Australia’s tattoo trend goes back to Tasmania’s convict era

ABC Hobart interviews author Simon Barnard about his research into Tasmanian convict tattoos:

Simon Barnard studied the records of 10,180 convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land between 1823 and 1853.

About 37 per cent of all men and 15 per cent of the women arrived with tattoos.

This made 19th-century Australia perhaps the most heavily tattooed English-speaking country at the time, Mr Barnard said.

Full ABC story here.

My great-great-great grandfather Henry Steward was one of the 37 percent of inked convicts. He arrived in Van Diemen’s Land displaying two of the more common tattoos. His convict description notes “Anchor inside rt arm Crucifix inside left arm”.

Henry Steward was sentenced to 14 years transportation for “stealing a velveteen coat and a pair of trousers” in 1834.



ABC News. 2016. Australia’s tattoo trend goes back to Tasmania’s convict era, author finds – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 1 September 2016]. UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849. Home Office: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books; Class: HO9; Piece: 9. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 August 2013].

1834 ‘Sessions News.’, Norfolk Chronicle, 5 July. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 August 2013].

Featured image: Henry Steward. CON 18/1/21. Description lists of male convicts 01 Jan 1828 – 31 Dec 1853. Archives Office of Tasmania [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 28 Dec 2014]