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.

Dr Helen Johnston, University of Hull
Professor Heather Shore, Leeds Beckett 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

Please retweet this widely to save these archives @akalamusic @afuahirsch @theculturecraft @Diversehistory2 @malorieblackman @ConversationUK @stefdoebler @ESiheraESC @sickandpoor @helenrogers19c @SophiaCannon @socialhistsoc @HistoryatNmpton @UkNatArchives https://t.co/qRrBVtPu64

@Dan_Johnson19 @YvonneJewkes @ourcriminalpast I haven’t studied it but I came across a great example of a newspaper in 1841 which these days would certainly been contemp of court. Josiah Mister and the attempted murder at Ludlow - read his initial description https://t.co/j6GHbzRI59

Funding Justice or Fuelling Crime? The Political Economy of Crime and Justice in Historical Perspective - Leeds Historical Criminology Seminar | School of Law | University of Leeds https://t.co/KDvIkJ4HRQ

1/3 Calling #twitterstorians ! Can we start a thread on online resources in Global/ Colonial/ Postcolonial History that we can use as springboards for undergraduate research projects? Ideas so far:

A view of Paragon Railway Station from the main entrance off Anlaby Road, c.1890. Hull's first railway opened in 1840. The original station was on Railway Street near Railway Dock but a new station was opened in 1848 and named after nearby Paragon Street #FSSmith #OldHull

In EVERY criminology lecture, I remind the students of the importance of historical context. So I’m delighted by this brilliant article by ⁦@yeomans_henry⁩ from ⁦@CCJSLeeds⁩ ⁦@Law_Leeds⁩ https://t.co/evGH9tPgwx

Fascinating day at ⁦@LincolnCastle⁩ Victorian Prison Museum with ⁦@cccjhull⁩ students! #prison history

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#HeritageCrime is on the rise, impacting our most cherished and irreplacable historic buildings. That's why we're launching a Campaign against #Heritage #Crime, and an appeal for £50k to start a fighting fund to protect our buildings: https://t.co/0lo14nCXiS #MondayMotivation

Chris Brown, author of King and Outlaw: The Real Robert the Bruce, spoke to @HistoryExtra about the myths surrounding #Scotland's famous king. #royals #OutlawKing https://t.co/k6icUXNM1E

REMINDER:Call for papers for our forthcoming conference with @llafur @SwanseaUni on #oralhistory and #labour #work #history in July 2019 closes on 14 Dec.Just over a month away!! https://t.co/k5Im86nO6D @LabourHistory @LHRUteam @labour_history @ScotLabHistory @StudyLabHistory