Our Volunteers, Past and Present


We have researchers volunteering with us from across the globe.  They research various aspects of a convict woman’s life, from birth to crime and transportation and then from life under sentence to life after sentence.  

We are extremely appreciative of all the work our volunteers, past and present, have contributed.

Some of our volunteers explain a little of what they do in the profiles below.


Rhonda Arthur, Somers, Victoria, Australia

Rhonda Arthur

My interest in family research began over 40 years ago when I helped a distant cousin obtain inquest documents at the PRO Vic of her second great-grandfather who was a convict transported to Port Arthur in 1837. His wife was our shared second great-grandmother. I recall being handed the original inquiry and depositions and selecting documents which were then photocopied by the counter staff. I am amazed at the amount of information now available online and pleased to be part of the FCRC team in contributing to honour the legacies of female convicts.


Colleen Arulappu, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Victorian volunteer Colleen Arulappu

My interest in family history research started over twenty-five years ago when I set out to fill in gaps in my family story. My search took me to Tasmania where I uncovered a sad tale but was amazed at the wealth of information held in the archives especially regarding convict records.  

Since then I have helped transcribe some of the medical journals from the convict voyages and letters of petition from the Irish convicts.  The work is fascinating and has filled many hours of my time in retirement from teaching and I hope I can continue my transcribing work for many more years.

Most of my work for the Female Convict Research Centre is done at home on the computer but I also volunteer at the Genealogical Society of Victoria as an assistant researcher.


Eileen Ball, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Eileen Ball

My name is Eileen Ball and my main interest is my family tree which I have been working on for the past 15 years. 

I traced my mother’s family to a village called Ramsbury in Wiltshire and when I got back to the 1830’s I learned about the machine riots for the first time.  I was fascinated with the stories of the men who had been transported and the families they left behind and as a result, found the female convict site and registered.

At the time I was living in Worcestershire, but I have recently moved to Lancashire where I joined the Leigh branch of Liverpool & SW Lancashire Family History Society.  At the first meeting I attended, I learned that this is one of the projects they are working on and now I am really looking forward to getting involved too.


Helen Ball, Liverpool, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Helen Ball

My name is Helen Ball, I have been working on my own family tree for about 4 years but my most recent project has been to research if there are any links between my own and my husband’s families, as his surname and my mother’s maiden name are both Ball! I am happy to say I found a connection albeit from the mid-1700s.

Having exhausted most of my own family research for the time being, I was happy to find an online invitation from Pat Bellas of Liverpool and South West Lancashire Family History Society for volunteers for this project which I am finding really interesting especially because many of the women where either from, or departed via Liverpool, England which is the City where I have lived all my life. Until I got involved I wasn’t aware of this important part of history and like others I too have become hooked.  I am looking forward to working with you all to unravel more mysteries from the lives of these intriguing women.


Pat Bellas, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Pat Bellas

My name is Pat Bellas and I am the Project Co-ordinator for the Liverpool and South West Lancashire Family History Society. 

Born and bred in Liverpool, I now live with my husband in a small town in Lancashire called Ashton-in-Makerfield.  This is about 15 miles from both Liverpool and Manchester.

I first heard about your fantastic project when I received an email from Colette McAlpine.  The email gave a brief outline of your project and how we could help with it.  After reading about the project and looking on your website I was hooked.

I was not wrong, both myself and the wonderful volunteer researchers I have managed to recruit agree that this is the most interesting project we have ever been involved with.


Geoff Brown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Victorian volunteer Geoff Brown

Originally from Hobart, I live in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham, and have been interested in family history for many years, an interest that was started after hearing stories of my great grandfather, a master mariner. The wealth of information now available online has allowed me to confirm that many of these stories were true, and to track his voyages around Australia and Asia.

After seeing an article on the Founders & Survivors project I decided it would be a good opportunity to contribute to a worthwhile project. This opened up an area of Australian history of which I knew little and which I have found fascinating.

Through the project I came in contact with the Female Convict Research Centre. Although I have no convict ancestors, as the only member of my immediate family born in Tasmania I saw that assisting the FCRC was a way of maintaining contact with my birthplace. The enthusiasm, commitment and helpfulness of the group is outstanding. Transcribing a number of description lists and indents has greatly improved my ability to read 19th century handwriting!

The project that I am currently working on is the Convicts to Diggers project associated with the Founders & Survivors project. Plus, of course, adding more to my family tree.


Lee Jay Cant, United Kingdom

UK volunteer Lee Jay Cant

Thank you for the privilege to be able to participate in this discovery research project. Discover the past to explore the future. Understand the past to create a future.

