How do you find someone's criminal history from 1800's?

I am trying to find out how I go about finding someone's criminal history from the late 1800s. My great grand father for some unkown reason listed his middle name as his last name when he married my great grandmother. She was 16 and he was 26 at the time and also lived with her parents. On the 1900 census theyre out on their own and using his last name. I have no idea why they done this. Also when he passed away my grandfather put down his own name for his dad's dad's name, But whose to say he wasn't named after his dad? Any help in the matter would be appreciated. I just figured looking into the criminal background may help. Thank you and sorry for taking up your time with this and my ranting .

  • Dear Shelly DeStaffino,


    Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


    Checking for criminal convictions requires checking with the courts in the places that the person lived, as well as surrounding areas. You may also be able to find newspaper coverage in newspaper archives at local libraries as well as online in a variety of free and subscription databases.  One such free online resource is the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America.

    During the time period in question, there was much less emphasis on requiring people to get lots of government issued documents with their “official” names on it to serve as proof of identity.  Where people show up in records, it is generally using whatever name they chose to provide to the clerk or official filling it out.  Seeing variant spellings, inconsistent use of “first” vs “middle” name, and even middle names recorded as last names is something that comes up reasonably often, and could be for reasons other than an intentional effort to disguise identity. 


    We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!