The England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791 – 1892, have just become available at Ancestry. I did some searches, inputting a few family names (as you do) and was amazed to discover that a Charles Edward Robb was acquitted of ‘larceny and receiving’ at the Adjourned General Session at Clerkenwell on 18th February 1867.

Could this be my great grandfather, who would have been 16 at the time? There are a number of other Charles Robbs in the Middlesex census records at around this time, but no other Charles Edwards. Irritatingly, no other information – age, address, occupation – is given about accused individuals. For that, you need to track down the actual arrest warrants or trial records – something I’m having trouble doing at the moment.

Charles Edward Robb is bracketed together in the register with five other defendants, accused of similar offences, about all of whom it is written ‘Bills ignored’. I’m not sure what this means, or whether the bracketing means that they were co-defendants in the same case. Was the 16 year old Charles part of a gang of anti-social Victorian teenagers? And was his later dedication to Wesleyan Methodism the result of him rejecting the sins of his wayward youth?

Having ancestors mentioned in court records is certainly an advantage for the family historian – but the fact that my Robb forebears keep turning up as defendants in various trials and hearings is a little disconcerting.