If you have any black sheep in your family you may prefer to keep quiet about them.
Maybe, unless your name happens to be Kray, you have no inkling about whether or not you belong to a long line of miscreants, and frankly would rather not know.
But the online publication of the records of more than 67,000 19th century convicts could change all that.
Family history website ancestry.co.uk provides the names, crime, place and date of conviction, sentence and “previous” of these Victorian villains. They have even uploaded mug shots, so you can scan through the rogues gallery to see if there is any family likeness.
The first half of the nineteenth century saw a sharp rise in the crime rate, with offences going up from around 5,000 per year in 1800 to some 20,000 by 1840.
To combat this, a national police force was established in 1856. This revolutionised the way people were caught, arrested and charged. Prior to that most places had only an unpaid parish constable to keep order.
The crimes listed on the web site range from petty theft and drunkenness, to arson and murder.
While crime doesn’t appear to have changed much, punishment certainly has.
Pensioner Samuel Baker’s offence was breaking into a house to steal two brushes, some vests and a pair of stockings in 1893. His sentence was nine months hard labour.