From 1788 to 1868, 158,072 male and female prisoners were landed in Australia from the British Isles. About 82,000 were sent to ‘NSW’ (Victoria and Queensland then formed part of MSW), 67,000 to Tasmania and 9720 to Western Australia. Transportation to NSW ceased in 1840. The influx of free migrants did not start until the 1820s. In 1821 the population of Sydney was 12,079 with 1250 free settlers having arrived. The focus was on running a convict settlement, not a settlement for the freeborn.
The Parramatta Female Factory was a significant institution in the early years. First class female prisoners were those who were newly- arrived and were waiting to be assigned or had to be re-assigned through no fault of their own. Second class prisoners who were returned because of their conduct. The third class was the penal class and resulted from further sentencing in the Colony. The assignments were generally a servants to military officers, settlers and ex-convicts. Despite the English belief at the time that they were degraded and evil, most moved fairly quickly into respectable roles where they were given the opportunity.
Offences by convicts resulted in harsh punishment. A first offence for neglect of work attracted up to 50 lashes, the second up to 100 lashes and the third 12 months in irons working in a gang.
Some prisoners were pardoned and, after serving their term, received a Certificate of Freedom which allowed them to return to England. The Ticket Of Leave was a major feature of the convict system in Australia having similar features to the current parole system. In 1851 in New South Wales less than 2700 convicts were serving their sentence and about 6000 convicts held a Ticket of Leave. The Ticket Of Leave enabled a convict to seek employment, acquire property and to move with the specified District which could be altered by a magistrate. They were required to attend church each week if a Divine Service was held withing a reasonable distance.
Convicts were generally given permission to marry provided records showed they were single on arrival. They had to show that they would be self-supporting. Convicts tended to marry other convicts or the children of convicts.
There are a number of convicts in the family line with three direct ancestor convicts. Both Ellen Kenniwell nee Sampson and George Kenniwell were English and were transported to Australia in 1818. Both had been married in England but started a new life in Australia. They did not know each other but met and married in 1822.
One of their daughters, Ellen Kenniwell, met and married Richard Pickering in 1845. She was thus the daughter of two convicts and the wife of another. Richard Pickering had arrived in Australia on 27 September 1827.
The irony is that crime generally dissipated with convicts and that the emergence of bushranging in the 1850s involved largely the children of the freeborn. This is because many had been raised on the land and had superb horse and shooting skills, and could readily elude police, and were suddenly surrounded by the wealth of the goldfields.
However, there are other convicts in the family tree. Not one, not two but four more Pickering brothers were transported to Australia as convicts – John, Mathew and Richard Pickering were transported for life to New South Wales on the Prince Regent in 1827 for stealing clothing, a fourth brother, Joseph was transported on the Marquis of Huntley in 1830 for seven years for stealing bacon.