Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Welcome to our Crime and Punishment hub, where we delve into the seedy underbelly of family history. Our crime, prisons and punishment records now number over 5.5 million, giving you the chance to discover the law makers and breakers that live in infamy in your family tree.

Welcome to week 4: Release, Redemption Or Repeat?

Welcome to week 4: Release, Redemption Or Repeat?

This week we’ll be focusing on rehabilitation, release and recidivism as we look at what happened to your ancestors if they were transported, how they might have described their travails once they were out of the slammer (signalling the birth of a new form of street slang), and sifting through the historical newspaper collection to see whose criminal ancestor’s reputation was infamous enough to merit inches of print.

You can read about those who were too impatient to wait for their release in our blog about great prison escapes, find out about William Calcraft, the man who hanged 450 and see how you'd fare as a Victorian judge as you dole out sentences to real-life Victorian criminals.

Explore our millions of crime, prisons and punishment records to discover the jailbirds in your family tree.

Explore the grisly world of Victorian crime

Explore the grisly world of Victorian crime

The Illustrated Police News was one of the wonderfully macabre and gothic 'Penny Dreadfuls' which proliferated in Victorian Britain. Its often beautiful illustrations tell the stories of all kinds of criminality, from the petty to the bizarre. Explore a world of Victorian crime today.

Find out more about our Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers

Find out more about our Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers

The use of ships as floating prisons wasn’t a new concept in 1776 when the British government established the Thames prison fleet, where thousands of prisoners over the coming decades to hard labour and squalid conditions as they served their sentence or awaited transportation.

Bizarre Crimes: funny felonies and weird wrongdoings

Bizarre Crimes: funny felonies and weird wrongdoings

To celebrate the release of our new Crime, Prisons and Punishment records we've trawled the archives in search of some of the most weird and wonderful instances of felonious behavior, from impudent burglars to monkeys with a penchant for jewellery.

How would you fare as a Victorian judge?

How would you fare as a Victorian judge?

How do you think you'd fare as a judge in Victorian Britain? Would you be tough on crime or would the criminals have their fingers crossed that you'd be in charge of sentencing?

Now's your chance to find out what kind of judge you'd be with the Findmypast Be The Judge quiz! From arson to larceny, you decide on the punishment.

Take the quiz and preside over the sentencing of real-life Victorian criminals.

 

Murderers, rebels and drunkards, your irish ancestors and the law

Murderers, rebels and drunkards, your irish ancestors and the law Murderers, rebels and drunkards, your irish ancestors and the law

Irish research can be difficult, but Ireland is fortunate to have a fabulous collection of court records that can really illuminate your family history. Findmypast exclusively has over 22 million court records and 3 million prison records. There are tales of crime, heart breaking stories of destitution and the persistence of sedition and rebellion. In this webinar, Irish family history expert Brian Donovan takes you through your Irish ancestors and the law

How would you fare as a Victorian judge? Take our quiz to find out!

How would you fare as a Victorian judge? Take our quiz to find out!

Do you feel as though modern criminals get an easy ride in the courts? Do you pine for the days of the pillory? If you’d like to see a return to the ‘glory days’ of petty treason and transportation, take our quiz and you can preside over the sentencing of real-life Victorian criminals.

Getting the most out of our millions of crime, prison and punishment records

Getting the most out of our millions of crime, prison and punishment records Getting the most out of our millions of crime, prison and punishment records

In this video, Findmypast's criminal history expert Abigail Rieley takes you through the millions of recently added crime, prisons and punishment records, helping you to explore these collections and discover the jailbirds in your family tree.

Discovered in our brand new records: 24 criminal ancestors

Discovered in our brand new records: 24 criminal ancestors

Read how a member of the Findmypast team discovered 24 criminals in his family tree, including three brothers who tried - and failed - to live above the law.