Complex causes propel a person do do, which combine unconscious and intentional. Experience of our ancestors add to DNA which we inherit, which unconsciously affect and make who we are today. We interact with our culture which mutates as an accruing enrichening membrane, an influencing domain.

I directly descend from two convicts transported to Hobart, who married and had over 7 children, including twins. They experienced the natural raw state of VDL, contributed to build it, travelled around it, felt and breathed its splendour, grandeur, richness, and took time to adjust from an urban city life style.

Sarah Ann Crosby b.1831 Batch, arrived St Vincent 1850, married 3/7/1853 Hobart to Edward Lloyd b.1831 Colchester, arrived Palmyra 1846. They moved from Hobart to Launceston to Penrith to Sydney. Their family chart grows like a vine, leaving the spaces of questions which are larger than answers.


Vivienne Cash, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

VIC volunteer

I was fortunate when I began my genealogical journey, to have chosen a particular line in our family history.  This line led me to Tasmania and to my great, great, great grandparents, who arrived as Convicts in VDL in the 1830’s. Little did I know then where my journey would take me and how enlightened I would become by being involved with the FCRC and the FAS Ships Project. 

I have lived in bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria all my life and in recent years, I volunteered at the Genealogy Society of Victoria as a bookkeeper and transcriber of Victorian Cemetery Records for the Society’s online facility.

My fascination with the 19th Century has been enhanced by my involvement with a committed and friendly group of volunteers in the FCRC and I love the recognition we all give to our brave ancestors.


Trudy Cowley, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

TAS volunteer Trudy Cowley

I started doing my family tree in the 1990s when I found at least 20 convict ancestors, 7 of them women. This led me to get involved with the Female Convicts Research Centre at its inception in 2004. When a database of female convicts was proposed I said, "I can do that". Since then the Female Convicts in Van Diemen's Land database has grown enormously and was the Database Administrator. I was also the volunteer who set up and managed the FCRC website, and acted as Treasurer for our organisation. I have also been the Treasurer for the Convict Women's Press and its Publications Manager. 

As well as being busy with this volunteer work, I run my own business, Research Tasmania, publishing books related to convicts and Tasmanian history (eg, A Drift of 'Derwent Ducks' and Patchwork Prisoners) and undertaking research, including work with the Founders and Survivors Project. 

I also work 3 days a week at the Tasmanian Department of Education as a data analyst (I was previously a maths teacher).


Terry Creaney, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Terry Creaney

I was raised in Northern Ireland but have been living in the North-West of England for over 30 years. I have been interested in my family history since childhood and eventually began researching seriously in the 1990s, my roots are Irish, English & Scottish. In my research, I have travelled the length and breadth of Britain & Ireland and have been in contact with many “cousins” across the world. My greatest pleasure is derived from learning about my ancestors’ lives and the world they lived in rather than just collecting names and dates.

Since my retirement 4 years ago I have helped many people with their research and become a member of the Family History Society. Through the society I have assisted in various research projects including the Female Convicts Project. I have enjoyed this greatly, having had the opportunity to learn something new, and the story of these girls has opened my eyes to an event in history I previously knew very little about.

Obituary: Terry Creaney, a member of the Leigh branch of the Liverpool South West Lancashire Family History Society, volunteered with the Liverpool-based team researching convict lives for the FCRC. Terry researched the lives of over 600 convict women before they were transported. His knowledge of village history in Britain and Ireland was invaluable as we tried to locate the women's native places. Sadly, Terry passed away on New Year’s Eve. We would like to acknowledge his work and the respect that we had for him as a member of our volunteer team. He will be sadly missed. (4.01.2017)


Tricia Curry, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


My interest in genealogy began at age nine when l read “The Caligari Family”. I was excited to learn that l descended from a Swiss migrant with an exotic surname.  Learning my personal history became vitally important and it was the Caligari line which l concentrated on, when starting my family history research. Antonio Caligari, the Swiss immigrant had married Mary Lucas who was born in Hobart.  The hunt for Mary’s parents was captivating, trying to resolve deceptive stories and verifying aliases. Discovering that Mary Lucas’s parents were convicts - Mary Sullivan (proper name Leary) and Charles Livingston - led me to the Female Convict Research Group (as it was then known).  Through this fantastic website l was able to feed my new obsession with convict history.  It was a perfect compliment to my history and criminology qualifications (BA, University of Melbourne).
A natural progression was to become involved as a volunteer with the Founders and Survivors project.  Initially I spent many hours of investigative work attempting to identify convicts in the ledgers of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, ultimately unearthing 150 Vandemonians.  I was then extremely fortunate to become both a research assistant and a coordinator of the project’s volunteers.  The full circle was complete as l returned to the Female Convicts Research Centre as a volunteer.

