Exiting news for those of us who have an interest in researching British convicts transported to Australia.

The free website, Digital Panopticon, launched recently in the UK, allows searches of over 4 million records held in the National Archives (UK) and within various collections in Australia. Many of these collections are available through subscription databases such as Ancestry and Find My Past, which are both available here at the State Library Victoria. Digital Panopticon features information on 90,000 individuals convicted of crimes at the Old Bailey between 1780 and 1925.

A search for convict John Andrew Meek (tried at age 16 for breaking and entering the dwelling of Don Tuck), retrieves references to him appearing in the following eight record series:

Home Office Prison records (1817 and 1826)
Newgate calendars of prisoners (1826)
Hulks and prisons – Quarterly returns (1826)
Old Bailey proceedings (Old Bailey Online)
Old Bailey – Capital convictions at the Old Bailey
Old Bailey – Associated records (1826 and 1827)
New South Wales – Convicts index (Ship: Prince Regent 1827. Ticket of leave and Conditional Pardon)
New South Wales – Application to Marry.

While more research would be required to build the story of John Andrew Meek’s convict career, this is a good example of one resource bringing together a range of related records containing relevant information about an individual.

Searching of the website can be performed for individuals by name, details of their crimes and sentences, dates and place of birth and even physical descriptions such as eye and hair colour.

From retrieved data, researchers can create data analysis reports and visualisations. Contextual information about various convict records and areas of convict research is included in the database.

The Digital Panopticon project was a collaboration between the University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, University of Oxford, University of Sussex and University of Tasmania.

Port Arthur, Tasmania [picture]  by J. S. Prout. H18075

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