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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

A Criminal Record

I spoke with a client recently who had been shocked to learn of a family member's criminal history.

That's not an uncommon response. However, jail and prison records certainly add dimension to a person, as they can contain a level of detail found nowhere else.

This record from Pennsylvania from 1844 states that John Zimmerman was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. His mother was still alive in Germany at the time--a detail might confirm or exclude candidates for his parents.

prison record

This record from California from 1853 states that Charles Massinger was born in France. He was 51 years old at the time and a fisherman, with hazel eyes. He also had a tattoo of "C M and Maria" with an arrow. That's a very unique tidbit for a man born around 1802 in France.

prison record

prison record

A record from New York states that Maggie Shaver was a 26-year-old housekeeper who was 5 feet tall and weighed 111-1/2 pounds in 1899--when she was sent to prison for bigamy.

Life can be difficult and complicated. We believe family history includes it all--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If your ancestor's name appears in a record you might find uncharacteristic or unsavory, don't discount it. At least take a look and see if could be for your family member.


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