Convicts: Life in the colony

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Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
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Gaol records

Researching gaol record indexes

You can search these indexes to find out if your convict was held at a NSW Gaol. You can find when your convict was brought in and by whom, their date of arrival and name of their ship, as well as your convict's alias, place of service and offence.



Darlinghurst and Inner Sydney

There were a number of gaols within the inner city: Sydney Gaol, Hyde Park Barracks, Darlinghurst Gaol, Carter's Barracks and Cockatoo Island. Inmates from Sydney Gaol were moved to Darlinghurst Gaol when it opened in 1841.

Emu Plains

The Emu Plains Government Agricultural Establishment was established by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1819 to house and employ the large number of new convict arrivals as well as convicts being retrained in agricultural work.


Port Macquarie

As free settlers began to move into the Newcastle area, convicts were transferred from there to the newly established penal settlement of Port Macquarie in 1821.

In 1825, Governor Brisbane decided to close Port Macquarie as a penal settlement and open the area to free settlers and over the next 8 years most of the convicts were sent to Moreton Bay (Brisbane) and Norfolk Island (McLachlan, 1988, p. 129).

Search the following resources to find out if your convict was transported to Port Macquarie under colonial sentence. You will find biographical details such as their name, the name of the ship and year of arrival, date and place of their trial, and physical description.


Records about convicts and convict administration

Use the Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to convicts and convict administration to find a summary of the records held at State Archives & Records NSW for gaols in Bathurst, Newcastle, Parramatta, Sydney, Darlinghurst and Windsor.

You can also use the Gaol Inmates/Prisoners Guide on the State Archives & Records NSW website

Parramatta gaol

Surviving records of convicts housed in Parramatta Gaol from the 1830s onwards are held at State Archives & Records NSW. There are very few surviving early records.

Some administration records can be found in our manuscript index catalogue. Ask at the desk in the Special Collections area.

Pennant Hills

In 1801 a government farm, referred to as Castle Hill, was established in the Pennant Hills area. In 1804 a number of the convicts (the majority of them Irish) working on the farm organised an uprising which later became known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill.

Some government records about the uprising can be found in our manuscript index catalogue. Ask at the desk in the Special Collections area.