Crime & Punishment: Historic Notices of Wanted British Criminals Go Online

The following news release is from Matthew Deighton, with


More than 90 years of Police Gazette records published online by Ancestry

♣ Police Gazettes reveal fascinating information on suspected wanted criminals, crimes committed and missing persons
♣ A suspect in the Whitechapel Murders and infamous Sheffield murderer Charles Peace appear in the records
♣ Entries reveal child murders committed by desperate single mothers who were ostracised from society

More than 100,000 records and images from Police Gazettes, revealing details of wanted suspected criminals, offenders in custody and missing persons have been published online by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource.

The UK, Police Gazettes, 1812-1902, 1921-1927 collection, sourced from Luminary Trading Limited and Lastchancetoread, contains copies of the “Police Gazette”, or “Hue and Cry”. The publication was used for communication between members of the police force across the United Kingdom – much like the National Crime Agency’s most wanted list today.

Searchable by name, age, type, date and location of crime, these records contain vital information and fascinating detail for anybody looking to find out more about either an historic offender or indeed a victim of crime in their family tree. The records can even give a glimpse at the faces of wanted suspected criminals through police sketches issued alongside requests from information.

Several interesting characters feature in the records, including:

♣ Charles Peace – Maimed in an industrial incident as a child, murderer Peace appears in the records in 1876 in an appeal for information about his location on several occasions. He’s described as ‘thin and slightly built’, with ‘grey (nearly white) hair, beard and long whiskers’. The record goes on to give details of his trade – a picture-frame maker, with a history of burglary. He murdered a policeman and a neighbour, but managed to stay on the run until he was arrested for burglary in London, and eventually faced the death penalty

♣ Michael Ostrog – Ostrog, one of the suspects in the Whitechapel Murders that made Jack the Ripper famous, was charged with larceny, but failed to report after he was released from Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in 1888. The record lists several of his aliases: Bertrand Ashley, Claude Clayton and Dr. Grant, and describes him as ‘’a dangerous man’, who had moles on his shoulder and neck, as well as ‘corporal punishment marks’. An accompanying sketch of a bearded Ostrog is an example the police tried to identify criminals on the run.

Ostrog was not the only man in the Police Gazettes to use aliases, with one in ten (9%) of all entries featuring a pseudonym, perhaps unsurprising given that most criminals attempt to shield their identity from the authorities.

The records also include a number of reports featuring murdered new-born babies, which illustrates the issues attached to illegitimate children in the 19th Century. The Bastardy Clause in the New Poor Law of 1834 made all illegitimate children solely the responsibility of their mother until the age of 16, which left mothers, often estranged from their families, with limited choices. In desperation, many mothers resorted to infanticide to protect themselves. Many of the mothers were never identified, with the police often seeking more information on the crime. Some examples from the records include:

♣ ‘Ann Yates’ – Murdered her daughter and threw the body into a well in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, in 1875 after being forced to live in the Shepton-Mallet Union Workhouse when she was unable to provide for her illegitimate offspring. The police believed the ‘good-looking’ 24-year old had fled to Cardiff to start a new life

♣ ‘Two women’ – In 1894, the body of a newly-born male child was found in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Hoghton, tied up in a white coarse apron. The police sought two women who were observed on the canal bank in Blackburn when a splash was heard, ‘caused by one of the women throwing something into the water’. The younger woman, who ‘appeared to be ill’, was leaning on the arm of an older woman who was ‘tall and stout’

Ancestry’s Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “This collection provides rare insight into crime and punishment in the 19th Century as well as helping us to better understand how the British police force worked shortly after it was introduced.”

“Whether you’re locating the black sheep in your family tree, discovering more about an ancestor who was the victim of crime or even unearthing some infamous criminals, these records can help reveal the details.”

To search the UK, Police Gazettes, 1812-1902, 1921-1927 collection for free, and more than 16 billion other historical records worldwide, visit


Ancestry is the world’s largest online family history resource with more than 2 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 16 billion records have been added, and users have created more than 70 million family trees to the core Ancestry websites, including its flagship site and its affiliated international websites. contains more than one billion records in collections including the most comprehensive online set of England, Wales and Scotland Censuses from 1841 to 1911, the fully searchable England and Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, the World War One British Army Service and Pension records, UK Parish Records and the British Phone Books.

Ancestry operates a suite of online family history brands, including,,, and offers the AncestryDNA product, sold by its subsidiary, Ancestry International DNA, LLC, all of which are designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

TheGenealogist Announces a New Criminal Record Collection With Over 90,000 Records

The following was received from David Osborne with
This unique collection contains Criminal Registers, Prisoners Pardoned, Criminal Lunatics and criminal charges for England and Wales.

