Discover if you ancestor built a new life in Australia after serving time in the penal colonies there between 1791 and 1867. Search for those granted pardons by the Governor from the earliest days of the convicts in New South Wales. Search almost 27,000 records to discover their name and the name of the ship they arrived on, as well as the term of the sentence they served and details of their release.
Each record contains a transcript and a black and white image of original documents. The amount of information can vary but you can find out the following about your ancestor. Please note that more information can often be found on the image:
Length of sentence
When pardon ordered
When pardon granted
When freed (in the case of conditional pardons)
Notes and remarks
Sometimes additional documents were filed with the pardons giving details of crimes committed. You can navigate these by clicking on the arrows to the right and left of the image.
There are 26,933 records of both conditional and absolute pardons.
Pardons were generally handed out to convicts serving life sentences but in the earliest years of the colony the Governor had the power to grant both free and conditional pardons as rewards for good behaviour, for special skills or for carrying out special duties or tasks. Governor Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, who was the final autocratic Governor of the colony, overseeing it from 1810 to 1821 and the man credited with being the one who oversaw the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement, introduced new regulations setting minimum time that must be served on various sentences before a pardon could be issued.
Conditional pardons meant that a convict was free as long as they stayed within the colony, known as “Government limits”. Most convicts received a conditional pardon. Absolute pardons meant that a convict’s sentence was completely remitted. They were free with no conditions and could move beyond the limits of the colony or even return to Britain.
These records correspond to the New South Wales archive references of:
Recommendations for absolute pardons 1826–1846 (Archive reference NRS 1165, reel 800)
Absolute pardons 1791–1843 (Archive reference NRS 1177, reel 800)
Alphabetical register of pardons 1828–1862 (Archive reference NRS 1174, reel 798)
Recommendations for conditional pardons 1826–1856 (Archive reference NRS 1173, reels 797-798)
Conditional pardons 1791–1841 (Archive reference NRS 1170, reel 774)
Absolute and conditional pardons granted 1810 – 1841 (Archive reference NRS 1165, reels 601, 669, 704)
© the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales and is used under licence with the permission of the State Records Authority. The State of New South Wales gives no warranty regarding the data’s accuracy, completeness, currency or suitability for any particular purpose.