Was Elizabeth really only 15 when she faced court for the fourth time in Scotland in 1834? Or was she 20 on arrival in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) in 1835 as her transportation records stated?[1] 

It is likely that the court records are more accurate as many men and women transported to the Australian colonies frequently altered their ages and marital status to suit their circumstances – mostly to improve their prospects of marriage or employment. Record keeping was poor and not compulsory in many jurisdictions in the United Kingdom in the eighteenth century and many records were lost or destroyed over time making it difficult to verify personal details.[2]

In any event, Elizabeth was no stranger to petty crime as she already had three prior convictions for stealing clothes for which she had served two terms of imprisonment of thirty and sixty days.[3]

After a further conviction for theft, and recorded at trial as only 15,[4] Elizabeth found herself on a ship with 133 other female convicts bound for a developing, and often brutal, colony half a world away. Did she have any idea what this new life would hold for her? Was she looking to escape a life of misery and poverty in Scotland?


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].