Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Do the Crime, Do the Time

Do you have an ancestor who was naughty?  Or downright criminal? Can’t find an ancestor on an early census… did you check the jails? There are many sites on the internet of judicial proceedings where we can look for our ancestor’s name.

In Quebec before 1760 the head of the Militia of the parish usually settled petty crimes and everyday disputes among neighbours. He was under the supervision of the local Intendant.  The more serious crimes were heard by the "juridiction royale" in Quebec City, Montreal or Trois-Rivieres. The books “Inventaire des Ordonnances des Intendants” 1705-1760 are on Internet Archive in 4 separate volumes, or 2 books with Vol 1-2 together and Vol 3-4 together. After 1760 the Quebec Justice system was slowly introduced.  You can check each  other province archives to see how to access what records they have.

About.com has a list of websites to check US prison record databases. Other books with criminal records can be found at Internet Archive, search Patent Rolls, criminal, crimes. Disputes over a bit of land, bankruptcy, petty theft, murder. 

I didn't find any criminal skeletons in my closet - how about you?

Court records hold other data besides criminal. They may contain records of deeds, marriage contracts and wills. At Internet Archive search using keywords "circuit court, court rolls, criminal" etc.

Check local archives for "chancery court" records and "Cases of Equity". These are about cases concerning land, wills, slaves, and family/neighbor disputes.

Relevant Links
Personnes incarcérées dans les prisons de Québec au 19e siècle

Court Records Book A, 1664-1812 (Crimes, licenses, deeds, etc) Hampden County, MA

Hampshire County (MA) Court records (several volumes)

US County Clerk Court Records - by state

Prison Life and Reflections 1851 –  life in Missouri Penitentiary

Capital Punishment UK – hangings, executions, etc

Victoria,Australia – Court Records database

Prisoners and Convicts – Victoria, Australia from 1850+

Graham Maxwell Ancestry - Prison Register Database


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