Convict Tickets of Leave in NSW 1788 to 1850



The ticket of leave records at the Archives Authority of New South Wales (AANSW) are incomplete.


2 July 1810 to 3 October 1814 List or register of tickets 1 to 105/737 COD 18 Reel 601
29 July 1824 to 8 March 1827 Register of tickets issued 1227 to 2422 Reel 890
16 May 1827 to 1 October 1833 Register of tickets issued 28/77 to 33/887 Reel 890
31 March 1827 to 31 Dec 1867 Ticket of leave butts 28/77 to 75/1 Reels 909 to 965 inclusive

In addition to the above, the convict indents for arrivals after 1800 have three columns for notations of ticket of leave numbers (TL), conditional pardons (CP) and absolute pardons (AP). This information is not noted on the pre-1801 indents.


Extant ticket of leave registers and ticket butts seem very reliable. The register numbers and butt numbers run consecutively. The details called for by the form of the records are generally completed thoroughly. Particularly in the later years, they were obviously used as working documents, with cancellations (e.g. on death, emancipation, renewal or revocation) and alterations (e.g. to district for which the ticket was valid) frequently being noted.

The indents have some deficiencies. Some microfilm copies are of poor quality, and for some pages the copy omits the right hand edge, where the ticket numbers are noted. Some of the original indents, particularly for the later years of transportation, are in very poor condition (see Note 1). There is also a possibility that some entries in the indents have been altered through forgery. However, fresh indents were called for from the UK on a number of occasions to correct the frauds, and errors are probably minimal.

The gaps in the records in Table 11, and duplication in the number series used by Macquarie and Brisbane (see Appendix 10), makes complete confirmation impossible. Nevertheless, where ticket details are available they seem to be fairly reliable. For example, for tickets issued after 1826, when only one numbering system was used, have proven very accurate. A small discovery sample of arrivals in 1801-1802, without ticket details shown on the indents, was compared with muster lists to check reliability of indent data, proving to be at least 95% accurate. The results suggest that the indents are accurate in recording ticket numbers for male convicts, however the results for tickets granted to female convicts in the early years might be understated (see Note 2).

Where ticket numbers given in the indents were in the same number series as the 1810-1814 Ticket of Leave Register but convict names did not match, the Certificate of Freedom Register (see Note 3) for that period was checked. The numbers were not for certificates of freedom.


Because of the gap in ticket of leave records between 1800- 1809 and 1815-1823 it was necessary to rely on the convict indents.

Convict indents

Five numbers between 1 and 100 were randomly selected (see note 4), and an array sample was taken starting with each of those numbers and adding 100 (see Note 5). Details were extracted from the convict indents for arrivals in NSW from 1796 to 1823 (see Note 6). Because of the gaps in the ticket records, more extensive details were extracted from the indents for the earlier years (see Note 7). Details of some ships were not included in the sample because the ships disembarked convicts at both Hobart and Sydney, and a breakup according to destination was not given. Two ships in 1820 were not included because of temporary unavailability of the records.

Tickets of leave details were checked against register and butt records to verify, and to extract issue details. Where register or butt records are not extant, the ticket numbering system (see Appendix 10) was used in conjunction with the musters for 1800-2, 1806, 1811, 1814, 1822 and 1837, and the 1828 census (see Note 8), to determine which ticket series a convict fell into, and calculate the year of issue. In a small proportion of cases (13 out of 274, or 4.7%) there were two or more possible issue dates (see Note 9). These cases were excluded from the sample when calculating the average waiting time for tickets.

Ticket of Leave Register 1810-1814

A random number between one and twenty was computer generated, and an array sample taken of every twentieth entry in the register. The register noted the reason for issue of the tickets in only a small proportion of cases.

Ticket of Leave Butts

Details were extracted from ticket of leave butts for the following periods: Array sampling was again taken, of every twentieth butt starting from randomly selected numbers for each range.

Analysis of Ticket of Leave details

Rates of issue of tickets of leave, based on year of arrival, and average time for sentence to run on arrival, were extracted from the sample taken from the indents. See Appendix 3 for results.

Ticket of leave details were extracted from indent sample, and combined with ticket of leave details from the sample of ticket of leave register, and the sample from the ticket of leave butts. Doubtful entries were cross-checked with muster and census records where possible (for example where butts omitted the sentence this could sometimes be picked up from the musters).

The data was then analysed. Results are in Appendix 6.

Tickets of Exemption From Government Labour Butts (TE)

Details from every twentieth butt were extracted for the period 1827 to 1832. The results are in Appendix 5.

1806 Muster

Ticket holder's occupations were extracted from the muster list. See Appendix 4.

Estimate of ticket of leave numbers

Details of ticket numbers have been extracted from a variety of sources e.g. HRA, Bigge Report, AANSW microfilm and COD records of ticket registers, butts, and indents. Some of the figures in Appendix 9 have been calculated working from other known figures. The records themselves are occasionally contradictory, and the extent of tickets being used as replacements for damaged or lost tickets is not known. Nevertheless the overall trend in the summary Table 92 is probably a reasonable estimate of the trend over the period (cf. Figure 7 above).

1828 Census

A random sample of the census was taken, examining 14 pages (3.5%) of the total. The results are at Appendix 8.

The next available appendix is Appendix 10: Ticket of Leave Numbering System


Note 1 Perhaps the best copies were destroyed in the 1890s by the NSW Government: see Nick Vine Hall, 39.

Note 2 To be statistically reliable for a yes/no response (i.e. accurate/not accurate) a sample of at least 30 is required. Of those sampled, 5% (2 of 38 in sample) showed PRIS TL (i.e. prisoner, ticket of leave) in 1806 Muster. Both convicts were listed as concubines, one with 2 children. As tickets were not always formally granted to female convicts who went off the stores when supported by a man, the errors in the indents are not surprising. The remainder of the sample did not conflict with indent data.

Note 3 AANSW COD 18; Reel 601.

Note 4 Using a computer program which generates random numbers. The numbers were, in order: 10, 30, 79, 9, 83.

Note 5 The series of numbers ran 9, 10, 30, 79, 83, 109, 110, 130, 179, 183, 209, 210, 230 et seq. Five array samples were chosen, rather than simply taking every twentieth entry, because it was not known at the start whether time would permit such a large sample. If time was short, the last random number, viz. 83, could be dropped without jeopardizing the randomness of the remaining four samples. For the importance of randomness to the reliability of the samples see Frederick Mills, Statistical Methods , 3rd ed, Pitman, London, 1955, pp.175 et seq.

Note 6 For convenience, indents for 1796 to 1800 were sampled from the lists contained in Cobley, Sydney Cove , V, 1795-1800.

Note 7 For example, the delay between trial and arrival in NSW dropped to about a year after 1815 (see Appendix 3, Table 340), so I stopped recording trial details (except for sentence) after 1817. I did randomly check the indents and ticket butts to ensure no major increase later.

Note 8 E.g. by comparison of civil status at various times.

Note 9 The muster details did not always enable a definite conclusion.

The next available appendix is Appendix 10: Ticket of Leave Numbering System
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    ©   Copyright Sid Hammell 1992: last updated 27 June 2005
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