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

Hello Twitter! We are the Northern Legal History Group. We are a legal history research group based in the North West of England. Please give us a follow! We will be announcing our first event soon...

A rare Hull cream K8 Phonebox in front of the Modernist walled entrance to East Park. Also should Twitter end. Thank you all for following me and liking my posts. Much appreciated.

#hull #yorkshire #travel #architecture #c20 #modernist

The Scotia at Troon Harbour 🌊

This ship was bought by William Speirs Bruce in 1902 and underwent reconstruction by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company in Troon. This was to prepare the vessel for its departure on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition. Dated 1902, ref ATD6/18/ii

The next talk in our exciting #HCNet Speakers’ Series, ‘Racist-Gendered State Violence: Punishing Migrant Women and Separating Families’ by @DrMonishBhatia will take place on 14 December 2022 between 4-5.30pm BST.

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-bsc-hcnet-series-anti-fascism-decolonisation-critical-race-theory-tickets-414114336127

One of the earliest photographs of the @BrumCityWMP Birmingham Police, dating back to the 1860s.

The original uniform was very smart, but not wholly practical... #museum30 #origin

To emphasize its civilian nature the #origin-al Met uniform included a top hat, which lasted until helmets were introduced in 1863. We have one in our collection and until April 2023 it can be seen in the #Executions exhibition at @MuseumofLondon Docklands. #Museum30

An exhibition to mark the centenary of the execution of Peter Cassidy, James Fisher, John Gaffney and Richard Twohig on 17 November 1922 opened in Kilmainham Gaol today. These were the first executions of the Civil War. 1/4

1961 National Police Dog Trials held at Crewe by @cheshirepolice @ChNWPoliceDogs Dogs from 40 forces took place but none from Cheshire

@PoliceDogTrials @thekaiser999 @The_NFRSA @AssociationRPDs @OscarKiloNine @Chappers2013 @PD_DexterWBDOG @KeoghHeath @theFOALGroup @K9memorialUk

May Place Reformatory, Old Swan, #Liverpool opened 1876 for 'wayward, delinquent' girls

1880 HO Inspector Inglis noted

‘it deals with the roughest material possible...the girls who are brought within its influences have previously passed through every phase of degradation.’

#museum30 the #origin of our huge #Liverpool,family archive is the 100s of photos, medals, letters, union badges, postcards,sketches,autograph books, employment documents, bibles and more dating back to the mid 1800s thro to post ww2 http://historicalclues.blogspot.com/2022/01/postcards-into-past.html