National Archives, Kew
Police patrol from the National Archives
National Archives, Kew
Research your family history
One of the aims of the Heritage Centre is to assist many family historians research details of members who have been in the Metropolitan Police Force. At the Heritage Centre, there is access to over 60,000 police officers dating back to 1829. With pension cards, joiners and leavers forms, the volunteers and professional heritage team are often able to piece together relevant information to help you. The background information held at the Centre continues to grow, so please contact them if there is anything that you feel they can help with.
The Heritage Centre
More information on the Heritage Centre including opening times and contact details, can be found within this website. All e-mails can be sent to HeritageCentre@met.police.uk and will be acknowledged or answered within 10 working days. Queries we receive will be dealt with in the order they arrive with the exception of those that are urgent or relating to operational issues.
Obviously we have a limitation of staff, and the records numerous, so please be aware that some information may take a little time for us to locate and collate.
The research material available at the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre consists of:
- Central Records of Service from 1911.
- 60.000 name database from 1829 of which is updated regularly.
- Pension cards for pensioners who have died.
- Police Orders from 1857.
- Joiners' and leavers' records (these are copies from the National Archive).
- Divisional Ledgers (consisting of collar numbers, previous occupation and armed forces service) for certain periods of time for A,B,E,F,G,H,K,L,M,N,R and Y Divisions.
- Subject and people files.
- Photographs - this is an ongoing project and we continue to scan these to Hi-Res from a vast collection.
The FOMPHC databases include:
- Officer database: 500,000 records including the Women Police records which runs from No.1 in 1919.
- Women’s Auxiliary Police Corp with over 600 recently discovered cards.
- Census database with more than 130,000 records of families recorded in various censuses in the London area that have a police connection.
- Divisional Ledgers database.
- Baptism records from the police children database for Westminster.
- Wartime (WWII) casualty list with over 84,000 civilian and police who were injured or killed.
- Gallantry records and medals awarded to Metropolitan Officers
- Oral History interviews including donated recordings of an officer who joined in 1898 and 5 officers joining during the Police Strike in 1919 (HLF funded project)
- Metropolitan Police Special Constables with nearly 30,000 cards, this was recently.
- Police buildings past and present.
Genealogy or historical facts are available but occasionally, there may be a cost involved in researching the information required which a member of the team will discuss with you prior to any research being undertaken. An initial search will be carried out and advice is given on what else may be available and the costs involved. Please note, that due to data protection restraints, some information will only be supplied to the next of kin and therefore proof of that may be required.
Additional resources are available to help you with your research, and these include the National Archives the British Newspaper Archive, the Federation of Family History Societies and Ancestry. Some of these external sources may require a subscription.
Searching for your ancestors at the National Archives
Unlike most police forces, Metropolitan Police records are held at the National Archives, Kew, where as a member of the public, you can gain access to them. In searching for an officer’s details, researchers should be aware that not all records have survived. The National Archives also produce Research Guides on Metropolitan Police records that are available on-line and some records are available to be viewed on-line. Click here for more information.
The first important step is to try to identify the officer’s warrant number. These started from no 1 in 1829 and, apart from the first six months, were allocated consecutively according to when officers joined. A warrant number can therefore help to identify the year in which an officer joined. If an officer leaves and then later re-joins, a second warrant number is allocated to them. Officers who have been given one of the first 3,247 warrant numbers, joined between September 1829 and February 1830. These records can be searched through an online database at www.historybytheyard.co.uk/first_recruits.htm.
The Numerical Registers are held under the reference MEPO 4 / 31-32.2 Two of these volumes exist and the entries are arranged by warrant number order. They were completed as men signed up and they record the warrant number, the name, the date of appointment, the division to which they were attached, and their height. The record also notes how each officer was removed from the force. This was usually because they had died, resigned or were dismissed. Incidentally, it is noticeable from this register that nearly all of them were dismissed for being drunk. The very first warrant number, number one, was issued to William Atkinson, who was dismissed for being drunk on the 29 September 1829, the very first day of the new police force, having only been in the job for four hours.
