The dataset of 2583 prisoners incarcerated at Cockatoo Island Prison (Sydney, NSW) between 1847 and 1869. Each row contains information about a different individual’s journey through the colonial criminal-justice system.

It includes the following information:

  • prisoners’ name and aliases
  • ship and year of arrival in Australia
  • their ‘status’ on arrival at Cockatoo Island (under original sentence, free by servitude, born in the colony, free migrant)
  • place of origin
  • physical appearance (eye and hair colour, scars, tattoos)
  • occupation
  • age
  • details of colonial conviction(s) (place of trial, court, date of conviction, offence and sentence)
  • Duration of imprisonment at Cockatoo Island (when and where they arrived and were discharged from)
  • under what conditions prisoners were discharged (ticket of leave, free pardon, transfer)

Since historic record-keeping practices changed over time, not all variables are recorded consistently for all prisoners.

This is a transcription of original material and has not been added to or altered except for minor standardisation of spelling.

The dataset is a transcription of the prison registers listed below, so some prisoners may be missing. Please do get in contact <cockatoo.convicts[at]> if this is the case for your ancestor/research subject, with their details and any archival references you have for them. I am in the process of updating and expanding the dataset.

Data collection involved transcription from archival materials kept at the New South Wales State Archives (call numbers: 4/4540, 4/6501, 4/6509, 6571, 4/6572, 4/6573, 4/6574, 4/6575, X819).