How to look for records of... Criminal transportees

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This is a brief guide to researching criminal transportees. The National Archives holds records of trials and convictions, including those of people sentenced to transportation, as well as of convict voyages, censuses and pardons. Few of these records are indexed by name, so finding a particular person can be complicated.

Transportation was often used as an alternative punishment for criminals who would otherwise have been executed, with convicts sentenced after trials at assizes, quarter sessions and the Old Bailey.

What do I need to know before I start?

Originally transportation was to America or the West Indies. From 1718 to 1776 it was to America only, and from 1787 to 1867 it was to Australia and Tasmania (then called Van Diemen’s Land).

Try to find out:

  • when and where the convict was tried
  • the name of their ship
  • the date on which their ship sailed

Few records survive about individual convicts who were transported to North America and the West Indies. For more information see Criminal transportees: further research.

What records can I see online?

Records of transportees to Australia (1787-1879)

Search convict censuses, musters, pardons and tickets of leave (including HO 10, HO 11 and CO 209/7) on (£).

The 1828 New South Wales census, (HO 10/21-27), is the most complete. Often you can find:

  • biographical information
  • whether each settler came free or as a convict, or was born in the colony
  • the ship name and the year of arrival

HO 10 also contains material about convicts’ pardons and tickets of leave from New South Wales and Tasmania, 1834-59.

Please note you can also download HO 10 and HO 11 free of charge from Discovery, our catalogue. Please be aware that these are very large files and only suitable for download on a fast and unlimited broadband connection.

Index to Tasmanian convicts (1804-1853)

Search the Index to Tasmanian convicts (Archives Office of Tasmania) by name to see some digitised records, including conduct records, indents, and descriptions.

Criminal registers for England and Wales (1791-1892)

Search criminal registers for England and Wales (HO 26 and HO 27), 1791 to 1892, on (£).

Criminals, convicts and prisoners (1770-1934)

Search the assorted records of criminals, convicts and prisoners on (£) for records of transportees amongst these records. Many of these records, however, are not of transportees.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Convict ship medical journals (c.1816-1856)

Search our catalogue, by ship’s name or convict’s name, in ADM 101 to find journals documenting convicts’ illnesses during the voyage to Australia.

Search by ship name in MT 32 (1858-67) for further medical information.

Privy Council correspondence (1819-1844)

Search by date, PC 1/67-92 for additional material about transportation, and the Privy Council registers (PC 2), which also give lists of convicts transported for 14 years or less.

For advice on more records available at The National Archives at Kew that may help you find details of a criminal transportee, see our Criminal transportees: further research guide.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records of convicts are held by Australian libraries and archives, including the State Library of Queensland, the State Library of New South Wales, and the Archives Office of Tasmania.

What other resources will help me find information?


Visit the Convicts to Australia website for lists of convicts, lists of convict ships with dates that they sailed and arrived and all sorts of other research tools and advice.

Search the Convict transportation registers database (State Library of Queensland) by name of convict.

Consult the section of The State Library of New South Wales’ website called Family History: Convicts.

Consult the website Female Convicts Research Centre for information on female convicts transported to Tasmania from 1803.


Peter Wilson Coldham, The complete book of emigrants in bondage, 1614-1775. An alphabetical list of people including where each person was tried.

Peter Wilson Coldham, Bonded passengers to America. This provides a detailed overview of all the published sources of relevant records in The National Archives.

David T Hawkings, Criminal ancestors: a guide to historical criminal records in England and Wales (2009)

David T Hawkings, Bound for Australia (2012)

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives’ reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.