Tracing your police ancestors

By Dr David J. Cox, University of Wolverhampton

Local archives/record offices

Policing agents can appear in a wide variety of sources, ranging from Justices’ notebooks, Petty and Quarter Session (QS) registers, newspaper reports of trials (these usually relate to more serious offences), QS minute books detailing the appointment of parish constables, Finance or Watch Committee records, council committee records etc. It is always best to seek the advice of the local archivist first, as they know their records better than any online catalogue!

Newspapers

Either at local archives/record offices, or at the British Library, St Pancras – note that the BL reading rooms at Colindale closed a few years ago. Many historical newspapers are also available online through various subscription services – check with your local archives/record offices to see if they offer access to any of these services (which can otherwise be very expensive to subscribe to). Be aware that colonial newspapers also carried reports of trials which took place in Britain – a surprisingly good source can be National Library of Australia (NLA) Trove website.

Online resources

Too numerous to mention individually – many police forces have some form of online presence which includes a historical aspect (but be aware that the police have been notoriously poor at keeping historical records – many forces have absolutely no records!).  The most obvious starting points are Ancestry and Find My Past- the latter has particularly good digitised newspapers. The various censuses (especially from 1841 onward) are very useful as they provide occupational records, as well as street directories etc.

Suggested further reading list

  • Clive Emsley, The English Police: A Political and Social History, Routledge, 1996 (2nd edition), ISBN 978-0582257689
  • Clive Emsley, The Great British Bobby, Quercus, 2010, ISBN 978-1849161978
  • Philip Rawlings, Policing: A Short History, Willan, 2001, ISBN 978-1903240267
  • Stephen Wade, Tracing Your Police Ancestors, Pen & Sword, 2009, ISBN 9781844158782
  • Martin Stallion and David S. Wall, The British Police: Forces and Chief Officers 1829-2012, Police History Society, 2011 (2nd edition), ISBN 9780951253861
  • Police Ancestors – Who Do You Think You Are? website.
  • The National Archives website – How to Look For Records of Police.
  • Police History PDF guide to Tracing Your Police Ancestors.

Latest Updates on Twitter

Did you enjoy the start to series two of the On The Record podcast?

Follow up with more medieval goodness about the Peasants' Revolt, England's first popular uprising on the blog today: http://socsi.in/KsUcI

Don't forget to subscribe to #OnTheRecord for future episodes! 🎧

A selection of menus for children taken from a leaflet entitled 'The feeding of children from one to five years' which was published by the Ministry of Health in March 1942. From the National Union of Railwaymen archive. https://cdm21047.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/health/id/1506/rec/15 #historyoffood #historyofhealth

4

The Examination Letter for John Shore, who eventually worked on the 1888 Whitechapel Murder Case (aka Jack the Ripper) as an Inspector, before retiring as Supt from Scotland Yard in 1896 becoming Pinkerton Agent for London. His descendant is a resident of Leicestershire.

Shown on a tour today: plan of the Quaker Workhouse on River Street, #Bristol, surveyed in 1861 - exciting to see 19th century hand-coloured plans in such pristine condition #behindthescenes #archivetours (Catalogue: http://archives.bristol.gov.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=SF%2fPl%2f18) ^et/ad

Unknown vessel (1920s-1930s?) discharging cargo into lighters (note the dusting of white on the hull). Location unknown. Junkshop photo (Chelmsford).

'Every offender, who, for any first or second-rate crime, suffers ignominious punishment, shall, all the time that he is undergoing the said punishment, wear the cap of ignominy.

If you didn't read it back in Nov - still chance to read my @sochistsoc blog on Lawyers for the Poor, out now with @ManchesterUP https://twitter.com/socialhistsoc/status/1217790467993227264

Do you have any bright MA students who might be interested in this PhD/RA opportunity at @HistoryManMet @mcphh_mmu? https://manmetjobs.mmu.ac.uk/intranet/vacancy/graduate-research-assistant-in-history-2404/2415/description/

Are you a post-doc student & or a researcher into the #history of 1919-1923? We're looking for papers for our symposium Reimagining the Decade! Deadline for proposed submissions tomorrow: #hisedchatie #edchatie Details below
https://www.museum.ie/Visit-Us/Announcements/Reimagining-the-Decade-New-Research-Symposium

I'm running a workshop on Embroidered Images alongside Criminal Quilts exhibition at National Justice Museum on 21st March. Come and stitch with me (includes free entry to the exhibition too) 4 places left so book soon!
http://ruthsingerstudio.bigcartel.com/product/crimin…
@JusticeMuseum @RuthSinger