England Law and Order Occupation Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Law and Order (cont.)

Metropolitan Police

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Met records up to about 1933 can be accessed through The National Archives (TNA) in class MEPO now but are not yet on microfilm. Details can be found in TNA leaflet D52 and Bevan includes a synopsis including available indexes. Enquiries on more recent records should be sent to the Metropolitan Police Archives. The curator of the Met Police Mounted Branch Museum has compiled a consolidated index of Met Officers (Forester). Information on the Met Divisions and structure was given by Pearl and further enlarged by Brown (Met Divisions. Family Tree Magazine Vol 7 #6). Fountain (My Ancestor was a Policeman) relates details of his search for a Met ancestor with good advice for others.

The Met did not include the City of London and there is also a City of London Police Record Office which should be contacted as their records from 1832 are not at the TNA. Their personnel records have survived well, everyone who has ever worked for them is listed, with 95% having personal files. They even have the names of all the cats on the payroll! (Bird). Galvin’s ancestors were among the first members of the City police (1996). The Dock Company Police Forces are a special group and information can be obtained from the Port of London Police.

The Royal Irish Constabulary records are at the TNA in HO, CO and T classes with details in TNA leaflet D54. The most useful records are on 25 FHL films starting at film 0856057 and these have a comprehensive index available for purchase (Reakes) and on fiches; 1816-1882 is on FHL fiche 6344743(8)*, and 1882-1921 is on FHL fiche 6344782(7)*. These index fiches give the FHL film # but are non-circulating. Records of the activities of the Black and Tans are held in WO 35.

Records of the Railway Police are at the TNA in RAIL 527, but for the Royal Military Police see the address in the Appendix.

Borough Police

Register of Officers and Constables is the best source as they contain personal information such as date of joining, physical description, pay, promotions, awards, misconduct, date of leaving and pension.

Other useful sources are the Discipline Book, General Order Book, Occurrence Book, Charge Book, Chief Constable’s Annual Report, and Watch Committee Minutes. Most areas have published a History of the Borough Force that would be excellent background reading and usually has illustrations.

A few borough police records, for example Bristol on five FHL films starting at film 1788450, are available on film through the FamilySearch Catalog-COUNTRY - COUNTY - TOWN -OCCUPATIONS or OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES or PUBLIC RECORDS

County Constabularies

Attestation Papers and Personal Files are the best sources as they give a physical description, age, birth place, trade, date appointed, postings and date of leaving the force.

Other useful records are General Orders, Chief Constable’s Annual Report, and the Force Magazine or Newspaper which may contain promotion details, retirements and obituaries. Pension Books can show the dates and length of service. Few county police records, for example Cornwall on FHL film 1472135, are available on film through the FamilySearch Catalog-COUNTRY-COUNTY-OCCUPATIONS or OFFICIALS and EMPLOYEES or PUBLIC RECORDS

General Records

One can typically obtain group photographs taken at periodic intervals, as well as photos of buildings, and other shots may also be available. Consult Shearman’s My Ancestor was a Policeman. How Can I Find Out More About Him? for further details on specific force records, and Bevan for a concise description of what is held at the TNA including Irish, South African, Palestinian and other colonial forces. Feather’s The Police in Family and Local History Handbook 6th edition (2002) is a good insider’s view of life in the force.

Brown (‘Romeo’—Law and Order in Old Greenwich (Part One-1699-1899). Bygone Kent Vol 22 # 2, page 103-112.) has an excellent description of the development of the police, its buildings and facilities in one London borough (Greenwich) and there is discussion of his articles by Cheffins (Parish Constables of Greenwich. Bygone Kent Vol 22 # 6, page 375) . Another in-depth article by Brown (The Hero of Blackheath—The Man who Captured Charles Peace. Bygone Kent Vol 23 #1, page 43-50.) describes a particular violent burglary, with illustrations of police orders, a truncheon and photos of the characters involved.

A National Police Officers’ Roll of Honour is being compiled by Rae (National Police Officers’ Roll of Honour. Family History News and Digest Vol 13 #2, page 56) and Prendergast (The Policeman in Portraits of the English- Vol II Law and Order) provided a wonderful description evocative of the early Victorian era.

The twice- and later thrice-weekly news sheet Police Gazette [and Hue and Cry] in HO 75/11 contains information on officers in charge of cases, but is mainly concerned with crimes and criminals from 1828 to date. Six films covering various dates between 1797 and 1840 are available, starting at FHL film 0951965.

There is also the Police Review (and Parade Gossip) from 1893 to date that contains news on officers, biographical material on top officers and conditions of service, and is indexed.

The Police Service Advertiser (and other titles over the years) which ran from 1866-1959 was produced for those who were members of the Police Mutual Assurance Association and has notices of death and obituaries, but is not indexed (Pearl).

The Police History Society has published an annual learned journal since 1986, and the Essex Police Museum is very interested in the identification of uniforms and service conditions (Cross).

Electronic sources include (POLICE-UK-D-requests) where Met enquiries receive excellent responses (Feather 2002). Police Force histories can be found and the International Police Association. Several county and town indexes of police officers exist for those willing to dig for them, examples being given for Essex by Fred Feather (2001, 2002), who also discusses police museums and identification of policemen from pictures. The Thames Valley Police Museum is featured by Armstrong (The Thames Valley Police Museum. What’s in it for the Family Historian? Family Tree Magazine Vol 11 #5, page 52-53).


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.