Victorian criminal records released online

By Guest, 14 January 2016 - 5:41pm

Thousands of 19th and early-20th century Police Gazettes have been published on Ancestry, providing crucial clues about British criminals and their victims

An illustration of Walter Jones fatally shooting Sergeant Drew in Worcester, c1864 (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

More than 100,000 criminal records and sketches from Police Gazettes have been made available online.

The latest collection to be published on Ancestry holds more than 90 years of records relating to reported crimes and missing persons between 1812-1902 and 1921-1927 in the UK.

By simply searching a name, date, age, or location, users can now discover whether they have ancestors who may have committed or been a victim of a crime.

The records reveal some remarkable information, including details of illegitimate babies who were murdered by their mothers in the 19th century. After the issuing of the New Poor Law in 1834, all children born outside of wedlock were made the sole responsibility of the mother until the child turned 16. Many single mothers became ostracised from society, and found it difficult to support their children.

One account reports that Ann Yates, 24, could not find work and was forced to enter the Shepton Mallet workhouse in 1875. Unable to provide for her illegitimate daughter, she killed her baby and disposed of the body in a well in Midsomer Norton, Somerset. Reports suggest she may have then fled to Cardiff.

The documents also hold information about burglar Charles Peace, who murdered his neighbour and a policeman in 1876. He was described as being ‘thin and slightly built’, with ‘grey (nearly white) hair, beard and long whiskers’. After going on the run, he was arrested following a burglary in London. He later faced the death penalty for his crimes.

Charles Peace's physical appearance is described in this account from December 1876 (Photo: Ancestry)

The collection of records was sourced from Luminary Trading Limited and lastchancetoread.com.

Speaking about the records, Ancestry’s senior content manager Miriam Silverman said: “This collection provides rare insight into crime and punishment in the 19th century, as well as helping us to better understand how the British police force worked shortly after it was introduced.

“Whether you’re locating the black sheep in your family tree, discovering more about an ancestor who was the victim of crime or even unearthing some infamous criminals, these records can help reveal the details.”

To search the Police Gazette collection, visit ancestry.co.uk

Words by Jessica Hope

TV and Radio highlights: 15 – 21 January 2016
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