Getting Started

The convict licensing system

Following the implementation of the 1853 Penal Servitude Act, a new licensing system for convicts was introduced in Britain, where well-behaved prisoners could be released early. Many of our criminal ancestors would have been part of this new system.

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Royal Courts of Justice in London

Where to find criminal justice system records

The main historic records of the criminal justice system can be found in the National Archives and local record offices. Learn more about these records.

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Court gavel

Assizes

The Assizes was a regional court circuit held twice-yearly, often dealing with more serious offences such as murder, rape and highway robbery.

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Port Arthur penitentiary, Tasmania

Source guide for tracing your transported convict ancestor(s)

Find out how to trace your transported criminal ancestors with our detailed source guide.

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cover of the Hull and East Riding source guide

Source Guide for Hull and East Riding

Download our Hull and East Riding source guide to researching your criminal past.

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old photo of a police force

Tracing your police ancestors

Find out more about the sources available for tracing your police ancestors.

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inside a reformatory school

Industrial and Reformatory School Registers

Industrial and Reformatory Schools registers contain a great deal of information about the criminal and destitute children who were sent to these institutions from the mid-nineteenth century until 1933.

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Hull Quarter Sessions gates

Quarter Sessions

Find out more about the Quarter sessions, which were local courts usually held four times a year in the seat of the county or county borough.

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Holloway prison

HMP Holloway: History and Sources

A history of Holloway prison, which was originally built as the New City of London Prison in 1852 and later re-designated to became the first female-only local prison in England.

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Latest Updates on Twitter

There are lots of myths about the Victorians being prude, unsmiling, stiffs. They are shattered by these photographs I’ve been happily discovering of them smiling, laughing & goofing around. And there are many more to be found. Thread

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Are you an experienced information professional? Would you like to work for the Parliamentary Archives? We are currently recruiting for a Senior Archivist. For more information about the role and to apply, please visit https://t.co/hPT39r0ORU Closing date: 28th July #heritagejobs

Our free exhibition 'Prisoners or Patients? Criminal Insanity in Victorian Scotland' with @HistPsychiatry @univofstandrews is coming soon to @edfringe #Edinburgh #MakeYourFringe https://t.co/Gh8yTz5q5O

Look forward to presenting Police as Ploughmen at Social History Society conference, Gender, Labour & Consumption in historical perspective 13-14/9/2019 U. of Essex @PolHisSoc1985

Remembering @WMPolice @brumpolice PC George Snipe, fatally injured when attacked by a mob trying to free a prisoner - aged 29, 19/7/1897

#LestWeForget

@helenrogers19c @OldBaileyOnline Kathy Chater talked about Ann Duck in her book "Untold Histories
Black people in England and Wales during the period of the British Slave trade, c. 1660–1807" (2009) https://t.co/GXMoP1i8XI - but not sure if there's been much else besides the ODNB entry on her?

‘You answered him back and used your tongue pretty freely’: patriarchal dismissal of domestic abuse https://t.co/fGHS1FUbuN

New on my sleuthing blog: Mr Dawson's Infamous Beerhouse - the story of my own nefarious ancestor! #familyhistory #crimehist #Manchester https://t.co/3NupINc4qV