Home Office Register
In addition, details of the first approximately 12,300 recruits, those from September 1829 until December 1836 are shown in a Home Office Register of the Metropolitan Police Force (HO 65/26) which partly duplicates MEPO 4/31-2 above. This register has an alphabetical index of officers’ surnames.
Registers of Joiners (MEPO 4/333-338)
This provides the dates of appointment and other details of officers who joined from 1830 until April 1933 (until warrant number 123091). The index is divided by initial letter of surname, but some letters are not available from 1830. Surnames beginning with B are available from 1830, for instance, but those starting with K are only shown from 1837. There are also gaps in the records because the original registers numbers 1, 4 and 5 have been lost. The gaps are pre-1830 (up until warrant number 4988); and from April 1857 until July 1878 (warrant numbers 35805 - 62844).
When officers joined the Metropolitan Police they were attested as Constables and they signed an Attestation Ledger (MEPO 4/352-360). These ledgers run from February 1869 until May 1958 (warrant numbers 51491 - 146379). The registers run in warrant number sequence according to date of joining and are not otherwise indexed. Searching without a date of joining or a warrant number would therefore be arduous. The register from May 1958 to January 1984 is at the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre.
An alphabetical index known as the ‘Shorrocks Index’ is of Joiners between 1880 and 1889, compiled from MEPO 7/42-51 and is available from the Research Enquiries Room at the National Archives. This index was compiled in October 1985 by John Shorrocks, a sergeant in the Metropolitan Police.
Certificate of Service Records (MEPO 4/361-477)
These exist for officers who joined from January 1889 until November 1909 (warrant numbers 74201 - 97500). They give details of previous occupation, physical characteristics etc. Officers who joined in 1873 should be included in the Record of Service Ledger (MEPO 4/509) for 1873 (warrant numbers 56601 - 56800).
Register of Leavers
A brief record of officers who left the Force is in the Metropolitan Police Register of Leavers volumes 4-16 (MEPO 4/339-351) which run from March 1889 - January 1947.
Records of Police Pensioners (MEPO 21)
These records run from 1853 - 1966. Police pensions date back to 1829 when the Metropolitan Police Act introduced certain benefits on disablement for London officers 'worn out by length of service'. A full pension scheme for all police officers became available in 1890. The first unified Police Pensions Act came into force in 1921 and detailed Police Pensions Regulations along current lines followed in 1948 under the Police Pensions Act of that year. There have been many changes since then, but entitlement to a police pension has always been regarded as a key element of the remuneration of police officers to enable them to undertake their role with confidence. Police pensions were paid after 25, then 30, and now after 35 years of service, or following illness or injury that ended an officer’s police career. The Catalogue of the National Archives can be searched online www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue and names of officers granted pensions for a limited period from 1852 until 1890 (MEPO 21/1-19) are included in this facility.
Return of Deaths whilst serving (MEPO 4/2)
These records run from 1829 - 1889.
Police Orders from 1829 - 1931 (MEPO 7)
These run chronologically by date and may contain details of officers joining or leaving the Force, promotions, disciplinary punishments and so on, depending upon the period. Police Orders were handwritten before 1857 and rarely contain personal details. Some retirements, promotions and deaths start to appear from about 1854/5. Details of those joining the Force start to appear from about May 1883.
Other sources of interest
Metropolitan and City of London Police Orphans Fund
www.met-cityorphans.org.uk at 30, Hazelwell Road, Putney, London, SW15 6LH. The staff will only be able to help in what little spare time they have, but donations are always welcome.
Metropolitan Police Book of Remembrance
In 1920 a Roll of Honour was created to memorialise Metropolitan Police Officers who died in the course of their duties. In order to remember and honour officers who so died before 1920, or who had not been recorded in the Roll of Honour, the Book of Remembrance was researched by Sergeant Anthony Rae, a former Lancashire Police Officer, on behalf of the Police Roll of Honour Trust (Registered Charity No. 1081637) www.policememorial.org.uk as part of their larger project to create a National Police Officers Roll of Honour for the UK.
Old Bailey Cases
www.oldbaileyonline.org. The Old Bailey Proceedings, is a digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts between 1676 and 1772. It allows free access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn.