Ancestry: The tea-leafs on your family tree


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Indy Lifestyle Online

Granny Muston has a game she plays. We call it the "spot the criminal son game". It's a simple pastime requiring only the court file of the local paper, a sharp pair of eyes and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the family trees of just about everyone she's ever come across in the hairdressers.

If only she'd mastered the internet, because she would doubtless enjoy the new feature on family history site Ancestry, which allows users to search a database of 67,000 18th- and 19th-century convicts.

The Dorset Prison Admission and Discharge Register 1782-1901 and the Dorset Calendar of Prisoners 1854-1904 are pretty colourful chronicles of wrongdoing, running from grave – Jack Seale, a labourer, sentenced to hang for murder – to the peculiar – Charles Wood sentenced to a month in the clink in 1872 for "refusing to quit the beer-house".

There is also a certain Samuel Muston who in 1839 was convicted of stealing "fowl" and sentenced to "transportation for 7 years". Gran's verdict? "Must have been some other Mustons."