V is for….

6 November 2013

…. Victorian Crime and Punishment. Sensational murder stories in the Victorian era sold newspapers and crime fiction in a way that had never been seen before and the stories continue to fascinate people today. Jack the Ripper is one of the most well documented murders. An enormous number of books have been written about this unsolved case and indeed, a television series entitled Ripper Street is currently on the BBC.

It would be fair to say that, over the past few decades, historians have been delighted with the increased digitisation and online availability of historical records. Documents are great but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find photographs of our ancestors in museums and archives from yesteryear. Well, in some cases, you can. Though it may not always be a welcome find….

Last year, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums released some fascinating Victorian images, featuring children from the Newcastle area, all named. All criminals from the 1870s…. Some 67,000 Victorian criminal records from the Dorset History Centre have been digitised and made available online on Ancestry. The records, which include details of arsonists, murderers and a man who was given hard labour for stealing a duck, also feature Dorset’s prison registers from 1782–1901 and 1854–1904. Many of the records contain photographs of the detained.

FindMyPast has digitised 518,000 records of criminals who passed through the justice system in England and Wales between 1770 and 1934 and you can currently view records for the period 1817 to 1931. You can chart your ancestors’ progress through the justice system, from the crimes they committed and their sentencing to their punishment and release. You can also view records for victims of crime. Both men and women are included in the records.These records include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Home Office and Prison Commission: prison records (TNA ref: PCOM 2). Records for 1,145 people covering the period 1880-1885 are available to search and these records often contain photo albums of criminals. So, as well as locating details about your ancestor’s conviction and prisoner number, you’ll be able to view a photo of them.
  • The Home Office: calendar of prisoners (TNA ref: HO 140) for the period 1868-1929. The trial calendars are searchable and hold records for 301,359 people, listing prisoners tried at assizes and quarter sessions.
  • The Central Criminal Court: after-trial calendars of prisoners (TNA ref: CRIM 9) provide details of prisoners from each trial calendar or session with records of 175,835 prisoners for the period 1855-1931.
  • ADM 6 registers of convicts in prison hulks, containing records of 17,644 prisoners for the period 1818-1831. The records relate to convicts held in prison hulks Cumberland, Dolphin and Ganymede. [Hulks were ships used as floating prisons, often when they were no longer fit for battle but were still afloat.]

Nobody’s perfect and our ancestors would almost certainly have a story or two to tell if they were here with us today…. take a look at the criminal records of yesteryear and see what you can find out about your forebears, however minor or major their misdemeanour may have been.

© 2024 Family Wise | Privacy Policy | Website created by: stellasoft