Background reading

This guide was last updated in 2009

When you have exhausted all of the specific sources relating to your ancestor, reading more widely about the history of the police force is a good way to really get inside your ancestor’s skin.

It can offer new information about what they would have worn, how they might have behaved, what their day to day duties would have been and how much they were paid as members of the police force.

You might discover how they were viewed by society at large, whether they would have been involved in major pubic events, such as riots, processions or coronations, and what they would have seen and witnesses throughout their career with the police.

You might research how and why the police force was established in the first place, how it grew and changed, and how typical were your ancestor’s experiences by the standards of their day.

If you get really enthusiastic, why not join the police history society to meet others with similar interests? For a history of the Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, visit

A useful timeline of the establishment of various police forces is available here. The National Archives, meanwhile, offer a good online research guide to the Metropolitan Police.

For an introduction to researching police ancestors in Scotland, try the Scottish Archive Network's police page.

Away from the internet, it may also worth having a look at Antony Shearman's detailed research booklet My Ancestor was a Policeman.

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