This Collection Spotlight we thought we’d shine the light on our electronic resources. The PMI has a really strong collection of electronic resources, from books, to audio recordings, indexes, electoral roles, databases, periodicals, rate books, heritage studies and more. Today though we are going to focus on one of the databases: The Police Gazettes.
The Police Gazettes at the PMI runs from 1855 to 1930 and existed to provide information and instructions to members of the police force.
They can be extremely useful for almost all types of research and isn’t just a record of criminals. It records people who came into contact with the police in a wide variety of ways.
For example towards the end of last year we had a member who was trying to track down a great grandmother and we found the grandmother listed in the Police Gazettes. Now the grandmother wasn’t a criminal, but her husband had deserted her and run off to WA, so she was listed as his wife because as a deserter and the police were circulating a description of him to track him down.
Our Gazettes are electronic and can be key word searched. You can also access them through the library edition of Ancestry, though the PMI records are more complete.
The gazettes are a great, slightly left of field, way of thinking about research and they can also just be interesting. They are the small scale of history, not the grand scale – though some of the scandals that make their way into them can be quite grand. For the most part though, they depict normal people and the many ways (both good and bad they came into contact with the law).
They have some excellent descriptions of people too, they can be extremely evocative.
Private James Crane deserted from H.M Service in the 99th Regiment on the 28th of December 1854. He is described as 5 feet 9 inches high, sallow complexion, dark brown hair, grey eyes, native of Saint Paul’s, Dublin, a laborer, marked with letter D on left side, dressed in regimental clothing.
George Shelley charged with in 1874 with forging and uttering a cheque. He is described as English, 38 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, medium build, fresh complexion, brown hair, sandy beard, whiskers, and moustache turning grey, blue eyes, left eye slightly turned upwards, long face, large red nose, general appearance that of a drunkard, a joiner, and travelling painter; dressed in old dark coat, light tweed trousers, and old dirty-looking billycock hat.
Caroline Dark was charged on the 11th of January 1884 with disobeying a summons. She is described as a Victorian, prostitute, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, sallow complexion, dark hair, stout build, full face, dissipated look, fond of drink ; wore old dirty dark clothes, and black straw hat.
Mary Kelly was charged on the 11th of July 1894 with stealing five pounds from the house of Nellie Dyer in 64 Napier St Fitzroy. She is described as Servant, about 23 or 24 years of age, 5 feet high, medium build, dark complexion and hair with fringe; wore a black dress body trimmed with braid, brown felt hat trimmed with brown velvet and a wing, and a black veil.
On the 13th of February 1904 pattern-maker Edward Robinson was asulted and robbed by three Men in Princess St Port Melbourne. He described them as let. 28 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, red hair, red moustache, slight build ; wore dark grey paget suit and black alpine hat. 2nd. 19 to 21 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, slight build, slight stoop, long pale face , clean shaved ; wore dirty clothes, dark alpine bat. 3rd. 20 to 21 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, a light build, moss-coloured hair, no hair on face : wore darkish clothes.
In 1914 Jane Juckett was being enquired for by her mother. She was described as 18 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches high, stout nuggety build, florid complexion, full face, dark-auburn hair, one tooth missing, from front upper set; wore a dark three-quarter costume, black hat, and black shoes.
In 1924 Georgina Hyem, milliner, reported a brown leather bag containing money and private papers stolen from her shop. The two thieves are described as lst. About 5 ft. 10 in.; dressed in a dark velvet dress, short fur coat, black suede shoes and black hat with a peak on each side. 2nd. About 5 ft. 7 in.; dressed in a dark one-piece dress, black shoes, and black hat with sprays at the rear.
So, as you can see they really bring the people to life. This is of course only a small sample of what can be found in the gazettes. They’re another PMI resource that you can explore next time you are in the library.