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.

Three in 10 Relatives of World War I Vets Unaware of Their Military Heritage

The following excerpt is from a July 31, 2014 edition of

WWI British Soldiers

One million heroes of the First World War have been “forgotten” by their descendants, a new geneological study has revealed.

Family history website has shown that three in 10 modern-day relatives of World War One veterans are unaware of their military heritage, and many lose the opportunity to find out about their link to the Great War when family members pass away.

For the study, researchers mapped population growth among veterans of the Great War to quantify how many Brits today have a WWI ancestor.

After comparing the 26.7 million figure with the number of people actually aware of such heroes in their family’s past, the results showed a significant “ancestral knowledge gap”, with 7.5 million Britons in the dark about their family connection to the Great War.

Read the full article.

UK Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1911 Posted at

The following teaser is from an article in the November 24, 2013 edition of the Times Colonist.

LONDON — The original Mrs Robinson’s diary and scandalous suggestions about a former heir to the British throne are all part of the latest ancestral revelations to go online.

British genealogical website said on Tuesday it has put the transcripts of thousands of Victorian divorce proceedings online, which reveal the racy details of an era that most modern Britons consider to have been dominated by imperial duty, a stiff upper lip and formal familial relations.

The UK Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1911 date from the year when the Matrimonial Causes Act removed the jurisdiction of divorce from the church and made it a civil matter.

Before this, a full divorce required intervention by Parliament, which had only granted around 300 since 1668. The records also include civil court records on separation, custody battles, legitimacy claims and nullification of marriages, according to the website.

Read the full article.

Ancestry to Open an International Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland

The following excerpt is from an article published in the July 12, 2012 edition of is to open its international headquarters in Dublin, creating 35 jobs over the next two years.

The family history resource will move into an office on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in September, with the official opening of the premises taking place later in the year.

The company took temporary offices in the city last year, and currently employs 15 people.’s vice president and general manager of its international division, Olivier van Calster, said the firm felt Ireland was the perfect location for its offices.

“Ireland was chosen for a number of reasons, not least because of the great availability of talented people, but also because it is a country that has a long history of emigration and plays a significant role in the family history of people across the globe,” he said.

Read the full article.

Surry, England’s History Being Digitized and Posted on

The following press release was found at

Surrey County Council has teamed up with family history website to publish thousands of historic documents online from as far back as the Tudor period.

The records will bring to life the lives of millions of people who have lived, worked and died in Surrey.

They include Church of England baptism, marriage and burial registers going as far back as the reign of Henry VIII, as well as 18th century tax lists, admission registers for Victorian mental hospitals and the names of the men of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey and East Surrey regiments who joined up between the world wars.

The original paper and parchment records are all held at Surrey County Council’s History Centre in Woking where they are preserved in temperature and humidity controlled rooms.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games, said: “Through the county council’s deal with, our precious documents will be at the fingertips of researchers online around the world, while protecting and preserving the fragile originals for future generations.

“Surrey’s history is incredibly rich and varied which makes it a source of endless fascination. These online records will bring that past to life, connecting us directly with the people and events that shaped the Surrey of today.”

Visitors to the Surrey County Council’s History Centre will be able to use for free. Members of Surrey libraries will be also be able to search the records free of charge at any branch.

The task of photographing and indexing the records will begins this month. The first online records are due to be available on next year.

London Tax Records Now Online at Ancestry

The following excerpt is from an article posted in the June 28, 2012 edition of

Millions of historic tax records are published online for the first time today, including famous names such as King George III, naval hero Horatio Nelson and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle.

Family history website said more than 12 million tax returns are in the collection of land tax records from 1692 to 1932.

Land tax existed from the 17th to the 20th century, before being abolished in 1968, and the collections list the owners and occupiers of properties subject to the tax in England and Wales.

Read the full article.

Note that these are London tax records 1692-1932.

I did a search for tax records for anyone by the surname of Canfield living in London. I located 57 records. The earliest record was for that of tenent Nath Canfield; First Year of Section: 1692; Civil Parish or Ward:Bishopsgate Without; Borough or County: City of London; Call Number: MS 11316/Vol.1

The following is from the Ancestry website:

Original data: London Land Tax Records. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.

About London, England, Land Tax Records, 1692-1932

This database contains land tax records for various areas in London from the years 1692 through 1932.

