There were 86 ships which transported female convicts directly to Van Diemen's Land. Another 43 ships transported female convicts via Sydney.

Ships which transported female convicts directly to Van Diemen's Land from the United Kingdom are here

Online material for ships via Sydney to Van Diemen's Land

Online material for tranfers via Sydney to Van Diemen's Land.

Surgeon Superintendent's reports give much of the known information about the voyages of convict ships. These reports can contain the following information:

  • sick list
  • immunisation list
  • case histories of patients in the ship's hospital
  • nosological synopsis
  • general remarks

The Surgeon Superintendent's reports were microfilmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) and can be found in many libraries around Australia.

(Further information can also be found on the Voyages page where volunteers transcribe newspaper articles and reports on the convict ships, and their voyages.)

Thank you to everyone who has contributed transcriptions of surgeons' journals. Colleen Arulappu is compiling a dictionary of terms used in Surgeon's Journals. (Please note that this is a work in progress.) 

 

Naming Patterns for ships and voyages:

The Roman Numeral after the ship's name describes the individual ship, while the number in brackets describes the ship's voyage (if known).

 

Recent Updates

Broxbornebury 1814

Transfers to VDL via NSW.  Transcript of the ship's muster list into NSW cross-matched against ships to VDL, and the Emu 1812. (by Rhonda Arthur 25/11/2020).

Mermaid 1828

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcription by Colleen Arulappu, 12/11/2020).

On getting underway there were unfavourable winds with several severe frosts and snow storms. Constant attention was paid to cleanliness, ventilation and dryness between decks. The hanging stove was moved where it was needed most, especially the hospital located in the bow of the ship, and damp from leaks particularly in bad weather. Two cases of scurvy quickly recovered by taking lemon juice. Ninety-nine women and eighteen children landed generally in good health. Though one infant born mid-voyage became extremely emaciated and for want of proper nourishment was sent to the Colonial Hospital on arrival ‘the only chance of saving him’.

Stately 1849.

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal Sick List and Medical Notes (transcription by Colleen Arulappu, 25/09/2020).

In this journal, the surgeon J. Elliot, wrote of four cases of erysipelas, a skin infection. The first two cases occurred before the ship left the channel with one woman dying from the illness.  The last case written up  was the surgeon himself, who became ill with the same complaint and recovered.

 

Sir Robert Seppings 1852

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Medical Notes) by Colleen Arulappu.

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (General Comments) by Geoff Court with minor editing by Colleen Arulappu (13/09/2020)

Sir Robert Seppings 1852. The journal has an extensive list of names in the Sick List section There are over three hundred entries for the women on the voyage to Hobart and a small list of male patients who were on the vessel from Norfolk Island to Hobart. Very sad medically detailed entries for several children who died.


 

 

 

The Medical Journals from the Convict Ships.

The medical journals describe the illness of convicts who were admitted into the ships hospitals during the voyages. They give admission date, the symptoms and treatment and the eventual outcome such as “discharged cured”, “discharged dead” or “sent to the Colonial Hospital” on arrival.

Much on the content is medical with detailed lists of symptoms and the treatment prescribed- usually in Latin. A great deal revolves around bowels habits and dispensing of purgatives. However there are snippets of information in many journals which give insight into the women, the routines, and glimpses of life aboard ship.

There is a General Remarks section on the last one or two pages of each journal. Always well worth reading as they give a summary of the journey and sometimes the views of the surgeon.

The journals vary in length and in content. There are some journals which are informative reading for everyone who has a convict ancestor because they describe how life was organized on a convict voyage.

 

Archival References to Female Convict Ships to Van Diemen's Land

 

List of Convict Ships

 

Ships direct to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

Ship Date of Arrival

 

Online Material
Morley (3) 29 August 1820

The Voyage of the Morley 1820 (based on the journal of Thomas Reid. Transcriptions and editing by Rhonda Arthur)

Two voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. The complete Journal of Thomas Reid, surgeon of the Royal Navy.

https://www.jenwilletts.com/morley_1820.htm

Providence II (1) 18 December 1821

 

 
Mary Ann I (2) 2 May 1822

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal   (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

James Hall, Surgeon Superintendent, observed women who presented with complicated ailments which he was unable to name and was often alarmed that their symptoms denoted imminent danger to life.  He was tested by the antics of three women: Fletcher feigning symptoms in order to be persuaded to have the Catheter introduced and Hall hoped that his comments might forewarn his brother officers on female convict ships; Walton who admitted to self-harm by scalding her breast and belly after she had tried to poison herself; and Fenton, a malingerer, who caused continual uproar in the Hospital with her violent and abusive language.  The other patients must have breathed a sigh of relief when one day she took her bed and left the Hospital but no doubt crestfallen when she was carried back in it by force.  Another woman, Beldon, had an obscure internal disease which she attributed to having accidentally swallowed a pin, and Williams who was secretly impregnated by one of the sailors and had tried to manufacture a miscarriage.  They all make compelling reading of the Journal and General Comments.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3

Lord Sidmouth (3) 10 February 1823

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The Lord Sidmouth 1823 Surgeon's Journal:  has a very detailed look at what happened before the ship left, the daily routine, the punishments and disembarkation.