In the 1800s it could be hard to earn an honest living and those that didn’t could face severe penalties which included death or transportation.

The new collection of Criminal Records available as part of the Diamond subscription package on TheGenealogist may help shed light on a family relative who seemingly vanished.

These records from the National Archives Home Office Records series HO 27, HO 13, HO20/13 and CRIM 1 contain over 90,000 records for England and Wales between 1782 to 1970.

This creates a significant collection of Transportation and Convict Records on TG of nearly 500,000 records
This Contains convicts and transportation registers from 1787 to 1870, with nearly 400,000 records from HO10 and HO11.

The new record sets also uniquely feature those people who were ‘pardoned’ by the courts and also those on trial who were regarded as ‘Criminal Lunatics’. The Criminal Lunatic Act of 1800 was introduced for the indefinite detention of mentally ill offenders, beforehand, they were simply set free if they pleaded insane!

In the 1800s, around 35% of people were found ‘not guilty’ by the courts, a higher rate than today, so chances are you may find a relative in the useful record sets of prisoners pardoned on TheGenealogist.

Despite there being no police force until 1829, there were more than 200 offences which carried the death penalty under the ‘Bloody Code’ of justice. As well as the expected serious crimes such as murder, you could be sentenced to death for stealing from a rabbit warren, impersonating a Chelsea Pensioner, being in the company of gypsies for a month, stealing livestock, being a pickpocket and also being seen out at night with a ‘blackened face’, as it was assumed you were a burglar.

Many death sentences were commuted to imprisonment or transportation to the colonies. Therefore, it’s now possible to find your ancestor in the criminal records and then find if they were transported to the colonies, all listed on TheGenealogist, with the name of the ship they travelled on. Records show the transportation of one man for seven years for stealing onions and another transported to New South Wales for a term of seven years for stealing table linen!

Newgate Prison in 1896
Newgate Prison in 1896

Mark Bayley, Head of Development at TheGenealogist comments:
”Our criminal records have a great unique element to them by also featuring those pardoned and those classed at the time as ‘criminal lunatics’. Combined with our transportation records it’s possible to discover an unfortunate ancestor and follow the chain of events as they suffered the harshest punishments for often the most minor crimes.”

Death sentences for stealing were common
James Hicks, born in 1804 is another example. He was convicted of stealing two lambs worth 40 shillings at Hertford Assizes, along with three other men. In 1829 this was considered a capital crime and he was initially sentenced to death. But six days later this was commuted to life transportation and he found himself on board a ship, the Mermaid, with nearly 200 other men. TheGenealogist has a copy of this record:


An example of a high profile criminal case listed on TheGenealogist involved William Griffith, who was the first man to be hanged at the new Beaumaris Prison in 1830, for the attempted murder of his wife, Mary. Separated from his wife, he had visited her where she lived with their daughter and he had then become extremely violent. The dreadful nature of the attack ensured he was given the death penalty and a big crowd gathered at his execution too.

Criminal Registers & Pardons

You can find both the criminal records along with the transportation records under the “Court & Criminal” section, you can also search the entire Court & Criminal collection using the Master Search.

2.5 Million British Criminal Records Now Available Online for the First Time

The following news release is from Launches UK Criminal Records dating 1770-1934

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 21, 2013), an international leader in online family history, today announced the largest collection of historical criminal records from England and Wales is being published online for the first time in association with the National Archives (U.K.).

More than 2.5 million records dating from 1770-1934 will be easily searchable and provide a wide variety of color, detail and fascinating social history, chronicling the fate of criminals ranging from fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves and murderers and their victims.

With this new addition, World Subscribers will have access to mug shots, court documents, appeal letters, registers from the prison ‘hulk’ ships used when mainland prisons were overcrowded. The first 500,000 of criminal records are now available to search on, and the remainder is to be online soon.

“We are delighted to launch these incredible records in the United States,” said D. Joshua Taylor, lead genealogist for Our teams have worked to ensure the collection’s rich details are available online, including descriptions of appearance and demeanor, identifying marks and mug shots.”

“This set includes both the accusers and the accused, providing details on criminal acts and convictions within the United Kingdom across multiple centuries. Combined with our recently released British newspapers, this collection enables to provide a unique and personal glimpse at historical crime and punishment in the United Kingdom.”

Paul Carter, Principle Modern Domestic records specialist at The National Archives added, “These records span several government series and show the evolution of the criminal justice system in the nineteenth century as the country dealt with the impact of industrialization, urbanization and population growth.

“They record the intimate details of hundreds of thousands of people, beginning with judges’ recommendations for or against pardons, to petitions through which criminals and their families could offer mitigating circumstances and grounds for mercy, and later, licensees containing everything from previous convictions to the state of a prisoner’s health.”

