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Treasures in the Library
from The Genealogist
by Lesley Haldane
Published in the December 2015 Edition

Recent “Treasures” articles seem to have generated a theme without my noticing, so this time I’m going to consciously talk about researching the policemen and women in your family history, plus anything else that takes my interest. The AIGS has many books and CDs on this subject and the first cab off the rank for discussion is a new book that has come to my attention.

Policing in West Offaly 1814-1922 : Brendan Ryan OFF363.2

At the time of writing, this book has not yet been catalogued but it should be on the shelves by the time you read this. Sir Robert Peel was the Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1812-1816, and he introduced a bill into Westminster Parliament to form a police force.

In the creation of this modern police force the officers became known as ‘bobbies’ throughout England and ‘peelers’ throughout Ireland. The following was gleaned from ‘A History of Policing in Ireland’ – from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Sir Robert Peel, when appointed to Chief Secretary in Ireland in 1812, found a land in which law and order in many rural areas was breaking down.  Local magistrates and the temporary and untrained Baronial Police were unable to deal with a tide of outrages and faction fighting.  After attempts to solve the problem by setting up a Peace Preservation Force in 1814 and later a system of county constabularies under the Constabulary Act of 1822, a single police force, The Constabulary of Ireland, was established in 1836.

In Ireland the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was born, attaining the Royal title in 1867. Just under 84,000 men joined this police force between 1816-1922 and this book has extensive information on the officers. Chapter 9 has one of the indexes which covers the King’s County and lists the men by name, their police number (wonder who has number 1?), year of birth, address, rank, death date, and other details including religion. Chapter 4 lists constables between 1910-1921. The major part of the book is made up of stories of some of the officers with the rest of the book consisting of said indexes with their extensive information. There are also some beautiful photos of old RIC barracks, some of which were military barracks. Discipline among the ranks was not dealt with ‘in camera’ as it is today; it was dealt with in full public view with details being published in the newspapers. The introduction lists two such cases selected from different periods of time.

Case 1 is entitled simply ‘Constabulary Inquiry from King’s County Chronicle 19 December 1849’, with the following pages detailing the dastardly deeds committed by the officer and the outcome of the inquiry.

Case 2 is listed as “An Officious Police Sergeant’s Groundless Charge against a Constable’s extraordinary swearing” and was published in the Midland Tribune in 1882. Once again, the pages following detail exhaustively the circumstances of the charge and the outcome. They make fascinating reading but are too long to include here. This book can be found in the Offaly section of the Ireland books.

Another resource along the same lines as this important book is a CD on the computer network, History of the Royal Irish Constabulary – CD2428. This CD also has lists and directories for 1889, 1910 and 1920 with extensive indexes.

In PDF format, this CD has chapters including the Official character of Mr Drummond; 1st formation of Constabulary; Collisions with the Constabulary – their causes and results; Reorganisation of the Constabulary under Mr Drummond’s Act of 1836; ending with the Recognition of the Services of Constabulary by both Houses of Parliament and the Public and the Decoration of the force by Duchess of Abercorn and distribution of medals at the Phoenix Park depot on 6 September 1867. Apologies for the long sentence!

Mr Drummond sounds like an interesting character and I must read about him. Certainly this CD is worth a visit.

Royal Irish Constabulary 1816-1922 – Jim Herlihy Ireland 363.2 HER

This is a big book of names. To be precise it is a big book of policemen’s names with their respective police numbers. It should be read in conjunction with a smaller book written earlier by Jim Herlihy called The Royal Constabulary: A short history and genealogical guide with a select list of medal awards and casualties. This book can be found next to the big book of names. The smaller book has a lot more detail and story; it is not just a book of lists.

If there are policemen in your Irish family history, these resources have to be a goldmine of information. I hope you find your family in them. By the way, policewomen did not make an appearance in Ireland until 1943 carrying out a limited range of duties, mainly concerning women and children. In 1970 their duties expanded and in 1994 they were given the right to carry firearms thus achieving equality with the men.

(Some of this information was taken from ‘A History of Policing in Ireland’ from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.)

Grandfather was a Policeman – WA Police Force 1829-1889 Mollie Bentley WA 363.2 BEN

Mollie’s anecdotal stories of some of the early policemen in Western Australia, which was called Swan River colony in 1829 achieving ‘responsible government’ in 1890. The Western Australian police force was formed in 1829, coincidentally the same year Sir Robert Peel formed the police force in London, England. These stories in this book have been taken from police occurrence and letter books, and cover the period 1829 to the end of the nineteenth century. Mr W. Hogan was a member of the police force from 1854-1866, becoming Superintendent of Police between 1861-1866. It is said that the earliest records of the West Australian police date from his appointment as Superintendent in January 1861.

Sixty years after the colony’s foundation West Australia had a police force of nearly 200 men, not nearly enough to cover the vast areas of the colony, especially when gold was discovered in the early 1890s. Throughout this book are many photos of policemen and places, including some of the first gaol in Fremantle which was the Round House, completed in 1831, which had twelve cells. The 1850s brought a period of change and uncertainty leading to a big turnover of men. Most police appointments between 1851-1853 were recorded in the Government Gazettes. Included here are maps of West Australia and Southern Western Australia around the Perth region. There are some fascinating stories in this book, and it’s well worth your while to delve into it.

My Ancestor was a Policeman: Antony Shearman ENG 363.2 SHE

This little booklet was hiding away on the England shelf of books but it is a treasure. Inside these covers lies a chapter on the history of the Police Force in Britain from the advent of the Bow Street Runners formed by Henry Fielding, who is best known today as the author of “Tom Jones” which discussed the lawlessness in the capital city. He was made a Justice of the Peace, setting up the Bow Street Runners in 1750 with his half brother Sir John Fielding (died 1780) who was a magistrate even though he was apparently blind from birth. The Bow Street Runners were the forerunners of the detective force and employed paid constables in London. “Fielding’s recommendations led to the setting up of other police forces, each with a magistrate who was in charge of the clerks and constables”.

Henry Fielding died in 1754, and the Bow Street Runners became a corrupt force, mixing with criminals and making deals with them, once they discovered who had instigated a burglary, promising not to arrest them if they returned some of the stolen goods. They then received payment from both the owner of the stolen goods and the thieves. Some of the Runners were said to be quite wealthy when they died. There was a period of lawlessness until Sir Robert Peel’s bill to parliament on the formation of a national police force in 1829.

Records for family history research on the police force in the UK are scarce with many not surviving. This booklet has an alphabetical listing of Police Constabularies with address details, each one stating what elusive records they do have so that you can contact them directly. The best ones for research for Borough Police Records, are the old personnel and discipline books which often survived, and always seem to be valuable sources of confidential information. Discipline books include date of joining, physical description of officer, pay, promotions, awards, misconduct, date of leaving and pension. For County Police records there are attestation papers which include physical description of officer, age, birth place, trade, date of appointment, postings and date left. Pension books can be useful for dates and length of service.

Police museums would also be useful for further research. This little booklet will definitely put you on the right path for research of police records.



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