Mary III (1) 5 October 1823

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The Surgeon's Journal is a long and detailed one describing, almost on a daily basis,  the illnesses and treatments used.  It gives  harrowing accounts of the deaths of several young children, in particular the death of William Wood.  The surgeon strived to save his life, little William clung to life for many days and his mother protected him at times from painful treatments. Sad reading.

Brothers (1) 15 April 1824

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Brothers (1824) Surgeon's Journal: has colourful account of a family of free settlers.

Henry 8 February 1825

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal with Symbols and Instructions (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The Voyage of the Henry. A FCRC seminar paper by Alison Alexander.

Midas (1) 23 November 1825

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Midas 1825 Surgeon's Journal:  has a long journal written by a compassionate surgeon. It gives a more detailed description of what life was like for the women on the prison deck.

Providence II (2) 16 May 1826

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Providence 1826 Surgeon's Journal has no general remarks but is detailed journal about convicts and their illnesses.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Sir Charles Forbes (2) 3 January 1827

Sir Charles Forbes Surgeon's Journal 

(Contributed by Colleen Arulappu)

Sir Charles Forbes 1827 Surgeon's Journal has some colourful remarks about the patients. 

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Persian (1) 5 August 1827

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Persian 1827 Surgeon's Journal has a detailed description of the mental illness of an important free passenger and the struggle by surgeon and master to save his life.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Sovereign (1) 19 November 1827

Transcription of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

The General Remarks record the surgeon’s humane and sympathetic observations about the plight of female convicts being transported. Several cases of scarlatina were considered in detail. Rough seas caused casualties - a convict fractured her leg which was set in a splint but the bone was displaced twice and a child was severely scalded by a kettle full of boiling water. A convict of ‘harmless imbecility’ was closely monitored after she jumped off the bow port but the quick actions of the officers and crew saved her life.

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (incomplete, courtesy of Sally Steel)

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3

Mermaid (1) 27 June 1828

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcription by Colleen Arulappu).

On getting underway there were unfavourable winds with several severe frosts and snow storms. Constant attention was paid to cleanliness, ventilation and dryness between decks. The hanging stove was moved where it was needed most, especially the hospital located in the bow of the ship, and damp from leaks particularly in bad weather. Two cases of scurvy quickly recovered by taking lemon juice. Ninety-nine women and eighteen children landed generally in good health. Though one infant born mid-voyage became extremely emaciated and for want of proper nourishment was sent to the Colonial Hospital on arrival ‘the only chance of saving him’.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3

 

Borneo 8 October 1828
Harmony (2) 14 January 1829

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Harmony 1829 Surgeon's Journal:   The journal for the Harmony 1829 is a very long document and focuses on the many medical cases (49 in all). The surgeon writes little of the personal or of the activities on board ship but his medical care was successful and he wrote of observing the women and children at muster in order to check their health and attack problems before they became too troublesome. There were no deaths among the convict women on board. He does write of his findings on treatments that worked well and those which he found made little impact. There were also a couple of cases from the free passengers on board.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Lady of the Lake 1 November 1829

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

William Evans RN surgeon superintendent was on his seventh voyage on a convict ship. 81 female convicts, 10 free women and 36 children embarked: at the time, it was the largest number ever conveyed in the smallest ship. The General Remarks record the women who were appointed duties on board. On landing, all the convicts were assigned to the service of settlers, with the exception of three. Three infants died – one was the daughter of ‘a convict of the saw chains’ lacking in affection and care while in gaol – an issue of concern to Mrs Pryor, the Quaker. Two female convicts died – one from dysentery and the other fell overboard attempting to save her cap blown off by the wind.

Eliza III (2) 24 February 1830

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

David Thomson was Surgeon Superintendent of the Eliza.  117 convicts were received on board when the weather was beginning to be cold and damp and several began to suffer from ill-health.  On first putting out to sea the ship encountered boisterous weather with the wind being generally strong for much of the voyage.  Almost all of the women were affected with sea sickness and many never had one entire day free of it for the whole of the voyage.  Patients suffering from fever, enteritis, dysentery, diarrhoea and haemorrhoids were vomiting, coughing, moaning and crying day and night.  Treatments included having blisters applied and leeches for bleeding and a mild diet of sago, arrowroot and calf’s foot jelly.  One woman who was subject to fits of epilepsy suddenly became maniacal, had her head shaved and was put to bed in a strait waistcoat.  Three infants were born at sea: the first, weak and emaciated expired; the second a girl delivered prematurely was supported with goat’s milk (presumably from the resident goat); and the third was a healthy boy born with a double harelip and cleft who was unable to suck and could only swallow, and both were landed safely in Hobart Town

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Mellish (2) 22 September 1830

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur and Colleen Arulappu)

Mellish 1830 Surgeon's Journal:   From the journal the journey was a healthy one with very few deaths or serious illnesses.   The General Remarks are well worth a read as the surgeon accounted for the deaths but he also described the daily routine of how the bottom berth boards were taken up and stowed on the top bunks. He told of how the wine and juice were served out under his supervision. He was a careful and caring doctor who could see the distress of his dying patients.  Contributed by Rhonda Arthur and Colleen Arulappu.

