Thursday 22 July 2021

Plenty of potential for Irish genealogists in UK Criminal collection

Back in January, Ancestry released a multi-source crime record-set they've called the UK, Registers of Habitual Criminals and Police Gazettes, 1834-1934 collection. Usually, when I see a new UK-laberlled collection arrive in a major database, I check out its potential value for Irish family historians, but it seems that I didn't get around to it on this occasion. Having had it brought to my attention*, I've now had a chance to explore, and I think it will of interest to those with ancestors who migrated to Britain or went AWOL from the British military forces.

Click image to see enlarged sample from Ancestry's UK, Registers of
Habitual Criminals and Police Gazettes, 1834-1934 collection

There are just under 260,000 records in this collection in total. Some 10,900-odd are noted as being born in Ireland, but there may also be many second-generation Irish recorded, too. The really good news is that a county of birth is noted for about half the Irish-born, and some even include a town name. I've seen a Drogheda, Louth; Olla, Limerick; Newry, Down; Cloone, Leitrim; and several more examples, just on one page of 'absent from the militia' notices. Although some of the spellings of placenames might require a bit of unravelling (see Logainm), this collection could provide that vital nugget of an ancestor's place of origin in Ireland.

In addition, the details in each entry provides some terrific personal detail, even if you might have mixed feelings on discovering your ancestor was a violent criminal, living on illegal earnings, or responsible for some deeply unpleasant acts against others. In most cases, the descriptions of the individuals include their tattoos, scars, amputations, moles, vaccination scars and other disfigurements, in addition to the more frequently recorded hair and eye colour, as well as other readily recognisable characteristics or peculiarities.

Sources in the collection include: 

  • Habitual Criminal Register 
  • Habitual Drunkards: Portraits and Descriptions 
  • Misc papers relating to institution of Criminal Registers 
  • Police Gazette 
  • Police Gazette or Hue and Cry
  • Police Gazette Supplement A 
  • Police Information
  • Prevention of Crime - Habitual Criminals Booklet 

* Many thanks to Dublin-based genie Claire Bradley

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