Searching for Sarah

In the last Heritage Alive Blog, we told the story of Sarah Marvin, a young woman convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation.

Today we highlight the fantastic, freely available, resources which allowed us to discover the details of her life.

So whether you are researching your family history, studying law and order, or just looking for a good story – read on to find out just what you can discover.

It all began here – The Lincolnshire County Council Transported Convicts Database.
The database gives details of nearly 2000 individuals sentenced in Lincolnshire courts to transportation, their crimes, and their victims.
The database is searchable by name, crime, court, ship and destination.

Crucially this database gave details of the ship that Sarah was transported on – the Westmoreland – and the year of her transportation – 1836.  These details were vital in being able to track her further, and confirm her identity in later records.

The next step was a search of the Convict Records of Australia.
This allowed us to find more details about the Westmoreland – including the exact date it sailed and details of other passengers. While we searched the records by Ship Name, they can be searched by individual, by date or by crime – and also provides many fascinating statistics.

The Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO) have digitised many transportation records, and both transcripts and the original images are searchable and available to view free of charge – it was here that we discovered details of Sarah’s appearance, her conduct record, her marriage to Charles, and the death of their first child.
It is easy to search using the Names Index, and results can be filtered by date, ship, record type, port of departure etc.

Many of the digitised documents are available to view, and convicts are often listed alphabetically by ship.  As details of convicts from more than one ship will be recorded in each document, it can be helpful to know the names of other convicts on the same ship – here the additional information gleaned from the Convict Records of Australia site was invaluable.

It can be much harder to find details of a convicts life after the end of their sentence – the government was much less concerned with recording the details of free men and women, however it is not impossible.

The Female Convicts Research Centre offer a fantastic resource which compiles and transcribes details of women transported to Van Diemen’s Land, as well as providing details of life as a convict.

Run and maintained by volunteers, the database is regularly updated as more records are transcribed and more information provided.

Individuals need to register as a researcher with the centre to access the database, but this is a quick and free process, after which you will be provided with login details and can freely search the data available.
The database gives transcriptions of much of the information given available from the TAHO, as well as any additional information available.  This is where we found details of Sarah’s travel to Melbourne, her death, and of her surviving two children.

Sarah’s tale is compelling, a young woman from a small village sent halfway across the globe for a relatively minor offence – but hers is one of thousands of stories, just waiting to be rediscovered.