Free immigration to Tasmania 1803-1946

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A summary of part of the Guide on records relating to free immigration

People were not encouraged to immigrate to Tasmania prior to 1820. They needed a letter of recommendation from the Secretary of State unless they were a convict or involved in the penal system. Some people could not land in Van Diemen’s Land because they did not have these papers.

The “Adamant” was the first migrant, or non-convict ship to Van Diemen’s Land, followed by:

  • the Harriott 1817
  • the Caroline 1820
  • the Skelton 1820

After 1820 many more people started arriving as land became available. People brought letters of recommendation from the Home authorities which entitled them to land. The convict system allowed for the assignment of convicts to free settlers as labourers. Lieut.-Governor Arthur encouraged the immigration of people with capital, who could support the convict penal system by making use of convict labour. Land policy favoured wealthy settlers who could take responsibility for a number of convicts.

The Colonial Government encouraged retired military officers to immigrate. Until 1831 they received land grants in return for some local military service.

Sometimes poorer people came out as servants. The Van Diemen’s Land Company paid for farmers to immigrate. Like servants, these farmers had to pay back their fare by working for the company.

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