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2.5 million criminal records to be published online for first time by Findmypast.co.uk

FIND ANY VILLAINS OR VICTIMS LURKING IN YOUR FAMILY HISTORY?

Else Churchill, Genealogist at the Society of Genealogists,  can be seen on Sky News on Wednesday 21 February (about 10.30ish) talking about the latest digital release of 2.5 million criminal records to be published online for first time by Findmypast.co.uk.

The biggest collection of historical criminal records from England and Wales is being published online for the first time by leading family history site findmypast.co.uk in association with The National Archives. Access to Findmypast and these records are available free at the Society of Genealogists.

Over 2.5 million records dating from 1770-1934 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.

 

Amelia dyer 2.5 million criminal records to be published online for first time by Findmypast.co.uk

Police photo of Amelia Dyer after arrest, 1896 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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. The records show she was hanged at Newgate Prison in 1896 aged 58.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another particularly gruesome murderer who appears in the Crime, Prisons and Punishment records is Catherine

Kate Webster filtered 2.5 million criminal records to be published online for first time by Findmypast.co.uk

English: Kate Webster (1849? – 29 July 1879), the killer of Julia Martha Thomas (the “Richmond Murder” or the “Barnes Mystery”) Português: Kate Webster (1849-1879), a assassina do “Mistério de Barnes” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Webster, who the records show 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. 

The information in the records comes from a variety of 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.

 

Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk , said: “We have been eagerly anticipating the launch of these records that provide an amazing opportunity to trace any villains and victims in your own family.

 

“We have painstakingly published online entire registers containing mugshots of habitual drunks that feature incredible descriptions of criminals’ appearances, demeanour and identifying marks.

 

“The newspaper articles that are available on findmypast.co.uk 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.”

 

Paul Carter, Principle Modern Domestic records specialist at The National Archives added: “These records span several government series and show the evolution of the criminal justice system in the nineteenth century as the country dealt with the impact of industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth.

 

“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.”

 

ENDS

 2.5 million criminal records to be published online for first time by Findmypast.co.uk

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A Report of our Group Visit to the London Metropolitan Archives, 16 January

A visit to the London Metropolitan Archives Business Collections and Pension Archive may not sound the most stimulating afternoon out, but those members who did attend were treated to a glimpse of a treasure trove of historical and genealogical gems.

It is easy to think of a business collection being little more than a list of dull company financial and employee records. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the archivist stressed that not only have few such records have survived, but are mostly subject to the 100 year privacy rules.  Whereas there is a wealth of people information in other ‘unofficial’ documents such as employee photographs, local authority licensing and building records, factory production records, company sports club records, etc etc etc. Just one example of an unusual source of names came from the County of London Electricity Company archives.  They regularly published a news magazine throughout the Second World War, listing employees who had been called up for active service, taken prisoner of war, were missing or had been killed in action. These magazines also provided a sharp reminder of some of the wartime hardships when, for example, they apolo-gised for the size of the magazine because they couldn’t obtain enough paper!

Many readers will be aware of the extensive Sun Insurance records held by the LMA’s sister library at the Guildhall, listing policy holders and their addresses. I always assumed, erroneously, that these policies only applied to London, but in fact the Sun Insurance records also cover other parts of the UK. However, for the historian, there are even more fascinating documents in the Sun records. For example, we had the privilege of looking at a thick notebook written in 1868, from their Damascus office, describing that town in the utmost detail, yet most succinctly. Water supplies; abundant. Housing; miserable in the Christian and Jewish quarters. The ledger went on, page after page, to describe in detail the businesses, building construction, the infrastructure and a host of other information. Where else could one find such a detailed contemporaneous account of life in Damascus at that time.

Space does not allow a description of the many other examples that the archivist had provided for our interest, but clearly time spent exploring the LMA catalogue for such unusual and unex-pected records could be rewarding for both the historian and the genealogist. To help in this task, the LMA are producing a Guide To Business Records later this year.

We were also treated to a glimpse behind the scenes of the conservation work that is constantly being undertaken. One example that we were able to see, and almost touch, was a mediaeval Royal Charter of one of the City Livery Companies. One thing that become clear, talking to the conservator, was that in spite of the development of modern scientific materials and processes, conservation was still very much an art. But they still use handmade mulberry paper which, ap-parently, cannot be obtained anywhere else in the world except Japan. Its principal properties being it’s light weight and great strength from its fibrous construction.

Neither were there any standard conservation procedures, other than to do the minimum; conservation, not restoration.  Each document’s requirement was unique and only decided after it had been examined. Conservation practice has changed over the decades to today’s minimalist ap-proach which comprises just enough to support the document. The main object being to reduce long term damage and to ensure repairs are reversible. Indeed, much earlier conservation work now requires revisiting because of the further damage it caused.

A fascinating afternoon well spent and I would commend this visit to everyone should the opportunity arise to repeat it in the future.

-Barry Hepburn

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Society of Genealogists 2013 Events Programme

The 2013 events programme including lectures, courses, visits, walks & talks  is now online. Events are now searchable by date, type of event and also by topic.

