Convict Record Ledgers (1849-1954)
Convict Record Ledgers Indexes (1849-1970)

*Please note: due to COVID-19 restrictions, on-site research is limited to original documents. Access options described below may not currently be available. Please contact ref@tsl.texas.gov about specific materials.

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Introduction

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and its predecessor agencies kept ledgers to record personal data and incarceration information about convicts entering the Texas prison system. The prison system included Huntsville Penitentiary, which opened in 1849, and Rusk Penitentiary, which operated from 1883 to 1917. For more information about the history of these institutions, see the Prison System article in the Handbook of Texas Online.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) holds 29 ledgers covering the years 1849-1954, with 10 indexes for the period 1849-1970. TSLAC also has Conduct Registers for inmates entering the system during the period 1855 through 1945. Notations to those entries continued into the 1970s. Although there are not entries for each convict, unique information found in the registers includes the prison unit where the individual was assigned and any notable punishments.

Image from Convict Reigsters

Convict Registers, vols. 1998/038-138–1998/038-176. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

The record ledgers are excellent sources of individual convict descriptions and information about their incarceration.

Ledgers dating from 1849 to 1891 may provide some or all of the following elements:
Convict number Marks on Person Offense
Convict name/aliases Marital relations Terms of imprisonment
Age Use of tobacco County
Height Habits Residence
Weight Education Money
Complexion Occupation When received
Eyes (color) Nativity (birthplace) Expiration (of sentence)
Hair (color) Time of conviction Remarks
Categories expanded in late 1891 to include:
Able to read Birthplace of father
Able to write Birthplace of mother
Number of years at school Plea
Date of birth Exservice (military)

Researchers may benefit from reviewing listings of the more common abbreviations, occupations, and offenses used in the ledgers, listed below on this page.

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Online Access

The Convict Record Ledgers and indexes and Conduct Registers are available online from Ancestry and Ancestry.com Texas in the database "Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers, 1875-1945". Free access to Ancestry.com Texas is available to Texas residents. If you are not a Texas resident and do not have a subscription to Ancestry, ask your local library if they have access to Ancestry Library Edition.

Although the title of the collection indicates the records cease in 1945, this database includes Convict Record Ledgers up to 1954 and index-level information up to 1970.

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Microfilm Access

Our staff recommend using the Ancestry database described above, which is fully indexed and allows name searches.

The original Convict Record Ledgers and indexes are extremely fragile so we restrict onsite access to this collection to high-quality microfilmed copies, made possible by a generous donation from the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas. The Conduct Registers are not available on microfilm.

Getting Started

  1. Check the indexes by time period and name to locate the convict's number. See Using the Microfilm Indexes below.
  2. Use the convict number to find the corresponding entry in the Convict Record Ledgers. See Using the Microfilm Ledgers below.

The microfilm is available through the options below:

Interlibrary loan. Your local library may submit a request on your behalf for up to five (5) microfilm reels from this collection. Ask your local library for more details about the ILL program. Find Texas libraries near you using our Find a Library tool.

When requesting film, provide your library with the specific reel numbers you wish to borrow, as well as the OCLC number: OCLC #49380030.

Private researcher. Staff are unable to search this collection on your behalf or provide you with copies. If the above options do not meet your needs, consider contacting a private researcher.

Using the Microfilm Indexes

The entries in the indexes provide:

  • Convict's name
  • County of conviction
  • Year of entry
  • Convict number, listed in columns labeled "H" and "R" for Huntsville and Rusk. Convicts may have had more than one number assigned to them and may have been held at both institutions, depending on the number of times they were incarcerated.
  • Later indexes may provide information such as ethnicity or gender.

Arrangement. Entries in the indexes are arranged alphabetically by the first letter and first vowel of the last name, then in chronological order by year of entry. Separate pages are designated for each letter pair; for example:

Smith or Simmons: found on the S-I pages
Bryant or Blythe: found on the B-Y pages
Edmonds or Eronson: found on the E-O pages

Prisoners may have been listed under a nickname or alias instead of their real name, so it is important to thoroughly explore various forms of names. For example, a prisoner whose given name was Joseph Fairchild may have been known exclusively as "Big Joe" and then indexed under that name; for example:

Big Joe: found on the B-I pages
Joe, Big: found on the J-O pages

If the allotted space for a letter pair became full, the name list would be continued at the end of the pages for the preceding or following letter pairs, usually noted at the bottom of the page.

