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Gaol record abbreviations

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Gaol record abbreviations

Postby Pantgwyn » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:04 am

I have a copy of the gaol record of my GGG uncle, Alexander Tinnock, and was puzzled by one abbreviation on it. When he was admitted to Newgate Gaol in 1853 his name, age, trade etc were filled in, and there is also a space for whether he could 'Read and Write'. Here we find written 'Imp'. What does this mean? I would guess perhaps 'Imperfect', but am not at all sure. I should mention that later on while he was serving his sentence at Northampton Borough Gaol and then Portland Prison, he was described as 'Well Informed' (in a section for 'Progress at School'). I'd be very grateful if anybody could help me with the meaning of 'Imp'.
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Re: Gaol record abbreviations

Postby callbrian » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:52 am

according to a posting in another forum. You are correct in assuming it stands for 'Imperfect'.

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Re: Gaol record abbreviations

Postby Pantgwyn » Sat Oct 08, 2011 3:20 pm

Many thanks for this!

I have now got a copy of a gaol record relating to a different ancestor (!) and see that his 'degree of instruction' is given as 'Well' - one of the best of the sixty-odd at Gloucester County Assizes on the day he was tried in 1845, except for one 23-year-old house-breaker classified as 'Sup.' (superior, I presume?). Most of the others are either 'Imp.' or simply 'N.'.

I do wonder what criteria the people assessing the degree of instruction used. The ancestor I just mentioned only made an X in the register when he remarried following his first wife's death (haven't seen his first marriage record, pre-registration). Maybe he could read but not write much!
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Re: Gaol record abbreviations

Postby keldon » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:35 am

N: Neither read nor write
R: Read
Imp: Read and write imperfectly
W: Both well
Sup: Superior education

It would seem it was an imperfect system. The only reference I can find is that the gaoler made the decision from information supplied by the prisoner. You would have to find other articles to confirm this.

The London review and weekly journal of politics, literature, art ..., Volume 5 ... 22&f=false
"One of the commonest of the errors which flow from this source is the common opinion that ignorance is a cause of crime. The principal evidence given in support of this notion is that of the calendars which record amongst other matters the degree of instruction of the different prisoners for trial. They almost invariably describe them as either unable to read and write or able to do so only in an imperfect manner. These calendars are mere delusions. They are framed by the gaolers generally on the information derived from the prisoners themselves and for some strange reason the latter appear to take a pleasure in concealing their knowledge either from a natural taste for falsehood or from a sort of notion of making themselves appear as abject and defenceless as possible In the course of a trial. it often appears that prisoners entered on the calendar as unable to read and write are not only perfectly well able to do both, but actually used those accomplishments in the commission of their offences."
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Re: Gaol record abbreviations

Postby Ivor Blight » Mon Feb 26, 2018 4:45 pm

These statistics were published in the Reports of the Inspectors of Prisons. Total data was available in the reports for the years 1838 to 1850 analysed by county. The data was actually provided by the prison chaplains. How each of them arrived at the data I do not know.
The British Library has a number of these publications usually split into major regional groupings,
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