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The Prosecution Project: Using crime records to access family and other histories

  • Mark Finnane (a1) and Yorick Smaal (a2)

Abstract

Family and local community historians have always made use of criminal justice records. Increasingly available as digital files, these documents are accessible to anyone with access to an internet-linked computer or even smartphone. In many cases, the fragmented nature of these records means their richness remains a potential rather than reality. The Prosecution Project1 links these records as a large-scale Australian exercise in unlocking the criminal justice records of all the states. We seek to digitise and eventually make publicly accessible the records of the criminal courts, documenting not only the names of the accused but of magistrates, judges, lawyers, police and victims and other witnesses. The project is a significant collaboration between university researchers and a large and growing community of volunteers. This paper outlines what the project is doing, how we are doing it and illustrates its potential use for family and local historians interested in Australia's past.

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Endnotes

2 Heap, E. G., ‘The ranges were the best: The Kenniff Story’, Queensland Heritage (1969): 8–11.

3 Heap, ‘The ranges’: 7; Sheaffe, S. W., ‘The Kenniff trial’, Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal 18 (7) (2003): 290–2.

4 Anthony, J. H. Morris, QC, ‘The trial of the Kenniff brothers: “Australia's last bushrangers”’, Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Cultural Heritage Series 2 (2) (2002): 260–1.

5 Sheaffe, ‘The Kenniff Trial’: 305-6; Morris, ‘The trial’: 266–7.

6 See, for example, ‘The Kenniffs: Heroes decimated. A three-part series takes a fresh look’ (1998), http://www.linkingdots.net/The%20Kenniffs%20-%20Heroes%20decimated.htm, accessed 27 October 2017; Mount Moffatt, Carnarvon National Park, https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/carnarvon-mount-moffat/culture.html, accessed 27 October 2017; ‘Patrick and James Kenniff: Australia's last bushrangers’, http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2011/09/08/patrick-and-james-kenniff-australias-last-bushrangers, accessed 28 October 2017; Grenfell Heap, ‘Kenniff, Patrick (1863–1903)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kenniff-patrick-6932, accessed 26 October 2017.

7 See, for example, Telegraph (Brisbane), 22 July 1930, 6; Charleville Times, 24 October 1947, 26; Truth (Brisbane), 24 June 1951, 6.

8 Good, R. J. P., Ketching the Kenniffs: The origins and exploits of the Kenniff brothers — Patrick and James (Brisbane: Booringa Shire Council, 1996); Holland, Patrick, One (Melbourne: Melbourne Transit Lounge, 2016); ‘Queensland crime history with Jack Sim: The Kenniff brothers’ [Podcast], ABC Brisbane, https://soundcloud.com/612abcbrisbane/queensland-crime-history-with-jack-sim-the-kenniff-brothers, accessed 10 November 2017.

9 ‘Lawless: The real Australian bushrangers episodes’, https://www.historychannel.com.au/shows/lawless-the-real-bushrangers/episodes/lawless-the-real-bushrangers, accessed 25 October 2017.

10 Queensland Times, 19 October 2017, https://www.qt.com.au/news/mike-munros-ned-kelly-bombshell/3241369, accessed 25 October 2017.

11 Inwood, Kris and Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, ‘Prison and the history of the family’, The History of the Family 20 (2015): 159–62; Reynolds, Henry, ‘The hated stain: The aftermath of transportation in Tasmania’, Historical Studies 14 (52) (1969): 1931.

12 de Groot, Jerome, Consuming history: Historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture (London: Routledge, 2009), 73.

13 Null, David G., ‘Genealogy and family history in the academic library’, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 11 (1) (1985): 30; de Groot, Consuming, 84–6.

15 Evans, Tanya and Curthoys, Patricia, ‘Family history, identity, and public history: Writing a history of the benevolent society in its 200th year’, Journal of Australian Studies, 37 (3) (2013): 285301; see also Evans, Tanya, Fractured families: Life on the margins in colonial New South Wales (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2015).

16 Clark, Anna, ‘Ordinary people's history’, History Australia, 9 (1) (2012): 215; see also Clark, Anna, Private lives, public history (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2016).

17 de Groot, Consuming, 74.

19 Evans and Curthoys, ‘Family history’: 285–6.

20 Bradley, James, Kippen, Rebecca, Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, McCalman, Janet and Silcot, Sandra, ‘Research note: The Founders and Survivors Project’, The History of the Family, 15 (4) (2010): 467–77; http://www.foundersandsurvivors.org, accessed 10 November 2017; also Tasmania's convict registers ‘Convict Life’, https://www.linc.tas.gov.au/family-history/Pages/Convict-life.aspx, accessed 10 November 2017.

