It can be very helpful if your ancestor was involved in crime - because this can be a source of detailed information that would not otherwise be available. It is therefore well worth following this up as once you have got date and place for the trial there will be other possibilities - such as the court records. If he was convicted in Hertfordshire HALS may well have these. There might also be an account of the trial in local newspapers.
Tezz (genealogy101 @t hotmail.com) of Hertfordshire writes: I found my ancestor Richard Burnell b 1884 Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire (transcribed as Whitechurch) in the 1901 census. He was a prisoner in His Majesty's Prison, St Albans. I would like to find a record which would tell me why he was imprisoned and how long for. He married in 1907 and lived the rest of his life in Watford. I have tried HALS, but they did not have any information relating to the prisoners within the prison beyond the census returns
The most likely place to get information on prisoners when all you know about their crime is that they were a prisoner in a census is the National Archives at Kew. They have an online guide to the records available at and catalogue reference HO140 is probably the most relevant.
The census records can sometimes come up with surprises, and if the prison sentence was short the wife would often "cover" the fact that her husband was not at home. For instance I found that a petty criminal James Stratton (1807-1887) was recorded twice in both the 1851 and 1871 census - where he is shown as being in prison and at home at the same time.
A friend became very excited because she had found a lengthy newspaper account of a well attend public event at which her ancestor was initially an active participant. There was a description of how he looked (how often do you know things such as the hair colour of your ancestors?) and some comments about his casual demeanour in front of the excited audience. My friend was not the least worried that her ancestor was not active at the end of the event - which was a public hanging! If he had been anyone else at the event the newspaper would not have included such personal details!
As a result to the above request Patricia has provided a interesting synopsis of her experience of transportation related records at the National Archives - see Criminal Records at the National Archives, Early 19th Century
Samuel Jones was born in Tring in 1816 and in 1838 he was 5 feet 9½ inches high, had brown hair, hazel eyes, and had a scar on his upper lip.
And how do we know this?
Hertfordshire Genealogy News, November 2011
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
Page created May 2007