Post Founders and Survivors, l continued the role of research assistant and coordinator of volunteers on two further projects: Convicts and Diggers: A Demography of Life Courses, Families and Generations; and Diggers to Veterans: risk, resilience and recovery in the First Australian Imperial Force.  In 2018 l established my own family research business, Family History Detective: Tricia’s Tracings.


Arthur Davidson, Perth, Scotland


I was born in Banchory on Royal Deeside. Married to Liz for over 42 years. Two adult children, and two grandchildren. Started my insurance career in Aberdeen, moved to Glasgow in 1982, and on retirement moved to beautiful and historic Perth.

We have a motor home and enjoy travelling all over Europe. After a number of false starts we visited Tasmania in November 2016 and saw the historic sites there, and attended the FCRC seminar.  We had a great time.

I’ve been a volunteer for four years now. I photograph the original trial papers in Edinburgh, write summaries, and using the clues available, I try to put together an accurate family history of life in Scotland. I’m grateful to Sally Rackham and Deb Norris for their help in transcribing as my typing skills are woeful! I then send everything to my 'Tassie Boss' (Colette) by e-mail.

It's fascinating unravelling the convicts' lives. It gives me a better understanding of our history and keeps my grey cells working.


Bernadette Dewhurst-Phillips, Ulverstone, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmanian volunteer Bernadette Dewhurst-Phillips

I am a family history researcher and descendant, with a strong interest in finding my own and others' convict stories.

I am descended from, or have connections to, numerous convict men and women including first, second and third fleet; Norfolk Island; the Calcutta; the Rajah and other convict ships.

Visit me at http://rajahsgranddaughter.blogspot.com/.


Margaret Dimech, Northcote, Victoria, Australia

Victorian volunteer Margaret Dimech

Victorian volunteer Margaret Dimech    

Tasmania has always been one of my favourite places and the rich convict history fascinated me long before I discovered my own ancestors’ stories. But after reading a cousin’s family history publication (“Dare to Dream” by Paul Anthony), I was totally hooked. I wanted to understand how these forced emigrants survived in a foreign environment and how my family arose from these humble beginnings in Australia.

So, in response to an article in the Genealogical Society of Victoria about the Founders and Survivors Project, I discovered the Female Convicts Research Centre (FCRC). Transcribing for the two projects has introduced me to a wealth of records and taught me so much about these pioneering days.

Now retired, my professional life often involved data management, quality assurance and online publications (in the area of pathology). I hope to continue my involvement in FCRC projects long into the future.



Jill Evans, Gloucestershire, England

UK voluntter Jill Evans

I am a local historian and family history researcher, living in Gloucestershire.

I became interested in crime history while doing a course on the subject as part of a Master of Arts Degree in history with the Open University. As I was interested in local history, I wrote my dissertation on "Female Offenders in Gloucestershire, 1750-1850". This included research on women who were transported to Australia, so when I saw a notice in the Gloucestershire Family History Society Journal asking for volunteers to contribute to the database of women who were transported to Tasmania, I knew I could help!

In the last few years I have had three books published by The History Press: Hanged at Gloucester, The Gloucester Book of Days and Gloucester Murder & Crime. I have a website/blog called Gloucestershire Crime History, which can be viewed at www.gloscrimehistory.wordpress.com.


Barry Files, Porcupine Ridge, Victoria, Australia

VIC volunteer

I became interested in family history when my uncle revealed that we definitely had convict ancestry.  I embarked on several years of research including a trip to Wiltshire UK where my great-great grandmother was born.  She was tried in Monmouth Wales for murder and was transported to Tasmania for life after her death sentence was reprieved.  I published the "Life and Times of Eliza Dore" in 2012.  

I became interested in participating in the Founders and Survivors project when Janet McCalman was guest speaker at our local historical society.  I took on the task of documenting the female convicts on the "Atwick" and enjoyed contributing to such a wonderful project.


Lucy Frost, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmanian volunteer Lucy Frost

In 1997 I was appointed to the Chair of English at the University of Tasmania, the first woman to hold a Chair in Humanities or Social Sciences since the University was founded in the nineteenth century. In 1999 I delivered my formal inaugural lecture, entitled ‘singing and dancing and making a noise’: spaces for women who speak’. The opening words of the lecture were: “Narratives matter”. Narrative, I argued, is important in how communities imagine themselves.

