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

Post PhD reuniting with ‘old friends’. Time to give voice to juvenile criminals in long 19th C Ireland #crimhist #histchild #childhist @ReidyConor @ourcriminalpast @jessamycarlson

Inventing Australian women - The Countess

Superb essay on colonising women in Australia past & present by ⁦@msediewyatt⁩

⁦@ourcriminalpast⁩ ⁦@digipanoptic⁩ #twitterstorians https://thecountess.ie/inventing-australian-women/

I made a surprising discovery & found that in his youth, my ancestor spent a month in prison with hard labour. What was his crime & why did he do it? What was his experience of prison? #familysecret #Crime #prison @victoriansleuth @ourcriminalpast http://genealogyjude.com/2021/06/12/the-pair-of-boots/

Beverley-York rail route reopening plan examined https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-57352100

@EnglishRadical @AndrewThorpe4 Presumably this is portrait of him in captivity? Love that he’s smoking his pipe @ourcriminalpast

Reminds me of this cracking convict love token @nma http://love-tokens.nma.gov.au/highlights/2008.0039.0043

Appeal for tales of Hull airship crash which killed 44 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-57260147

Beverley-York rail route reopening plan examined https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-57352100

#histsex This (not to mess with) brothel owner is one of the people in the Dutch secret register of released prisoners, 1882-1897. Now available online @bhicarchief https://19thcprostitution.blogspot.com/2021/06/secret-register-of-released-prisoners.html

Really enjoyed our @Punishment_CRN panel at #LSA2021! 'Punishment and the Legacies of Empire' - with great papers from Florence Seemungal, Paul Khiatani, Smadar Ben-Natan, Mark Brown and Vijay Raghavan & @lizzieseal as discussant. From forthcoming special issue of @Pun_Soc!

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