Crime, Prisons and Punishment
Welcome to our Crime and Punishment hub, where we delve into the seedy underbelly of family history. Our crime, prisons and punishment records now number over 5.5 million, giving you the chance to discover the law makers and breakers that live in infamy in your family tree.
Bestiality, bigamy and burglary: The most common crimes across the south east in our records
Our England & Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment records have revealed the prevalence of some of the most taboo crimes across the South East of England. Having analysed 44,000 historic court records, we've gained a unique insight into the types of crimes that were tried in court in areas of London and the surrounding counties between 1779 and 1935.
Some of the weirder ones, including an "unnatural crime on a donkey" were deemed "unfit for publication" by newspapers at the time. On a more lighthearted note, one 24-year-old from Middlesex was convicted of maliciously destroying nine trees...
Crime, Prison and Punishment records not only provide you with a unique opportunity to discover any “black sheep” in your family, they also show the evolution of the criminal justice system in the 19th century as the country dealt with the impact of industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth.
Not all of us can boast a hero in our family tree, but that doesn't mean less well-renowned relatives can't make for fascinating research. Life was harsh in centuries past, and while it's thrilling to discover you're descended from a military medal-winner, the odds are that most of us will also stumble across a few crooks along the line.
We take a look at how to get the most out of one of the fascinating sets included in our Crime, prisoners and punishment collection: Home Office: convict hulks, convict prisons and criminal lunatic asylums, quarterly returns of prisoners (Series HO 8).
In this video, criminal history expert Abigail Rieley takes you through our newest criminal records. Discover how to navigate the extraordinary range of records, find out details of your ancestors’ offence and life in prison and even find out what they looked like. You might even find the pleas of family members looking for their release from gaol.
Hullo there me ole Chinas! As a Victorian ne-er-do-well, it's usually canny not to use your real name (don't want to tip off any eavesdropping bottles). So we've created this handy generator to give you a ready-made alias - and tell you which gang you belong to! The criminal underworld never felt so welcoming...
Were your ancestors in trouble with the law? Now's the time to find out, as it's officially Crime, and Punishment month at Findmypast. In association with The National Archives, we’re incredibly excited to be able to announce the addition of 1.9 million historic criminal records, spanning 1779-1935, which are available online for the first time, only on Findmypast. Now you can trace the law breakers and law makers that reside in your family tree better than ever before.
When you think of the Victorian Prison System, the overriding image is one of an impregnable system from which escape would be impossible. Not so! Our records contain all manner of escape attempts, some more bizarre than others in their audacity and dramatics, and we’ve selected our personal top 10
There are so many amazing crime, prison, and general lock-em-up-related record sets on Findmypast that we thought we owed you another batch for this week’s Off The Record. Why let those wayward ancestors get off easy, eh?
Every Friday, we add new records at no additional cost to our users. This week’s Findmypast Friday includes even more illuminating Crime and Punishment-related collections, in addition to updates to our Anglo-Boer War update and Newspaper Collection. Our incredibly detailed new prison records can shed light on a convict’s life with details which go far beyond their identity and sentence. Pore over photograph albums and trial calendars, and delve into journals from governors, chaplains and surgeons…
In Week 2 of our Crime and Punishment month, we’re looking into the lives and times of Victorian and Georgian gangs in Britain and Ireland. We’ve found some fascinating – and seriously daring – examples of the organised criminal underworld in this period in our records.
In the 18th century, powerful street gangs began to emerge in cities across the country and violent turf wars erupted as they sough to carve out their territories. Evidence of these gangs and the various criminal activities of their members can be found within our collection of historic British newspapers and England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment records.
Prison Hulk Registers - a record of transportation
The use of ships as floating prisons wasn’t a new concept in 1776 when the British government established the Thames prison fleet. Prison ships had already been used in the American Revolution, and were being used concurrently in the Napoleonic War.
However, it was the decision to open three prison ships – or ‘hulks’, as they were known – on the Thames that condemned thousands of prisoners over the coming decades to hard labour and squalid conditions as they served their sentence or awaited transportation to Australia or Van Diemen’s Land.
Find out more about prison hulks and the records that tell the stories of their inmates over on our blog.
These days, there are a million ways to get caught if you commit a crime. DNA evidence, CCTV footage, and nodding off at the scene are all enough to have you sent to the slammer. In his latest Gems, Jim looks at the means of identification used in the past.
One school of thought about the genesis of Cockney rhyming slang was that it was a means for ne'er do wells to operate right under the bugles of the old bill without the risk of giving the game away. As this is our Crime, Prisons and Punishment month, we thought we'd put your slang to the test. Click the image and take the Findmypast Cockney rhyming slang quiz, me old chinas!
In this video, Findmypast's criminal history expert Abigail Rieley takes you through the millions of recently added crime, prisons and punishment records, helping you to explore these collections and discover the jailbirds in your family tree.
To celebrate the release of our new Crime, Prisons and Punishment records we've trawled the archives in search of some of the most weird and wonderful instances of felonious behavior, from impudent burglars to monkeys with a penchant for jewellery.
The use of ships as floating prisons wasn’t a new concept in 1776 when the British government established the Thames prison fleet, where thousands of prisoners over the coming decades to hard labour and squalid conditions as they served their sentence or awaited transportation.
Welcome to week 4: Release, Redemption Or Repeat?
This week we’ll be focusing on rehabilitation, release and recidivism as we look at what happened to your ancestors if they were transported, how they might have described their travails once they were out of the slammer (signalling the birth of a new form of street slang), and sifting through the historical newspaper collection to see whose criminal ancestor’s reputation was infamous enough to merit inches of print.
You can read about those who were too impatient to wait for their release in our blog about great prison escapes, find out about William Calcraft, the man who hanged 450 and see how you'd fare as a Victorian judge as you dole out sentences to real-life Victorian criminals.
Explore our millions of crime, prisons and punishment records to discover the jailbirds in your family tree.