My great-great grandfather, Walter Cole, was born at Ottery St.Mary, Devon, England in 1810. The family oral history is he shipped convicts to Australia approximately in the 1830's and 1840's. He married Grace Williams in 1843 and had 3 children. First census I obtained was 1851 where he is working in the Royal Marine Barracks in Plymouth as a servant. In 1852, he is working at Dartmoor Prison in Devon. My great grandmother, Agnes Cole was born there. In the 1861 census, he is receiving a Seaman's Pension. He passed away in 1870 at Plymouth, Devon at age 60.

My questions are: what entity did he work for when shipping and possibly what were the names of ships and his position or job description?


The site Convict Records lists 389 different ships that made a total of 720 voyages to Australia carrying convicts.

There are many, many possibilities for the ones on which your ancestor (is reputed to have) served. For example there were 20 voyages in 1836 and even 14 in 1843 when the flood of convicts was beginning to be reduced. While the The British Convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database holds amazing detail about the convicts, there is much less about the crews who brought them.

Your best hope might be that Walter did something bad (or good) while in Australia and so his name was mentioned in the local newspapers which would almost certainly list the ship as his address. Trove is our great searchable collection of colonial news.

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