Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s Story – Evaluating the Evidence 2

Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s Story – Evaluating the Evidence 2

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Troublesome Tranters

This part of Troublesome Tranters is a little later than I would like because I’ve been attempting to research everything related to the two pieces of evidence I’m evaluating this time around.

I am going to be spending some time looking at one small sentence from the newspaper, Monmouthshire Merlin, in 1846 and then a single line in the Monmouthshire Assizes Record book from the England & Wales Criminal Registers on Ancestry in 1847.   There isn’t a great deal of information in either source, however, by taking a look at them again I might be able to find other collections to search to confirm if this Harriet is indeed ‘my’ Harriet.  I’m planning a trip to Gwent Archives within the next month in the hope of finding these alternative records but for now, I will work with what I have.

Harriet’s committal to Usk Prison

Harriet's mention in the Monmouthshire Merlin 22 August 1846

Harriet’s mention in the Monmouthshire Merlin 22 August 1846

“Harriet Tranter, by the same magistrates, was charged with being an idle and disorderly person in Abergavenny.  One month hard labour” 1

This is it… This is the single sentence I have to go on, along with a date of 8th August 1846 and the conviction by Wm. Powell and G. W. Gabb.

This information appeared in the ‘Local Intelligence’ section of the 22nd August 1846 edition of the Monmouthshire Merlin, that has been scanned and indexed by the National Library of Wales.  Generally speaking, this section of a newspaper contains information on criminal events such as robberies, trials and commitments to prisons and it’s purpose is to inform locals of local happenings.  It is not, however, guaranteed to be accurate, newspaper reports are notorious for containing incorrect information as well as omissions.  The lack of detail also causes a huge problem.

Is it ‘my’ Harriet?

This is the part that makes me consider this piece of evidence with great caution.  All I have is a name, Harriet Tranter, and a location, Usk.  Oh and the offence ‘idle and disorderly’.

Let’s take a look at the offence, Idle and Disorderly.  What is it?

“…Every person wandering abroad, or placing himself or herself in a public place, street or highway, court or passage to beg or gather alms, or causing or procuring or encouraging any child or children so to do, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person”  2

So maybe she was begging for money in her home town, it seems rather strange, given that in 1846 Harriet would have been around 19 and her whole family lives in the area.  Why was she the only member of the family begging for money?

Usk Prison was the local prison and was a little over 11 miles from Abergavenny.  The New Usk House of Correction, as it was called, opened in 1843.  3

I honestly don’t think I can go any further at the moment on this…  But next week, I intend to follow this up at Gwent Archives and hopefully locate the prison registers.

Harriet’s Entry in the Criminal Register

HArriet Tranter Criminal RegisterJPG

This is another one line of evidence… Harriet Tranter, aged 18, was found Not Guilty of ‘larceny from the person’ at the Monmouthshire County Sessions on 4th January 1847.  4

The Criminal Registers simply provide details of a person being tried for a crime.  The information included varies however, in most cases you can expect to see Name, Age, crime and any details relevant (sentence if found guilty).  These records are simply a finding aide, not conclusive evidence.  I’m currently trying to find out whether the specifics of the trial and records relating to it can be found at Gwent Archives.  If so, I’m going to be looking into it further when I visit the archives.

One point I can pick up on, is Harriet’s age.  ‘My’ Harriet was baptised in July 1827, so she must have been approaching her 20th birthday on 4th January 1847.  Perhaps she gave a false age, or wasn’t certain of her own age.  Ages being out by around a year is common during this period so I’m not fretting too much.

Where can I go from here?

I’ve tried searching for other Harriet Tranter’s around Monmouthshire in both the 1841 and 1851 census and came up empty handed.  There are no other Harriet’s baptised in Monmouthshire during the 10 years either side of ‘my’ Harriet’s baptism.

I need to keep in mind that, unless she was known by the arresting officer (were they even called that then?), anyone involved in the justice system, or was identified by people who knew her, the person on trial may not even have been called Harriet Tranter.  (I have another Tranter who was arrested in London using an alias.)

I think, in order to verify any information in the sources, I need to find the original sources.  Options to go to next are Prisoner Registers for Usk prison, County Session papers and anything else I can find.

Next Up in Troublesome Tranters

In the next post I’ll be looking at Harriet’s marriage certificate (which has arrived) and then seeing what else comes from knowing the name of the man she married.

Series Navigation<< Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s Story Evaluating the Evidence Part One
  1. The National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers Online,  Monmouthshire Merlin 22 August 1846  [database on-line] (accessed 25 Aug 2016) []
  2. Alan Murdie. (2010). The History of the Vagrancy Act 1824. Available: Last accessed 30 Aug 2016.[]
  3. Author Unknown. (2013). Usk Bridewell & County House of Correction. Available: Last accessed 30 Aug 2016.[]
  4. England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. (Class: HO 27; Piece: 82; Page: 282) []