Criminal records

Criminal records are family history’s guilty pleasure. They reveal your ancestors’ uncomfortable secrets and grisly tales. Plus, governments are keen to keep track of scoundrels, so they’re packed with detail.

Latest criminal records

Police Gazettes1812-1927

You can uncover your ancestors’ uncomfortable secrets and grisly tales in the latest addition to our criminal collections - scanned images of The Police Gazette. Produced in London by the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police Service, the newspaper is packed with information on wanted criminals, missing persons and army deserters.

It includes very specific details such as names and aliases, physical descriptions, where they were from, occupation, known associates and much more. It even features photographs or sketches from photographs to aid the police in capturing the scoundrels and gives you specific details of their dastardly deeds.

Criminal Lunacy Records1882-1898

These records are packed with detail about criminals who were kept in asylums and hospitals.

Before the Trial of Lunatics Act of 1883, criminals could be acquitted for insanity, but this act allowed people to be judged both guilty and insane. Those found insane were transferred from prisons to asylums. This legislation was created after pressure from Queen Victoria, who had several attempts made on her life by mentally ill assailants – including Roderick McLean, who appears in these records.

Debtors' Prison Registers1734-1862

If your ancestors struggled with debt before the 1860s, they could have been jailed for debt or bankruptcy. These unfortunate people were held in prison indefinitely unless they had family who could pay their debts. This collection holds thousands of engrossing prison records from three London debtors’ prisons.

You’ll discover commitment and discharge details of prisoners, along with their names and details of their debt. You’ll also find account books, cell occupancy numbers, journals of inspections, letters to the governor, disciplinary records and much more.

West Yorkshire Records1779-1914

Discover the wayward children from your family with this West Yorkshire collection. Search the records from three boys’ reform schools for an in-depth insight into the boys’ admissions and time there between 1856 and 1914. Many of these young men went on to fight in the First World War.

We've also added police records from 1833 to 1914, which hold details of promotions, disciplinary actions, injuries, and physical descriptions, plus militia records from 1779 to 1826.

Recommended criminal records

Criminal Registers1791-1892

This mammoth collection is the number one resource for discovering your family’s black sheep. Whether your ancestors brawled in a bar or burnt down a village, their crimes will be detailed here.

The registers list more than half a million reprobates who were charged with any sort of crime all over the United Kingdom. They provide each offender’s name and age, the crime they were accused of, where and when they were tried, and even the verdict and sentence.

Prison Hulk Registers1802-1849

Visit your wayward forebears aboard the famous floating prisons of the 19th Century. The prison hulks sat on the Thames and in Plymouth Harbour and provided a temporary home for thousands of miscreants sentenced to transportation.

Find an ancestor among the 160,000 names here, and you’ll learn their age, offence, where and when they were convicted, plus how and when they left the hulk. After 1837, you’ll also discover the sentence they received, and details of their marital status, literacy and even their occupation.

Australian Transportation1787-1868

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, more than 160,000 lawbreakers were sent to Britain’s latest penal colony — Australia. If your ancestors were among them, you’re almost certain to find them in our huge Transportation Registers collection.

The registers tell you where and when your forebears were convicted, the length of their sentence and where they were sent, plus the name of the ship and the date it left the UK. Most of the crimes aren’t too serious – you might find your relatives setting fire to trees, buying stolen goods or stealing fish from a pond!

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