Our Criminal Ancestors is a public engagement project, led by the University of Hull in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University, that encourages and supports people and communities to explore the criminal past of their own families, communities, towns and regions.

We interpret ‘criminal’ broadly to mean people that have historically encountered the criminal justice system. This might include the accused, victims, witnesses, prisoners, police, prison officers, solicitors and magistrates among others who worked in the criminal justice system.

Our criminal ancestors were often ordinary people, most were minor offenders whose contact with the criminal justice system was a brief moment in their lives – only a small minority were what we might term today ‘serious offenders’.  This project hopes to share a greater understanding of the sometimes difficult situations and context for understanding how or why individuals, and sometimes groups of people, encountering the criminal justice system.

Please join in with your stories (go to HistoryPin) – we are looking for stories and events from between roughly 1700 and 1939 (lots of records are subject to closure of between 75-100 years).  Tell us (and each other) about crime history in your local area or your family history – we are interested in stories ‘big’ and ‘small’ – perhaps your ancestors was a police officer, prison warder or a witness to a crime, they may have been an offender or a victim – using crime history records can reveal some fascinating stories but also important contextual information about our social history.

This website aims to provide a useful starting point for anyone looking to explore their criminal ancestry, providing handy tips, advice and insights on the history of crime, policing and punishment as well as case studies, blogs to help in your own research.

We hope you enjoy the resources on this website and welcome constructive feedback and suggestions. If you have a story from your own research that you’d like to share, please do get in touch. You can email us at ourcriminalpast@gmail.com.

Professor Helen Johnston, University of Hull
Professor Heather Shore, Manchester Metropolitan University (formerly Leeds Beckett University)

Editorial work and content on this website is also produced by Dr Ashley Borrett.

(Please note, we are not a genealogical research service and therefore we are unable to undertake research on your behalf.)

Latest Updates on Twitter

The Metropolitan Police Service was founded 193 years ago today.
Within a couple of hours of the very first shift starting the PC with the warrant number 1 was in the cells, having been arrested for being drunk on duty…

Fire Insurance Records for Family and Local History
SHROPSHIRE ARCHIVES, SAT 1st OCT, 2 - 4:00 PM, FREE. Drop in and chat to Archivist Kerry Evans about how Salop Fire Office insurance books can help with family and local history #LocalHistory #FamilyHistory #SocialHistory #Fire

The politician and revolutionary, Kathleen Clarke, died #OTD 50 years ago in 1972. In the 1960s she visited the cell in Kilmainham Gaol where she said farewell to her husband Tom in 1916, as well as Stonebreakers Yard where her husband and brother Edward Daly were executed 1/2

IPP reform folk- the JSC report is published today and recommends a comprehensive resentencing exercise of people serving IPP. Still in shock, but a heartfelt thank you to those of you who submitted evidence & helped get this result. https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1509/imprisonment-for-public-protection-ipp-sentences/news/173280/justice-committee-finds-ipp-sentences-irredeemably-flawed-and-calls-for-comprehensive-resentencing-programme/

Image from the plans for the Scottish Temperance League Offices by architect W F Salmon (of Salmon and Sons), 1893-94. Later the building became part of the Daily Record Offices.

ref: TD1309/B555

Thursday 29th September is the last chance to see our Unlocking the Treasures exhibition, showcasing collections and material within the Local Studies Library here at the Hull History Centre #whatwillyoudiscover @jrlthull @Hull_Museums @hull_libraries @HistoryatHull

Delighted that our #WhatWasHere app is shortlisted for a #REYTA2022 award in the Tourism Experience of the Year category!
Best wishes to fellow nominees @HullGinSchool @Puffins_Galore Retox Retreat @RangersWold for 10th November @bridspa

Exciting news! Big shout out to our partners, including recent contributors @pearsonparkhull @ourcriminalpast @TrueCuriosities @hulltourguide @FlowerGuardBook @DrAlexOmbler 👏 https://twitter.com/ERArchives/status/1575048815924633600