Posted by afechter on August 5, 2009 in World Archives Project

Monday we launched the fourth project keyed through the Ancestry World Archives Project.  The England and Wales Criminal Registers project was a favorite amongst contributors, mainly due to the incredibly fascinating information that we were keying – although we didn’t key the offenses I am positive we all read them.  And really, in what other collection would I be keying the name “Bottle of Beer” and wondering what the given and surname should be??

The England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892– taken from 279 original paper volumes held at The National Archivesin Kew – document trials and sentences for crimes ranging from petty theft and fraud to the use of bad language and scrumping (stealing apples from orchards).

 Each register includes details of the crime, the full name and date of birth of the accused, the location of the trial and the judgment passed. During this period, almost two in three tried for their crimes received sentences of imprisonment and almost one in 10 were either transported overseas or sentenced to death.

In total, the England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 documents:

     900,000 sentences of imprisonment – 65% of those who went to trial during this time ended up serving a prison sentence

     97,000 transportations – many criminals who received death sentences had their sentence commuted to transportation as judges became increasingly ‘lenient’

     10,300 executions – including a boy aged just 14.

The collection also documents the brutal period of English history infamously known as the ‘Bloody Code’ – so called due to the large number of crimes made punishable by death as the authorities sought to deter potential offenders.  Famous names in the collection include Jack the Ripper suspect Dr Neill Cream, the inept highwayman George Lyon and Queen Victoria’s ‘would be’ assassin Roderick McLean.

You never know who you might find – as Colleen was arbitrating this collection her research trained eye caught the name of her ancestor William Perrin.  If you’re interested in finding out if you have jail bird ancestors click here to search the collection.

Thank you to all of the contributors who spent their time keying this project!  Because of their contributions the index for this collection is freely searchable for all Ancestry users.


Anna is the Community Operations Manager for In this role her main responsibility is managing the World Archives Project. You can send an email to Anna at afechter@ancestry dot com.


  1. Reed

    Sounds interesting, eh? And I see in the World Archives Project “Coming Soon” announcements that WAP indexers will be “SOON” able to get discounts on existing Ancestry subscriptions. Gee, I might be interested…

    But, NO. No non-Windows users allowed. Another Ancestry area that is exclusively reserved for the Windows community.

    Answer me this: Why can’t Ancestry’s software designers develop true, cross-platform, web-based applications? Come on now! Once upon a time the whole genealogy universe may have rotated around a PC/Windows/Internet Explorer axis, but the world has moved on, and Ancestry should too.

    If you are (finally and deservedly) going to reward volunteer indexers for their labors, you need to make sure that the opportunities are open to ALL your subscribers.


  2. Reed – you can contribute you oand your Macintosh’s capabilities at – they have a Java application that runs on Intel powered Macs, and runs very well that you could use to contribute to the FamilySearchIndexing efforts that are going on at the rate of millions of names a week I believe.

    The lack of a Macintosh interface for World Archive Project was pointed out at the time it launched, a year ago, and nothing has changed in that time, so in all likelihood won’t change in the next year either.

    Sure typing for FamilySearch Indexing doesn’t help pay my bill, but it helps me feel good by contributing to genealogy in general nevertheless.


  3. I’m in agreement with Reed #1! The ONLY way for MAC users to contribute at this time is to install a virtual machine running windows on their MAC. That’s more expense than the possible discounts, and clearly not worth the expense.
    However, I do it because I need windows applications anyway, so for me it’s not a huge deal, but that’s not the point.

    In this day and age, applications that target such a diverse community such as genealogists MUST be developed cross-platform. This is also one of my major complaints about Family Tree Maker.

    I like the services delivered by, and I clearly see the value in them. I think it would greatly improve their standing in the community if they would finally start supporting the 3 major browsers, as well as publish their software on the 3 major platforms (IE, FF, Safari, and Window, MAC, Linux, respectively).

  4. Deb

    I have noticed for weeks now you have not added anything on the weekends and being a paying customer that does not please me. Also you are just adding things that are Canadian or German? Why is this? I am very displeased with you not adding more European content and daily adding American items that do not pertain to just one family history.

  5. I think its fantastic but I do think you should gets all the records from the U.S.A. I know that you don’t so thats establish I have to go to the
    New York board of health to get the information I need and want. I Think you should go to every state board of health you won’t believe your eyes.
    Don’t get me wrong you have a fantastic site you have more records than anyone just a few little quirks.

  6. Karen C

    This might help me. I have an ancestor that was ‘supposedly’ imprisoned in the UK and subsequently does not show up with his family in the 1871 Census(leading me to believe it could be true). However, he has a very common first and last name, so it might be hard to prove it is him, even if I find his name.

  7. Rosemary

    Brilliant site. We knew a relative had died in prison but did not know why he was there. First sentence 10 years for theft, second 20 years penal servitude for horse stealing. It was supposedly the worst prison in England, no wonder he died before completing his 20 years.

  8. Andy Hatchett

    Barbara Re: #5

    Ancestry can only get what various jurisdictions will allow them to have.

    Most state have strict legal requirements as to who, when, and for what reason birth, marriage, and death records can be released to the public.

    Those records also serve as a revenue source for the various states and they are not willing to give that up.

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