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February 2008

“Have any of you got any interesting stories about criminals, or family members who were the victims of crime?”

This question, posted by quiffdo last September, launched the idea for the theme of this issue. Once again the members came up trumps with a wide variety of nefarious ancestors lurking in the branches of their trees.

The Police

This month in the occupations section to go with the theme of our criminal ancestors we thought we would have a look at the group of people responsible for catching them: the Police. Little Nell has written a very interesting piece about the history of the...

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The Women’s Police Service

Just before the beginning of the First World War, public opinion had begun to believe that bringing women into the police force could have a beneficial effect. It was felt that they would be particularly useful for taking depositions of children and women, patrolling...

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The Metropolitan Police

A brief history from 1829-1900 The Metropolitan Police force was created in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel (from which the old nickname “Peelers” originated) to address the high levels of crime and disorder in London. The establishment had been worried about the Mob since...

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My Police Ancestors

Since I have several relatives who have been on the wrong side of the law, it is a relief to know that I also had people on the right side too! My grandfather Jeuel Jabez Gray, was too short to be a policeman, but he had five brothers that were and yet another brother...

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Police notebooks

Between 1886 and 1903, Charles Booth carried out his "Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London". This was one of several surveys which were undertaken during the 19th century and much of the material has survived. A series of maps was produced which...

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Fire in Boston

Jennie's grandmother’s maiden name was Launchbury, and when she started to research her family history she told her about her Uncle Frank and his family who had died in a fire in Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1936. Jennie found all of their deaths on the BMD indexes on...

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The Walsham Three

I'm not sure what my great great uncle, William H Oxborrow, a Suffolk preacher and coach painter, would have made of his story appearing in FTF Magazine under a criminal theme, but in January 1903 he found himself at the Ixworth Petty Sessions charged with refusing to...

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Happy Days

In the drawer was the bundle of letters. They had been there all of my life and many decades before, but should I read them now she was gone? Well, I expect you can guess! As a child I lived in an all-female environment. My mother was widowed and we lived with my...

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Edmund the convict

When you do a one name study, it can get difficult trying to remember who everyone is. I have a surfeit of Edmund Skillings in my tree, so they become known as Edmund the farmer, Edmund the stationmaster, Edmund the policeman ... and Edmund the convict, Edmund the...

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Uncle Matt makes good

When the First World War broke out, my grandfather Denis, his wife and two children, and his two brothers and one sister were all living together in Croydon Park, Sydney, Australia, in what had been their late parents’ house. Denis had a family to support, but his...

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Ticket of leave

I have been researching my family history for nearly twenty years now and until recently, if anyone had asked, I would have said that my ancestors led pretty ordinary, even dull lives. My father, especially, had been able to tell me names and dates going back to the...

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Life of notoriety

John James Leadbetter, my great great grandfather, began his life of notoriety in a suitable manner. On 11th April 1830, his mother, Elizabeth Burns, a seamstress in Tulliallan, Perthshire, was summoned before the parish Kirk session, where the minute book covering...

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White collar criminal

Properly speaking, Samuel Uriah Stotter did not belong to my family at all, but I became involved when doing a little research for my cousin. It is the story of a white collar crime which took place in 1847 and involved embezzlement, detection, a police line-up and a...

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The black cap

About half of my ancestors on my father’s side of the tree lived in Australia; some of their forebears had emigrated from Ireland, some from Kent and some from Yorkshire. It was among them that I expected to find one or more convicts, but so far, all of them have...

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Not transported

One set of my mum’s great grandparents, William Liddiard and Ellen Cleeter, were both born illegitimate and have the unique distinction, in my experience, of each having their mother’s names listed in the father's column on their marriage certificate. They were...

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Matrimony or prison

Baptised 1762, hanged and gibbeted in 1789, John Walford was born in the Parish of Over Stowey in the depths of the Quantock Hills in Somerset. He was from a respectable family. His father William had a small business as a collier and charcoal burner which he sold in...

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Shot his wife

Way back in the mid 1970s one of our daughters, who was 7 years old at the time, arrived home from school with her summer homework, which was to make a family tree. We were living in Germany at the time with the Forces, so didn’t have any family around to go and ask....

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Deadly rice pudding

Whilst I was researching my Tarver ancestors from Gloucestershire, I discovered Harriet Tarver who, at 21 years of age, murdered her husband, and was the youngest woman to be hanged in Gloucestershire during the 19th century. I was interested in finding out if she was...

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The scrumper who killed

As some of you may be aware, my mother died when I was a baby. Ten years later my dad remarried and I have step-siblings. A couple of years ago I gave my youngest step-brother his dad’s family tree as a present. He became interested and asked me if I could do anything...

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The Rendcombe Tragedy

This is an account of how I used census information, newspaper reports, assizes papers and websites as well as records offices, to trace the tragedy of William Mealing and his fiancée Sarah Moss in 1862 in Rendcombe, a small village in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds....

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I found a convict

I started researching my husband’s family many years ago. As he had a fairly uncommon surname, I thought it would be easy. The things we learn! It wasn’t until about two years ago that I realised that I knew very little of my own family history. I did know a little...

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