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

The @howard_journal is 100 this year!

Articles from an international line-up of academics and practitioners will appear in a centenary issue, to be published next month.

Book your place and join us online on 14 October to hear from our panel of experts: https://howardleague.org/events/100-years-of-the-howard-journal-lessons-for-contemporary-penal-policy/

Very excited by our panel starting shortly on 'Family Limitation' for @Preg_Research: Fionnuala Walsh (@ucddublin) on unwanted pregnancies in early 20th C Ireland; @DelayCara on Irish criminal abortion 1900-50, and myself on infanticide in England & Wales during the Great War 🤩

The book chapter “The patient's view as history from below: evidence from the Victorian poor, 1834-71”, by Paul Carter and Steve King, is the latest published output from our @ahrcpress- funded @TheirWrite project. https://bit.ly/3C9axPK

As new drama #thenorthwater arrives on BBC Two, set against the brutal backdrop of a 19th-century whaling vessel, @kejamieson_ explains more about the whaling industry and the risks that hunting these ocean behemoths posed to sailors’ lives… https://bit.ly/2XhDCth

Just a little over two weeks now until my next book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records, is published by @Penswordbooks - you can pre-order a copy at https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Irish-Ancestors-Through-Land-Records-Paperback/p/19283
I hope it helps! 😃
#genealogy #familyhistory #Ireland #NorthernIreland

Finally, our cover story" Jordanna Bailkin from @UW, on History in Practice; "reflects on the experience of writing a book about the history of #refugee camps in Britain during the global refugee crisis." https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14490854.2021.1956341

Amazing to get a chance to contribute to the @BritSocCrim newsletter in a cross-continental collab with the great @tcguiney discussing the @ANZHistCrim & #HCNet discussion series on historical criminology we helped lead in July!

Check it out here: https://www.britsoccrim.org/publications/bscnewsletters/

We are already looking forward to contributing to this very special event in such an important year for @TheHowardLeague

📣 We're excited to announce our first Zoom #event on 14th Sep!

This month's guest speaker is Steve Pearce. Steve has had a long #policing career in #Devon & #Cornwall and is our new Chair of Trustees.

Members: Free
Non-members: £5.50

For more info see https://bit.ly/38LflOQ