Victorian criminal records go online

By Matt Elton, 16 September 2010 - 7:42am

Details of thousands of Victorian convicts can now be explored in two new online collections, offering genealogists new insights into the journeys made by their criminal ancestors

Thursday 16 September 2010
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Details of thousands of Victorian convicts can now be explored online, offering genealogists new insights into the journeys made by their criminal ancestors.

The two new collections, available to explore at www.ancestry.co.uk, have been digitised from original documents held at The National Archives in Kew.

The set of Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books dates from 1802 to 1849 and includes the records of almost 200,000 people incarcerated in giant floating prison ships. The collection includes details of each inmate’s name, age, the year and place of their conviction and the offence that they allegedly committed, as well as ‘character reports’ written by prison officers.

The hulks, moored on the Thames and in Plymouth Harbour, became an increasingly common form of internment as efforts were made to ease chronic overcrowding in conventional prisons.

Each ship held between 200 and 300 inmates and, although many of its passengers were awaiting transportation to Australia, the hulks themselves had been extensively modified and were unable to go to sea. Conditions were often appalling, and one in three inmates are estimated to have died on board.

The second newly-available collection features records of more than 4,000 female convicts who were granted parole between 1853 and 1877. Although sentenced to imprisonment or transportation, the lack of space in prison meant they were allowed to walk free.

The set can be searched by the criminal’s name, the place and date of their conviction and their estimated age. Images of the records are also available, which feature a range of further details including the apparent crime, terms of sentence, reports on prison behaviour, any letters written by the prisoner and a physical description.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER 

Explore both of the new collections online now at www.ancestry.co.uk
► Main picture: ancestry.co.uk

 

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