But where were the persuasively researched stories of women transported to Van Diemen’s Land? After this public lecture, I was invited to join the board of the Female Factory Historic Site Ltd, and in 2004 Alison Alexander and I as board members co-convened a sub-committee, the Female Factory Research Group. Within ten years we have expanded into a world-wide organisation, the Female Convicts Research Centre—and we’re telling those stories!


Danny Gillespie, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

danny gillespie  

I am a relatively new Hobart resident and I am fascinated with Tasmanian history.  Much of my working life was spent with First Nations Australians on their country and I am eternally grateful to them.  I spent almost 20 years living in the Northern Territory and, at the end of my time there, was responsible for the joint management of Kakadu and Uluru National Parks, in collaboration with their traditional owners.  My partner Mary-Jane and I also enjoyed 2 years in Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories when I was the Administrator of Christmas Island.

I have a particular interest in the history of contact between settlers and First Nations Australians and truth telling in our nation’s history. 

Having tracked down some convict ancestors in my family tree, I am motivated by the thought that volunteering on FCRC projects contributes to a fantastic resource that can help others discover rich details of their family history – as well as revealing truths about the lives and legacies of Tasmanian convict women.  In addition, its enjoyable and addictive.


Kath Graham, Lancashire,  England

Kath Graham

My name is Kath Graham and I first started to trace my family tree more than 30 years ago when, on the death of an elderly aunt, I was given a shoebox full of old documents relating to my ancestors. I have found some interesting stories over the years but I have also found that my ancestors originated in Lancashire and never moved out of the county. I found this rather disappointing which is perhaps why I find the Tasmanian Convicts research so fascinating. Some of the women that I have researched had such sad lives while others were skilled and enterprising, managing to evade capture and the law until they were finally caught and transported. I suspect that these skills enabled the latter to succeed very well once they had served their sentence. This “hobby” is fast becoming an obsession.


Cheryl Griffin, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


I live in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick East, but thanks to the wonders of technology I’ve been a part of the marvellous Female Convict Research Centre team for several years and am currently a committee member.

I’ve been involved in local, social and family history for more than thirty years now and I’m still as enthusiastic as I was when I began. I started by researching my own family. My dad was a Staffordshire man and mum was Tasmanian, so I was soon used to long distance research and in the early days it gave me the perfect excuse to travel. (As if I needed an excuse!)

I worked as a secondary school teacher for 36 years and for many years my main research focus was the lives of Victoria’s teachers, especially the working lives of women teachers and the complexities of life for left-wing teachers in the twentieth century.  In 2005 I completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne that explored the life of Doris McRae, teacher, unionist, peace and social activist.

Now that I’m retired, I’m as busy as ever. My current research interests include my voluntary work for the Female Convicts Research Centre and a study of the Melbourne suburb of Coburg during the First World War.

Life is never dull!


David Guiver, Formby, Lancashire, England


I have been researching my family history for 30 years and amongst my ancestors was one who was transported to VDL in 1819. I told the story of George Rosindale in the Liverpool Family Historian (September 2011). In joining the project I hope I can help others with their research.



Mary Halliwell, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Mary Halliwell

My name is Mary Halliwell,  I live in Leigh, Lancashire, in the North West of England, 12 miles from Manchester and 22 miles from Liverpool. I am a member of Liverpool & South West Lancashire Family History Society.

My Interests are, Genealogy, Local History and Crime and Punishment. 

I was introduced to your Project about 18 months ago, by Pat Bellas, Project co-ordinator of our Family History Society.

For a number of years I have been involved in many Projects, but I have never done anything as interesting as your Project   I enjoy researching the families they left behind, and in some cases the families of their convict husbands. Also, I have at times been able to find their wider families.

I never give up with my research, and my aim is to find out as much as I can about the people and producing their family tree when possible.


Phil Hand, Nottingham, England

UK volunteer Phil Hand

I volunteered after reading an excellent article about the FCRA that Colette had submitted to our local family history society magazine (Nottinghamshire FHS). After reading some of the files that the FCRA had transcribed for those convicts with a Nottinghamshire connection, I just wanted to try and discover something about them from before their conviction/transportation. When you do manage to find traces of someone’s life before they left, it's almost like joining two very different pieces of a jigsaw together.

I've not come across any convicts in my own lines so far; all of mine either paid their own way to the Antipodes or received 'light custodial' sentences in the UK!


