Research database

Are you on a search for your ancestor? Think they might have been on St Helena Island?

Or are you needing historical information connected to St Helena Island Penal Establishment?

You’ve come to the right place!

For the first time ever, The St Helena Island Community has created a comprehensive and full searchable digital database of the St Helena Island Penal Establishment. This original database has been built from the ground up, using many original prison records as the source. We are proud and confident of the accuracy and detail in the records.

Contained within this database are details of over 6000 prisoners that were a part of the St Helena Island Penal Establishment between 1866 and 1932, including the Hulk ‘Prosperpine‘.

  • Crimes and sentences
  • Personal details
  • St Helena arrival and release dates
  • Administration and other prison numbers
  • Employment
  • Misdemeanours and punishments and
  • Prison events that detail life inside the prison
Prison record for Thomas White, a repeat offender who spent some of his gaol time at St Helena Penal Establishment. Source: QSA

We also have a full list of over 400 Superintendents and Prison Warders who worked on the island between 1866 and 1932, as well as the details of their families who lived on the island at the time it was a prison. Warder and family details include:

  • Personal details
  • Date of appointment and departure
  • Length of service
  • Misdemeanours and commendations
  • Pay rates and promotions
  • Stories of daily life
  • Education
  • Recreation and leisure
  • Extraordinary events
Augustus Ainsworth took on the role of baker at the prison in 1912. His short lived time on the island is recorded in the Warders’ Defaulters’ book, showing his dismissal for transferring a letter from Prisoner Silver. Source: QSA.

As the database grows, we are also building on the known details of other people connected to the island, such as Visiting Officials, immigrants, people who temporarily lived and worked on the island in the 1850’s and 1860’s, Indigenous people and lessees who arrived after the closure of the prison.

Accessing the research information

If you would like us to use our comprehensive records to build a profile of your ancestor, then please contact us!

For a one-off fee of $20, our staff will conduct a full search of all information we hold in the database, as well as create a comprehensive ‘Profile’ of the individual or family. (See below)

The St Helena Island Community compiles all known information into a profile, which allows the full snapshot of a warder or prisoner’s St Helena Island experience. This example, of Ludwig Rowe, was written by Belinda Daly after discovering he was both a warder and prisoner in St Helena Penal Establishment.

Please fill in the form below and supply the name of the person you are enquiring after, any known details/ dates related to them and your email address to get the journey started!

We look forward to sharing the fascinating social history of St Helena Island with you.