Thursday, February 21, 2013

New online prison records a "must" for convict research

I recently gave a talk on finding convicts online. I spoke about the useful details that can often be found in prison and hulk registers and gave an example of the wonderful information that I had found years ago about my ancestor, Charles Christmas, in the register of the Cumberland hulk.

The register of convicts in the hulk Cumberland, moored at Chatham, with gaoler's reports, 1830-1833 is at The National Archives UK, reference ADM6/418. The register had been filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, but it took a long time to search and eventually find my ancestor. I was very lucky as this register gives details of place of birth and the address of parents which I had not been able to find in any other record.

Fortunately, this and many other prison and hulk records are now indexed and available online at with more to come over the coming months.

Here is a taste of what can be found, using Charles Christmas' entry in the Cumberland register of 1831 as an example:

Number:                         1314
Name:                            Charles Christmas
Age:                               22
Offence:                         Uttering a forged order for goods
    When:                        12 May 1831
    Where:                       Old Bailey
Sentence:                       14
Character from Gaoler:   Here before
How Disposed of:            VDL Lord Lyndoch 14 July 1831
Where Born
    Town:                          Eagle Street, Holborn
    County:                       Middlesex
Hair:                                Dark Brown
Eyes:                               Light Grey
Eyebrows & Lashes:        Dark Brown
Nose:                              Com.
Mouth:                            Com.
Compl:                            Dark
Visage:                            Long
Make:                              Mid
Marrd. or Single              Single
    Ft:                              5
    Inches:                       3
Read or Write:                Both
Trade:                            Labourer
Remarks:                       Lower part of the face very narrow. Pitted with the small pox scar on the left side of the forehead. Right arm C.O.M. B.K.S. Left arm CCMB. Rope and anchor.
Address:                         Parents lives (sic) at No. 16 Berwick Street, Soho, London.

Good Hunting!