America (2) 9 May 1831

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

America 1831 Surgeon's Journal is an easy to read medical journal which described the illnesses and treatments used in the early 1830s. Among the cases are many which give the course and treatment for diarrhoea and dysentery. It also includes several cases of  menstrual problems.  There were several cases illnesses and death of children

Mary III (3) 19 October 1831

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

Samuel Sinclair, Surgeon Superintendent was kind, considerate and humane whose Journal is comprehensive and includes his views concerning health, mortality and social justice.  151 female convicts embarked in good health with two exceptions:  Elizabeth Barthrop and Ellen Turner both unusual cases.  Six infants died and he railed against the practice of infants not being suckled to evade regulations allowing them on board.  There were 15 or 16 cases of scurvy and his treatment included an excellent antiscorbutic drink made from Essence of Spruce which was fermented in a Still.  He considered that it would be a great advantage in preserving human life if Ships refreshed at ports on the passage out.  Comfort and cleanliness was paramount.  Regular exercise of "dancing with the Ship's ropes", activities for learning and making a counterpane (bedspread) were encouraged.  Stormy weather and heavy seas caused falls and fractures: the last patient's procedure is described in graphic detail.

Hydery 10 August 1832

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

Allan McLaren MD was Surgeon & Superintendent.  150 female convicts aged between 16 and 60 were sent from various jails in England and Scotland.  At Woolwich a case of Cholera Asphyxia appeared without any premonitory symptoms in a woman who was very much exhausted by her affectionate attentions watching over her sick daughter.  The ship was placed in quarantine and towed to Standgate Creek where four more cases occurred.  The clothing and bedding and other items used by the patients were destroyed and the ship was cleaned and aired by knocking out the lower deck ports fore and aft.  The ports were not sufficiently caulked and on getting underway the weather turned foul and the ship leaked.  The women alarmed by the outbreak of cholera were now despite best efforts in a wet and filthy state suffering from seasickness and other complaints.  Nearly all of them were confined to bed and constantly vomiting.  A scene which the surgeon said “I hope never to witness again”.  His notes suggested improvements of the service including discontinuing the gratuity of £100 to Masters and Mates as being unnecessary and by reducing the quantity of peas issued being more than can be consumed.  One woman suffered severe pains after eating a handful of raw peas. The surgeon detailed every case of any interest and his diligent supervision throughout the voyage ensured that most of the women arrived in good health.

Frances Charlotte (1) 10 January 1833
Jane II 30 June 1833

 

 
William Bryan 23 October 1833

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal 

Contributed by Rhonda Arthur.

Seven women died  from cholera before the ship sailed. Sadly two were sisters,  one of whom  became ill after nursing her sister and they died only hours apart.  The surgeon gave detailed descriptions of the symptoms and the suffering of the women. Once the ship left the Thames there were no further cases of cholera. The only other death was a woman who suffered from mania .  The surgeon described her distressful behaviour.  There were several names of women on the surgeon's list which do not correlate with convict names and could be from the nine free women who sailed on the William Bryan.

Edward (3) 4 September 1834

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal

Contributed by Colleen Arulappu

Joseph Steret’s journal is not a long one but it is full of very amusing accounts of troublesome women and of two of them becoming drunk.  There is also a sad account of the death of the ship’s master.

New Grove 27 March 1835

 Transcript of Surgeon's Journal  - Main section (Part 1) (Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The main part of the surgeon's journal is in two sections because the surgeon became ill and was replaced.  The first part is a sick list with dates of admission and discharge from hospital. The second part was written by  surgeon David Thomson and gave detailed accounts of the illness and treatment of each main type of disease.    He wrote careful accounts of the course of an illness and his treatment. The journal is mainly medical with little personal information about of the women but it does show the care taken to preserve health and cure the patients. Includes an unsigned set of notes – presumed to be referring to Surgeon George Rowe’s illness.

