Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records by Ron Arons

Ron Arons' book, Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records - Sources & Research Methodology fills a tremendous void and provides a wonderful compendium of records that may help genealogists and family historians track down their "black sheep" ancestors in American records.

The book provides information about several criminal record types, including

* Prison Records
* Court Records
* Parole Records
* Pardon Records
* Execution Information
* Investigative Reports
* Police Reports.

The front section material provides information about sources and research methodology, and a guide to how to use the book effectively. The latter section notes that most of the records listed in the book are NOT online, but are available at federal, state or local repositories. You will have to travel to find them and obtain them. Some institutions have access restrictions, and some records have privacy restrictions on them, so it's recommended that you contact the repository for restrictions and availability.

The balance of the book consists of a chapter for each State, plus the District of Columbia and the Federal Government. Each chapter lists repositories where documents can be obtained. For each repository, the physical address, website URL and email address are provided (if available). For each repository, there is a listing of the records available. Different record types have a unique symbol. Some of the chapters end with documents from Ron Arons' files, found during a dozen years of researching his own criminal ancestor - and many others.

As an example, for California, these repositories are listed:

* California State Archives -- Department of Corrections; Department of the Governor's Office: Prison Papers
* California Executions
* Los Angeles County Archives - Criminal Case Files
* Los Angeles Superior Court
* San Francisco Superior Court
* Pamphlets for Sale (from www.RootsCellar.org)
* Federal Criminal Court Records at the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) - NARA Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel; address and contact information is outdated now)
* Federal Criminal Court Records at the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) - NARA Pacific Region (San Bruno)

Each state has different repository types and record types.

This book represents a tremendous research effort on the part of Ron Arons, and provides a needed compendium of criminal records that may help researchers find out information about one or more of their family members.

Book information: Ron Arons, Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records - Sources & Research Methodology; 2009; 8.5×11; Soft Cover; 385 pp; ISBN: 978-1-935125-64-8; $49.99 plus $5 postage; Available from: Criminal Research Press, 4012 Whittle Ave., Oakland, CA 94602; 510-530-3975; http://www.ronarons.com/wanted.php

Disclosure: Ron Arons provided a free review copy of this book back in early 2010. My apologies to Ron for not writing this in a more timely manner. I loaned it to a society colleague who needed it and recently got it back. I will donate this book to the Chula Vista Public Library for inclusion in the Family Research section of the library, which is supported by the Chula Viata Genealogical Society. I saw Ron Arons at the NGS Conference in Salt Lake City in late April and promised to write this review before the SCGS Jamboree. Hopefully, Ron will be at the Jamboree and will sell copies of his books.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently had the opportunity to hear Ron Arons speak in Skokie, IL. He's a great speaker & his talks were well worth it, even for someone without a criminal ancestor!