Week 2: Following your ancestors through trial, conviction and appeal

Week 2: Following your ancestors through trial, conviction and appeal

Week 2 of our Crime & Punishment season looks at the second stage of the justice system: the trial, conviction and appeal process. Read our handy guides, explore fascinating records and learn about what you can discover, starting with the tragic case of Edward Ball - sentenced to death for a fiver.

Forty Elephants, Scuttlers and The Criminal Gangs of 19th Century Britain

Forty Elephants, Scuttlers and The Criminal Gangs of 19th Century Britain

In the 18th century, powerful street gangs began to emerge in cities across the country and violent turf wars erupted as they sough to carve out their territories. Evidence of these gangs and the various criminal activities of their members can be found within our collection of historic British newspapers and England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment records.

The Liberty and Ormond Boys: Gangs and Rioting in Historic Dublin

The Liberty and Ormond Boys: Gangs and Rioting in Historic Dublin

In Week 2 of our Crime and Punishment month, we’re looking into the lives and times of Victorian and Georgian gangs in Britain and Ireland. We’ve found some fascinating – and seriously daring – examples of the organised criminal underworld in this period in our records.

New additions to our records: Findmypast Fridays

New additions to our records: Findmypast Fridays

Each week, we add brand new records to our collections at no additional cost to our users, allowing them the opportunity to continue building a brilliant family tree.

This week’s Findmypast Friday sees the addition of even more illuminating Crime and Punishment-related collections, in addition to updates to our Anglo-Boer War update and Newspaper Collection.

Our incredibly detailed new prison records can shed light on a convict’s life with details which go far beyond their identity and sentence. Pore over photograph albums and trial calendars, and delve into journals from governors, chaplains and surgeons….

Visit our website today to explore these new records.

William Calcraft; the man who hanged 450

William Calcraft; the man who hanged 450

One of the most infamous hangmen of the 18th century was William Calcraft. Calcraft was perhaps the most active and longest serving executioner in British history. It is believed that he may have personally dispatched as many as 450 felons over the course of his 45 year career.

Off The Record: Criminal records you should explore today

Off The Record: Criminal records you should explore today

There are so many amazing crime, prison, and general lock-em-up-related record sets on Findmypast that we thought we owed you another batch for this week’s Off The Record. Why let those wayward ancestors get off easy, eh?

The Great Escape(s)! Our 10 Prison Breaks From The Records

The Great Escape(s)! Our 10 Prison Breaks From The Records

When you think of the Victorian Prison System, the overriding image is one of an impregnable system from which escape would be impossible. Not so! Our records contain all manner of escape attempts, some more bizarre than others in their audacity and dramatics, and we’ve selected our personal top 10

Exploring Crime, Prison and Punishment records

Exploring Crime, Prison and Punishment records Exploring Crime, Prison and Punishment records

In this video, criminal history expert Abigail Rieley takes you through our newest criminal records. Discover how to navigate the extraordinary range of records, find out details of your ancestors’ offence and life in prison and even find out what they looked like. You might even find the pleas of family members looking for their release from gaol.

Test your Cockney rhyming slang with our quiz

Test your Cockney rhyming slang with our quiz

One school of thought about the genesis of Cockney rhyming slang was that it was a means for ne'er do wells to operate right under the bugles of the old bill without the risk of giving the game away. As this is our Crime, Prisons and Punishment month, we thought we'd put your slang to the test. Click the image and take the Findmypast Cockney rhyming slang quiz, me old chinas!

Prison Hulk Registers - a record of transportation

Prison Hulk Registers - a record of transportation

The use of ships as floating prisons wasn’t a new concept in 1776 when the British government established the Thames prison fleet. Prison ships had already been used in the American Revolution, and were being used concurrently in the Napoleonic War.

However, it was the decision to open three prison ships – or ‘hulks’, as they were known – on the Thames that condemned thousands of prisoners over the coming decades to hard labour and squalid conditions as they served their sentence or awaited transportation to Australia or Van Diemen’s Land.

Find out more about prison hulks and the records that tell the stories of their inmates over on our blog.