The information in the records comes from a variety of Government departments including the Home Office, Prison Commission, Metropolitan Police, Central Criminal Court and the Admiralty. The records from 1817-1931 will be published first followed by the period 1770-1934 in the coming months.

This collection is available across all findmypast international sites.’s expertise at digitizing historical records and uniting communities provides the tools to help people connect with their past and present.

Irish Petty Session Records Now Searchable Online

The following release was sent from

Drunk in charge of an ass and cart, tippling in a sheebeen and the disturbance of a divine service: 1.2 million Irish Petty Session Records now searchable online

  • Another 15 million cases are to follow throughout 2012
  • One of the great untapped resources for researching your family history
  • Drunkenness the most common offence – accounting for one third of cases

Today, Irish family history website launched online for the first time the Petty Sessions order books (1850-1910), one of the greatest untapped resources for those tracing their Irish roots.

The original Petty Sessions records, held at the National Archives of Ireland, were scanned by Family Search and have now been transcribed and made fully searchable by They cover all types of cases, from allowing trespass of cattle to being drunk in charge of an ass and cart. These were the lowest courts in the country who dealt with the vast bulk of legal cases, both civil and criminal. This first batch of entries contains details of 1.2 million cases, with most records giving comprehensive details of the case including: name of complainant, name of defendant, names of witnesses, cause of complaint, details of the judgement, details of a fine if any, and details of a sentence passed down if any. Another 15 million cases are to follow throughout 2012.

This first batch of records is particularly useful for areas of the country for which family history records are notoriously sparse such as Connaught and Donegal.

The reasons for cases being brought before the Petty Sessions Court are incredibly varied, but unsurprisingly the most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for over a third of all cases. The top five offences tried before the courts were:

  1. Drunkenness – 33%
  2. Revenue/Tax offences – 21%
  3. Assault – 16%
  4. Local acts of nuisance – 5%
  5. Destruction of property – 4%

The nature of these cases was significantly different from those in England.  Figures show that the rate of conviction for drunkenness was three times greater, four times greater for tax offences, 65% higher for assault, and twice as likely for “malicious and wilful destruction of property” than that of our nearest neighbours.1

The records are full of the minor incidents which are representative of the vast majority of cases which were brought before the Resident Magistrates. For example, we have Michael Downey of Athlone, Co. Westmeath who was charged with being “drunk while in charge of an ass and cart in a public area”, Pat Curley of Cloonakilla, Co. Westmeath who was charged with causing “malicious injury to a bicycle”, the five men and women all convicted of “tippling in a sheebeen” (drinking in an unlicensed premises) on Queen Street, Athlone and given fines of between £1 and £5 or the five men who were charged with disturbing the Reverend J.W. Davidson as he was “ministering a divine service” in Bundoran, Co.Donegal.

Brian Donovan, Director of, comments: “These court records open up a unique window into Irish society in the 19th century. Most families interacted with the law in one way or another, being perpetrators or victims of petty crime, resolving civil disputes, to applying for a dog licence. The records are full of the trauma and tragedy of local life, as family members squabbled, shop keepers recovered debt, and the police imposed order. These records help fulfil our mission to provide more than just names and dates, to get to the stories of our ancestors’ lives.”


1.    British Parliamentary Papers (1864)

Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records

I just received a copy of Ron Arons’ new book, “Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records – Sources & Research Methodology.” Ron told me about six months ago that he was authoring and publishing the volume, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating its arrival. The subject is one that I’ve always found interesting, and have often lectured on the topic of “black sheep,” including criminal records in the presentations.

Wanted! covers a variety of criminal record types, principally Prison Records, Court Records, Parole Records, wantedPardon Records, Execution Information, Investigative Reports, and Police Reports. Following methodology information in the front pages of the volume, it is laid out alphabetically by state, with the District of Columbia, and National/Federal Records bringing up the back of the book. Each chapter features repositories where primary documents can be obtained. Physical, web, and email addresses for each repository are listed first, followed by a comprehensive listing of various records available at the repository. Symbols are used for the various record types, making specific record types easy to spot.

Many of the chapters end with fascinating documents from Ron’s own collection, found during a dozen years of researching his own criminal ancestor – and many others.

If you have an interest in the “black sheep” side of your family, this may be just the book for you.

Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records – Sources & Research Methodology; by Ron Arons; 2009; 8.5×11; Soft Cover; 385 pp; ISBN: 978-1-935125-64-8; $49.99 plus $5 postage; Available from: Criminal Research Press, 4012 Whittle Ave., Oakland, CA 94601;

FCC Statement: Ron Arons is a friend of mine. The book which I reviewed was a gift from Ron. I happen to like the book…