Criminal Justice News: Criminal Records from the 18th and 19th Centuries Now Available Online

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If your company is looking to hire someone from the United Kingdom between roughly 117 and 218 years of age, have no fear – there is a criminal records check available for you.  The trial records of 18th and 19th century U.K. citizens convicted of poaching from a rabbit warren, bad language, scrumping for apples and other crimes are now available online courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk.  Due to the age of the records, it is highly recommended that any employer looking to take advantage of this new service contact their legal department regarding the use of these records in denial of employment.

Ancestry puts criminal records online

Genealogy site provides snapshot of criminal trials in 18th and 19th centuries

Written by Dinah Greek, Computeractive – August 7, 2009

All criminal trials reported to the Home Office from 1791 to 1892 have been put online by Ancestry.co.uk.

The list of names includes Jack the Ripper suspect Dr Neill Cream. At a time when 222 crimes were punishable by death, these records, available through the genealogical website, provide a brutal account of the ‘Bloody Code’ period in England and Wales.

Ancestry.co.uk managing director Olivier Van Calster said: “These registers testify to the fact that crime and punishment was and always will be a controversial subject; they also highlight the often colourful nature of crime, and in particular how creative criminals could be, even in less sophisticated times.

“This collection will be of great use to social historians as they contain a variety of in-depth information about crime and criminals in England and Wales during a period of great poverty, change and, ultimately, reform.”

The England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, detail over 1.4 million criminal trials that took place during this period, with the records painting a detailed picture of Britain’s early legal system.

Each register gives information on the crime, the full name and date of birth of the accused, the location of the trial and the judgment passed. During this period, almost two in three tried for their crimes received sentences of imprisonment and offences could be as minor as bad language or scrumping for apples.

Almost one in 10 people were either transported overseas or sentenced to death. Crimes carrying the death penalty included stealing anything worth more than five shillings (equivalent of £30 today), theft of livestock, poaching from a rabbit warren, or cutting down trees. Among the 10,300 executions during this period was that of a boy aged just 14; hanged for murder.

The records have been taken from 279 original paper volumes held at the National Archives in Kew. The Registers are the first collection to be transcribed as part of the Ancestry World Archives Project.

This provides the public with indexing software and training support to enable them to contribute in making even more historical records available and searchable online. To date, thousands of Britons have contributed their time to this project.

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