Research Your Met Police Family History
Produced by the Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection.
The Metropolitan Police Force was established, by Act of Parliament, in 1829 by the then Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel. Two Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis were appointed. An establishment of 895 constables, 88 sergeants, 20 inspectors and 8 superintendents were recruited. This force grew within one year to 3,000 men, organised into seven divisions, policing the metropolitan area. This excluded the City of London, where a separate city police force was established in 1832. The civilian nature of the force was emphasised in the uniforms; black stovepipe hats and blue swallowtail coats. Recruits had to be under thirty-five, at least five feet seven inches tall, physically fit, literate, and of good character. Many recruits were former soldiers or sailors, and came from outside London. There were concerns about the health and honesty of Londoners. Nevertheless, there was a high turnover of men, with many dismissals and resignations. Dishonesty, indiscipline and drunkenness were not tolerated. The Metropolitan Police were directly answerable to the Home Secretary until the year 2000, when the Metropolitan Police Authority was created (MPA).The Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the policing of the Royal Dockyards and other military establishments - Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934, and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926. The records of the Metropolitan Police are held in The National Archives.
Family History Databases
Created by volunteers from the Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection (FoMPHC), you might find our Family History Leaflet useful.
The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre: The Annexe, Empress State Building, Empress Approach, Lillie Road, SW6 1TR.
Opening: Wednesday to Friday 10.00 to 16.00.
Nearest Underground Station: West Brompton (turn left outside Underground station)
If you would like the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre to find your relative’s service record, which is free of charge, please send as much information as you have available, including full name, date and place of birth and if possible, the date joined or years served, by email to email@example.com. Alternatively, you can download and complete this Search Sheet, as much as possible, and send it to the Heritage Centre.
Please note that, due to shortage of staff, results may take some time.
The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre research material consists of:-
- Central Records of Service from 1911.
- 54.000 name database from 1829 of which is updated regularly.
- pension cards for pensioners who have died.
- Police Orders from 1857.
- joiners' and leavers' records. (copies from 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 - in the process of being scanned to Hi-Res from a vast collection.
The Friends databases include:-
- officer database: 500,000 records including the Women Police records which runs from No.1 in 1919.
- Women’s Auxiliary Police Corp - over 600 recently discovered cards.
- census database: more than 130,000 records of families recorded in various censuses in the London area that have a police connection.
- Divisional Ledgers database.
- baptism of police children database for Westminster.
- wartime (WWII) casualty List - over 84,000 civilian and police injured or killed - just completed (2011).
- gallantry records, medals awarded to Met officers
- Oral History interviews including donated recordings of an officer who joined in 1898 and 5 officers joining during the Police Strike1919 (HLF funded project)
- Met Police Special Constables - over 29,706 cards again recently discovered.
- police buildings past and present.
Searching For Your Police Ancestors at The National Archives, Kew
Unlike most police forces, Metropolitan Police records are held at the National Archives, Kew, where the public can gain access to them. In searching for an officer’s details, researchers should be aware that not all records have survived. 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 indicate the year in which an officer joined. If an officer leaves and re-joins, a second warrant number is allocated. For officers with the first 3,247 warrant numbers who joined from September 1829 until about March 1830, you can search online at www.historybytheyard.co.uk/first_recruits.htm.
Details of the first approximately 12,300 recruits, 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. The register has an alphabetical index of officers’ surnames.
Registers of Joiners (MEPO 4/333-338) which also give 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 are 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 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) 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).
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) which runs from 1853 - 1966. Police Pensions
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 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) which runs from 1829 - 1889.
Police Orders from 1829 - 1931 (MEPO 7) 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.
The National Archives also produce Research Guides on Metropolitan Police records that are available on-line. Some records are available to be viewed on-line.
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.
Oral History – The Coppers’ Story. In June 2007 we received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and we have recorded oral history testimony from over 100 Officers (1930s to present). We have also been given recordings of an officer who joined in 1898 and 5 who joined in1919. We are continuing to record interviews with support from NARPO. The original recordings have been condensed into a 6 hour accessible, narrated, CD - The Coppers' Story. This CD is supported by a booklet containing a general introduction to Metropolitan Police History, a glossary of police terms and slang, a description of contents and contact details. A copy of The Coppers' Story has been sent to all London's Local History Libraries/Archive Centres. A copy of the CD can be obtained, by sending a cheque for £10, to FoMPHC, 12 Little Aston Road, Romford, RM3 0SP. Terms and Conditions apply.
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.
List of useful websites
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk - The National Archives
http://content.met.police.uk/Site/history - Met. Police Service History website
www.metwpa.org.uk - Metropolitan Women Police Association
www.oldbaileyonline.org - Old Bailey
www.london-gazette.co.uk - The London Gazette for officers given gallantry medals
For more interesting websites visit our Links page.