Getting Started

Researching your prison ancestors: an introductory guide

Have you found a prisoner in your family history or are interested in learning more about past punishments in your local community? Our new introductory guide can help you to source relevant records and trace those incarcerated in prisons between 1800 and 1914.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

The Prison Cell is out now! Answer 1/2 questions to win a free e-book:

2. The β€˜Prison Escape’ game uses the cells of which former prison in The Netherlands?
A Norgerhaven
B Breda
C Gevangenpoort

Winning comment picked at random July 17th #prisons https://bit.ly/322OiMP (2/2)

The Prison Cell is out now! Answer 1/2 questions to win a free e-book:

1. In C19th, housing prisoners in individual cells was called the..?

A Separate System
B Silent System
C Lonely System

Winning comment picked at random July 17th #prisons https://bit.ly/322OiMP (1/2)

@OU_Williams @northernhistory @ourcriminalpast @DrewDGray @WelshRaffles @earlypolicing We'd confirm - seems to be wearing an indoor tailcoat and unlikely for a Runner to be armed with a sword in this scenario. @blackpoppies14 has researched the earliest known Met mixed-race officer, Robert Branford, with us 1838-1866:
https://twitter.com/Southwark_News/status/1263560495598129153

@earlypolicing @OU_Williams @northernhistory @ourcriminalpast @DrewDGray @MPSHeritage @WelshRaffles @BritPoliceHist @colpolicemuseum Thomas Latham is noted here. However dates do not coincide.

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/bhm-firsts/john-kent-britains-first-black-policeman/

@northernhistory @ourcriminalpast @DrewDGray @MPSHeritage @WelshRaffles @earlypolicing I don't think he's drawn in there as a Runner -- he's getting up from his chair. So it looks like PC Kent of Carlisle Police remains the earliest confirmed (1830s) black constable. There could well be others out there though.

I'm spending today back in the murder files, reading through trial depositions and looking for evidence of detective practice and early CSI techniques. Great to have finally got round to sorting out the data from my last archival visit! I shall report backβ€¦πŸ˜€πŸ”Ž #detectives #PhD

The 1810 Bastards Act placed the responsibility for the maintenance of an illegitimate child on the putative father rather than the Parish. Mary Bilham of Carbrooke, Norfolk named Stephen Beeks as the father of her child. Her daughter was baptised in January 1812. #101Documents

2

@victoriansleuth @ourcriminalpast Shouldn't be too difficult to knock up some stocks from a few wooden pallets and some scrap timber, attach some wheels, we're mobile. πŸ€”πŸ˜‚

I have several 'criminals' in my family tree, who were convicted of theft, poaching, swearing on the highway (!), and keeping a disorderly house 😱 Have you found any criminal ancestors? #AncestryHour

@TheRothOfKhan @PlymCSecResp @CrownhillPolice @PlymASecResp @plymspecial999 @PlymPoliceBSec @PlymouthVPC @CustodyPlymouth @MPSSouthwark @MPSGreenwich @DevonHeritage @HMNBDevonport @NatMuseumRN @theboxplymouth @britainsocean @PlymouthUK2020 @oneplymouth @sarewaddington Fortunately we also have a digitised copy of his divisional ledger entry on M, where he was M341. He'd switched from carman for a haulage company (1911) to labourer by the time he joined the Met, making the transfer to No. 3 (Devonport) Division on 4 July 1917.