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Convict, prison and court records can provide rich, if sometimes disturbing evidence, of the lives led by past ancestors. This unit will draw upon the expertise of leading historians of crime, the law and convict transportation to guide students through the vast archival underbelly of the criminal justice system. Using large datasets assembled as part of the Founders and Survivors and Digital Panopticon projects you will be shown how to contextualise individual conviction and life course histories by comparing them with the records of others that shared similar experiences. This is a unit for those who want to get "forensic" about their past.

Summary 2021

Unit name Convict Ancestors
Unit code HAA007
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Arts, Law and Education
School of Humanities
Discipline History and Classics

Dr. Kristyn Harman

Teaching staff

Dr. Kristyn Harman

Level Foundation
Available as student elective? No
Breadth Unit? No



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About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes

  1. Be familiar with the wide range of historic records available to locate individual convicts transported to the Australian penal colonies and to trace their life course experiences.
  2. Be able to read, transcribe, and understand key material presented within convict, court, and prison records.
  3. Be able to situate the experiences of individual convicts within a relevant wider context and convey this information clearly and succinctly.



Teaching Pattern

Fully online unit with recorded lectures, content module activities, quizzes and reading requirements.


Task 1: Four online quizzes (40%)

Task 2: Online transcription exercise (10%)

Task 3: Convict life story (non-fiction), 750-1000 words (50%)

TimetableView the lecture timetable | View the full unit timetable



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