Barry Holland, Nottinghamshire, England

UK volunteer Barry Holland

My name is Barry Holland, and I was born in Nottinghamshire, England, in the middle of the last century. How very old that makes me sound! I became interested in family history in the 70's, and have done a fair bit on my own, particularly my mother's side, the Purser's, originally from Northamptonshire. I can trace the family all the way back to 1625.  My father's family, the Holland's, from Derbyshire, is more difficult and I appear come from a long line of coal miners. Nobody rich or famous.

In 1990 I became interested in convicts transported to Australia from Nottinghamshire. This was in the days of no Internet, and few books available here. So I went back to the contemporary newspapers and eventually built up an index of over 3,000 men and women who were sentenced to transportation. Some of the reasons why someone never actually left these shores can be be very interesting.

This fascination with and a determination to learn as much as I could about these people has lasted me till now. And I do see them very much as people with just as much a right to their story being told as anyone else. No, I don't think I have any convict ancestors of my own. But I might be lucky one day.


Clare Kay, Liverpool, England

UK volunteer Clare Kay

My name is Clare Kay and I live in Liverpool.  I was really interested to read about the Female Convict Project on the Liverpool genealogy website and the fact they were looking for volunteers. 

I have been researching my family tree since 1996, all different lines leading to Germany, Scotland, Ireland, USA and Australia.  I really enjoy piecing together information to paint a picture of someone’s life.  

I am really interested in using what research skills I have, as well as learning from the other volunteers working on the Female Convict Project.


Amy Kennett, Liverpool, England

AmyKennett  Hello, My name is Amy Kennett; I live in Liverpool and have done so all my life. I live with my two small children. I have been researching my family history for just over 12 months but I have always had a particular interest in crime and punishment, local history and all military history. I am currently researching local people within Anfield cemetery for the Friends of Anfield and I am currently completing an A level in History. I like to keep busy!! Pat Bellas introduced me to this project when I read an article in the Liverpool and Southwest Lancashire History Society's summer journal. This is a fantastic project and I am very proud to be apart of it. 


Colette McAlpine, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

TAS volunteer Colette McAlpine

I am the database manager, volunteer co-ordinator and a former Vice President of the FCRC. I respond to queries that come to our database email and assist people with their convict research.  

I extended our volunteer team internationally when I wrote to over 80 family history societies requesting assistance for our project. The response was fantastic.  

I began volunteering with the FCRC about 2006. Finding such an exciting project to capture my imagination made retirement a great choice! I work with a dynamic team and there is always a new convict record to explore. 

Our philosophy is that volunteering with us must be intellectually stimulating and underpinned by support, encouragement, fun, laughter and friendship.

I enjoy writing for Convict Women's Press, I worked on the Founders and Survivors project team, and I co-edited From the Edges of Empire: Female Convicts born or tried outside the British Isles.  I feel lucky.


Stephanie McComb, Liverpool, England

volunteer Stephanie McComb

A number of years ago I was highly fortunate to be given by my aunt a number of letters that were written in the mid – 19th century by a family descendent. The letters were penned on behalf of Jane and Robert Howarth who lived in South Australia to Jane’s Mother who lived in Liverpool. Initially I didn’t research the letters, who it was who wrote them or where they lived, however my curiously finally got the better of me, and I am really glad it did. Within one of the letters Jane wrote to say that they had left Van Diemen’s Land and that she had obtained her liberty. This led me to suspect that Jane was a transported convict.

During early 2013 I visited the Penitentiary Chapel in Hobart and it was confirmed that Jane Howarth was the female convict Jane MacCartney, transported from Liverpool in 1839.

This began my fascination into the history of female convicts. I am particularly interested in the lives of women and men who lived and were tried in Liverpool, but who lived out most of their lives in Australia.

I am lucky to be able to view the original court records held in the City of Liverpool archives. I really enjoy transcribing the court records, newspaper reports and researching the lives of those women and men who lived in this great city. I have also written ‘Jane’s Story’, which tells of Jane Howarth’s life pre and post transportation, including her letters, and a little of the life Robert and she lived. During 2014 it was a pleasure to attend the FCRC biannual Seminar in Hobart, meet members and also visit the locations Jane and Robert lived in South Australia. ‘Jane’s Story’ can be found on the FCRC website.


Kathie Mulvey, Canada


I was born and raised in Widnes, Lancashire (now Cheshire)and immigrated to Canada with my husband and two sons almost 20 years ago. I started researching my family history about 10 years ago and what started out as a hobby has become a passion. Over the past few years, however, my research has become ever more difficult as I have exhausted most online sources and have limited time to check original documents when I go home for a visit.

