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.
Census records for Wormwood Scrubs, Parkhurst, Pentonville, Strangeways and Dartmoor are available in the normal census collections at Ancestry, Â Findmypast Â andÂ TheGenealogist.
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.
I see that TheGenealogist.co.uk has released a whole batch of records that are great for finding any ancestors of yours who may have fallen foul of the law!
Its a set of 90,000 Criminal records, which cover indictable offences in England and Wales between 1782 and 1892, that they have added to their websiteÂ for Diamond members and these records also uniquely cover prisoners ‘pardoned’, criminal charges and those classed as ‘criminal lunatics’.
Coming fromÂ The National Archives the records cover the following:
HO27 – Criminal Registers, England and Wales
Registers of all persons in England and Wales charged with indictable offences showing the results of the trials, the sentences in case of conviction, and dates of execution of persons sentence to death.
HO13 – Criminal Entry Books
Lists of pardons.
HO20/13 – Prisons Correspondence and Papers
Including Bethlehem Hospital criminal lunatics and other asylums.
CRIM1 – Central Criminal Court Depositions
Statements on oath used in evidence in trials at the Old Bailey and pardons if granted.
As TheGenealogist says in its newsletter this month, “the 1800s in England and Wales was a place where it was not difficult to get into trouble and end up facing a severe punishment, perhaps even the death penalty. These new records may help shed light on a family relative who broke the Law and paid the consequences.”
Some of us love to unearth the odd black-sheep in the family. So take a look here and join their Diamond level membership to take advantage of this data:
Disclosure: The links above are compensated affiliate links and may result in me being compensated by TheGenealogist.co.uk should you buy their products.