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Discovering Convict History The benefits of starting as a gaol Babette Smith, November 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Discovering Convict History The benefits of starting as a gaol Babette Smith, November 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Discovering Convict History The benefits of starting as a gaol Babette Smith, November 2011

2 Timeframe

3 A LAW & ORDER DEBATE IN BRITAIN

4 Number of Convicts

5 LINES OF HISTORICAL ENQUIRY (some options)

6 Tracing Convicts The convict archives are immense. In my experience the best methodology is to get a sample of prisoners and track those men or women through the system. Its like slicing and dicing the archives because individual history often contradicts official policies and opinions. First get your sample - you have a wide choice. It can be a sample - by crime by age by location by ship by occupation by workplace in Australia. by location or date in Australia - in NSW or VDL or WA.

7 Tracing Convicts Step-By-Step Step 1 Go on to (say) the OLD BAILEY site online - Old Bailey was the original name of the Central Criminal Court in London. Step 2 Set your research parameters - lets say - 'pickpockets in the year 1821 whose sentence was transportation'. You might get 200 people. Step 3 Narrow your sample Put in pickpockets in the year 1821 whose sentence was transportation but confine the dates to, say, April 1st 1821-May You might get 10 people. Step 4 British criminal registers online at the State Library of Queensland. Search for your sample criminals, one by one. You'll know you have the right person because the names and date and place of trial will match the Old Bailey. BUT THIS SITE will give you the NAME OF THEIR SHIP Step 5 Read Charles Bateson's book THE CONVICT SHIPS. It will tell you when those ships sailed & arrived, how many prisoners on board. Keep your sample simple and discard anyone who went to Hobart. Lets say you now have 8 people left.

8 Tracing Convicts Step-By-Step Step 6 You need to see the indents for the ships that transported them. An indent is a list of all the prisoners with many personal details who sailed on a particular ship. You must go to the NSW Records because these archives are not yet online. You can go either to the main building at Kingswood near Penrith, or visit the city office in the Rocks. But check your local library too in case it has microfilms of the indents. Step 7 Skim the indent for each ship until you come to the convict you found at the Old Bailey. Now you can discover his /her age, whether he could read or write, his religion, whether he was single or married, any children, details of any tatoos, the colour of his hair and eyes, the colour of his skin and the shape of his face. Now you have a glimpse of a real person.

9 Tracing Convicts Step-By-Step Step 8 There's an easy way to trace convicts who came around A succession of colonial musters are available in print at most reference libraries. You can look up him - or her. *In the 1822 Muster *The 1825 Muster - beware, a female convict may be listed under a married name. *The 1828 Census.- if your convict was sentenced to 7 years in 1821 they may be free. You may also find a wife or husband, and children listed with them. Step 9 Online search of the historic Indexes at the Registry of NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages. Buy certificates for more details Step 10 Put your small sample in the bigger context. Compare how it illustrates what historians have written in their debate about whether the convicts were real criminals. Allow for a distortion because your sample is tiny. ©copyright 2011 Babette Smith

10 STRUCTURE Structure is dictated by the material you have. This is history ie non-fiction. You can't invent anything to fit a desired structure. You've got to do the best with what you've got. A Cargo of Women a cross-hatched structure *a single narrative story from beginning to end (Susannah Watson's story) *intersected by the events and issues for other women Elements that shaped structure of A Cargo of Women Frame the question How much primary material (information about Susannah Watson) What other original material (information about other women, often incomplete) Context to 'flesh out' the facts, fill the gaps, make your text more interesting and help the reader understand it. Analyse the issues revealed by the material you have collected. OR

11 STRUCTURE Australia's Birthstain Structured quite differently to A Cargo of Women. I was intent on proving the distortion of our history, our amnesia about it, and what caused that 'great forgetting'. In Birthstain the argument is everything. Narrative of individual lives exists but takes a minor role. Each chapter is a plank in the argument. Chapter 1Something to Hide [example of a poaching crime] Chapter 2Amnesia [famiily historians uncovering convicts] Chapter 3An Amazing Cast of Characters [this is what family historians found] Chapter 4A Convict Community [and this is what they revealed about convict society] etc.....

12 SELECTED READING Men & Women & General SHAW, A.G.L. Convicts & the Colonies ROBSON, L.L. The Convict Settlers of Australia BATESON, Charles, The Convict Ships NICHOLAS, Stephen ed. Convict Workers SMITH, Babette, Australia's Birthstain SMITH, Babette - historical essays online at: -How our convict colonists put us in a class of our own -Diggers True Blue -Heritage listing gives convicts their due -Please check your baggage at the door BRADLEY, James & PYBUS, Cassandra, From Slavery to Servitude: The Australian Exile of Constance eand Elizabeth, Journal of Australian Colonial History Vol

13 SELECTED READING Men SMITH, Babette Legend & Reality; the genius of Russel Ward SMITH, Babette, Australia's Birthstain WALSH, Brian Voices from Tocal; convict life on a rural estate NEATE, Lorraine, Paulsgrove, an Illawarra Estate or P.O. Box 250 Ingleburn NSW 1890) HIRST, Warwick Great Convict Escapes ROBERTS, David, 'A sort of inland Norfolk Island'? Isolation, Coercion & Resistance on Wellington Valley Convict Station JACH Vol 2 No HARMAN, Kryrstin, Aboriginal Convicts; race law and transportation in colonial New South Wales. doctoral thesis online at University of Tasmania e-theses 2008

14 SELECTED READING Women SMITH, Babette A Cargo of Women; Susannah Watson & the convicts of the Princess Royal [See also fictional version A Cargo of Women, the novel} SUMMERS, Anne Damned Whores and God's Police DIXSON, Miriam The Real Mathilda KINGSTON, Beverley My Wife, My Daughter and Poor Mary Ann OXLEY, Deborah Convict Maids ROBINSON, Portia The Women of Botany Bay, a reinterpretation of the role of women in the origins of Australian society DANIELS, Kay, Convict Women Collected Documents - general EVANS, L & NICHOLLS P eds. Convicts & Colonial Society CROWLEY, Frank, Colonial Australia, a documentary history, Vols 1 & 2

15 Some Useful Websites Old Bailey, London - criminal cases from British historic newspapers online - details of British crimes - access through your NSW State or municipal library Transportation Registers Database (State Library of Queensland) NSW State Records - indexes online NSW Supreme Court historic colonial trials, also links to Tasmanian Supreme Court and other locations NSW Births, Deaths & Marriages - historic indexes Tocal - pastoral station at Paterson, Hunter Valley (includes list of convicts) Russel Ward Lecture 2009 by Babette Smith, Journal of Australian Colonial History (JACH) Vol or online at Lanyon historic pastoral estate, (includes lists of convicts) Trove - historic Australian newspapers The Convict Trail or The Great North Road - a convict heritage site (includes list of convicts


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