What’s in the Records
The land tax was introduced in England in 1692 as a means for raising government revenue and was not done away with until 1963. Land tax records are of value to genealogists because they often list both property owners (proprietors) and tenants, placing them in both a parish and a year.
Records in this database may list the following details:

  • county
  • parish
  • year
  • proprietor
  • tenant Adds Six Million British Probate Records has continurd to post images of the British “National Probate Calendar” (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966. Included in the entries are those of many famous folks, as well as many of our ancestors and relatives.

The following teaser is from an article published in the May 23, 2012 edition of

The amount of money left in wills by famous Londoners including Florence Nightingale and Winston Churchill has been published online for the first time.

Family history website said six million probate records are included in the collection, dating from 1942 to 1966.

The records show that former prime minister Churchill left effects totalling more than £300,000 (£4.8 million in today’s money), while wartime nurse Florence Nightingale left an estate worth £36,000 – the equivalent of £3.5m – when she died in 1910.

Comedian and singer George Formby left almost £150,000, while Welsh poet Dylan Thomas left just £100, according to the collection.

Read the full article.

The Telegraph Offers Family Historians the Opportunity to Share Their Hard-Earned Expertise

The Telegraph, a British news outlet, in association with, is inviting readers to share their genealogical research tips in their forum. Here is an excerpt from their invitation article:

If you’ve already started researching your family history and unearthed some fascinating information about your ancestors, why not share your experiences on the forum below?

Suggest hints and tips to help other readers piece together their family tree and tell us about the intriguing stories you have uncovered on your journey into the past.

Click here to read the full article


You never know, if enough great tips are collected it may lead to a book of great tips being produced. It has happened before, take these great examples of collected tips and stories:


Freedom of the City of London Records Posted at

The following excerpt is from an article published in the November 29, 2011 edition of the BBC News. Over 240,000 records are included in the collection. I did search on the surname of Canfield and got two hits. The illustration below is for John Canfield.

Records of people across the UK who had the “freedom” to trade in the City of London after 1681 have been published online for the first time.

Author Rudyard Kipling and former prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and Robert Peel are among the names listed.

The records from 1681 to 1925 were published by family history website

Names and details of privileges enjoyed by more than half a million people feature on the website.

It details how some awarded the Freedom of the City of London were able to drive sheep over London Bridge, be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest, or, if sentenced to death, be hanged with a silken rope.

Read the full article.

Free Access to British Marriage Records 1837-2005 at April 21-30, 2011

It’s not just royal weddings that are worth remembering. This week, as Kate and William prepare for the happiest day of their lives, look back at equally special days in your family history – using all of’s official England and Wales Marriage Indexes, 1837-2005, for FREE!

To search the historical British marriage indexes, you’ll need to register for FREE.

Six Million British English & Welsh Wills 1861-1941 Going On Line

Following is an excerpt from a fascinating article dealing with various “famous folks” wills. is posting 6 million English & Welsh wills running from 1861 to 1941. If you do a Google News search, you’ll come up with all kinds of articles about this. However, this exceprt is from the best one I could locate online – from the August 11, 2010 edition of the Daily Mail.

He was the enemy of capitalism and the author of The Communist Manifesto, so perhaps it’s Contrasting fortunes: Karl Marx lived a largely hand-to-mouth existence in London until his death in 1883. His income came mostly in the form of handouts from his industrialist friend Friedrich Engels. He died leaving just £250 - about £9,000 in today's money. Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy and well-connected family i n 1802 and went on to lay the foundations for the theory of evolution. His estate was worth £146,911 when he passed away in 1882 - the equivalent of £13 million in 2010 not surprising that Karl Marx died with just £250 to his name.

Although the German-born philosopher would be worth £23,000 in today’s money, Marx’s estate pales into insignificance alongside other famous names on newly released online documents.

Author Charles Dickens was worth the equivalent of £7.1 million by the time he died, and Charles Darwin left an estate worth £13 million in today’s money.

The names are some of six million English and Welsh wills from 1861 to 1941 which will be available online, and the total worth of the 6,079,000 estates catalogued tops what would be £20 billion in today’s money.

Read the full article in the August 11, 2010 edition of the Daily Mail.

British National Archives Backs Sale of Friends Reunited to Brightsolid – to Give Ancestry Some Competition

It seems that the staid British National Archives is coming forward in support of the sale of Friends Reunited to Brightsolid. The sale has been somewhat in doubt, as the “Competition Commission” has expressed reluctance to allowing the sale to go through. It’s looks like the principle reason for the support is that the Archives would like to make sure that has competition. Following is an excerpt from an article in the January 4, 2010 edition of the Financial Times.

Friends Reunited

The takeover of Friends Reunited, currently facing regulatory scrutiny, has found support from an unlikely quarter – the National Archives.

