Welcome to the fourth and final week of Crime, Prisons, and Punishment month here at Findmypast. It's the end of the road for our wayward ancestors, and now the question is, what happened next? Were they finally released from prison? Did they find redemption while they were incarcerated? Or like so many, did the lure of old habits prove too much to resist, seeing them repeat their law-breaking another day?
We're going to investigate, looking at what happened to your ancestors if they were transported, how they might have described their travails once they were out of the pokey (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.
We've encountered many dubious characters along the way, so many of whom languished in gaol for strange crimes, or attempted to break free using bizarre methods. We've discovered bloodthirsty hangmen, discovered how we'd measure up as a Victorian judge, and been getting to grips with millions of fascinating records detailing the underhand doings of infamous family members, some of whom even made the headlines for their mischief.
While the Victorian justice system may have been brutal, the fates of some eventually prompted an outcry against archaic capital punishment. When Charles Dickens witnessed the public hanging of Marie and Frederick Manning, who had been convicted for the murder of Patrick O'Connor, he was so moved by the sight of the mob gathered to watch that he wrote to the Times on the same day: "I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun."
The Manning's sentence appears in our crime records collection, along with a long letter claiming that Frank should be acquitted because he was only doing what any red blooded man would do...
Have you discovered any surprising stories, tragic miscarriages of justice, or despicable characters? We’ve really enjoyed the selection of sheep-rustlers, brigands and highwaymen you’ve told us about already! Share your stories in the comments section below.