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Police Watchhouse records, Queensland
People Arrested and Victims of Crime

Watchhouse records at Queensland State Archives are useful for genealogy, especially if you are researching the 'black sheep' of the family or someone who committed a very minor offence or was a victim of crime.

Police Station watchhouse charge books and Court of Petty Sessions police charge bench books often provide clues to sources for further research (Court, prison and mental asylum records, criminal depositions, murder files, Police Gazettes and other police records, etc.) as this example shows.

Although the registers vary in format, most give date, town, prisoner's name, aliases, age, occupation, religion, state or country of origin, education level, offence, and how disposed of (fine or term of imprisonment, or whether sent to a reformatory, asylum etc. or discharged, cautioned, or committed for trial at which court and when). Some show previous convictions and prisoner's signature and property, and on rare occasions a physical description. Some victims of crime are named. There are occasional references to illegitimate children (I have seen one listing names, addresses and occupations of the child's mother, maternal grandparents and putative father).

Offences include theft, drunk and disorderly, breaking and entering, child (or wife) desertion, having no visible lawful means of support, attempted suicide, being of unsound mind, inciting to riot, beating a horse, assault, murder, supplying opium to an Aboriginal, and being a neglected child. Children appear in the records as both offenders and victims.

The date range for surviving registers varies from district to district. I have indexed early watchhouse charge books and police charge bench books for some of the towns listed below. Twentieth century records also exist for some of these areas plus many others. There is usually a 30 year restriction on access.

If you know approximately when and where an offence occurred, searches are feasible even without an index. If you don't know the year and place, try using registers of criminal depositions (which are indexed, at least by first letter of surname), and Police Gazettes and prison records (some of which are indexed). For more details see the latest edition of the book Tips for Qld Research.

Pre-1900 watchhouse records are known to exist for these towns (there may be others).

  • Aramac
  • Barcaldine (NEW)
  • Birdsville
  • Charleville, 1889-1893 (+ 1901-1904)   (see names from the index)
  • Charters Towers, 1895-1896 and 1899   (see names from the index)
  • Cloncurry, 1874-1876 and 1887-1891   (see names from the index)
  • Coolgarra
  • Crow's Nest (more available now)
  • Croydon (index in progress)
  • Dalby
  • Goondiwindi
  • Gympie  (see 1884-1886 names from the index, plus advice re an 1890-1931 index)
  • Halifax
  • Irvinebank
  • Isisford
  • Kamerunga
  • Kilkivan
  • Kuranda
  • Leyburn
  • Marburg
  • Mareeba
  • Mount Morgan
  • Nebo
  • Oakey
  • Ravenswood (index in progress)
  • Springsure
  • Taroom
  • Thursday Island (NEW)
  • Townsville

Some 1901-1904 records for Adavale, Augathella, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Eromanga, Eulo, Hungerford, Morven, Nocundra, Wooroorooka, Wyandra, Thargomindah and Upper Warrego are in a consolidated index for south-west Qld (which includes pre-1900 records for Charleville). See names from the index.

My indexes include policemen only if they were victims, which they often were. To research police officers, use police staff files and other sources described in Tips for Queensland Research (including Police Gazettes).

Queensland sources list many people who had a criminal record in another State. For Victoria, the Gibson Index lists 55,000 names (offenders and victims) from 140 watchhouse charge books for the 1850s to 1899. See also Helen Harris's index to criminals (opens a new window).

Other Suggestions

Police Gazettes.

Court and prison records, criminal depositions, murder files, other police records, etc. Search this site or see my book Tips for Queensland Research.

New crime and punishment records on FindMyPast.

My other genealogy sites have more advice, and more names from records in archives.

Search this site  (do NOT use apostrophes; read search results page carefully)

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Updated 2 Jun 2016 © Copyright Judy Webster.   My 'Privacy policy' and 'Disclaimer'.

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