A source with an intriguing name is the “Geheim Register van Ontslagen Gevangen” or the Secret Register of Released Prisoners. This register was kept from 1882 to 1896 and included the photos, personal details, and overview of crimes of the prisoners who would be released in the upcoming month even though they were still considered dangerous. This included people who served multiple sentences, or who served a long sentence for a serious crime.
The register was sent in the form of a monthly journal to the procurators-generals of the courts and the district attorneys. In later years, it was also sent to the military police and police commissioners in larger municipalities. They were asked to keep the contents confidential to not hinder the released prisoners in their attempts to find a decent place in society again.
I love these registers, since they provide photos of people who were often did not have their photos taken themselves. Photography didn’t really take off for the lower classes until the 1920s, and here we have photos from the 1880s and 1890s. In total about 1700 prisoners appear in these registers.
Example: Johanna Maria van Eekeren
Johanna Maria van Eekeren wwas convicted of murdering a child on 17 June 1886 by the court in Arnhem to six years of hard labor. She was to be released on 19 March 1892 from the prison in Gorinchem and would go to Huissen, Gelderland. Her behavior in the prison was good, and she did laundry while in prison. The register gives her description: she was 1.60m tall (5’3″), with brown hair and eyebrows, ordinary forehead, nose, and mouth, blue eyes, a round face and chin, and healthy complexion. A photo shows what she looked like.
How to consult these registers
The registers and photos have been digitized and indexed by the Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum and can be consulted on their website.
To search, enter a name and press “zoek” [search] or click on “ga naar uitgebreid zoeken” [go to advanced search] for more options:
- Alle velden [all fields]
- Achternaam [last name]
- Voornaam [first name]
- Geboorteplaats [place of birth]
- Periode [period] t/m [to]
To find Johanna Maria van Eekeren, we search for “Eekeren” and press “Zoek.” We see one result. We can click the photo to see the details, or we can click “register inzien” [view register] to see the description in the register. The entry also gives us the record group numer (204) and call number 546a.
Want to read more about catching your criminal ancestors? Here are some other articles.