The government’s official archive rarely, if ever, intervenes in competition inquiries but it has backed the proposed sale of the social networking site operator – and its valuable genealogy subsidiary, Genes Reunited – to create a bigger rival to a larger American competitor. ITV has agreed to sell Friends Reunited to Brightsolid, a web company owned by DC Thomson, the Scottish publisher.

The National Archives said in a submission to the Competition Commission’s investigation into the deal that a combination of Genes Reunited with Brightsolid’s Find My Past site would create “more robust and serious competition” to, the US-based market leader.

If the merger were blocked, “there is unlikely to be a realistic alternative bid from any existing genealogy company”.

“The reduction in the number of players would weaken the competitive scene, leaving consumers with less choice of product and pricing,” it said.

The National Archives said blocking the merger would also result in consumers having less choice in family history data and documents, and the rate of market innovation would slow.

Read the full article.

WWI Army Service Records for 2M Brits Go Online at

It was announced today that has now posted the entire collection of the British WWI Service Records. Since the press release mentioned Basil Rathbone (Remember the Sherlock Homes movies?), I did a search for him, and found him soon enough, even though the indexer misspelled his name as Basit. As you can see, the documents themsleves clearly show the name as Basil, but I digress…

This database is wonderful! Too bad that most of the American WWI service records were destroyed by fire… Following is an excerpt from the Press Association article.

Basil Rathbone Service Record

The army service records of more than two million British soldiers who served during the First World War have been published online for the first time. said full military careers from 1914 to 1920 were included in the collection, stretching to an average of 16 pages per soldier, including medical data and service history.

The records include details of famous names such as Basil Rathbone, the actor who portrayed Sherlock Holmes in 14 films, and playwright Noel Coward.

Details are also revealed of a soldier who enrolled under a false name to avoid being traced by his mother, solving a family mystery that had spanned 90 years. international content director Dan Jones said: “The service records will provide millions of people with information to help them better understand what their heroic ancestors were like as soldiers, including their performance in battle, their health and details of their general appearance.

Read the full Press Association article. Hires Ad Agency Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer for Fall Campaign

Advertising Agency Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer has landed the Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer agencyadvertising account for – the British equivalent of

HMDG has now been commissioned to produce an advertising campaign spanning British television, press, outdoor, and digital, which is set to start this fall.

Click on their link above to view a rather fascinating splash page. these guys are good…

Workhouses, Wills, Churches & More – 400 Years of London History Launches (i) at

The following news release was written by Generations Network staff. Note that although the records are being announced as available at, all the records described in this release are available on as part of the World Deluxe subscription, as well as on

London One in two Brits with ancestors are found in the collection, including J.K. Rowling, David Beckham, Britney Spears and Patsy Kensit. The collection will have seventy-seven million records when complete, including workhouse, parish, and school. Other famous names include Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys and William Blake. An estimated 165 million people around the world have an ancestor in the collection, including more than half of the British population. (ii)

The definitive collection of records detailing the rich history of London and its inhabitants over 400 years is available online for the first time today at leading social and family history website, in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts following a competitive tender by the City of London to digitise and exclusively host their collection online.

Starting with records from London’s infamous Victorian workhouses memorably depicted by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s will include more than 77 million records, providing an unprecedented insight into the colourful history of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Key record types include parish and workhouse records, electoral rolls, wills, land tax records and school reports. According to a recent family history survey, more than half of the current British population will have an ancestor in the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s.

Furthermore, it is estimated that approximately 135 million people from the U.S., Canada and Australia will also be able to trace ancestors in the collection due to London’s status as the city at the centre of the British Empire for centuries2.

Assembled over time direct from various London institutions, the collection includes the names of millions of ordinary Londoners alongside famous and infamous figures from the city’s past. Notable examples include Oliver Cromwell’s marriage record, the baptism record for poet Samuel Pepys and the burial register listing for writer and statesman John Milton.

A number of modern day celebrities can also find ancestors within the collection. JK Rowling’s 3x great-grandfather, William Richard Rowling, appears in the Mile End marriage registers for 1872, while Patsy Kensit’s ancestor Thomas Kensit can be found in Shoreditch Baptism records from 1815. David Beckham’s London roots are also well documented; with his 3x great- grandparent’s marriage listed in the collection. Even international pop star Britney Spears can find her great-grandfather, George Portell, listed in the Tottenham marriage records for 1923.

