Conditional pardons, 1826-1856
Conditional pardons were generally given to convicts with long sentences (14 years or life) and excused them from serving the rest of their sentence on condition that they remain in the colony and not return to the UK or Ireland.
The registers recommending conditional pardons usually include details of the convict recommended and the name of the person who recommended them.
You can view a digitised example of a conditional pardon from our collection at the Library.
How to find out if a convict received a conditional pardon
You will first need to search an index which will provide you with location details to view copies of the relevant entry in the Register of convicts recommended for conditional pardons.
Be aware: As the indexes and the records are handwritten they can be difficult to read. The registers are not comprehensive. For more information about the exact dates held, see the Guide to the NSW Archives Office Kit on the State Records Authority of New South Wales website.
- STEP 1
Find the Register of convicts recommended for conditional pardons, 1826-56 (see full catalogue details for this item) on microfiche (AO fiche No. 824-835) in one of the blue folders on the 'NSW Archives Kit' shelves in the Family History Service in the State Library of NSW.
- STEP 2
The Register of convicts recommended for conditional pardons, 1826-56 is split into three series over 12 microfiche.
- Series 1 (AO fiche No. 824-828): covering the years 1826-1842 with an index to these records on fiche No. 824 (and continued on fiche No. 828)
- Series 2 (AO fiche No. 828-832): covering the years 1843-1846 with an index to these records on fiche No. 828
- Series 3 (AO fiche No. 832-835): covering the years 1846-1856 with no index
If you know the date that your convict received a recommendation for a conditional pardon, select the set of microfiche which cover this date range. If you're not sure of a date, use your convict's date of arrival in Australia as a starting point. Select the set of microfiche with the date range that corresponds to their arrival date and work your way forward through the records from there.
- STEP 3
Search the index
Series 1, covering 1826-1842, and Series 2, covering 1843-1846, both have an index which is found on the first microfiche of each series, i.e. the index for the first series is found on AO fiche No. 824 (with a small section continued on AO fiche No. 828) and the index for the second series is found on AO fiche No. 828. Select the microfiche which contains the index for the years you are searching and continue to Step 4.
There is no index for the third series, covering 1846-1856. The microfiche in this series are arranged chronologically by date of recommendation for conditional pardon and then alphabetically by convict's surname within each date range. If you know the date your convict was recommended for a conditional pardon, find that date on one of the microfiche in the series and then search through the alphabetical list for your convict. If you are unsure of the date you will need to browse through each alphabetical list for each date covering all the microfiche in this series.
- STEP 4
Load the microfiche into the microfiche reader and move the carrier horizontally and vertically until you find the start of the index. The index is close to the beginning of the microfiche. The indexes are arranged by first letter of the convict's surname, but are chronologically arranged within a particular letter of the alphabet, not alphabetically. For example, if you are looking for a convict called 'George Willis' you will need to read through all of the names under the letter 'W', as he could be anywhere in the list, depending on the date of his pardon.
- STEP 5
Find the letter of the alphabet which corresponds to the first letter of your convict's surname in the index. Some groupings of names for a particular letter of the alphabet may be out of sequence and we recommend you scan through the whole index looking out for additional groupings of the letter you are searching.
Be aware: a small section of the index for the first section continues at the beginning of AO fiche No. 828.
- STEP 6
Browse the relevant alphabet letter section of the index until you find your convict's name. There is a number next to each convict's name. Sometimes you will find two numbers next to a convict's name, instead of one, eg 32/108. The first number is the page number and the second is the entry number. If there is only one number, it is the page number. Make a note of these numbers.TIP
If you can't find your convict in this index you could also try State Records NSW online Index to Convict Pardons which holds additional records of conditional pardons. These are being progressively indexed online. Those that are not yet available online are available in hard copy which you can access when you visit State Records NSW.
- STEP 7
View the record
Copies of the original records begin directly after each index, with entries found on hand-written numbered pages which continue over onto the other microfiche in that series. Select the microfiche in the series you are searching which covers the page number you noted from the index entry. You may need to change microfiche.
- STEP 8
Find the page number you noted from the index entry, on the microfiche you are searching and your convict's entry will be on this page. Look for handwritten page numbers, not printed record numbers.
Sometimes the page numbers in the index are wrong. In this case, you will need to browse the volume until you find the right entry. It is usually within a few pages of the page number given in the index.