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Tracing your Ancestor- Information
POLICE OFFICERS’ RECORDS
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
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
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
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
OFFICERS WHO SERVED IN THE WEST MIDLANDS AREA
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.
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.
For further advice or information please contact
the West Midlands Police Museum at Sparkhill or the local record
office where indicated.
HELD BY THE MUSEUM
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.