The index volume needed, as well as the corresponding microfilm reel number, can be determined using the table below:

Index Volumes and Corresponding Microfilm Reels
Volume Number Years Covered Request Film Reel
1998/038-138 1849-1898 Index Reel 1
1998/038-139 1853-1915 Index Reel 1
1998/038-140 1851-1915 Index Reel 2
1998/038-141 1915-1927 Index Reel 2
1998/038-142 1916-1932 Index Reel 3
1998/038-143 1932-1938 Index Reel 3
1998/038-144 1939-1947 Index Reel 4
1998/038-145 1948-1955 Index Reel 4
1998/038-146 A - J, 1956-1970 Index Reel 5
1998/038-147 K - Z, 1956-1970 Index Reel 5

There is considerable overlap of dates and entries between the individual indexes, especially those that cover the years 1849-1915. When researching convicts in the system prior to 1882, it is necessary to check three separate indexes.

Using the Microfilm Ledgers

Once you have located the convict number and year of incarceration, you are ready to search the Ledgers for the corresponding entry.

Arrangement. Entries in the record ledgers are arranged numerically by the convict number, which was assigned sequentially as the inmates were received.

Three different numbering sequences were used in the convict ledgers held by TSLAC. Determine which sequence was used in order to choose the correct ledger:

Rusk series. Prisoners incarcerated at Rusk range from numbers 1 to 4,622. Any number larger than 4,622 will be a Huntsville number.

  • Although Rusk Penitentiary was open only from 1883 to 1917, there are some Rusk numbers that appear to date from 1870. These earlier numbers may represent convicts who were first incarcerated in Huntsville and later transferred to Rusk.
  • Please note that the ledger held by TSLAC represents inmates sent to Rusk through 1891; the indexes represent inmates through 1898.

Huntsville “A” and “B” series. The year of incarceration, along with the convict number, will allow you to determine whether the number is from the "A" or "B" series.

  • The "A" series began in 1849 with convict number 1, discontinued in 1882 with number 10,012.
  • The "B" series began in 1882 with renumbered the "A" series convicts 10,001 through 10,012 as "B" series numbers 1 through 12.

The ledger volume needed, as well as the corresponding microfilm reel number, can be determined using the table below:

Ledger Volumes and Corresponding Microfilm Reels
Volume Number Convict Numbers Covered Years Covered Request Film Reel
1998/038-148 Rusk 1 - 4,622 1870 - 1891 Reel 1
1998/038-149 1 - 3,000 Huntsville A Series 1849 - 1873 Reel 1
1998/038-150 3,001 - 7,550 A Series 1873 - 1879 Reel 2
1998/038-151 7,551 - 10,012 A Series;
1 - 2,507 B Series
1879 - 1882;
1882 - 1884
Reel 2
1998/038-152 2,508 - 7,240 B Series 1884 - 1891 Reel 3
1998/038-153 7,241 - 12,177 B Series 1891 - 1895 Reel 3
1998/038-154 12,178 - 17,158 B Series 1895 - 1898 Reel 4
1998/038-155 17,159 - 22,080 B Series 1898 - 1902 Reel 4
1998/038-156 22,081 - 27,060 B Series 1902 - 1906 Reel 5
1998/038-157 27,061 - 32,060 B Series 1906 - 1911 Reel 5
1998/038-158 32,061 - 37,000 B Series 1911 - 1915 Reel 6
1998/038-159 37,001 - 42,020 B Series 1915 - 1918 Reel 6
1998/038-160 42,021 - 47,020 B Series 1918 - 1921 Reel 7
1998/038-161 47,021 - 52,020 B Series 1921 - 1925 Reel 7
1998/038-162 52,021 - 57,100 B Series 1925 - 1927 Reel 8
1998/038-163 57,101 - 62,200 B Series 1927 - 1929 Reel 8
1998/038-164 62,201 - 67,400 B Series 1929 - 1931 Reel 9
1998/038-165 67,401 - 73,300 B Series 1931 - 1933 Reel 9
1998/038-166 73,301 - 79,300 B Series 1933 - 1935 Reel 10
1998/038-167 79,301 - 84,740 B Series 1935 - 1937 Reel 10
1998/038-168 84,741 - 90,340 B Series 1937 - 1939 Reel 11
1998/038-169 90,341 - 93,340 B Series 1939 Reel 11
1998/038-170 93,341 - 99,300 B Series 1939 - 1942 Reel 12
1998/038-171 99,301 - 105,140 B Series 1942 - 1945 Reel 12
1998/038-172 105,141 - 111,655 B Series 1945 - 1948 Reel 13
1998/038-173 111,656 - 117,915 B Series 1948 - 1950 Reel 13
1998/038-174 117,916 - 124,255 B Series 1950 - 1952 Reel 14
1998/038-175 124,256 - 131,135 B Series 1952 - 1954 Reel 15
1998/038-176 Contains a few scattered entries between 1,196 - 3,363 A Series. Its purpose is unknown. 1868 - 1874 Reel 15
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Reproductions