Neva 12 May 1835

Wrecked off King Island, originally bound for NSW, 6 survivors landed at VDL

Hector 20 October 1835

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal, courtesy of Colleen Arulappu

Morgan Price was a surgeon on eight convict transport ships to NSW and Hobart, although most were carrying males. He had few deaths on his voyages and none on the Hector.  The brief General Remarks mentioned the conditions the women from Scotland endured on the  voyage from their prisons to Woolwich.  The journal noted two seriously ill women, expected not to survive, but did so and, the surgeon said they were treated with tonics and nourishing diet.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal

Arab II 25 April 1836

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal   Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu 

The journal is a clear account of the illness aboard  ship. The first patients were listed even before the ship left for sea and the surgeon said they concealed their illnesses  in order to embark with their companions.  The birth of a still born child four days after boarding and the resultant death of the mother make sad reading. The surgeon said the funeral prayers.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2

Westmoreland (2) 3 December 1836

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu

The medical journal has a long sick list where the surgeon recorded every case of constipation and headache. There was only one death from among the women, case 39; an autopsy was carried out and an account of the findings included in the journal.  One woman, case 35, was treated with a very unusual remedy for her debility, while case 46 was a concealed pregnancy with the birth taking place around midnight in the water closet.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2

Platina 22 October 1837

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal  Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu

The General Remarks section gives a comprehensive account of the voyage; each month is detailed as to illnesses, the weather at the time and its effects on the women’s health. The surgeon included some recommendations to improve ventilation on board with an extra instruction to prevent anything being passed up or down via the ventilation tubes.  He wrote of one patient who swallowed a pin (case 6) and another who was successfully treated for a very nasty boil (case 14).

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3item 4

Atwick 23 January 1838

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (complete, courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The General Remarks section at the end of the journal gives an excellent description of how prisoners were organized aboard ship. Their daily routine, meal times, bathing, schooling and measures to prevent scurvy are set out. Most interesting is the mention of dancing and other light entertainment to maintain health through exercise. The surgeon, Peter Leonard, undertook four voyages on convict transport ships, delivering over eight hundred, mainly male convicts, with only six deaths over all.

Nautilus (1) 29 August 1838

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur 9/10/2018)

J. G. Stewart MD RN was Surgeon Superintendent in charge of 133 female convicts and 8 children departing at Woolwich.  The Sick List has 171 entries and includes former occupations, where sent from, and the number of months in prison.  There are 40 case notes and one woman despite careful nursing died. Overall though the women arrived healthy, except for a valetudinarian who was unable to walk the 2 miles to the Cascades Female Factory from the landing place.  The General Remarks include many interesting observations and of particular interest is information provided by the prisoners of their diets while confined in jail. (p24).

Majestic 22 January 1839

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu 27/09/2018)

The  journal is a long and mainly medical report. The surgeon wrote up many cases  which showed the common health problems  encountered on the long sea voyages. He included instructions for diet which seemed to be an important part of the women’s recovery from illness. The notes about the illness and eventual death of an infant make sad reading but also  give a glimpse of  the concern of the convict mother who defied the surgeon to fed her child forbidden food. Transcript courtesy of Colleen Arulappu  (27/09/2018)

Hindostan (2) 12 September 1839

 

 
Gilbert Henderson 24 April 1840

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur 19/06/2018)

Sir John Hamett MD was Surgeon Superintendent and highly qualified for this command.  184 female convicts, 15 free women and 24 children embarked at Woolwich.  1 female convict died, 3 were sent to the Colonial Hospital on arrival and 1 infant was unintentionally given a fatal dose of Laudanum by her devoted mother.  There were 9 deliveries of women on board: 7 were healthy and 2 were stillborn.  These women and infants together with other bad cases repeatedly required Castor Oil, a “valuable medicine”, of which 2½lbs first supplied at Deptford was replenished by the surgeon when the ship anchored at Teneriffe (2lbs) and at Table Bay (1lb).   Constitutional hysteria together with a few complicated cases were necessarily palliative and with these exceptions constipation was the most prevalent.  The other complaints in general were not severe and treated with cathartics, sudorifics and tonics.

Life onboard a female convict ship Gilbert Henderson (extract from The ENGLISHWOMAN’S DOMESTIC MAGAZINE – Vol I Pages 311-317) contributed by Colleen Arulappu

Navarino (1) 17 January 1841

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur) 

James L Clarke replaced Edward Jeffrey as surgeon superintendent which followed some unrest among the women, though few details were given. He had not the slightest doubt from the description given by Mr Jeffrey, that the women from Millbank Penitentiary were very unsettled as a result of the transition from ‘the silent system’, to one where they were all of a sudden placed together, which he termed ‘the noisy system’. He considered this was ‘the sole cause of their riotous behaviour’.  One woman with mania was sent back to the Penitentiary which induced three others to pretend madness in the hope of also being sent back. They started howling and singing hymns (excited after visits from the Quaker Ladies) and were punished by having their hair cut off, being shut up in a Box, put on a bread and water diet and placed on the black list to do all the dirty work. To add insult to injury their daily wine and lime juice sherbet of which they were very fond was also stopped.

Mary Anne III (2) 19 March 1841

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur)

James Barr M.D. was Surgeon Superintendent.  125 female convicts, 19 emigrants and 39 children were sent on board in Dublin.

