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

We’ve created access time slots at Streetlife Museum and @HullFerens, at times when we know it will be less busy for visitors who would benefit from that.

To book your ticket please visit https://www.hcandl.co.uk/museums-and-galleries

We explore the history of fairs in this special blog, which you can read here: https://bit.ly/34Wt6HZ unsurprisingly, they have rather ancient origins! #WDYTYA

Journey into @Coventry_Police today to rescue an old police box, ready to preserve for the future 🤓👮

It was blue once upon a time...

And where is the emoji for a tardis when you need one???

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Excitingly, the service records for the Grenadier Guards have just been transferred to @UKNatArchives. https://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/news/grenadier-guards-records-released/ #wdytya #whodoyouthinkyouare #davidwalliams

@ourcriminalpast @IslaBroadwell @PrisonTwist @CrimJustNetwork @JusticeMuseum @VicPrisonVoices @DigiVics @MuseumLiverpool @Lancs_Heritage Thank you! We published a short piece on Everton lock-up last year, but we'd be grateful for any more info or stories about it https://www.prisonhistory.org/featured-lock-up-everton-lock-up/

@jobailey007 @ourcriminalpast @PrisonTwist @CrimJustNetwork @JusticeMuseum @VicPrisonVoices @DigiVics @MuseumLiverpool @Lancs_Heritage Hi Jo you might like my new book. Detective Robert Marsden was my great, great, great grandfather. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/313241018262

Caricatures of the various anti-garroting devices invented during the British 'garroting panic' of the 1860s. Gangs of robbers would overpower victims by putting pressure on their neck until they passed out and then would rob them.
@LawCrimeHistory

Wavertree and Everton lock ups, Liverpool. Both built in the late 1700s they were used by parish constables to hold drunks, trouble-makers and evil-doers @ourcriminalpast @PrisonTwist @CrimJustNetwork @JusticeMuseum @VicPrisonVoices @DigiVics @MuseumLiverpool @Lancs_Heritage

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January 1862. Fights and stabbings amongst ships' crews forces Liverpool City Police to intervene. Handbills in seven different languages cautioning against the carrying of knives are issued to sailors as they disembark and are posted in boarding houses.

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