The Female Convicts Research Centre promotes interest in the female convicts of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), by encouraging and facilitating research.

From 1803 to 1853, 12,500 female convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), as punishment for crimes, mainly theft. After serving their sentences they were released into the community. Their transportation left a lasting legacy.

The Female Convicts Research Centre encourages research into these female convicts, mainly through its database, website and twice-yearly seminars.

When you become a member of the FCRC, you gain access to our database where you will find information entered by our volunteers as we attempt to reconstruct the life course of each female convict.

We update this website and our database regularly and sometimes daily, as our volunteer transcribers continue to provide new information.  Please bookmark this page and return soon.




Search the Female Convicts in Van Diemen's Land Database

seminar 1

Convict System Administration

Convict Institutions

Convict Ships

forum larger


Convict Lives


Notice Board2

Cleansing the Colony: Transporting convicts from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land

by Kristyn Harman

In examining the remarkable experiences of unremarkable people, this fascinating book provides insights into the lives of people like William Phelps Pickering, a self-made entrepreneur turned criminal; Margaret Reardon, a potential accomplice to murder and convicted perjurer; and Te Kumete, a Maori warrior transported as a rebel. Their stories, and others like them, reveal how New Zealand’s governing class was intent on cleansing the colony of what it considered a burgeoning criminal underclass. Van Diemen’s Land became a dumping ground for New Zealand’s unwanted.

Author Kristyn Harman offers insights into penal servitude in Van Diemen’s Land as revealed through the lived experiences of the men and sole woman transported from New Zealand. Whether Māori men serving time for political infractions, white-collar criminals, labourers, vagrants or the soldiers sent to fight the empire’s wars, each convict’s experiences reveal something about the way in which the British Empire sought to discipline, punish and reform those who trespassed against it.



FCRC Autumn seminar, Sunday 22 April 2018: Call for papers

Topic: 'The Hobart Town Female Factory and the move to the Cascades, 1828'

In 1828 women convicts were transferred from the old Hobart Town Female factory to the new Factory at the Cascades. To mark the 190th anniversary, our next seminar explores the old Factory and the move to the new one.

Would you like to give a 15-minute paper on any aspect of the Hobart Town Factory or the move? Possible topics include conditions, rebellions, escapes, staff, individual stories of convicts in the old Factory, and the establishment of the new one.

If you are interested, please contact Alison Alexander on Alison.Alexander@utas.edu.au by 1st January 2018.

Registrations for the seminar will open in January 2018.​

Captured: Portraits of Crime

Captured: Portraits of Crime is a new exhibition produced by State Archives and Records NSW that explores the stories of men, women and children who were incarcerated in NSW gaols from 1870 to 1930. The exhibition engages with photographic portraits and descriptions of prisoners sourced from the State Archives Collection of Gaol Photographic Description Books. These historic records have been digitised, and interpreted through research within and beyond the archives to illuminate events and contexts that led ordinary people to commit crimes. But as the ordinary unfolds, so, too, does the extraordinary. The exhibition’s set of compelling case studies of individuals captured in the criminal justice system as a result of choice or circumstance provides a unique perspective that makes a new contribution to the history of NSW.


The Prisons

The latest addition to our website is Scottish Prisons of the 18th and 19th Century, available under Convict Institutions at http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/convict-institutions/the-prisons. This page has been kindly contributed by Lilian MacDonald.

Recently Digitised Material from TAHO Collections - July to September 2017

You may find some of the new material available on line useful for your convict research. A list is available here.

New Postal Address for FCRC

Female Convicts Research Centre Inc

PO Box 550

South Hobart TAS 7004


Cornwall Family History Society: Female Convicts sent to Tasmania

One of the main aims of the Cornwall Family History Society is encouraging research into Cornish family history. Another aim is the co-ordination, transcribing and indexing of original records by volunteer members.

In 2014, The Cornwall Family History Society was approached by the FCRC to help research Tasmanian female convicts from their area. They have now launched their new website which includes a page on Tasmanian female convicts. Their research is available in pdf format, free of charge. To find out more, please visit their new website at http://www.cornwallfhs.com/female-convict-records/

FCRC appreciates the research contributed by the volunteers at the Cornwall Family History Society and encourage you to visit their very modern and informative website. 



Recent Updates

  • The East London - Chapter 9:  The Protestant Women.  The number of Catholics and Protestants on board the East London roughly followed the distribution of the religions in Ireland at that time. Religion played an important part in the lives of the Irish people. Did the religious followings have any influence on the choice of mess groups of the women on board the East London?  In this chapter Colleen provides an insight into the religious distribution of Irish convicts. (6/12/2017)
  • Ships -  Surgeon’s Journal of Her Majesty’s Female Convict Ship Edward, Mr Joseph STERET Surgeon.  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.  Contributed by Colleen Arulappu  (6/12/2017)
  • Petitions - Ann Taylor, Ann Titlah, Eliza Trigg per Angelina 1844  (6/12/2017)
  • Petitions - Mary Brown, Mary Smith per Emma Eugenia 1842; Sarah Stevens per Emma Eugenia 1844; Mary Campbell (or Miller) Royal Admiral 1842; Mary Vitteridge per Angelina 1844 (29/11/2017)
  • Ships - MaryIII 1831 Transcript of the Surgeon's Journal courtesy of Rhonda Arthhur (23/11/2017)

    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.

  • The East London - The Gang from Clonmel.   Chapter 8 of the East London story by Colleen Arulappu.  Mary Spillane, Mary Cavanagh and Mary Harrowhill, Catholic women, were tried in Clonmel, County Tipperary, on 1 April 1843.  Charged with them was James Cavanagh.  Mary Spillane was born in Templemore and at nearly seventy years of age was the oldest woman aboard ship, and did not survive the voyage.  (17/11/2017)
  • Petitions - Catherine Oliver, Elizabeth Sidnell, Mary Ann Somerville per Woodbridge 1843;  Mary Kelly per Emma Eugenia 1842 (15/11/2017)
  • Petitions - Eliza Cleveland, Harriet Budd, Harriet Rowe, Mary Ann Savery per Angelina 1844;  Ellen Hill, Ellen Mortimer, Margaret Hayes per Woodbridge 1843;  Ann Purvis per John Calvin 1848;  Mary Murray per Waverley 1847 (11/11/2017)
  • Genealogy - Update to the story of Amelia Hough with photographs contributed by Robert Chesterman.(9/11/2017)