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Oct 08

1030 Talking about Convicts (Register)

Registrations Closed
Date & Time
8 October 2022 9:30 AM - 12:30 AM
(UTC+11:00) Australia/Sydney

Registrations Are Closed

This is a hybrid meeting. Members and guests interested in attending should register for this event via Zoom or in personAfter registering to attend via Zoom, you will receive an email with a link to the external Zoom website to complete the registration.

Updated 7 October 2022 - We have reached capacity for In-Person attendance.  You can still attend via Zoom.


 "Talking about Convicts."

 Damned Lives and Statistics: Big Data and Convict Life Course -  by Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
This presentation explores how big data is currently being used to shed light on convict lives. It will examine the extent to which convict testimony can be trusted, how prisoners were selected to be sent to different penal colonies and the impact of punishment on life course outcomes. It will end by looking at the possibilities for using large datasets to shape the family history resources of the future.
Hamish Maxwell-Stewart is a professor of heritage and digital humanities at the University of New England who has long collaborated with family historians to create large digital datasets. He is particularly interested in the ways in which the history of health and crime can be used to shed light on past outcomes.
Convict lives in early New South Wales: reconstructing biographies from online sources - By Michael Flynn
The Biographical Database of Australia (BDA) has its origins in the transcription and publication of the NSW 1828 census in 1979 and of NSW census-like Muster Rolls of 1800- 1837in the 1980s. Early Australian penal colonies developed advanced administrative systems to track and identify colonists, especially convicts. 
BDA was initiated in 2006 as a biographical database built from bits of data on named individuals (whether immigrant convicts or locally born of all ethnicities, including Aboriginal people) transcribed from archives and other sources that can be knitted together to create a profile. At the core of the database are transcripts of birth, marriage, death and legal records and records of immigration and the convict system and military garrisons, built around the electronic records of the census and muster transcripts published 30--40 years ago. This presentation explores ways to use the database to discover details of people’s lives in the colonial period and to understand how the system of colonisation functioned, what the people were like, where they lived and worked, where they came from and what became of them.
Michael Flynn is a Sydney historian and genealogist and the author of The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 (1993) and Settlers and Seditionists: the People of the convict ship Surprize 1794 (11994). 
Since 2006 he has been a board member, honorary research officer website text editor for the Biographical Database of Australia (BDA:, and assistant editor of BDA since 2022. He is working on revised First and Second Fleet biographical dictionaries and transcripts of NSW magistrates court proceedings 1788-1800.
 Using Mr Bigge’s Enquiry two hundred years on - by Assoc Prof David Roberts
2022 marks the bicentenary of John Thomas Bigge's monumental report on the State of New South Wales' Commissioned by the Crown to gather information and recommend future directions for the turbulent penal colony, Bigge spent eighteen months from 1819 to 1822 touring the Australian settlements, examining colonists, inspecting facilities, and hoarding documents. It was an extensive enquiry. The commissioner had the authority to examine whatever he chose and resolved somewhat naively to pursue everything that attracted his attention. He became somewhat overwhelmed by the detail and data he collected. And that is excellent news for historians.
Associate Professor David Andrew Roberts has over twenty years of experience as a researcher and supervisor, with expertise in early Australian History. He is the editor (since 2003) of the Journal of Australian Colonial History. His current research is funded by an ARC Discovery Project Grant, "Inquiring into Empire: Remaking the British Empire after 1815"




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