There were 4 case notes and each one is unusual.  The first case was a woman who in despair attempted to commit suicide by hanging herself from a cleat above her head.  Suffering seasickness and unable to eat any solid food she died exhausted.  The surgeon regretted that he did not perform an autopsy, party to spare the feelings of the other women and also as his attention was taken up with a case of Tetanus.  This woman, the keeper of the lower deck, received a splinter of wood in her forefinger which was removed and dressed with a poultice.  Two days later she complained of acute pain and was then seized with muscular spasms followed by lockjaw.    The third case was a delicate infant who died from convulsions following the sudden disappearance of an eruption on his head.  The final case was a woman in very low spirits who prior to embarkation was eating ground glass in the hope of becoming sick and being left behind.  A few mild cases of cholera occurred which yielded at once to calomel and opium. 

The Surgeon’s General Remarks summarize his views on these cases and are recommended reading.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Rajah 19 July 1841
Garland Grove (1) 10 October 1841

 

Mexborough 26 December 1841

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The Mexborough 1841 Surgeon's Journal: A clever and tough surgeon whose journal is brief but the struggle with the illness or defiance of Mary Hoolihan is of interest.

Emma Eugenia (2) 8 April 1842
Hope 17 August 1842
Royal Admiral (4) 24 September 1842
  • Transcript of Surgeon's Journal courtesy of  Rhonda Arthur. 

    John R Roberts was surgeon superintendent. Many had travelled distances by train and arrived with only the clothes they were wearing having been told at the prisons that they would be confiscated or destroyed. Two women with chronic diseases died. There were seven births but five infants died. Four matrons and a Governess, who wore a whistle suspended from her neck, regulated all movements and woe betide anyone who misbehaved – the punishments are set out in General Remarks. The ship put in at the Cape of Good Hope for supplies and although the voyage took a further seven weeks, the surgeon said ‘no cases of any importance occurred’ – except a mutiny!

  • Disposal of convicts on arrival
  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3item 4item 5
Waverley (3) 15 December 1842
Garland Grove (2) 20 January 1843
Margaret (4) 19 July 1843
East London 21 September 1843

The East London 1843 Surgeon's Journal: The disparaging descriptions of the convict women make colourful reading. There is a report from an inquiry into the many deaths on board.

Woodbridge (2) 25 December 1843

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu).  Surgeon’s Journal of Her Majesty’s Female Convict Ship Woodbridge, Mr Jason LARDNER, Surgeon.  Between the 14th July 1843 and 6th of January 1844 when the convicts were disembarked.

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3item 4item 5

Emma Eugenia (3) 2 April 1844
Greenlaw 2 July 1844

 

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The journal has a complete set of names from his Sick List, including convicts, crew and master of the ship.  There were five deaths during the voyage and in the General Remarks at the end of the journal the surgeon commented on the diet in Irish jails which he felt contributed to the outbreak of scurvy on board. He also recommended changes in the provisions supplied, especially for those ships which carried Irish convicts.

Angelina 25 August 1844

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcribed by Rhonda Arthur).

JE Ring MD RN was Surgeon Superintendent. The ship put into port at Santa Cruz for water and refreshments. A convict nurse in the ship’s hospital had a violent temper and was dismissed for bad conduct. Three convicts died, one unexpectedly who was found dead by a woman who slept next to her, the second from enteritis but gangrene set in, and another was a young girl who managed to conceal a longstanding complaint and was given a black wash and a blue pill. Two infants also died, and another convict, who was a laughing stock to all, after arrival was admitted to the insane asylum.

Tasmania (1) 20 December 1844
Phoebe 2 January 1845
Tory (1) 4 July 1845

Tory's Surgeon's Journal is currently being transcribed. (13/11/2020)

Lloyds (3) 7 November 1845

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Rhonda Arthur 16/08/2018)

Charles K Nutt M.D. was Surgeon Superintendent.  170 female convicts and 17 children were all sent from Millbank Prison.  There were 42 cases in the Sick Book including a woman who had chronic bronchitis and spent most of the voyage in the hospital; two cases of scurvy; a slight case of mumps; two cases of gout in the same woman and another was twice treated for caries of the inferior maxillary bones.  Towards the latter part of the voyage some of the women complained of cold and rheumatic pains.  A female child was born at sea.  Six were transferred to the Hospital in Hobart Town including a curious case of a young girl who had an epileptic seizure which left her with a mental impairment and a tragic case of an infant whose forehead was blistered having been kept for too long in the sun and developed a fever –the only death on board.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Tasmania (2) 3 December 1845
Emma Eugenia (4) 5 June 1846

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal  (transcribed by Colleen Arulappu)

Surgeon John Wilson, on his second voyage aboard the Emma Eugenia, wrote about the several women who had been placed on board who were not in a fit state of health to be transported. He wondered who would send them so far to be buried. He noted the troubles some women had with uterine diseases and the difficulty these caused not only to the patient but other around them. One particularly sad case was that of Mary Collard, described as a very interesting young person who was the victim of the vindictive disposition of a merciless mistress. His General Remarks told of the fright and uproar when one woman mistakenly thought the ship was on fire.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Sea Queen 29 August 1846
  • Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcription by Colleen Arulappu) 

