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

@BritSocCrim The next Yorkshire & Humberside regional group meeting is at Sheffield Hallam on Weds 8 March 2023: theme is Social Justice Research: Making Change Happen? contact me for more information or to submit abstract!

Join Dr Maya Avis (Max Plank Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany) for: "Geopolitics of Aerial Surveillance in Palestine/Israel"
The first free seminar, as part of the @CrimSocHull Criminology, Sociology & Policing, Rising Star Guest Speaker Series, 2023.
📅 8th February 23

Bentham wrote to William Pitt (1759–1806) #onthisday in 1791, sending in two parts his 'Outline of the Plan of Construction of a Panopticon Penitentiary House'—detailing first the panopticon's basic principles, and second some of his own obligations as its potential governor:

Applications for the 2023 - 25 Past & Present #ECR Scholarships in #SocialHistory tenable @ihr_history have now opened.

Deadline this year is 28th Feb 2023.

Full details on how to apply are here:

https://www.history.ac.uk/join-ihr/fellowships/junior-fellowships/past-present

Please spread the word @IHR_Fellowships #Twitterstorians

Applications are open for The New Curators Project 2023!

For more information visit https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/collections/special-collections/schools-and-outreach/new-curators-project

Amazing new @HistoryWO website launches today!

This digital magazine is a platform for everyone - to write, read, listen to and discuss radical history and its place in the world today.

Take a look >
https://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/