I joined the Liverpool and South West Lancashire Family History Society Facebook group last year and in November 2014, saw a post from Patricia Bellas highlighting the work she was doing with the Female Convict Project and her plea for volunteers. I immediately volunteered and have found the project to be very rewarding and worthwhile. I’m enjoying it so much and have recruited my sister as a volunteer too.


Lois Newham, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmanian volunteer Lois Newham

I became involved with FCRC as a transcriber when the database was in its infancy and I was semi-retired from a long and rewarding career as an early childhood teacher in Hobart.  I have continued my voluntary work, constantly learning as I unearth the intricacies of the colonial convict system, the British legal system and social history recorded in the indents, description lists and conduct records of women transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the 19th Century. I have contributed two stories to ‘Convict Lives’ books.

This fascinating brain exercise is interspersed with the physical exercise of tending my large garden and my ongoing passion for education. Each year, as a volunteer to an organisation which supports children learning at home through schools of Distance Education, I travel to Australia’s Outback.  I live for at least 6 weeks with a family in a remote location [usually a cattle station] and support the children’s educational needs. My experiences have been diverse, but always challenging and rewarding.


Jann & Rex Niven, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

QLD volunteer QLD volunteer

We live in Brisbane, and became interested in volunteering with the FCRC after making contact with Trudy Cowley with regard to a convict ancestor.  

We saw what other volunteers were doing on a visit to Tassie, and offered to help.


Rosemary Noble, United Kingdom

UK volunteer Rosemary Noble

I am a retired librarian, living in the UK, with a love of family history. We toured Australia 2 years ago tracing my husband’s family, both living and dead, which inspired me to start writing a novel about Ellen Fitzgerald (Henry 2) being transported to Van Diemen’s Land. The research led me to The FCRC and Founders and Survivors websites.

I was thrilled to be able to volunteer on the ships project, especially as I was offered Henry 2 to work on. For the last 18 months I immersed myself in the life of those women, helping to finish my novel “Search for the Light” which I published as a kindle ebook.  I am now attempting to write about the next generation in the goldfields, so another trip to Australia beckons. 

I feel enriched by volunteering and it fulfils a long held ambition to be involved in historical research.


Deborah Norris, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

TAS volunteer

As with many other volunteers, I became interested in the lives of convict women after years of genealogical research. As a member of, and writing for the Convict Women’s Press I have not only been able to piece together the stories of my own convict ancestors, but also reunite other descendants with their convict past.

Over the last seven years I have combined my volunteering with the Female Convict Research Centre and the Convict Women’s Press with study, completing a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in 2013, focusing on colonial Tasmania.

With every new project, my enthusiasm grows. I have contributed to three of the CWP’s Female Factory books and various seminars. Currently I am working on our next seminar and the Edges of Empire Project, researching some of the women who were born or tried outside the British Isles, whilst transcribing court proceedings provided by dedicated volunteers from across the seas. At least one of the cases I have had the opportunity to become familiar with, a convict woman sentenced to death whilst with child, has whetted my appetite to produce a book. Her story, as with so many others, are just waiting to be heard.

It is exciting to be a part of, contribute to, and work with other like-minded volunteers, in search the stories of our female convicts, just one aspect of our rich colonial past. 


Keryn Rivett, Rosebud, Victoria, Australia

VIC volunteer

I live in a little beach cottage in Rosebud, Victoria, with my wonderful husband Ian and two furkids, Poppy and Barry – I am an All Breeds Tutor Cat Judge, a mad Craftist and a Vestry member of my local (and historical of course!) Anglican Church.  My other passion is genealogy, historical research and writing.

My interest in Tasmanian convicts was awakened when I was 12 and my grandmother took me on a Tasbureau tour.  At 19 I began researching my family history and in 1994 I enthusiastically embraced the internet and have watched genealogy become one of the most popular online activities.

After years of research and bashing down brickwalls, I was finally rewarded with my own convict, Elizabeth Studham, my 3rd Great Grandfather’s sister and the only woman transported for the Swing Riots in the early 1800s; I wrote about Elizabeth in Convict Lives at the Launceston Female Factory.  I also have a story in Convict Lives at the Hobart Female Factory and I am currently researching and writing for the From the Edges of the Empire project.

I love being a member of the FCRC, furtively wish I lived in Tasmania and feel privileged that, through research, I can give our Convict Sisters a voice.