    Surgeon T W Jewell.  The surgeon included only a few but informative notes about his patients. Ann Beck, described as a pilferer, was listed as having “mania” and spent most of the voyage in a strait jacket or cell. Further notes on her condition were included in in the General Remarks. One woman suffered with a prolapsed uterus but there were not enough pessaries in the Hospital and temporary alternatives had to be used.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3
Elizabeth and Henry (2) 4 January 1847

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcription by Colleen Arulappu)

In his journal Surgeon, Harvey Morris,  said that the medical cases were not worth writing about except for the way in which he was able to use phrenology to explain the behaviour of some of the women.  He compared two women who gave birth on board; one who lacked interest in her child and treated him cruelly and the other a loving mother  whose frail child barely survived its birth and died within hours. He also wrote about the importance of punishment and lamented that the pregnant or nursing women  were exempt. An occasional glimpse of life on board with the remark about one of the pregnant women dancing naked at night on the prison deck.

Arabian 25 February 1847
Asia V (5) 21 July 1847

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (transcription by Colleen Arulappu) 

This is not an extensive journal  but the surgeon, Jason Lardner,  described his own attack of malaria which caused him fevers every other day for much of the voyage. He also made a brief note of  the internal effects of disease in an infant which must have been the result of an autopsy.

Waverley (4) 25 October 1847
Cadet (2) 2 January 1848

Transcription of Surgeon Superintendent Journal (Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

C.R. Kinnera’s brief journal perhaps reflects the few serious illnesses aboard. The General Remarks states that preparations for marking the clothes and grouping into messes was organized before the surgeon’s late arrival on board the ship.  It also gives  a little information about the voyage and the organization of the women while on board.

Mothers and Children of the Cadet 1848 & 1849 (FCRC Seminar paper by Maureen Mann, 2018)

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
John Calvin (2) 18 May 1848
Elizabeth and Henry (3) 30 June 1848

Transcription of Surgeon's Journal (Transcribed by Colleen Arulappu).

John Smith, surgeon on the Elizabeth and Henry, kept a detailed diary of the illnesses and treatment of his patients. It is an interesting account of how illness affected the women and the struggle to cure them with the limited range of medicines.   Occasionally among the entries he gives a glimpse of life on board; one patient as said to have a greasy hair which inclined to mat while another was said to have worked as a cook for her mess, keeping it up during a long gale even though others were lazy and,  one woman flew into a rage over comments about her during a prayer service. At the Cape of Good Hope he bought oranges, grapes and pears using the women’s money. It is not clear if this was for all the women or limited to those in hospital.  However, he mentioned several of his patients eating the fruit.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Tory (3) 6 August 1848
Kinnear (2) 7 October 1848
Lord Auckland (3) 20 January 1849

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu

Lord Auckland 1849 Surgeon's Journal: The Lord Auckland sailed from Ireland in 1849 and the medical cases described several women as having suffered from the famine. The General Remarks are well worth reading for the surgeon’s comments about how to treat Irish female convicts, his encouragement of cleanliness and comments on the types of illness encountered during the voyage.

Cadet (3) 12 April 1849

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Transcribed by Colleen Arulappu 15/02/2020)

There was Cholera on board the Cadet before it left England and three deaths occurred which kept the ship a couple of weeks in Plymouth Sound. One of the dying women gave birth to a seven month-old infant and the labour was a surprise to the surgeon and the doctor from the Royal Naval Hospital.  Another death, Jean Armour, Case 20, was sudden and unusual, as was the reason for not performing an autopsy.

Maria II 23 July 1849
  • Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu). Maria 1849 Surgeon's Journal: Detailed medical notes. The General Remarks described the free-settlers placement.
  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3
Stately 2 September 1849
  • Transcript of Surgeon's Journal - Sick List and medical notes (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu).  In this journal, the surgeon J. Elliot, wrote of four cases of erysipelas, a skin infection. The first two cases occurred before the ship left the channel with one woman dying from the illness.  The last case written up  was the surgeon himself, who became ill with the same complaint and recovered.
  • Transcript of Surgeon's Journal—General Remarks (courtesy of PAHS)
  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Australasia 29 September 1849
St Vincent (2) 4 April 1850
Earl Grey (4) 9 May 1850
Baretto Junior 25 July 1850

Transcription of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The surgeon described ten cases  which showed his treatment and gave a glimpse of the difficulties of keeping up clean linen when his patients were very seriously ill. Included is a newspaper report of the terrible gale the ship went through on the voyage and the surgeon’s remarks about how frightened the women were and how many of them helped bale water despite being thrown about and bruised.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Duke of Cornwall 27 October 1850

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Several accounts of the attacks of Hysteria on board the vessel and the extraordinary effects they brought on the women.Courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2 
Emma Eugenia (5) 7 March 1851

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

The Emma Eugenia 1851 is not a long journal but has a couple of interesting items.

