Convicts transported from South Australia

The following database will allow you to access details on persons convicted in South Australian courts to transportation.

Many people have expressed surprise that South Australian courts were involved in the transportation of convicted criminals but every court in every jurisdiction throughout the British Empire operated with the same statutes.

An examination of the offences which resulted in conviction revealed that the South Australian courts were closely aligned to the sentencing strategies of their British counterparts.

The South Australians sentenced to transportation in the first eleven years of settlement [1837-1848] can be located at State Records by searching through a range of material including the Adelaide Gaol registers which are on microfilm. For the remaining period [1849-1851], the material is a little more elusive and a multitude of sources, all incomplete, need to be examined. The best sources are the newspaper reports, however, these do not indicate a subsequent pardon or commutation of the sentence. Moreover, the details of the actual transportation are not outlined as in the gaol records. Once the name is secured the researcher can check the indexed Colonial Secretary's and Supreme Court correspondence files for further details. This is a rather hit and miss affair as not all those convicted were the subject of correspondence. Some correspondence on related matters does refer to the transportees but this can usually only be located by checking the whole index. References to convicts have been noted in correspondence to Colonial Secretaries of neighbouring colonies, agreements between the government and ship owners to transport convicts and pay adjustments for police escorting convicts.

In the early days of settlement, South Australia was plagued with problems attributed to escaped convicts [called bolters] from the penal settlements in the east of the continent. These outlaws saw the colony as a safe haven but had to resort to a life of crime as they were unable to obtain legitimate work.

The other link South Australia has with transportation is through the number of transported convicts who ultimately settled in South Australia. A significant, but unknown number of ex-convicts chose to settle in South Australia. Several individuals rose to prominent positions within their local communities, but by and large they can only be located by chance. In the century following the discontinuation of transportation, ex-convicts and their families went to considerable lengths to hide their past.

Many cases have come to light where not even immediate members of the family knew that a member of their family had been a convict. It is only in quite recent times that it has become almost fashionable to locate an ancestor who was a convict! Regardless, there are still families living in South Australia who refuse to believe they descend from a convict.

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