Friday, 25 November 2011

How are QSR records helpful to the Family Historian?

The QSR are not only useful for finding the criminals in your family. They are rich with other useful details.

For example, you may find an ancestor is a victim of crime. In most cases, the victim then becomes the prosecutor. This means there will be a Recognizance for them. This will tell you their name, job and where they live. If the case proceeds, there will be a Deposition (Witness Statement) for victim. This will give richer details of the events which lead up to and what occurred during the crime. It may tell you to whom they were married, exactly where they lived, who their neighbours were and details of their life style. For example, did they keep chickens, where did they shop, what time they went to work and how they knew the accused.

There may have been other witnesses to the crime. Again there will be a Recognizance in their name and a Deposition detailing their involvement in the case.

Almost every case has a member of the Police force called as a witness. At the time, police constable looked after a local area, and so the same names arise again and again. Excellent news for anyone with a Police ancestor.

Even the family of the Police Officers crop up from time to time. In the case of Elizabeth Bunnage accused of stealing 18 yards of ribbon and 2 caps (QSR1849/3/5/3). Ellen, the wife of John Keating, the local constable in Luton was called as a witness. The deposition details how Ellen was left in charge of Elizabeth Bunnage. When Elizabeth wanted to use the privy she was accompanied by Ellen Keating, who waited outside. On leaving the privy, Ellen Keating found the prisoner had left a bundle down it, which she had to remove with tongs. Elizabeth Bunnage was found guilty and imprisoned in the House of Correction for 3 calendar months.

Other people frequently called as witnesses were the Innkeeper and Licensed Victuallers of the County. Not only did a number of crimes relate to drunkenness, but the public house was often the home to dodgy dealing and dubious meetings.

On the other side of the court were the Jurors and the Justices of the Peace. The QSR include Jury lists for those called to attend Grand and Petty juries of the Quarter Session. These stated the Name, Occupation and Residence of the juror. On occasion, there are letters sent to the court by local doctors, requesting their patient be excused from service due to various ailments.

The Justices of the Peace were men of prominent standing in the area. On being called to become a Justice of the Peace, they would be required to make oaths and declarations that they were for for the role. These documents form part of the QSR.

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