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Tracing Villains and Their Victims (ePub)

A Guide to Criminal Ancestors for Family Historians

Family History > Types of Records P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime

By Dr Jonathan Oates
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
File Size: 7.8 MB (.epub)
Pages: 178
Illustrations: 40
ISBN: 9781473892583
Published: 4th May 2017


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In this practical handbook Jonathan Oates introduces the fascinating subject of criminal history and he gives readers all the information they need to investigate the life stories of criminals and their victims. He traces the development of the justice system and policing, and gives an insight into the criminal world of the times and the individuals who populated it. In a series of concise chapters he covers all the important aspects of the subject. At every stage, he guides readers towards the national and local sources that researchers can consult the libraries, archives, books and internet sites that reveal so much about the criminal past. Sections focus on the criminal courts, trial records, the police and police reports, and on punishments transportation, execution and prison sentences. Details of the most useful and rewarding sources are provided, among them national and local newspapers, books, the Newgate Calendar, coroners records, photographs, diaries, letters, monuments and the many internet sites which can open up for researchers the criminal side of history. Tracing Villains and Their Victims is essential reading and reference for anyone who seeks to trace an ancestor who had a criminal record or was the victim of crime.

I had not realised that there is still a wealth of information that was obtained from witnesses who reported to the press, witness statements to the police etc. The author gives many examples of cases where records are available from statements given to the police that were never used in the courts but do give further information about the villain or victim.

Essex Family Historian No.164

A concise and information-packed book that, due to its careful layout, also proves easy to use.

Family and Community Historical Research Society

For an individual researching crime in their family history for the first time, they will find plenty of suggestions for primary research here.

Your Family History, October 2017

With two case studies and lists of useful addresses, books and websites, this in an enlightening and easy-to-read handbook. Whether your criminal ancestor was punished in the village stocks, transported to Van Dieman's Land or hanged for murder, you may be amazed at the records available to help you research their lives - and add plenty of colour to your tree.

Family Tree, September 2017

Dr Oates presents the information in a highly readable and engaging narrative. He gives a comprehensive overview of how to track a wide range of valuable sources, all illustrated by relevant examples and case studies, while keeping in mind the victims, as well as those who committed crime. There are detailed instructions on how to access the available, but sometimes difficult to find, crime-related documents. He considers each type of resource carefully, pointing out potential pitfalls and offering helpful advice. In addition, the guide touches upon other important areas of family history research, such as manorial records and mental health institutions. This is an authoritative and well-researched book with clear explanations on how to investigate crime.

Tracing Villains and Their Victims is an essential reference guide for all those interested in crime history, including family historians whose ancestors' lives were affected by criminal activities.

Who Do You Think You Are, August 2017 – reviewed by Angela Buckley

As featured in

Antiques Diary, September-October 2017

No one wants to discover that one of their ancestors was a criminal, but when you're looking at censuses and someone's missing, and you think they should be there, where else do you look? Jonathan Oates's excellent books provides a shoe-in for amateurs and professionals alike to discover the truth about their ancestors' criminal pasts.

Read the full review here.

Books Monthly

This subject fascinates me. I love delving into the lesser known people tied up in crime cases, and what happened to them after the media glare was over.

This book is really useful for archive sources, chapters on researching family history for criminal ancestors, and lots more. I'd really recommend this!

Infamous Liverpool, Caroline Bunford

About Dr Jonathan Oates

Dr Jonathan Oates is the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, and he has written and lectured on the Jacobite rebellions and on aspects of the history of London, including its criminal past. His best-selling books on criminal history are John Christie of Rillington Place, John George Haigh, the Acid-Bath Murderer and London Serial Killers. He is also well known as an expert on family history and has written several introductory books on the subject including Tracing Your London Ancestors and Tracing Your Ancestors From 1066 to 1837.

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