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?

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England and Wales, Crime Prisons and Punishment 1770-1935

This wonderful collection features over three million records for criminals who passed through the justice system between 1770 and 1935. From Manchester Prison Registers to Surrey Quarter sessions, our diverse series of record sets can tell you where your ancestor stood trial, what their sentence was, and what their life was like in prison. Many of the records include images, with some containing several, so make sure you check them all for hidden clues! Additional details might include descriptions of height, complexion, plus eye and hair colour. Some have character descriptions, in addition to an outline of the subject’s marital status, plea, verdict, sentence, the name of the committing magistrate, judge, and their previous convictions. This extraordinarily rich collection of records covers the justice system from the days of the Bloody Code - where most property crimes carried a death sentence - to the justice system we know today…


Irish Petty Sessions: Limerick Children's Court

Limerick Children’s Court is one of many featured in the Irish Petty Sessions Court registers 1828-1912 (just add the filter "Limerick City Children" next to where it says "browse court" on the search form). The Petty Sessions handled the bulk of lesser legal cases, and were presided over by unpaid Justices of the Peace, who often had no legal training. Justice was summary and swift, and regularly saw controversial outcomes. Every record includes a transcript plus an image of the original entry. The detail included in the records varies, but may include your ancestor’s name and address, the date they were in court, and whether they were a witness, complainant, or defendant. The image may contain extra information, such as details of the offence, verdict and sentence.


The Australian Police Gazettes

The Police Gazettes cover Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. Dating from 1855, they contain – in their own words:

“The substance of Informations received in cases of Felony and of Misdemeanours of an aggravated nature, and against Receivers of stolen goods, reputed Thieves and Offenders escaped from custody, with the time, the place, and the circumstances of the Offence ; the Names of persons charged with Offences, who are known but not in custody, and a description of those who are not known, their appearance, dress, and other marks of identity ; the Names of Accomplices and Accessories, with every particular which may lead to their apprehension ; a description, as accurate as possible, of property that has been stolen,' and a minute description of stolen horses, &c, for the purpose of tracing and recovering them. [sic]”

Japanese-American World War 2 Relocation Files

Japanese-American World War 2 Relocation was the mass, forced migration and internment of around 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and non-citizens. This collection documents the period 1942-1946, during which whole families were forced to abandon their homes and businesses (mainly in Washington, California, and Oregon) to be relocated to ten internment camps dubbed “relocation centres” on the West Coast. The records were gathered and preserved by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in 1988. The Supreme Court ruled against the detention of US citizens without due cause in 1944, however it the last internment camp wasn’t closed until 1946. The amount of detail in the records varies, but may include your ancestor’s first and last name, the year they were relocated, their parent’s place of birth, their birth year and birthplace, marital status, previous address, education, the number of times they’d been in Japan, spoken languages, father’s occupation, and the camp they were relocated to.


[PS: For updates on our latest crime records, don't forget to visit our Crime and Punishment page!]