Searching for a police ancestor’s record can be a frustrating but ultimately rewarding experience. These records can reveal many aspects of an officer’s service in the force and family life including postings, pay, discipline hearings and commendations or rewards, a physical description and family details.
When looking for ancestors whom you believe may have served in the police it is important to be aware that:

  • There is no central repository for police archives. Surviving records are spread throughout England and Wales and are usually held by police forces or local record offices.
  • Although it is possible to trace historical records for most police forces, personnel type records have not always survived.  In some cases they were destroyed in the war, either by enemy action or by being pulped for recycled paper. Sadly, on other occasions it appears that records were disposed of as part of the bureaucratic process of reorganisation or amalgamation of police forces.
  • There was no standard practice across England and Wales as to what personal details were recorded by police forces. Therefore the information, particularly for early records, varies enormously from place to place.  Some forces used specially printed forms that were later bound into volumes; others used large leather-bound ledgers, while some merely recorded scant details of a new officer into the record of the force’s daily business. Generally, the information recorded improved tremendously after the mid-nineteenth century.
  • It is essential to know where your ancestor served. If you believe he was a police officer in the late nineteenth century, for example, but do not know where, it will be impossible to locate his record: there were over 200 police forces at that time. In this case, time and effort can be saved by appropriate research using a census or other useful records to provide a location where your ancestor lived.
  • Some records are subject to ‘closure’ rules. The length of closure varies from force to force and depends on the type of record and its content. If you believe one of your ancestors served in a force that is now part of the West Midlands Police area please click on the appropriate link below to see what records we hold or where to obtain further information.For further advice or information please contact the West Midlands Police Museum at Sparkhill or the local record office where indicated. The museum at Sparkhill has access to a number of other records which may be useful to genealogists. Further details regarding the type of records and their availability will appear here shortly.
  • The personnel records which can be accessed by the West Midlands Police Museum are subject to closure for 75 years. Currently, records are available for those officers who joined prior to 1930. Records are not available to third parties where a former officer is still in receipt of a pension.