Transcription Tuesday Weekly Challenge: Discovering Australia’s Criminal Characters

Beat lockdown boredom by supporting historical research into the lives of criminals in 19th and 20th century Australia

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For our latest Transcription Tuesday Weekly Challenge, we’re encouraging our readers to support Australia’s Criminal Characters project by transcribing the records online on Tuesday 5 May.


The project, from University of Technology Sydney, aims to capture the first large-scale data on the life histories and offending patterns of Australian criminals, from the end of the convict era in 1868 until the end of the Second World War.

Researchers are asking volunteers to help them by transcribing thousands of documents from the Public Records Office Victoria.

They reveal the lives of men and women of many different nationalities and backgrounds who had run-ins with the law and are rich in details including the convicts’ crimes, sentences, dates and place of birth, occupations, physical descriptions and even photographs.

Transcribing the records is a fun and fascinating way to occupy yourself during the coronavirus lockdown and help improve historians’ understanding of how our ancestors lived.

You can help transcribe the records via the website Zooniverse.

You can choose to click on ‘Transcribe part of prisoner’s record’ to simply transcribe the record of their sentence, or ‘Transcribe prisoner’s full record’ to transcribe the complete document.

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There are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to transcribe the records, and you can click on ‘Talk’ in the top right corner to discuss any problems with other transcribers.


As usual, please share your questions, experiences and interesting stories you find on Twitter with #TranscriptionTuesday, or by emailing us on