Genealogy Research: Mugshots

Posted October 1, 2014 by Amanda | No Comment

Do you have any black sheep in your family tree? If your ancestor has an arrest under their belt, police reports may exist that will give you very interesting insights into your relative’s history. Not to mention that a mugshot would be a unique addition to your genealogy record collection!

mugshot (1)The mugshot was invented by Alphonse Bertillon, a French police officer and biometrics researcher. He applied the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement, creating an identification system based on measurements. Although photographing criminals began shortly after the invention of photography, it wasn’t until 1888 that Bertillon attempted to standardized the process. This system was used for years until fingerprinting replaced it.

The style of mugshots vary depending on the location and precinct. However, many early mugshot records can potentially hold lots of information that could be very useful in your genealogy research, including:

  • Picture
  • Name
  • Alias
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Physical description (height, weight, hair and eye color, distinguishing features, etc.)
  • Crime

Check out some early mugshots from a police identification book believed to be from the 1930s:

This mugshot is for Thomas Boyd, also known as Coyne. He was born in 1900 and worked as a carpenter.

mugshot (2)

Laborer John Gallagher was born in 1901. His mugshot record makes note that he only has one eye.

mugshot (3)

Thomas Giles, also known as Thomas O’Malley or “Doggy.” His mugshot is noted that he died in Walkergate.

mugshot (4)

Michael Lavery, born in 1897, was described as a general thief and shopbreaker. He’s described as having brown eyes with a height of 5 feet 3 inches and a scar on his chest.

mugshot (5)

You can see more mugshots from the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on Flickr.

Have you found similar records in your family history research?

Images: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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