Libraries open data and Australian history #2: convicts transportation

Libraries open data and Australian history #2: convicts transportation

State Library of Queensland’s open data sets are a gold mine. For the next post of our “Public libraries open Data and Australian history” series, we spent some time  analysing the British Convict transportation registers data set.

The data set contains details for convicts transported to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries from 1787 to 1867. Over 123,000 out of the estimated 160,000 convicts transported to Australia are recorded in this dataset.

The register is now available on our OpenDataSoft platform, feel free to play with filtering and keyword search functionalities to proudly locate your ancestors, or self service data analysis to build and share your own charts.

As we like to do on our blog posts, we created a few simple data visualisations to dig into this register. To start with, we wanted to understand transportation pattern. It is worth noting that although the register does not contains all convicts records (as mentioned above it covers approx. three quarters), we’d like to think that the sample is representative of the  pattern.

This first graph shows total convicts transportation per year (click here to access editable chart):

This second graph shows transportation pattern to the three main locations: New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia (access editable chart):

We then zoomed on year 1834, which according to our first chart, saw the greatest number of convicts transported to Australia. Each vertical bar below represent a ship leaving from England, with the height of the bar representing the number of convicts on the ship, and the colour its destination (access to editable chart):

We then wanted to identify which ships transported the most convicts to Australia (access to editable chart):

Finally, the chart below shows how frequently the “Asia”, which according to above chart transported the most convicts, sailed to Australia. Each vertical bar represents a departure, bar height is proportional to the number of convicts on the ship (access to editable chart):

Public libraries open data movement

We’ll conclude this post with some observations regarding the opening of data by public libraries in Australia. The movement is well and truly under way as demonstrated by great open data initiatives conducted for instance by the State Library of Queensland and State Library of New South Wales.

These organisations are holding a tremendous amount of data that can be shared. Discoverability of data, facilitated by tools such as self service data visualisation will be a key factor for these initiatives to ensure data equity (i.e. data access for all), broad community adoption, and ultimately transformation of raw data into information and/or knowledge by end users.

We hope that our convicts register analysis is a good illustration that easy to use self service data analysis tools coupled with good quality data sets can provide interesting insight that can be shared with the rest of the community.


Published by Alex for Péclet Technology. We are a Sydney based company providing a turnkey open data platform (OpenDataSoft) for organisations to share and bring their data to life. For more information please visit our product section or contact us for a free trial.  

  • Discovery Services

    Thanks for using one of SLQ’s datasets in this interesting way, and helping to demonstrate its value for use and re-use. We look forward to seeing more data used in innocvative ways. Next big dataset for us is portraits and metadata relating to nearly 27 000 WW1 soldiers, including some rich data addded in a data sharing initiative with the National Archives of Australia. The SLQ Discovery Services team