Finding a criminal in our past family can embarrass some of us, while others are simply tickled pink to think they are descended from a rogue or two. This is especially true when the criminal ancestors are a few generations back and so not too frighteningly near.
One of the problems, for the family historian, is that any black sheep in our family were probably not too keen on giving their true name when apprehended. So when searching for them on census night they may be frustratingly missing, unless they are locked up by courtesy of His or Her Majesty in one of the crown’s prisons.
You may also come across the census records for the county gaol, such as the one in Exeter for the County of Devon.
I was looking this week at some of the online resources for criminal records such as the England and Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892 at Ancestry.co.uk. These register books include a brief bit of information from the Quarter Session Trials.
I didn’t manage to identify an ancestor but I got drawn into wondering about the story of a person with my surname from my ancestor’s county who in 1834 at the age of 43 was sentenced to be transported for 7 years for larceny.
And then there was one Janus Majaval, aged 22 and sentenced to death along with several others at the Devon County Assizes on the 19th July 1845. All the condemned men carried Iberian sounding names and their crime was Murder on the High Seas.
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