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Police Officer Records (Including Ireland) (Occupations)

Nature of Source

Records of those that served as police officers. The modern police force was established in 1829 following the introduction of the Metropolitan Police Act by the home secretary Robert Peel. Before the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force, London was served by the so called Bow Street Runners created in 1749 by Henry Fielding. The force comprised of professional police constables and consisted of the Bow Street Horse Patrol and the Bow Street Foot Patrol. Following the success of the Runners, the government passed the Middlesex Justices Act of 1792 which created seven police offices across London except for the City of London which was responsible for its own policing affairs.

The success of the new policing measures in London led to the County Police Act of 1839 (also known as The Rural Police Act) which allowed for the voluntary formation of county police forces. However, only 25 counties set up police forces and it was not until 1856 with the passing of the County and Borough Police Act that the formation of police forces became compulsory.

In Ireland, Robert Peel, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, created the Peace Preservation Force in 1814 followed by a system of county constabularies established under the Constabulary Act of 1822. A single national police force, the Constabulary of Ireland, was established in 1836. If an ancestor served in the Royal Irish Constabulary, their service records can be found at The National Archives and other papers and records at the British Library. The records cover the years between 1816 and 1922 and offer a wealth of genealogical information including age, birthplace, appearance, religion, marriage date, wife's county of birth, previous occupation and career. About 84,000 men served in the Irish Constabulary and Royal Irish Constabulary, so these sources should not be overlooked. In Scotland, police forces were established at an earlier date with Glasgow leading the way in 1800 following the passing of the Glasgow Police Act. Other Scottish cities and burghs followed the Glasgow lead with forces established under individual Acts of Parliament.

The records of main interest to the family researcher include the attestation ledgers, leavings registers, personnel and discipline books, order books, station diaries and pension records. Use trade and commercial directories to locate a police division which should also name the local constables and officers.

Also see
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Occupational and Labour Records (Includes links and guidance on calculating historical wage rates and the cost of living)

Where Found

The National Archives (MEPO, Records of the Metropolitan Police Office, the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Transport Police; MEPO 4, Metropolitan Police: Miscellaneous Books and Papers including Service Records; MEPO 21, Records of Police Pensioners; MEPO 21/1-19, Records of Police Pensioners 1852-1890)

Records within MEPO 4 are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project.

The name index to MEPO 21 is available at TNA Discovery catalogue. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type ‘MEPO 21’.

Paper indexes available in the open reading room at TNA include the Registers of Leavers in series MEPO 4/339-351, a name index of Met officers, an alphabetical register of policemen, 1829-1836 in series HO 65/26 and an alphabetical register of joiners in series MEPO 4/333-338.

Police archives and museums (Police records non-metropolitan forces)
County Record Offices (Police records non-metropolitan forces)
London Metropolitan Archives (City of London Police registers since 1832)
Police Service of Northern Ireland Museum (The Police Museum holds microfilm copies of the Royal Irish Constabulary service records 1822-1922, the originals of which are held at the Public Record Office at Kew in London)
Metropolitan Police Service Heritage Centre (Metropolitan Police Service Heritage Centre. The Centre holds historical documents for those with an interest in the history, heritage and ancestry of the Metropolitan Police Service. The resources include: Central Records of Service from 1911; 54.000 name database from 1829 which is updated regularly; Pension cards for pensioners who have died; Police Orders from 1857; joiners' and leavers' records, copies from The National Archives)
International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice (The centre is based in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University. It holds a substantial collection of international police-related journals, newsletters and articles, but mainly it contains documentation on the British police, for instance the Metropolitan Police Force, Commissioners Reports, Policing on Scottish Burghs, etc. It also keeps copies of Metropolitan Police Orders dating from 1865 to the 1950s and Justice of the Peace dating from 1863 to 1965)

Period Covered

1829 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name, rank, warrant number, division and dates of joining and leaving

Further References

Beattie, J.M. The First English Detectives: The Bow Street Runners and the Policing of London, 1750-1840: Oxford University Press, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Bridgeman, Ian & Emsley, Clive. A Guide to the Archives of the Police Forces of England and Wales: Police History Society, 1991 (The contents of the work can be found here)


Cowley, Richard. History of the British Police : From the Ninth Century to the Present Day: The History Press, 2011


