The history of the British prison system only had systematic records from the middle of the nineteenth century. Before that, material on prisoners in local jails and houses of correction was patchy and minimal. In more recent times, many prison records have been destroyed.
In Tracing Your Prisoner Ancestors, crime historian Stephen Wade attempts to provide information and guidance to family and social history researchers in this difficult area of criminal records. His book covers the span of time from medieval to modern, and includes some Scottish and Irish sources.
The sources explained range broadly from central calendars of prisoners, court records and jail returns, through to memoirs and periodicals. The chapters also include case studies and short biographies of some individuals who experienced our prisons and left some records.