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“What Are You in For?”

“What Are You in For?”

September 8, 2021

As we research our ancestors, there are times when we find out that we have “black sheep” ancestors who may have spent time in prison. How do you find out about their imprisonment?

Inmate records are documents created while the convicted person is in prison. These records are typically held by prisons and law enforcement agencies. Data may include name, personal information, location, and the confinement status. Other information may include offense, admission date, sentence, rewards and demerits, and the name of the jail or prison.

U.S. Federal Inmate Records, also known as prison records, can be found through the National Archives and Records Administration for records from 1870 to 1981. Online records are usually available through government websites. You need to determine if online inmate records are available for the facility in question either by contacting the agency or researching online.

Some places to check for U.S. and other countries include Ancestry Library Edition, FindMyPast (in-library use only), FamilySearch, the National Archives, Blacksheep Ancestors website, Old Bailey Online (England), the Alcatraz Inmate list, Cyndi’s List (for more suggestions), and newspapers.

Do you have a “black sheep” ancestor? Let us know how you found them in the comments below!

Sheri V.
Midwest Genealogy Center

Comments

I found mine by searching through the Missouri Archives website! For a very small cost to me, they sent me a short descriptive record on him AND a CD of his 2 mug shots! This was so awesome to me because I had trouble remembering what he looked like. He was my great aunt's husband. I knew there was something about a prison record for him, but nobody talked about that in the family. I was about 12 when I heard about it --some kind of robbery con-- and their marriage seemed odd to me. He didn't work, and she held an "impressive" job, like auditor or treasurer of Ray County. I think his felony was an embarrassment to her, and prevented him from getting a decent job, but she stayed married to him til his death. They are not even buried in the same State. Another odd thing, I think. I always liked him, though! They were married during the 20s, 30s, etc., so I think divorce was out of the question--back then (in my family at least) you stayed married for life.

From Dolores Owen (not verified)
Wed, 09/15/2021 - 02:27pm

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