Last year I wrote a series of blogs based on the criminal petitions in record series HO 17, which is currently being catalogued by a team of volunteers. In petitioning the Home Office, criminals, their families and supporters were often seeking a mitigation of their punishment. There are also petitions from those who tried to join their loved ones in exile, in various ways and with varying degrees of success – the focus of this blog.
In petitions seeking mitigation, personal circumstances were frequently cited to demonstrate factors like the convict’s good character, their innocence, that they were seduced into crime by others, or driven by desperate circumstances; perhaps they were too old, sick, young or insane to be sent overseas or remain in prison. A commonly made plea is that the convict’s transportation will leave their families destitute: without their income, the convict’s family, be they elderly parents or a young wife and children, will be forced on to parish relief.
But faced with the misery of separation from their loved ones, and potential destitution from the loss of their income, we also find many petitions from those seeking to join family members in New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land. Most of these petitions are from wives, many of them wishing to travel with their children to join their husbands in exile, although there are also examples of convicts requesting that if they have to be transported their families be allowed to accompany them. 1 Continue reading »
- 1. The vast majority of transportees were male – in ‘The Fatal Shore’ Robert Hughes estimates that when transportation to Australia was at its peak, between 1831 and 1841, a rounded figure of roughly 43,500 male and 7,700 female convicts sailed for Australia. (p.162) ^