Police and Prison Records
In previous discussions about locating LGBTQ individuals in newspapers, we explored the possibility that an ancestor might have been arrested in a police raid on a gay club or charged with offenses related to their sexual orientation. Some men were arrested for having sex in public restrooms, known as “tea rooming” or “cottaging”. To delve deeper into their stories, the next step would be searching for corresponding police records or jail/prison records.
While police records are generally not easily accessible to the public, there are a few online databases that may contain information about arresting charges:
- Online Archive of California – Finding Aid to the San Francisco Police Department Records, 1870-1983: This finding aid is a valuable resource for locating San Francisco Police records.
- Lloyd Sealy Library Collection houses Criminal Trial Transcripts of New York County Collections (1883-1927). It includes transcripts of 25 sodomy cases from 1900-1917.
- Ancestry offers various prison and jail databases for many states and municipalities. For instance, the New Mexico, Prison and Correctional Records, 1905-1958 database can be searched by keyword, such as “sodomy,” revealing 35 hits along with excellent photographs of the inmates.
When researching your ancestors, be sure to explore police, prison, or jail databases wherever you may find them, which may provide additional insights into their stories.