24 February 2016

Watchhouse records: People Arrested and Victims of Crime (Wednesday's Webpage for Genealogy)

This week's featured Web page for genealogy is 'Police Watchhouse Records'. Find out why they are of great value to family historians, and check the lists of names (offenders and victims) from records that I've indexed. These people were from all over the world, especially England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Europe, with smaller numbers from other areas.

Although the registers vary in format, most give the date, town, prisoner's name, aliases, age, occupation, religion, state or country of origin, education level, offence, and how disposed of (fine or term of imprisonment, or whether sent to a reformatory, asylum etc. or discharged, cautioned, or committed for trial at which court and when). Some show previous convictions and the prisoner's signature and property. Some victims of crime are named, and there are occasional references to illegitimate children.

Offences include theft, drunk and disorderly, breaking and entering, child (or wife) desertion, having no visible lawful means of support, attempted suicide, being of unsound mind, inciting to riot, beating a horse, assault, murder, supplying opium to an Aboriginal, and being a neglected child. Children appear in the records as both offenders and victims.

An entry in a watchhouse charge book usually spreads across two large pages. This image shows some of the details that are often on the first page.

Historical Police watchhouse record


This image shows examples of minor offences. Note the reference to someone who was arrested on suspicion of being of unsound mind. Those people were often transferred to a mental asylum.

Police watchhouse record


Police Station watchhouse charge books often provide clues to sources for further research (Court, prison and mental asylum records, criminal depositions, murder files, Police Gazettes and other police records, etc.)

On the Police Watchhouse Records page, follow links and check the lists of names. If you find a name of interest, scroll down to the 'Copying Service' section on that page. It explains how to get a copy of the original record.

This post is number 4 in my Wednesday's Webpage series, which focuses on pages that either describe genealogy sources or research strategies, or list names from indexes to original records in Archives or elsewhere.

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2016/02/watchhouse-records-people-arrested-and.html.)

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