Prison hulk registers and letter books (1802-1849) and parole licences for female convicts (1853-1871 and 1883-1887) have recently been made available online by Ancestry.co.uk. All the records are from The National Archives of the UK.
On its website, Ancestry says:
About prison hulk registers and letter books (1802-1849)
“This collection consists of registers and letter books of prisoners on convict prison hulks in England between 1802-1849. A hulk is a decommissioned ship that is either technologically out of date or cannot make it through the open sea without taking on water, but is still able to float without problems.
“There were many of these ships available when engines started to power ships instead of sails, so the hulks were moored in harbors and used as floating prisons or for other purposes. The hulks’ place in harbors also made it easier to hold and transport convicts being sent to Australia. The first prison hulks in England appeared after a 1776 act allowed them to be used to house prisoners.
“The collection contains a letter book relating to the establishment of hulks written from 1847-1849 and the registers of prisoners on 19 different hulks between 1802-1849. The registers contain:
- Date received;
- Birth year;
- Date convicted;
- Where convicted.
About Licences of Parole for Female Convicts (1853-1887)
“In 1850, Margaret Bannaghan was convicted of robbery in Edinburgh, Scotland, and sentenced to ‘be transported beyond the Seas for the term of Ten Years.’ In 1854, after four years in prison, Margaret was essentially paroled when she was granted a ‘Licence to be at large in the United Kingdom’ during the remainder of her sentence.
“This database contains documentation surrounding the licences to be at large given to Margaret and some 4,400 other female prisoners between 1853 and 1887. The documents include the revocation of some of these licences as well. (Note that licences with numbers 3900 to 6624 are missing in the original collection.)
Using the Records
“The records can be searched by:
- Year of the licence;
- Estimated birth year;
- Court and year of conviction.
“The database includes images of the records themselves, which make up a file on the convict. Their contents varies but can include next of kin, religion, literacy, physical description, a medical history, marital status, number of children, age, occupation, crime, sentence, dates and places of confinement, reports on behavior while in prison, letters or notes from the convict, and (from 1871 forward) a photograph.”