Criminal ancestors in the family tree may be less than ideal, but the records of their conviction and imprisonment can often be a gold mine of information. As part of your convict research, don't miss the wealth of historical prison records and inmate records available online.
This free searchable database includes information on criminals imprisoned on Alcatraz Island off the coast of San Francisco, California. Many of the entries are annotated, and there is also a list of famous prisoners such as Al Capone, Alvin Karpis, etc. Elsewhere on the site you can explore historical background of Alcatraz, maps and floorplans of The Rock, official inmate statistics, convict biographies, historical document transcripts and more.
Search 100 years of prison admissions in this free searchable database of prisoners admitted to Arizona territorial and state prisons prior to 1972. Additional historical background on the prisons, plus a database of life imprisonment and death sentences from 1875-1966, is also available online.
From 1873 through 1896, eighty-six men were executed on the gallows at Fort Smith, Arkansas, all convicted of rape and murder which carried a mandatory federal death sentence during this time period. The National Park Service site for Fort Smith includes a timeline and biographies of the hangings.
This free online index from the National Archives, Southeast Region, includes names and inmate numbers for prisoners held in the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta between 1902 and 1921. With this information you can request inmate files from the National Archives which may also include details on the prisoner's sentencing and incarceration, a fingerprint card, mug shot, physical description, citizenship, birthplace, level of education, birthplace of parents, and age at which the inmate left home. While the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta did not open until 1902, inmate case files may contain documentation from as early as 1880 for prisoners who were previously incarcerated by the federal government in other locations.
Browse by name in this free alphabetical index to historical inmate records from the Colorado State Penitentiary. The index provides the prisoner name and inmate number which you can use to request the corrections record from the Colorado State Archives. Available information may include biographical details, as well as information about the prisoner's crime, sentence and parole or pardon. Prisoner mug shots are also available for most penitentiary inmates.
If you had a male ancestory in Colorado who got an early start on his criminal career, then you may find his name in this free online database from the Denver Public Library. The Colorado State Reformatory provided special programs for youthful male offenders, generally 16 to 25 years of age, who were convicted of crimes other than murder or voluntary manslaughter. The online index provides each prisoner's name, inmate number and prison record volume number. Complete inmate information is available from the Colorado State Archives.
This comprehensive PDF catalog produced by the Idaho State Historical Society includes historical and statistical information on the prison, as well as both alphabetical and case number indexes to the thousands of inmates who passed through the prison between 1864 and 1947. Also available is a smaller expanded index including information such as the inmate's year of birth and crime committed, for Inmates Associated with the Mining Industry, 1865-1910.