A Peoples' History of Booting

|

Ancestry.co.uk has uploaded the family histories of tens of thousands of British criminals who got shipped to Australia. Embarassing family info that you used to have to dig up in archives is accessible with a few mouse clicks; legendary Ozzies are being demystified with a couple of search terms.

One convict of note was the father of Ned Kelly, Australia's famous bush ranger. His Irish father, Red, was sentenced to seven years for stealing two pigs and sent to Tasmania.

The first female convict to set foot in Australia was Elizabeth Thackery, sentenced to seven years for the theft of five handkerchiefs.

But the fiendish Red Kelly was no relation to the heroic Red Kelly.

Advertisement

NEXT: Jered Townsend: The Reason Interview

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The first female convict to set foot in Australia was Elizabeth Thackery, sentenced to seven years for the theft of five handkerchiefs.

    Truly, the British penal colonies were wretched hives of scum and villainy.

  2. Well, at least there were real victims for the crimes that the early Aussies committed, however minor we might consider those crimes today. Imagine a not-too-distant future, when you could be sent to an asteroid mining colony to do hard labor for smoking a joint. Might the solar system end up being settled by pot smokers?

  3. Might the solar system end up being settled by pot smokers?

    Dude, we already have.

  4. Aussie history? Yawn… I was hoping this would be a thread about puke.

  5. Embarassing family info that you used to have to dig up in archives is accessible with a few mouse clicks; legendary Ozzies are being demystified with a couple of search terms.

    While its true that as recently as the 1950s Australians tried to ignore or hide their individual and collective convict past today they tend to be rather proud of it.

    Hiding the collective past generally consisted of claiming that political prisoners made up a larger portion of transportees than was actually true. The fact was that for the most part the convicts were genuine miscreats (although we can certainly question the severity of the sentences – I mean, seven years for stealing handkerchiefs? c’mon).

    Individually it was a case of denial and suppression. One prominent Tasmanian businessman arranged to have his grandfather’s(?) records removed from the State archives and destroyed in the late 1800s. An enterprising researcher found duplicate copies in England in the mid-20th century (never underestimate the superiority of the British as clerks).

  6. A few of my ancestors in there. I’m not surprised.
    Worthless bastards to a man, the lot of them.

  7. Huh. That’s funny. I appear to be the heir to the Romanov throne. Hmmm. And I’m the rightful Kaiser of Germany as well. Who knew? Guess I’ll have to change my politics, now.

  8. I like to think I’m descended from pirates. AAAARRRR

  9. Truly, the British penal colonies were wretched hives of scum and villainy.

    I gather that detection rates were low, so they tended to compensate with harsh sentences for those criminals they did catch.

    That said, when they talked about being tough on crime then, they clearly meant it.

  10. That’s pretty much it – there wasn’t a proper metropolitan police force until Peel’s reforms in the 1820s, so there was a great deal of reliance on the deterrence effect. At the end of the eighteenth century something like 200 separate crimes were capital (pretty much all crimes against property and person, besides those against the state), although only about 30 were actually prosecuted with any regularity. And since the prisons were so unbelievably awful, being tossed in the clink wasn’t much better than death anyhow; transportation was considered a (fairly) humane alternative.

    In sum, this approach did jack-all for public safety, thus the eventual reforms.

  11. In sum, this approach did jack-all for public safety, thus the eventual reforms.

    It’s not all negative. Without the British shipping prisoners to Australia, we would have never had THIS!

    And, Bush wouldn’t be able to say “Australia” when people point out that Bush pretty much pissed off everybody.

  12. Disparaging the boot is a bootable offense!

  13. What kind of sick country would kick someone with a giant boot?

  14. “True patriots we, for be it understood,
    We left our country for our country’s good.”

  15. You have to admire the man who wrote that line.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.