In the General Remarks, surgeon John Bower described the arrangements made to the prison deck to separate the women, according to their behaviour, into different categories.  It was experimental and he explained that it did not work due to the need for access to the water closets and hospital. Amongst the medical case notes there was one woman who feigned madness ( Case 3) and another  who had had her infant taken from her in prison and on its return at embarkation it was found to have been physically abused. She refused to allow the child to be again taken from her (Case 4). Several of the children on board had whooping cough.

  • National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2
Blackfriar 29 May 1851
Aurora II 10 August 1851
Anna Maria (2) 26 January 1852
John William Dare 22 May 1852
Sir Robert Seppings 8 July 1852

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal Medical Notes (courtesy of Colleen Arulappu)

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal General Remarks (courtesy of Geoff Court, with minor editing by Colleen Arulappu)

Sir Robert Seppings 1852. The journal has an extensive list of names in the Sick List section. There are over three hundred entries for the women on the voyage to Hobart and a small list of male patients who were on the vessel from Norfolk Island to Hobart. Very sad medically detailed entries for several children who died.

Send the Boy to Sea by Peter Cuffley—memoirs of a sailor on board

National Archives Record Summary of Surgeon's Journal: item 1item 2item 3item 4item 5item 6item 7item 8item 9

Martin Luther 1 September 1852
Midlothian 24 February 1853
Duchess of Northumberland (2) 21 April 1853

Further Resources:

Grahame Thom's website of convict ships medical journals 1816 to 1867

The Ships' Surgeons and their Voyages: Tales from the Transcribers

Convict Ships Index: https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ships_australia.html

Convict Ships to Tasmania 1812-1853:  http://members.iinet.net.au/~perthdps/convicts/shipsTAS.html

The Convict Ships 1787 - 1868 Charles Bateson Sc Vgc 1985 Reprint (Book)

Glossary of Old Medical Terms used in the 18th and 19th Centuries

 

 

 

 

Ships  to Van Diemen's Land via Sydney

Ship Date of Arrival

Online Material

Elizabeth Henrietta 1817
27th August 1817 arrived His Majesty's colonial brig Elizabeth Henrietta, MR. WHYTE Commander, having on board 30 male and 50 female convicts:- A part of the latter are to be re-shipped on board the Governor Macquarie for Port Dalrymple

Friendship

1818

Friendship departed England  July 1817

Fifty-six female convicts were transferred from the Friendship to the Duke of Wellington, to be conveyed to Hobart Town. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2177726

https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_friendship_1818.htm

Bond of Friendship by Leonie Fretwell: The Van Diemen's Contingent

https://fretwelliana.com/friendship-female-convicts/the-convicts/van-diemens-land-contingent/
Elizabeth Henrietta 1818 October 1818,
Arrived at Port Dalrymple, during the present week, from Sydney, the Government brig Elizabeth Henrietta, with 60 female prisoners

 

Transfers to Van Diemen's Land via Sydney

Ship to Sydney
Ship to VDL Date of Arrival (VDL)

Online Material

Broxbornebury Emu, Kangaroo, Governor Macquarie, Elizabeth Henrietta 1814

The Broxbornebury, a Thames-built sailing ship, departed England on the 22nd February 1814, on a voyage taking 126 days and arrived at Port Jackson on the 28th July 1814. Heavy snow fell in January and the River Thames was frozen solid for six days, until a thaw on 5th February. The melting and drifting ice caused considerable damage to shipping. 122 female convicts embarked, two died on the passage and 120 were landed. The ship’s medical journal of Colin McLachlan has not been found. Over the next four years, 13 female convicts were sent to Van Diemen’s Land on the Colonial Brigs: Emu, Kangaroo, Governor Macquarie and Elizabeth Henrietta.

Forty-nine female convicts had previously embarked on the ill-fated transport ship the Emu 1812 which was seized by an American privateer Holkar. They were put off at St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, where they languished for eleven months, until they were found almost naked and starving. The Broxbornebury ship’s muster has been transcribed and a red asterisk indicates 40 of those whose names appear in a List of Female Convict on board the Colonial Brig Emu, dated October 1812. [HO10/2]. The 9 remaining women are unknown at this stage, but those whose trial dates might place them on that ship, are also marked with an asterisk. Only one female off the Emu has definitely been located in VDL: Priscilla Jones, another possibility, Mary Harris, is still being researched.

Jeffery Hart Bent, a free passenger on board, wrote an account of the voyage which was published in 1814: ‘A Stormy Passage: Journal of a voyage: Performed on board the ship Broxbornebury from England to New South Wales’.

A transcript of Broxbornebury's Muster List is attached (by Rhonda Arthur).

Alexander Kangaroo 1816

The Alexander departed Ireland on November 4th, 1815 arriving at Port Jackson on April 4th 1816.  There were 84 convict women onboard, with three dying on the voyage.  The voyage took 152 days, stopping at Rio de Janeiro on the way. The ships’ surgeon was John W. Hallion, however a medical journal has not been found. 

