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genealogy of the Bird and Musgrove families
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Criminal ancestors (1780 – 1830)

Appeals for clemency - if you have an ancestor who was convicted of petty larceny (minor theft) and sentenced to either death or deportation then the trail may not end there !

In a large number of these cases an appeal would have been lodged and may have succeeded with hanging being changed to deportation, and deportation reduced to a sentence in this country, or even a pardon.

A series of documents are held at the National Archives which can help with the search :

HO 17 contains a list of all Petitions for Clemency (Appeals) made by convicted persons to the Judge from 1819 – 1839 seeking the revocation or reduction of their sentences. Attached to some petitions are related papers and some returns, made by the governors of convict prisons, of convicts recommended for early release for good behaviour.

HO 18 is Part 2 of HO 17 and contains petitions for Clemency 1839 – 1854.

HO19 is an Index to HO 17 and HO 18. Entries are arranged alphabetically and give the reference of the original petition. The registers also note the place of imprisonment and the results of the petition, F.P in this context standing for Free Pardon.

The vast majority of the documents in HO17 and 18 are not yet catalogued or searchable online, so you need to start by looking in the index HO19.

As there were thousands of these petitions over the years then don’t be put off if you can’t find anything immediately. Petitions were sometimes lodged several years after the initial hearing.

HO 13 contains a list of Pardons granted that were then sent to the local Sherriff of the County in which the original crime had been committed.

HO 47 contains judges reports from 1784 – 1830. After every case the Judge had to write a report on what had happened and the verdict. HO 47 contains original letters and reports with petitions for commutation of sentence, free pardon etc.


Linked toWilliam Haskins

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