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

Looking forward to taking part in a #RefugeeWeek2022 event this pm. Jointly organised by the @WilberforceHull and @BlaydesCentre 'Over the Sea to Safety? Refugees’ Sea Crossings' engages with historic and contemporary experiences of refugee travel. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/over-the-sea-to-safety-refugees-sea-crossings-tickets-347897339307 #Hull

⁦@SophieMHistory⁩ got this as a mock up the other day - it’s moving nearer😳 don’t think this will be the cover picture (still discussing) but otherwise this is how it may look …. When finished 😱

The British Society of Criminology invited me to write a tribute to Professor Chris Harding who worked @AberLawCrim with distinction for over 40 years. He was a brilliant scholar and the kindest of men. @AberUni @BritSocCrim

Thousands of medieval English people would have known about Welsh law: why are so many common law historians so incurious? Has Maitland's shadow proved a more effective barrier than Offa's Dyke?
New Welsh Legal History Soc volume just published (contact me). Includes this essay.

In June 1843 a handsome reward of £3 was offered for the apprehension of a killer. The victim? One of Mr Sheffield’s gimmer hogs, a female sheep not yet 2 years old. Whether the killer was found remains unknown to this day...
📜 DDX1942/1/535, Notice dated 3 June 1843

5 full ARA Bursaries are available for members who haven't attended conference in the last 3 years to come to our 2022 Conference. Details here https://conference.archives.org.uk/delegates/

Calling all #LegalHistory fans. Happening this week ... we finish our year in style with Dr Jennifer Aston on coverture, trusts, divorce and more than a bit of scandal ... Sign up by Thursday at 4 p.m., better yet, do it right now ... 👇https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jennifer-aston-coverture-trusts-and-the-matrimonial-causes-act-1857-tickets-339273705787

Tracing the experiences of the Metropolitan Police Women Patrols - The National Archives blog https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20speople-tracing-the-experiences-of-the-metropolitan-police-women-patrols/

If you missed last night's Let's Talk About...Convicts, the recording & handout have now been distributed to all registered & is also available to via the Member Area of the SAG website. Our next convict event is part of https://sag.org.au/event-4824236 #familyhistory #australianroyalty