The workhouse or ‘Board of Guardians’ records now online contain the names of anyone who was born, baptised or died in a London workhouse in the 19th and early 20th century. During this time, men, women and children who couldn’t support themselves were forced to live in these institutions, working long hours in tedious jobs in exchange for minimal food and board.

The conditions were kept intentionally poor to deter others and unofficial beatings or starving of inmates were not unheard of. Overcrowding was also a major problem, compounded by the influx of Irish immigrants after the potato famine of the mid 19th century. While conditions improved slightly in the early 20th century, the workhouses were still a feared ‘last resort’ by most until their abolition in 1930.

The workhouse records cover 12 key London regions (iii). Also included today are a variety of workhouse creed registers, admissions, discharges, apprenticeship papers and lists of ‘lunatics’.

Workhouse records are just one of the record types which comprise the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s. Others include:

Parish Registers – from 1538, priests had to keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials in their parish. These records are taken from over 10,000 Greater London parishes, and as they pre-date both civil registration and censuses, they are the essential ‘next step back’ for people wishing to trace their family history beyond the 19th century

  • School Admissions and Discharges – contain records taken from 800+ London schools dating from the early Victorian times through to 1911. They provide admission details and information about millions of London students
  • Non-Conformist Registers – details the birth, baptism, death and burial of religious dissenters who did not worship at the established church in England from 1694 to 1921. The majority of the records are for Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches, although there are smaller collections of other denominations such as Quakers and Seventh Day Adventists
  • Diocesan Divorce Exhibits – one of a number of interesting records from the London diocesan courts, when applying for divorce, a husband or wife would submit evidence for their partner’s marital failings, including love letters, witness accounts and sworn testimony, which were then kept on record.

Josh Hanna, Senior Vice President of Ancestry, comments: “We estimate that half of Brits will be able to find an ancestor in this collection, which pre-dates civil registration and censuses, and documents the history of a great city and its people, their birth, poverty, fortunes, faith, education, marriage and death.

“No city in modern history other than London can claim to have been the capital of such a far reaching empire, which really is why this collection is of such significance not only to Brits, but also to many others around the world with ancestral ties back to England.”

Dr Deborah Jenkins, Assistant Director of the City of London’s Department of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Library, comments: “We were delighted to work with to digitise this impressive collection of documents.

“Not only will this mean that millions of people will be able to access this resource from the comfort of their own homes all over the world – it also ensures that we will be able to support the long term preservation of the documents and provide fast, free access to researchers who visit our sites.”

ABOUT ANCESTRY.CO.UK has more than 820 million names in collections including the most comprehensive online collection of England, Wales and Scotland Censuses from 1841 to 1901, the England and Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-2005, World War One British Army Service and Pension records, UK and Ireland Parish and Probate Records and the British Phone Books, 1880-1984. was launched in May 2002 and is part of the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by The Generations Network, Inc.), which contains seven billion names in 27,000 historical record collections. To date more than 9.3 million family trees have been created and 915 million names and 16 million photographs uploaded. 7 million unique visitors logged on to an Ancestry website in January 2009.*

The Ancestry global network of family history websites: in the US, in the UK, in Canada, in Australia, in Germany, in Italy, in France, in Sweden and in China.
*comScore, Unique Visitors, January 2009

About London Metropolitan Archives
London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the largest local authority record office in the United Kingdom. It manages and provides public access to 80KM of archives, photographs, plans, audio-visual and printed material dating from 1067 to the present day – an enormous amount of information about the capital and its people. LMA is the premier destination for family historians tracing their roots in the London area and for learning about any aspect of the capital’s past.

About Guildhall Library
The Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library is the local record office for the City of London (the “Square Mile”). Its holdings date from the 11th century and include the archives of the Diocese of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, the City wards and parishes, and around 80 of the City livery companies.

  1. (i) When complete in 2010
  2. (ii) London roots – research methodology
    In order to estimate the percentage of the population with London roots in four major countries (U.S., Canada, Australia and the UK), more than 9,000 people who had researched their family history were surveyed using Zoomerang International. The percentages of people who found London ancestors (more than three generations back) in each country was as follows: UK (60%), U.S. (55.6%), Canada (59.6%) and Australia (70.8%).These percentages were then applied to the white/European fraction of the population based on national census data, giving the following results: UK (33 million), US (107.8 million), Canada (14.6 million), Australia (12.7 million) = 168.1 million – approx 165 million.
  3. (iii) Records launched today cover 12 major London regions: Poplar, Paddington, St Marylebone, St Pancras, Southwark, Islington, Stepney, Westminster, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Holborn and Hampstead. The remaining regions will launch online in the coming months.