: 20
Calling: [Domestic Servant] & Needlewoman
Where Tried: Warwickshire, Birmingham Boro QS
When Tried: 21 October 1842
Sentence: 10
Native Place: Birmingham
Married or Single: S
Children: [blank]
Religion: CE
Read or Write: R
Relations – Apprenticeship – Where Last Residing: F Isaac at Churchill 2B Josiah & Wm 1S Mary Ann with my father; 9 [months?] on the Town
Ship Character: Fair
Offences: Stg a shawl [from? Gt?] Hampton St; once for same 3 mos
My interpretation:

F = father Isaac at Churchill
2B = 2 brothers Josiah and William
1S = 1 sister Mary Ann

These siblings (or at least Mary Ann) are living with her father in Churchill.
(‘9 months on the town’ seems to indicate that Elizabeth had also been prostituting herself).
Using Family Search, I searched the IGI for the birth of Elizabeth ALLEN around 1822, including her father’s name Isaac.  I found an appropriate entry for 29 Sep 1822 in Harborne, Staffordshire. Harborne was so near to Birmingham that it became a suburb in 1890 (source).

To check this was the right record and accept her mother’s name as Ann, I then searched for her siblings birth entries.  I was able to find Josiah and Mary Ann, also born in Harborne (no record of William as yet).  Ann was recorded as Ann PHILLIPS on Josiah’s record, Anne Philis on Mary Ann’s and simply Ann on Elizabeth’s.

I was also able to find the likely marriage record for Isaac and Ann – 26 Aug 1821, Halesowen, Worcester – Ann was recorded as Ann Phillis GEALEY/GALEY.  So was Phillis another Christian name or a mistranscription of Phillips?

Next Steps:

I Feel the Need… the Need for FOCUS

I’ve been MIA the last few weeks as I travelled back to Australia for my brother’s wedding (which was lovely).
Sadly, my grandmother’s health has deteriorated and she has now moved to Sydney to be closer to my uncle. (Interestingly, she is a direct descendant of the BUCHAN lunatics I’ve been blogging about and is also suffering from senility). 

However, this move uncovered many photograph albums that I think even grandma had forgotten existed.  She told me once that she had thrown out all her old photos because she didn’t think anyone was interested (!).  Happily, this has turned out not to be the case and I pored over loads of antique photographs of her life (which until now I had never seen).  More on those when I have access to a scanner…

image via doubleday

In other news, I am currently reading a new book entitled, ‘Tasmania’s Convicts’ by Alison Alexander, which I found whilst in Australia.  I am less than halfway through but find it addictive reading and am happy to recommend it to anyone researching convict ancestors in Van Diemen’s Land.  It even mentions my ancestor Elizabeth ALLEN (very briefly) who was transported there in 1843 for stealing a shawl.

My brother has just returned from his honeymoon in Tasmania, where he had spent part of it ‘researching’ at Port Arthur. I hope to receive some information from him in the near future.

My head is swimming with genealogy right now so I’ve decided to focus on my convict ancestors for a while to give me a bit of focus.  No doubt when I get this scanner, I’ll be flitting around again though.

Black Sheep Sunday

Hobart Town from the New Town Road by J.S. Prout (1844)
Carrying on from last week’s Black Sheep Sunday post. I have managed to have find some more snippets of information of my Black Sheep duo – George WHITE and Elizabeth ALLEN.
World Vital Records offered free records until the 18th (tomorrow) so I took them up on their offer. I must say, I do find the site a bit of confusing. Searches for records of specific places (such as UK, Australia and New Zealand) tend to also include the American records in the results. This may be something an experienced user can combat but for me, time is of the essence!
Tucked away in the Hobart Town Gazette of 1844 were 2 references for each of my beloved convicts.

Hobart Town Gazette – 8 March 1844
Elizabeth Allen, Margaret, to Zachary Pocock, Hobart

Hobart Town Gazette – 16 August 1844
George White, George III., from J. & R. Meikle, Murray-street,
to Thomas Allcock, Hobart Town.

Hobart Town Gazette – 12 November 1844
George White, George the Third, by Thomas Allcock, Liverpool-street,
2 months, 21st ditto [October]

Hobart Town Gazette – 8 October 1844
Elizabeth Allen, Margaret, by George Lewis, Restdown, 1 month, from 10th ditto [September].

These snippets refer to whose private service they entered as a passholder.

From 1840 convicts usually served an initial period of “probation” in government work gangs, before becoming “passholders” who competed in the labour market. In the context of high unemployment, this meant that thousands of serving convicts joined ticket-of-leave holders and emancipists to roam the island in search of work. The sight of these workers, who by necessity or choice often lived rough in the bush, horrified and frightened the free settlers… (Source: Van Diemen’s Land by James Boyce – found via Google Books).

Next steps:

  • Search for other issues of the Hobart Town Gazette
  • Research the employers listed for some background information

Black Sheep Sunday

Some more details of two of my family’s black sheep:

I first mentioned George White and Elizabeth Allen in my post, Woman of my Conviction. Both were transported to Tasmania, Australia (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) for their respective crimes in the early 19th century.

Convicts in Tasmania were not allowed to marry each other or a ‘free’ person without approval. I discovered that the Archives Office of Tasmania has a free record service for records not available online and requested a copy of the original page with George and Elizabeth’s Convict Application to Marry.

George White & Elizabeth Allen – Convict Application to Marry

The entry gives their names, and the ships they arrived on – George the 3rd and Margaret. It tells me the application was sent on the 22 March 1845 and was approved.

George White & Elizabeth Allen – Marriage Record

The pair were subsequently married the next month on the 28th of April. Nothing is mentioned about their convict status and I wonder how long they had to answer to the authorities.

Woman of my Convictions

I found out last year that I have convict blood coursing through these law-abiding veins.

Birmingham Quarter Session Records book

Alice Ann WHITE was born in Victoria, Australia in 1860. Her parents names on the birth certificate left no clues that both her parents were actually freed convicts. The only reference to their previous life was that both of their birthplaces were recorded as Birmingham. Now, Birmingham’s a big place – George Allen WHITE and Elizabeth ALLEN are not unusual names, so I was unable to confidently identify my George and Elizabeth from the many others in the IGI.

After a bit of digging about and requests for information online, a helpful person contacted me to say they had located George and Elizabeth’s marriage in 1845 but it was actually in Tasmania! That’s pretty much where my research into this family stayed for some time.
To cut a very, long story short, I discovered that both had been transported to Australia for various thefts – George was convicted in Bedford 1834 and Elizabeth in Birmingham 1842.
I went to the Birmingham Central Library archives last week to do a bit more research into this.


I looked in the Quarter Session Records and found the record of Elizabeth’s sentence of transportation. I was surprised to see it also mentioned that she had been previously convicted of felony.
‘Oh, well’, I thought, ‘yet another mystery I may never know the answer to’.
However, when I photographed the index page, I noticed Elizabeth Allen listed again.
The entry stated that Elizabeth had been sentenced to three months hard labour for stealing a brooch and some earrings from Ann Rock.


She obviously didn’t learn her lesson – it was less than three months after her release when she stole a shawl from Michael Kelly and was transported to the colonies for 10 years.
‘Twas a hard life in them days…