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Press Release - 21 February 2013
Find your family villains with new online records
Findmypast.com.au to publish 2.5 million British criminal records for the first time ever
Sydney, Thursday 21 February, 2013: Leading family history site, findmypast.com.au, has announced it will be publishing Britain’s biggest collection of historical criminal records, allowing Australians to uncover any villains lurking in their family trees.
Over 2.5 million records spanning 1770-1934 from The National Archives of the United Kingdom will be easily searchable and provide a wide variety of colour, detail and fascinating social history, chronicling the fate of criminals ranging from fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves and murderers and their victims.
They contain mugshots, court documents, appeal letters, examples of early Edwardian ‘ASBOs’- where habitual drunks were banned from pubs and entertainment venues - and registers from the prison ‘hulk’ ships, which were used when mainland prisons were overcrowded. One such hulk, the ‘Dolphin’, housed 6,000 prisoners between 1829 and 1835.
There are details of Victorian serial killers including Amelia Dyer, who, between 1880 and 1896, is believed to have murdered 400 babies by strangling them with ribbon and dumping them in the Thames. She was hanged at Newgate Prison in 1896 aged 57.
Another particularly gruesome murderer who appears in the Crime, Prisons and Punishment records is Catherine Webster, who killed widow Julia Martha Thomas, 55. She pushed her down the stairs, then strangled her, chopped up her body and boiled it. Julia’s head was found in David Attenborough’s garden in 2010.
Vicki Dawson, General Manager, findmypast.com.au said: “We have been eagerly anticipating making these records public. It will be an incredible resource for Australians with British heritage links to locate any criminal history in their family tree.
“The records include entire registers containing mugshots of habitual drunks that feature incredible descriptions of criminals’ appearances, demeanor and identifying marks.
“There are also a number of newspaper articles that are available on findmypast.com.au which provide unparalleled detail and show how the crimes were reported when they were committed. This supplements the new criminal records and makes searching through as enjoyable as it is easy, whether you are researching your own family history or are interested in social history.
“These records span several government series and show the evolution of the criminal justice system in the nineteenth century, which shaped Australia’s own judicial system.
“They record the intimate details of hundreds of thousands of people, beginning with judges’ recommendations for or against pardons, to petitions through which criminals and their families could offer mitigating circumstances and grounds for mercy, and later, licences containing everything from previous convictions to the state of a prisoner’s health.
“As well as the Georgian highway robber, the Victorian murderer and the Edwardian thief, the courts often dealt with the rural poacher, the unemployed petty food thief or the early trade unionist or Chartist. The records are a fascinating source for family, local and social historians.”
The information in the records comes from a variety of British Government departments including the Home Office, Prison Commission, Metropolitan Police, Central Criminal Court and the Admiralty. The records from 1817-1931 will be published first followed by the period 1770-1934 in the coming months.