Thursday, 19 September 2013

New Birmingham records on Ancestry

Abridged press release from Ancestry (

Over 2.5 million historic Birmingham records published online for the first time –

· Records include criminal convictions, as well as marriages, burials, confirmations and baptisms
· Collection predates civil registration – making it a valuable family history resource

Today, the UK’s favourite family history website, has launched online The Birmingham Collection (1538-1964). Spanning five centuries, the 2.5 million records cast light on the rich heritage of the UK’s second city.

The online collection lists marriages, burials, confirmations, baptisms and even criminal convictions that occurred in the city over a 400-year period, giving digital access to the archive records housed at the newly-opened Library of Birmingham.

Birmingham’s central location, multitude of transport links and abundance of natural resources saw it develop into one of Europe’s leading manufacturing powers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. As factories sprung up, migrants gravitated towards the city and the population boomed. Such was its economic stronghold, Birmingham even earned the epithet ‘The City of 1,001 Trades’.

From the famous to the infamous; the complete Birmingham collection contains over 2.5 million records in total and reveals the details of nearly 10,000 Victorian felons. The criminal registers in particular provide a vivid glimpse into the murky underworld of this West Midland’s metropolis over a hundred years ago.

Each newly digitised record lists the prisoner’s name, occupation, crime, previous convictions, plea, bail details and eventual sentence length. Such is their detail, even the Magistrate or Judge they were tried before is included. Offences range from manslaughter and fraud to less serious crimes including petty theft and even ‘being an incorrigible rogue’. As there were no age restrictions on sentencing at this time, children as young as 12 frequent the records alongside adult offenders.

The judicial system was much stricter in Victorian Britain and crimes that may seem relatively minor today received surprisingly harsh punishments. Crucially, many of the records in the collection pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizens’ lives in documents such as censuses. Therefore, the collection is a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the 19th century.

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from comments: “This newly digitised collection will allow thousands of people the opportunity to research their Birmingham heritage as well as find out more about some of city’s most famous residents. What’s more, the criminal registers reveal some of the colourful stories of felons at this time, including the harsh realities of the Victorian justice system.”

NB: You'll find the collection at the following links (the source for all appears to the Library of Birmingham):

Birmingham, England, Baptisms, 1813-1912

Harborne, Birmingham, England, Confirmations, 1915-1931

Birmingham, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1937

Birmingham, England, Burials, 1813-1964

Birmingham, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812

Birmingham, England, Calendar of Prisoners, 1880-1891 and 1906-

For those down under, another useful collection now online is Perth, Western Australia, Australia, Rate Books, 1880-1946, at

(With thanks to Bryony Partridge)


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the OPRs, starts Nov 13th - see

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