 Lorraine Robertshaw, Newbury, Berkshire, England


My name is Lorraine Robertshaw. I live in Newbury in Berkshire, but I am originally from the West Derby area of Liverpool. I have been doing my family tree for 30 years and have started writing a book to share with my family. My focus has been on the Driver, Dugdale, Baker, Thorpe, Wainwright and Emmett families. I have just started doing the research for this brilliant project and am finding that it is fascinating and a great challenge.


Barbara Samson, Lancashire, England

UK volunteer Barbara Samson

I became addicted to genealogy when I researched my own family tree. I love tracking down family members and searching out information.

When I heard about the opportunity to contribute to this project I was interested not only in the family history, but also in the crimes the women and girls had committed, and the harsh punishment they received.

I recently  retired from working for more than thirty years for the probation service and am relieved to note that we are now a much more humane and understanding society. Many of these convicts deserve our admiration for their resilience and the research hopefully begins to bring them to life. 


Keith Searson, Dorset, England


 My name is Keith Searson and I was born in Nottingham but have lived in Dorset most of my adult life. I served 30 years in the Royal Navy and have travelled most of the world, and 20 years in the Prison Service. I live on the Isle of Portland Dorset with my wife and cat, we have two sons both served in the Royal Navy. I have been interested in Family History for a great many years but have never managed to finish my own. I have volunteered at the Dorset History Centre cataloging and researching, and also the Portland Museum. I became a volunteer for the Female Convicts Research Centre after browsing through the internet and it has proved to be very rewarding.


Angela Skelcher, Suffolk, England

UK volunteer Angela Skelcher

I live in rural Suffolk on the east coast of the UK, having grown up here and returned 8 years ago.  With a degree in Modern History, I was drawn into female convict research through an email request for help to my local family history group. I have been researching the lives of women who lived in Suffolk prior to transportation. 

I am also a volunteer at the Long Shop Museum, which was the first factory to introduce the production line method of manufacturing in the country – they made steam engines and agricultural machinery. 

I visited Australia many years ago, although I did not make it to Tasmania, I am afraid – an ambition I hope to fulfil sometime! 


Julie Sullivan, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Melbourne Volunteer Julie Sullivan

I have been involved with researching both my own family history and those of friends over the past 12 years. Genealogy has not only opened my eyes to my own family history, but of history generally. I was born in Hobart as were many previous generations of my family with our origins in England, Ireland and Wales. I have a fair number of convicts in my ancestry and am particularly passionate about the learning of the lives of my female ancestors. Some of them were at Cascades.

On a visit to the Cascades Factory some years ago, my partner and I discovered that we were connected through history. He is a direct descendant of Jesse Pullen, a previous Superintendant at the Female Factory, and his wife, Harriet, who was the matron! I live in Melbourne and am semi retired, and am pleased to now have enough time to support the work of honouring our female convict ancestors through volunteering.


Lynne Tasker, Cornwall, England

UK volunteer Lynne Tasker

About six years ago, I started researching my own family tree and enjoyed it so much that I volunteered at the Cornwall Family History Society as a researcher, where I learned a great deal from my colleagues.  I’m now Research Coordinator and serve on the Executive Committee as Joint Vice Chair.

It’s really satisfying to be able to help others who are researching their trees, and I’ve had the pleasure of doing some research for the UK version of the Who Do You Think You Are? programme and also for the Australian version.

Cornwall was, and still is, one of the poorest counties in the UK.  The research for the Female Convict Research Centre has been particularly fascinating and it’s given me an insight into the lives and circumstances of the women from Cornwall who were transported to Tasmania.


Nicola Thomas, Pontypool, South Wales

UK volunteer Nicola Thomas

I live in Pontypool, South Wales, in the old county of Monmouthshire. I am married to Jonathan with 2 grown up children and a grandson. For the past few years I have been working as a supply teacher in local primary schools.

I have been researching my Bigham, Tuck and Muxworthy family history for over 25 years and I have been secretary of Gwent Family History Society for more than 10.

When Collette emailed to ask for volunteers in the area I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find anything on one of the women on the list she sent, since then I have sent in information on a few Monmouthshire related women, I hope to do more as time permits.

Over the years people have helped my research so I have always tried to pass on help if I can. One good turn.....


Ruth Thomas, Liverpool, England

U.K. volunteer Ruth Thomas

My name is Ruth Thomas and I started looking at my family tree when I was 14. Fuelled by being given a mouldy and torn family tree done by an uncle in the 1950s and my grandmother’s stories of a family member who made shoes for royalty (no-one did) and a Baron with humble beginnings (who did exist and had a rather spectacular rise from a slum in Hull to a Knighthood as well), I’ve found it a fascinating trip through history.