To view the programme and book an event, SoG members should first log into the MySoG  area of the website in order to enter the online shop and make bookings.  Non-members are also welcome to attend events, and the programme can be viewed by visiting our online shop.  Please remember that online bookings help reduce the society’s administration costs and will save you a postage charge.  You may also pay by cheque, payable to the “Society of Genealogists” (please remember to add .60 for postage or enclose a SASE) or by telephone: 020 7553 3290.

Do you have a question? email the events department

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Peter Wilson Coldham RIP

A message from June Perrin CEO

 

We were very sorry to hear from, his son Chris, of the recent death Peter Wilson Coldham FSG. Peter was a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists and the American Society of Genealogists. He was very well respected for his work on Colonial migration to the Americas and will be sorely missed by the genealogical community.

As soon as we hear more about the funeral arrangements we will let everyone know

A report on the society’s visit to the Ragged School Museum

ragged 300x257 A report on the societys visit to the Ragged School MuseumWhose Jewish father illegally married his deceased wife’s Irish Quaker sister but allegedly got around the law by marrying in a German church?

Who was born in Dublin in 1845, the sickly fifth child of the second wife and not thought to survive?

Who was encouraged by his mother to go to an evangelist meeting in 1862 at the age of 16 where he ‘found’ Christ and later joined the Plymouth Brethren?

Who was committed to temperance yet it is believed he started his working life as an apprentice to a wine merchant?

Who moved to London in 1866 at the age of 20 to train as a missionary to China?

Who was rejected by the Mission because, it is said, his energy and zeal made him unsuitable?

Who had an incredible ability to organise and whose desk contained an array of pigeonholes for that purpose?

Who, had a timing clock on his desk operated by ivory discs of various sizes each with a time value and, arguably, invented time management?

Who adopted the title of Dr before he was qualified to do so?

Who died in 1905 and was, unusually for the time, cremated with his ashes buried in the grounds of his Barkingside children’s home?

We are, of course, talking about Thomas John Barnardo.  SoG Members and guests were treated to these and many other snippets about his life, by Erica Davies, the Director of the Ragged School Museum on Copperfield Road, Mile End, during a visit on the 21st August 2012.   Yet in over an hour she was only able to scrape the surface of a lifetime dedicated to the poor and needy.

In 1877, Barnardo rented a canal side warehouse to convert to a ragged school and todays museum was an adjacent building which he added to his ragged school in 1895 because of overcrowding.  Copperfield Road Ragged School was not the first by any means but was the largest, accommodating nearly 300 children in day classes rising to over a thousand by 1895.  In addition, there was a playground in the basement for the younger children, evening classes for the older working children and a gymnasium for the boys. The Sunday School was attended by 2500 at that time. The children were also provided with free breakfast and dinner which in 1888 alone amounted to a staggering 68,000 free meals.  The school bell still remains and is shown in the photo below.

His first venture into missionary work with children was in 1866 when he took two cottages in Limehouse and founded the East End Juvenile Mission which ran a ragged school, church services, bible & sewing classes.  It proved to be a turning point in his life’s work.  One evening, a child remained behind and begged to stay the night in front of the fire.  The boy was not only an orphan but was also homeless, sleeping rough on the streets.  It was then that Barnardo discovered there were many similar children who had somehow slipped the Poor Law net and he opened his first boy’s home at Stepney Causeway.

With his unbounding energy and exceptional organisational skills he went on to found not just a few ragged schools but a whole network of institutions aimed at helping the poor and disadvantaged lead more fulfilling lives.  His overriding aim was to save, educate, train and find employment for these children, enabling them to lead decent, Christian, family lives.  He bought the Edinburgh Castle public house and converted it into a Coffee Palace for Working Men.  He created the Boot Blacking Brigade, the City Messenger Brigade, the Wood Chopping Brigade, the Servants Free Registry and Training School, the Factory Girls Club & Institute, the Working Lads Institute and a host of other similar opportunities to help those at the bottom of the human pile to gain their independence through employment.

He produced a relentless stream of pamphlets, aimed at tugging the heart strings in a way that today would be seen as exploitation or politically incorrect and even in those Victorian times got him frequently into trouble.  Yet they helped him to raise during his life time the staggering sum of over £3 million (worth £200 million at today’s prices), without which he could not have helped the  thousands who passed through his hands.  Some of his methods bordered on the criminal but always with the children’s interests at heart.  Sending children to Canada became a contentious issue because of some well publicised failures but there were many hundreds more who were helped to a prosperous life in a new country.  Neither were they sent to fend for themselves.  Before they left, Barnardo ensured that a proper care structure was in place and each child had a bank account into which their wages were paid and saved until they were 21.

His funeral came as close to a State Funeral as imaginable, demonstrating the love and affection the East End had for Thomas John Barnardo.  His body lay in the People’s Mission Church at the Edinburgh Castle for four days where thousands of people came to pay their last respects.  On the day of the funeral, thousands lined the streets, shops closed and the cortege was followed by 1500 boys from his many homes and institutions.

Even now, more than 100 years since his death, Thomas John Barnardo is still an inspiration and led me to seek out so much more of the life story of this remarkable man, beyond the commonly held perception of his Children’s homes and questionable practice of sending of children to Canada.

- Barry Hepburn

The  Ragged School Museum is located at 46-50 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR. For more information, visit their website

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