Critchley, Thomas Alan. History of Police in England and Wales: Constable, 1978


Dell, Simon. The Victorian Policeman: Shire Books, 2004


Emsley, Clive. Crime and Society in England: 1750-1900: Routledge, 2010  Buy Now on Amazon
Emsley, Clive. The Great British Bobby: A History of British Policing from 1829 to the Present: Quercus, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Emsley, Clive. The English Police: A Political and Social History: Routledge, 1996 Buy Now on Amazon
Forrester, Hugh & Orr, David R. An Illustrated History of the Police Service in Northern Ireland and its Forerunners: From Peel to PSNI: Amberley Publishing, 2017 Buy Now on Amazon
Herlihy, Jim. Royal Irish Constabulary Officers: A Biographical and Genealogical Guide, 1816-1922: Four Courts Press, 2016 Buy Now on Amazon

Moss, Alan & Skinner, Keith. The Victorian Detective: Shire Books, 2013


Payne, Chris, Chieftain : Victorian True Crime Through the Eyes of a Scotland Yard Detective: The History Press, 2011


Tobias, John Jacob. Crime and Police in England, 1700-1900: Gill and Macmillan, 1979


Shearman, Anthony. My Ancestor Was a Policeman: How Can I Find Out More About Him?: Federation of Family History Societies, 2000


Stacpoole-Ryding. Richard. The British Transport Police An Illustrated History: Amberley Publishing, 2015 Buy Now on Amazon

Stallion, Martin & Wall, David. The British Police: Forces and Chief Officers 1829-2012: Police History Society, 2012


The Police & Constabulary List, 1844: Police History Society, 1990 (1844)


Wade, Stephen. Tracing Your Police Ancestors: Pen & Sword Books, 2009


Wade, Stephen. Square Mile Bobbies: A History of the City of London Police: History Press, 2009


TNA Research Guides:
London Metropolitan Police
Royal Irish Constabulary
Transport police

