28 May 2008

UK: Old Bailey Records expanded

In March 2007, I wrote about the Old Bailey Records here.

I've learned that the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674-1834 have been scanned, retyped, rechecked and placed online. Even better, they are fully searchable and free.

The Old Bailey Records have now been expanded and cover some 197,000 criminal trials from 1674-1913, from just prior to the Great Fire to just before the Great War. The original records are also available.

Th expansion of 19th-early 20th century trials also shows new crimes, reflecting changes in society at that time, including mothers convicted for neglecting their children. Throughout the database, there is evidence of the large Sephardic community in London.

In the March 2007 post, researcher Dick Plotz wrote:

This database is highly relevant to British Jewish genealogy, as its entries start shortly after the readmission of Jews to England by Cromwell and will run through the Victorian period. His search for Cohen yielded 200 hits and, for Levy, 377. I know of at least one Israeli researcher who discovered the name of relative through the database -- a great-great-great-grand-uncle cited in an 1833 record.

I searched for Cohen, it was mentioned 677 times, and 425 for Levi. However, many were from the same cases, so it is not an accurate case count. Additionally, using the search term Jewish, brings up 191 references, ranging from advertisements in the publication, to trials and other related documents.

While some cases are rather short, there are some rather long and complicated cases: Polly Davis (deception/perjury), 26 May 1908; Nathan Klein (bigamy), 8 January 1906; and Louis Gold and Harry Cohen (kidnapping, keeping a brothel, theft, robbery, kidnapping, keeping a brothel, robbery), 22 April 1907. Gold and Cohen were charged with seducing and transporting young women to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they were sold; both men received sentences of hard labor.

Other cases in the expanded dates were for forgery, breaking and entering, violence, coining offences, bigamy, bankruptcy, murder, larceny, perverting justice, libel, burglary, fraud, extortion, forgery, manslaughter and pickpocketing,

Witnesses sometimes included Jewish community officials. In the case of Philip Morgan, James Roach and Rosa Hartley (larceny, theft, receiving) on 10 June 1850, a synagogue secretary produced a marriage register to prove identity:

ISRAEL LEVI LINDENTHALL. I am secretary to the synagogue in Great St. Helen's, Bishopsgate-street. I produce the register of marriages there; it is the regular place for Jewish marriages—(this contained the register of a marriage on 6th Aug., 1846, between Isaac Adler and Rosa Levy.)

Another interesting case smacking of anti-Jewish sentiments was detailed on 12 May 1730, Abraham Israel (alias Jonas), 22 and born in Presburg, was due for execution for burglary:

Abraham Israel, alias Jonas, of St. Peter's Poor, was indicted for feloniously stealing eight Silver Spoons, five Silver Forks, two Silver Canisters, one Diamond Ring, value 250 l. a pair of Diamond Ear-rings, value 90 l. three Diamond Buckles, and other Goods, in the Dwelling-house of John Mendez de Costa.

The record (text and original image) shows that the prisoner was strongly pressured to convert to Christianity before execution and he resisted. The official in charge of these attempts called him in one place, "an obstinate and irreclaimable Jew," while another paragraph ends with "and died an obstinate Jewish Infidel."

It is a remarkable database offering glimpses of society and real life.

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