Earliest convict arrivals recorded online

By Alice McRae January 24, 2013
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The arrival records of the First Fleet, and some of our most famous convicts, are now available on the web.

RECORDS OF THE EARLIEST convict arrivals to Australia have been made available online, to mark the 225th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney cove on 26 January 1788.

Sentenced Beyond the Seas is a digital project run by State Records NSW. The archive, now available online, contains scans of the original arrival records of convicts between the years 1788 and 1801.

There are more than 12,000 names among the records for this period.

Arrival records of first beer brewer in Australia

Among the digitised records is a convict whose name survives as a brewery, known today as James Squires. James Squire was the first person in Australia known to have successfully grown hops for the purpose of brewing his own beer.

Following a conviction for highway robbery in Surrey, England, Squire was sent to Australia aboard the Charlotte in the First Fleet. During his sentence Squire began brewing small amounts of beer, some of which was provided to his local lieutenant-governors.

Upon release in 1795 Squire was granted land, where he built his brewery and tavern.

Mary Bryant, another iconic convict, can also be found within the records. Bryant, formerly Mary Braund, was charged with assault and robbery in England and sentenced to death. However, her sentence was commuted, and she was instead sent to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788.

Along with her husband William, Bryant escaped from the colony in 1791 in a stolen fishing boat. Upon her capture, she was transported back to England where she was to carry out the remainder of her sentence. When the local press picked up her incredible story, however, she was eventually pardoned due to public outcry.

First convict executed in Sydney

Thomas Barrett is also among those recorded. Barrett was initially sent to America by boat in 1784, however the convicts took control of the ship before it left English waters. The mutineers were eventually recaptured and sentenced, many to execution.

Barrett was spared the death penalty because he had saved the life of a steward. Instead, he was sent to Australia in 1787. He has been attributed to the creation of the Charlotte Medal, which was made to commemorate the arrival of the fleet at Botany Bay.

Soon after arriving in Australia, however, Barrett was found guilty of stealing beef and peas from the colony. He was the first person to be executed in Sydney.

First Fleet records ‘part of the heritage of the world’

Project co-ordinator Janette Pelosi, herself a First Fleet descendant, says the project is of great significance to the Australian people.

“The most important aspect of this project is that people will be able to see the original records that founded our nation since European colonisation in 1788,” Janette says.

“These were the most significant records of that period, and we want to make them available for everyone.”

Dr David Roberts, senior lecturer at the University of New England, says of the project is of value to the broader community, locally as well as overseas.

“Anyone who wants to can look at these documents, including the international community,” says David. “These documents are of international significance, they’re a part of the heritage of the world.”

Sentenced Beyond the Seas is available on the State Records website at www.records.nsw.gov.au