New book from a genealogist hunting a criminal ancestor

We recently exchanged emails with someone who turns out to be the author of a new book, “Finding Thomas Dames”. It sounds likely to interest anyone who has come across villainy in their family tree (or has hopes/fears of doing so).  Find out more about the book on Lynne Morley’s blog.

Did you know we have a database drawn from calendars of prisoners tried at Derby?  Well, we do – you can access it on our website.  We also subscribe to the library edition of Ancestry, which gives access to the England and Wales Criminal Registers, which are invaluable for this sort of thing. Your local Derbyshire library has access to the same subscription, so if you would like to give it a try, do drop in on them, or on us.

We can search online and hard-copy resources on your behalf if you like, as part of our research/copying service. The service costs £12.50 per half hour of staff time, and we’d usually recommend an hour-long search unless you have a specific and limited enquiry of the sort we can get to grips with very quickly.  We do have to allow time for our staff to read the request and write up the results, and that does take time.

On the other hand, if you find a name on our own database of prisoners and just want a scanned copy of the calendar from which it’s drawn, that’s a quick-ish job which we could do in 15 minutes, at a cost of £6.25.  Here’s what a calendar of prisoners looks like close-up:


You can apply for the service on our copying/research service page.


3 thoughts on “New book from a genealogist hunting a criminal ancestor

  1. I got the impression that you had all the prisoners in Derby jail. I decided to check as I know George Kirk, a butcher from Chesterfield, born July 1835 was in there during the census of 1881. You have no record of him.

    • Hi Liz,
      Yes, that’s interesting. The database draws on calendars of prisoners taken for trial at Derby (county and borough quarter sessions courts, not usually assizes) rather than those who were ordered to serve their sentences there. Prisoners might be convicted in one place but be detained elsewhere depending, I suppose, on the fluctuation of the prisons’ capacities – possibly also depending on the categories of prisoner. (I’m hedging because this isn’t something I know lots about.) However, I have to say I can’t find a relevant reference in the Criminal Registers either. I did spot a George Kirk who was tried in Sheffield for larceny in 1877, but when I checked the record it turns out he was acquitted.

      I’m afraid we don’t have inmate records of Derby Gaol itself. Records relating to its management were created because of the Quarter Sessions court’s oversight of the system, but that’s a slightly different thing – they only rarely include names of prisoners.

      As he was from Chesterfield, I wonder if a thorough search of the Derbyshire Times would turn anything up?

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