22 Shoemaker, Robert and Ward, Richard, ‘Understanding the criminal: Record-keeping, statistics and the early history of criminology in England’, British Journal of Criminology, 57 (6) (2017): 1442–61.

23 This variety is extensively used for the Tasmanian Founders and Survivors database (http://www.foundersandsurvivors.org), as well as the Tasmanian names index maintained by the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names).

24 Queensland State Archives (QSA), Series 15536, Information, depositions and associated papers in criminal cases heard in Brisbane, 1857–1958; QSA, Series 18038, Criminal Depositions Supreme Court Brisbane, 1939–1985.

25 Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, 27 January 2017, https://blog.eogn.com/2017/01/27/over-3-million-victoria-petty-sessions-records-available-to-search-this-findmypast-friday, accessed 20 November 2017.

26 Finnane, Mark, Police and government: Histories of policing in Australia (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994).

27 Finnane, Mark, Punishment in Australian society (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1997).

28 See, for example, NSW State Records series of gaol photo books at https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/gaol-inmates-prisoners-photos-index, accessed 20 November 2017.

30 QSA, Photographic records, descriptions and criminal histories of male and female prisoners: HM Prison, Brisbane (Boggo Road), item ID 654070, 1 February 1894–18 August 1896; QSA, Photographic records, descriptions and criminal histories of prisoners executed: HM Gaol Brisbane (Boggo Road), item ID 2947, 24 September 1883–30 September 1913.

32 The Prosecution Project Database [PP], https://prosecutionproject.griffith.edu.au/prosecutions (version 1, 20 October 2017), Trial ID #52190, Queensland Supreme Court, George Cumming, 1880.

33 Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, 27 November 1880, 3.

34 Brisbane Courier, 27 November 1880, 5.

35 QSA, Court Book, HM Goal/Prison, Toowoomba, item ID 104859 (Southern District Court 20 November 1880).

36 QSA, Selection File: CUMMING, George, Toowoomba, 2379, item ID 60702 (8 April 1868–31 March 1887).

37 Telegraph (Brisbane) 30 November 1880, 2.

38 Hitchcock, Tim and Shoemaker, Robert, London lives: Poverty, crime, and the making of a modern city, 1690–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

39 Shoemaker and Ward, ‘Understanding the criminal’, 1442; for examples of this research see Oxley, Deborah and Horrell, Sarah, ‘Gender bias in nineteenth-century England: Evidence from factory children’, Economic and Human Biology, 22 (2016): 4764; Kippen, Rebecca and McCalman, Janet, ‘A test of character: A case study of male convicts transported to Van Dieman's Land 1826–38’, in Baskerville, Peter and Inwood, Kris (eds), Lives in transition: Longitudinal analysis from historical sources (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2015), 1942; Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, Inwood, Kris and Cracknell, Matthew, ‘Height, crime and colonial history’, Law, Crime and History, 5 (1) (2015): 2542.

40 Reynolds, Henry, North of Capricorn: The untold story of Australia's north (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2003), 61; Moore, Clive, ‘Colonial manhood and masculinities’, Journal of Australian Studies, 56 (1998): 38.

41 Watson, David and Floridi, Luciano, ‘Crowdsourced science: Sociotechnical epistemology in the e-research paradigm’, Synthese, 26 October 2016, 1–24, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-016-1238-2. This article particularly evaluates the achievements of the range of projects involved with the Zooniverse crowd-sourcing platform (https://www.zooniverse.org).

42 Enid Cullen and Alana Piper, ‘Crime across time: Mapping longitudinal changes in criminal justice’, The Prosecution Project, Research Brief 20, https://prosecutionproject.griffith.edu.au/crime-across-time-mapping-longitudinal-changes-in-criminal-justice, 2 February 2016, accessed 10 October 2017.

43 PP, Trial ID #179689, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #175432, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #175389, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #175349, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #175276, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #175237, NSW Quarter Sessions, Patrick Kenniff, 1887; PP, Trial ID #293513, Queensland Supreme Court, James Kenniff, 1895; PP, Trial ID #293512, Queensland Supreme Court, Patrick Kenniff, 1895; PP, Trial ID #79011, Queensland Supreme Court, Patrick Kenniff, 1899; PP, Trial ID 78430, Queensland Supreme Court, Patrick Kenniff, 1899; PP, Trial ID #66211, Queensland Supreme Court, James Kenniff, 1902; PP, Trial ID #66210, Queensland Supreme Court, Patrick Kenniff, 1902.

The Prosecution Project: Using crime records to access family and other histories

  • Mark Finnane (a1) and Yorick Smaal (a2)

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