Criminal Records - An Often Overlooked Genealogy Resourceby Sara Berthiaume | More from this Blogger
18 Mar 2011 12:00 AM
While you are probably aware that there are many types of records that can provide you with genealogical information, you may not know that some of this information can be found in places that seem a little odd at first glance. For example, criminal records are a source of data that genealogists can use. Some of us find links to famous people when we research our family trees. Others will find that one or more of their ancestors are infamous.
A person does not even have to be a criminal for you to be able to find information about them in criminal records. Persons accused of crimes appear in the records right alongside those that were tried, convicted, and punished. Looking in criminal records can provide you with much more than names and dates, too. If you do any research in criminal records, you are likely to see a "slice of life" from the time period that you are researching. What kinds of things were considered crimes at that time? How were criminals treated? What were the punishments like? All of these things and more can be learned from criminal records.
The genealogical data that can be found in criminal records includes names, birth dates, and places of residence. If family members were involved in the proceedings as accomplices or witnesses, you may find their genealogical data too. Unfortunately, legal proceedings have always been complex and are not uniform from state to state or even county to county. The best way to begin researching criminal records is inquiring at the courthouse in the locality where your ancestor may have taken part in criminal activity.
People with "bad apples" in their family tree can benefit from researching criminal records. Sometimes, the most interesting genealogy stories come from families where one or more ancestors have a criminal past. Criminals, whether of the modern variety or those from the past, are definitely not boring people and the stories of their exploits are sure to captivate the researchers that discover them.