Websites (Dickens's Dictionary of London 1888: London Police Divisions) (Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection. The group help preserve and promote the history and heritage of the Metropolitan Police Service. The site includes the sound archive of the Coppers' Story, an oral testimony of officers who served with the Metropolitan Police service from the 1930s to the present day. Other resources include Met Police Timeline; Guide to Researching Your Met Police Family History. See above for details of the Metropolitan Police Service Heritage Centre) (History by the Yard. The site provides historical information about Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan Police and career details of ancestors who served as police officers in London. The site maintains a record of Metropolitan Police officers who have received gallantry awards) (Metropolitan Police from 1829 to 2012. Timeline created by daisychain in History) (The Open University: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences: International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice: The centre aims to promote and facilitate research into criminal justice history around the world and to generate the exchange of ideas between academics, criminal justice practitioners and serving and retired policemen) (London Lives: Policing) (History of Policing: The Bow Street Runners, 1748-1829) (Old Police Cells Museum: Police History) (Old Bailey Online: Policing in London) (Metropolitan Women Police Association. The site includes a 'History of Met Women Police Officers'. The Association holds records of names and lengths of service of about 200 former officers going back to about 1958.) (Wiltshire Online Parish Clerks: Resources include: Wiltshire Constabulary "The Oldest And The Best" The History of Wiltshire Constabulary 1839-2003, by Paul Sample; Officers and Staff of Wiltshire Constabulary Casualties of WWI & WWII; Chief Constables & Police & Crime Commissioners of Wiltshire 1839-Present; Wiltshire Constabulary/Police Roll of Honour 1875-2010) (Museum of the City of London Police. The site includes sections ' A brief history of the City of London Police' and 'British Police history') (Victorian Police Stations. The Development of the Police Station in Manchester 1838-1901) (Policeorders: Guide to researching Met Police ancestors including lists of Police Divisions, Badges of Rank and a Glossary)
(History of policing in London) (Learn History guide to the history of the police) (Victorian Web: The Maintenance of Law and Order before 1829) (The Police History Society. The object of the Society is to advance the public education in police history. The Society aims to act as a focal point and network for all who are Interested in the subject, to encourage the preservation of relevant police archives and artifacts and promote their accessibility to the general public and to forge and maintain strategic links with relevant academic institutions) (Links to Police Force web sites) (A Guide to the Archives of the Police Forces of England and Wales by Ian Bridgeman and Clive Emsley) (British Genealogy: Policemen Records) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of an officer in the police force) (TNA Your Archives Guide: Metropolitan Police Records of Service) (The Museum of Policing in Cheshire. Site includes a catalogue of their holdings) (Kent Police Museum. The collection includes uniforms, past and present policing equipment, crime related items, documents, a range of books and official records, as well as a large number of photographs) (Essex Police Museum. Site includes online access to Officer Records of Service, 1840 - 1930 & details of name searches of their holdings) (History of the Gloucestershire Constabulary - online museum) (Thames River Police Museum) (Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archives) (West Midlands Police Museum: Site includes a guide to tracing police officer records & a guide to their own records) (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations, United Kingdom Police) (The Scottish Archive Network Knowledge Base: Guides to researching Scottish police records) (The Police in Scotland) (The Glasgow Police Museum) (Police Service of Northern Ireland: A History of Policing in Ireland) (History of An Garda Síochána, the national police service of Ireland)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including the National Register of Archives [NRA])
(UK, Police Gazettes, 1812-1902, 1921-1927. This collection contains printed publications used for communication between members of the police force in the United Kingdom between 1812 and 1927, with gaps in coverage. It contains information on wanted criminals, crimes committed, criminals who had been apprehended, and missing persons)
(West Yorkshire, Police Records, 1833-1914. This collection includes a wide variety of registers that recorded appointments of regular and special constables, promotions, disciplinary actions, transfers, lists of applicants, injuries sustained in the line of duty, and physical descriptions) (Police Gazette: Various issues for the year 1926) (Police Roll of Honour, Officers who died in the line of duty) (National Police Officers Roll of Honour and Remembrance covering British and Irish police forces) (The National Police Officers Roll of Honour. The site honours police officers who have been killed, or died as a result of injuries received, in consequence of the execution of their duty. Also included is the Police Gallantry Roll of Honour) (Police Roll of Honour Trust. The site pays tribute to some 5,000 British police officers who have been killed or died, on duty) (Last Chance To Read: Online access to a wide range of searchable and digitised 18th and 19th century newspapers, periodicals, and magazines including the UK Police Gazette from 1840 onwards and a selection of copies of the Dublin ‘Police Gazette or Hue and Cry’ from the years 1863 to 1893) (Gloucestershire Family History Society: Police Officers 1839 - 1919 [only available on site]) (Sheffield Archives and Local Studies: Records of Local Police Forces. The records include information on police officers such as appointments, promotions, discipline and resignations)
(Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre: Personnel Records of the Wiltshire Constabulary, 1893-1926. The register shows the date of entry into the force, a description of person, any details of misconduct and numerous other details)
(Lancashire Archives: Red Rose Collections: Police Index. Index of the majority of police officers who served in Lancashire from 1840 onwards. The records include the borough forces of Burnley, Blackpool and Preston but not Manchester and Liverpool) (Lancashire Archives: Police records search: The database provides a list of names of police officers, particularly those who served with the Lancashire County Constabulary from the force's inception in 1840 up to 1925) (Staffordshire Name Indexes, brought to you by Staffordshire & Stoke On Trent Archive Service: Staffordshire Police Force Registers Index, 1842-1920. A successful surname search in the index will provide you with the surname, forename(s) and year of appointment to the force. This information can be used to order a transcript of the full entry in the force register) (Staffordshire Name Indexes, brought to you by Staffordshire & Stoke On Trent Archive Service: Staffordshire Police Disciplinary Index, 1857-1886. The Defaulters Register, 1857-1886, contains information about disciplinary offences committed by members of Staffordshire Constabulary. It does not cover any of the separate borough police forces also active during this period) (Names of police officers, 1840-1925) (Essex Police Museum: Essex County Constabulary database containing indexes of officer records of service. The full record is available to purchase) (City of Exeter Police Charge Book, Sep 1847-21 Feb 1849; transcribed by Brian Brassett) (Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Journal of a London policeman: A summary of the arrests and fines made by a London Policeman in 26 years 'in the Met') (Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Service Records 1816-1922. The dataset contains over 486,000 records extracted from series HO 184 held at The National Archives. The records include general registers, disbandment registers, nominal returns and more. Clerical staff are also to be found in the records)
(Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions 1826-1925. Explore more than 125,000 pension records from the RIC, which include the names of widows and children of deceased RIC members) (Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary History & Directories. Lists and directories for 1889, 1915, 1918 and 1920 which include a full list of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Other lists recorded promotions, deployments and commendations of members) (Ireland, Irish Revenue Police 1830-1857. Explore the records of this short-lived force and discover your ancestor’s appointment date and where he was stationed)
(Ireland, Outrage reports 1836-1840. The dataset consists of over 18,000 police reports filed by the Royal Irish Constabulary. The reports include descriptions of theft, assault, suicide, rescue of cattle, infanticide, arson, highway robbery)
(Church of Ireland Representative Church Body Library: Parish watch records covering St John in Dublin, 1724 to 1785. The records reveal crimes committed, the justice administered, the names of watchmen and constables and where they were stationed)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Royal Irish Constabulary List and Directory for the half-year commencing 1st July 1889; Royal Irish Constabulary List and Directory for the half-year commencing 1st January 1910; Royal Irish Constabulary List & Directory for 1915)
(Wiltshire Family History Society: Wiltshire Policemen Appointed 1839-1870. Career & personal details of first thousand men appointed. Set of 4 fiche)