My eclectic family has spread over the world to the US, Canada, South Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, South America and a few members of the British Raj in India.

After joining Liverpool and South West Lancashire Family History Society I noticed the project and after starting looking at these girl’s [convict women's] histories with the wonderful help of Pat, I am now firmly fascinated. They are not just names on a piece of paper and you cannot help but see how hard their lives must have been; seeing what led them to commit the crime that led to transportation (and if they behaved themselves when they got there!)

I’ve not found a family member being transported quite yet. There is the murderer that shot a policeman and ended up in Bedlam and later Broadmoor and a photographer and cinematographer who delved into all things indecent that you could record on film until he got caught in 1908, so it’s probably only a matter of time!


 Karen Tuplin, Cornwall, England

UK volunteer Karen Tuplin

I have always had a keen interest in history. I began researching my own family tree about 10 years ago. I can remember how excited I was waiting for my first ever census record to download.


A couple of years ago, I became involved with a special project that The Cornwall Record Office was running. Using National Lottery funding, they acquired a vast collection of documents belonging to the Enys family, who were a land-owners prominent in Cornwall. I feel that I learned a lot, by transcribing the documents, researching various members of the family, learning about legal terms and helping put together a website and an exhibition.  I gained a keen interest in the history of Cornwall.

I have been a volunteer researcher at The Cornish Family History Society for about 18 months, and have helped to research the female convicts from Cornwall.


John Waddell, Scotland

UK volunteer John Waddell

Interest in Genealogy, a career culminating in the post of Immigration Inspector for Scotland, that included tracing illegal entrants and a great, great, great grand uncle, whose wife lost a blue japanned water pot to a 14 year old Edinburgh recidivist, were the main ingredients in my becoming involved with FCRC.  

Researching Margaret Begrie, who stole the pot, was caught and who was transported in 1831, took me to the National Archives of Scotland, where I was able to photograph the 184 year old court records.  It was self evident that this resource would benefit FCRC so I offered to photograph any records desired and now do so several times a year.

Current project is those from Scotland on the Rajah, who made the quilt.  The images of the court papers are uploaded to a website and via an emailed link, are downloaded, transcribed and included in the FCRC database.


Rose Wade, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

TAS volunteer

In 2012, I escaped to Hobart from Brisbane with my family after a long career as a library assistant at the University of Queensland Library, most recently in the special collections of the Fryer Library (which I loved). My family loves living in this wonderful place.

I am interested in genealogy and volunteer at the Tasmanian Family History Library, but I really enjoy the transcribing work for the Female Convicts Research Centre, as the people in Hobart, especially Colette, are so fantastic and supportive.

I volunteer one morning a week entering data for Archives at the State Library of Tasmania, and I’m currently working on the Tasmanian Railways records. I encourage anyone with the time to join the Female Convicts Research project. Even the dog (Biggles) wants to help!


Glad Wishart, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

VIC volunteer

I live in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham, and have been working on my family history for over 25 years.

I have always loved history in general and my interest in the Convict story was heightened when I discovered we had three convicts in the family, one being a female who was transported to VDL in 1839. I am very proud of my convict heritage and hope I have inherited some of their strength and resilience.

I volunteered to work on the Founders and Survivors Project, which I loved, and met many like-minded people who all thoroughly enjoyed the work.

By volunteering with the Female Convict Research Centre, I gain much satisfaction if I can add some detail to the records of any individual, whilst reminding myself that they were once all living breathing human beings with hopes and desires, and deserve to be recognised as such. 


Judith Wood, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

TAS volunteer Judith Wood

My interest in genealogy surfaced prior to there being records accessible via the web and I made sporadic endeavours to find information. My initial interest waned for a while however until a few years later when I discovered my passion again and by then records were available online enabling me to indulge my thirst for knowledge of people and their so interesting lives.

I have now been researching for around thirteen years and now spend more and more time on other people’s families having unearthed many of the mysteries of my own family. I am a proud descendant of English and Irish immigrants as well as at least 16 convicts who were transported to Tasmania and other states,(including a First Fleeter).

I have been involved with the project Founders and Survivors for some time, as a transcriber and I am a volunteer transcriber for the Female Convicts Resource Centre as well as being on the Committee of Convict Women’s Press and have so far contributed two stories to the Convict Lives Series. I also am currently the President of the latest chapter of the Fellowship of First Fleeters – Derwent Chapter.