Our Criminal Ancestors is a public engagement project 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

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

Latest Updates on Twitter

If you didn't read it back in Nov - still chance to read my @sochistsoc blog on Lawyers for the Poor, out now with @ManchesterUP https://twitter.com/socialhistsoc/status/1217790467993227264

Do you have any bright MA students who might be interested in this PhD/RA opportunity at @HistoryManMet @mcphh_mmu? https://manmetjobs.mmu.ac.uk/intranet/vacancy/graduate-research-assistant-in-history-2404/2415/description/

Are you a post-doc student & or a researcher into the #history of 1919-1923? We're looking for papers for our symposium Reimagining the Decade! Deadline for proposed submissions tomorrow: #hisedchatie #edchatie Details below

I'm running a workshop on Embroidered Images alongside Criminal Quilts exhibition at National Justice Museum on 21st March. Come and stitch with me (includes free entry to the exhibition too) 4 places left so book soon!
@JusticeMuseum @RuthSinger

Can anyone tell this #twitterstorian how civil recovery of #proceedsofcrime and tax work in *historic* #UK cases involving *unconvicted defendants* or their heirs?

Packed audience to hear @alicia_kidd, Vice Chair of @humberantislave & PostDoctoral Research Fellow at @WilberforceHull, talking about work to combat contemporary slavery in the Humber area. We are delighted to host this talk for @Hull_Museums as part of 'Coming Home' exhibition.

Graduate Research Assistant in History, Manchester Metropolitan University. Incorporates 0.6 PhD and 0.4 RA for five years.
Get in quick, as the closing date is the 30th January.

100 years ago on this day, the nation was enjoying its final day of drinking (or stockpiling) before #Prohibition took effect on Jan. 17, 1920. | #Prohibition100 🥃https://www.theworldwar.org/learn/prohibition

Pleased to have contributed to this book and to have been involved in the network resisting the misuse of solitary confinement.


Latest issue Plymouth Law Review now live headlined by LCJ Burnett's #pilgrimfatherslecture http://www.plymouthlawreview.org/ congrats to Hugo De Rijke for taking over the baton from me as founding editor 11 years ago @UPLSLAW @PlymLawSociety @PlymLawSchool