On the 10th April 1816, sixty convict women from the Alexander were supposed to have embarked on the Kangaroo for Hobart, arriving on April 28th.  One woman was relanded. The Kangaroo's Muster List has two of the sixty from other ships: Boxbournebury and Arch Duke Charles, thus making the final number from the Alexander to be transferred to VDL inconcise.

Transcript of Alexander's Muster List cross-matched against the Kangaroo's Muster List. (Transcription by Rhonda Arthur).

Maria

Elizabeth Henrietta

 

Princess Charlotte

 

Jupiter

1818

Transcript of Surgeon's Journal (Transcribed by Rhonda Arthur).

Diary of the Maria Female Convict Ship commencing the 7th March 1818 kept by Thos. Prosser Surgeon & Superintendent

Maria, which started receiving women on board at Deptford on 16th March, departed Deal 15th May 1818, 124 female convicts and 22 children arrived in Port Jackson, NSW on 17th September 1818 (two female convicts died).

On 26th September 1818, 60 female convicts were sent to VDL on the Elizabeth Henrietta. Five other female convicts were later sent to VDL, except Jane Womack, who had previously been in VDL. Their names appear in bold typeface.

 Janus  Princess Charlotte  1820

Letter from the Secretary’s Office dated 16th May 1820 - with list of prisoners on Janus 1820 - who were transferred on Princess Charlotte 1820 to VDL, also mentioning the names &c of two male convicts, viz Thos Crougham and John Popjoy  who were also on the Princess Charlotte.  (Transcribed by Rhonda Arthur)

No Surgeon's Journal for the Janus has been found.    

 

     
       

 

 

 

 

The following article printed in 1865 - signed by "The Village Doctor" - describes his appointment as a surgeon, his preparations and experiences on a voyage out to Australia on a (unnamed) female convict ship.

A CONVICT SHIP I received a note from Sir ASTLEY, informing me that he had procured for me the appointment of Surgeon onboard a ship, which had been taken by Government for the purpose of transporting a number of female convicts to Australia. I cannot say I felt particularly delighted by the information. In the first place, I had fixed my hopes on receiving a permanent appointment and this would of course terminate when the voyage was ended; and beyond that, it led to noting. However, there was some occupation for me, which, if not very remunerative, was better than idling my time away, and I immediately wrote Sir ASTLEY a letter, thanking him for his kindness and promising to call on the authorities to whom he had referred me without delay. I now began to make preparations for my voyage to Australia, I placed one hundred and seventy pounds of my little capital in the bank, and the rest I kept to purchase my case of instruments, outfit and to provide for my current expenditure. My spirits were elated at the prospect of my visit to the antipodes, and I promised myself much pleasure and satisfaction in my new employment. Never was man more thoroughly disappointed. My voyage was one of continued misery from the time the ship left England till she arrived in Sydney. At the present time it would hardly be thought credible were I to relate the method of life onboard a convict ship five and thirty years since, and then it was immensely improved, by comparison to what it had been five and thirty years before. At that time noting was more common, on the [caprise] of the Captain of a ship, or possibly on the complaint of the second or third mate, to lash an unfortunate creature up the gangway, and flog her most severely, in exactly the same manner that sailors are flogged in the Navy; and so common and so little thought of [....] these occurrences, that it was not even thought worth while to enter them in the ship’s log. Although in my own time, an improvement had taken place in the treatment of these wretched women, heaven knows it was even then bad enough. When they arrived at their destination, and were assigned to the different settlers , there was always one loud cry of horror at their degraded state. And yet there was little to be wondered at. If any good or modest feeling remained in them before the ship left England, it was almost certain to be destroyed before she reached her destinations. After the treatment they had been subjected to during the voyage, and the examples which they had constantly before their eyes, it would have been far more surprising when they landed. if they had preserved one commendable attribute of woman hood,. That they had lost every principle which make women honourable. It would be impossible for men to lay the details of the general demoralization of the ship before the reader; suffice it to say that my life, when onboard, was made wretched by it. I endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to make things better; but as in those days the relative positioned of the surgeon, my remonstrances had no weight, and my threats were laughed at. (The Village Doctor – in the St James Magazine) Information taken from Sheffield Daily Telegraph 4 July 1865

It is possible the above article was written by Trasycles Clarke, Surgeon Superintendent on the female convict ship Kains.  An extract from the General Remarks section of the journal by Thrasycles Clarke, RN, on the Female Convict Ship Kains 1831 to Port Jackson, New South Wales. ADM 101/40/1: 

The general character and conduct of the prisoners were such as might be expected from the lowest class of society, —from the sweepings of most of the Prisons in England, and from persons whom all the wise and salutary laws of England had failed to reclaim, most immoral and abandoned, —if there ever was a Hell afloat it must have been in the shape of a Female Convict Ship, quarrelling, fighting, thieving, destroying in private each others property for a meer[sic] spirit of devilishness, conversation with each other most abandoned, without feeling or shame, —which absence of depressing feelings has probably been in some measures a source of health together with the impossibility of procuring spirits or other stimuli which produce innumerable diseases dangerous in character and difficult to treat in so dense a population.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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].