Police and Prison Records

As discussed in previous blogs on finding LGBTQ folk in newspapers, it is possible an ancestor was arrested in a police raid of gay club. They may also have been arrested for “tea rooming” or “cottaging”. They may have been arrested for a number of gay “offenses”.  The next step would be to find the corresponding police record or jail/prison record.

Police records are not readily available to the public. When I’ve called city police departments around the country, they’ve told me they do not keep archival records. Yet, there are few police record databases online that may list the arresting charge(s).

Online Archive of California – Finding Aid to the San Francisco Police Department Records, 1870-1983 this finding aid will help locate San Francisco Police records.

The Lloyd Sealy Library houses the Collection: Criminal Trial Transcripts of New York County Collections (1883-1927). This database contains transcripts of 25 sodomy cases from 1900-1917.

Ancestry.com has 30 prison databases and 3 jail databases for many states and municipalities. Some of these databases are searchable by Keyword. Searching the New Mexico, Prison and Correctional Records, 1905-1958 database by keyword = “sodomy” yields 35 hits. See image.  There are also excellent photographs of the inmates.

Remember to look at Police, Prison or Jail databases that may provide more information on your ancestors story.

New Mexico Commission of Public Records, State Records Center and Archives; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Penitentiary of New Mexico Inmate Records; Series Number: 2.1; Record Group: Intake Records; Box Number: Serial # 7203; Collection Name: New Mexico Department of Corrections Records; Collection Number: 1970-006