Although we are unable to provide photocopies of records from this collection, patrons are welcome to print or save images from the microfilm or Ancestry.com.

Patrons may also request from TSLAC printed copies of the images available on Ancestry.com. All images will be printed on 8.5” x 11” paper and our copy fee is $.10 per page, plus postage. You may e-mail your request for a price quote, along with the name and/or convict number, to ref@tsl.texas.gov or send a letter to PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.

Legibility issues. Entries in the ledgers and indexes are handwritten, in a variety of inks and styles, some of which may be difficult to read. Shadows and fading of ink, as well as the physical condition of the items, make some entries nearly illegible. There is a great deal of duplication between the first three indexes, so if an entry is illegible, it may be possible to obtain the information by checking another of the earliest indexes.

If it is impossible to read an entry on Ancestry or on the microfilm, please contact TSLAC for further assistance. It may be possible for staff to read the entry from the original ledgers. You may e-mail your request, along with the reel and page number, to ref@tsl.texas.gov or send a letter to PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.

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Abbreviations
1" Deg First degree
2""Deg Second degree
1st, 4th, etc. grade complete (education)
4-arm forearm
4-head forehead
I, II, III classifications for "Marks on Person"
I left side?
II right side?
III face? other?
Abdm abdomen
Affd affirmed
Aslt assault
B, blk black
Bro, brn brown
Bur, burn burn (scar)
Burg burglary
C common
CP, C/P conditional pardon or parole
C/V convict
CPV conditional pardon or parole violator
Chest chestnut
Cir circular
Clem clemency
Co county
Com Common
Con conditional, concurrent
Cond conditional
Const construction (worker)
Conv convict
Cor corner
Ct cut
Cum cumulative
D, dk dark
d/c appears to mean “Dark cell”
Dent dimpled scar
Disc, Disch discharged
Div divorced
Esc escaped
F Female
FA firearms
FA face, forearm
Fe, "Fe", fem female
Feby February
Fg, fgr finger
Fig figure
Fing finger
FP fingerprints
"Full" full pardon
Furlo furlough
Gen general
Gry gray
High high school (education)
High br. appears to mean “High brow”
Ill, illit illiterate
Indx index (finger)
Innr inner
Int, intemp intemperate
Jany January
Jt joint
L left, light, lower
Lab, labr laborer
Lf, lft left
Lg large
Lo lower
LT left, light
Ltrs letters
Lwr lower
M Mexican, medium, married, mulatto
Mar married, March
Mch March
Med medium
Mex Mexican
Mid middle
Mo, mon, mos month, months
Mul mulatto
N no, not, not guilty
NG not guilty (plea)
Not, not g not guilty (plea)
Out, outr outer
Pard pardon
Pollex, pollix, pollux thumb
R right, regular
Reg regular
Rep reprieve
Retd returned
Sc, Scr scar
Sr sc appears to mean “Sore scar”
Sent, sents sentence, sentenced
Ser-Pos positive blood test for syphilis
Sm small
Sur surrender
Tat tattoo
Tem, Temp, Tempt temperate
Thf, tft theft
Unk unknown
Uppr, upr upper
USP United States (federal) prisoner
Vac vaccination
VDL violation of Dean's Law (prohibition)
Vert vertical
Vol voluntary
W white, widowed
Wid widowed
X-#### previous convict number
X-#### (Ark, Ok) previous convict number, other state
Y yes, year, guilty (plea)
Yes yes, guilty (plea)
Yr, yrs year, years
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Occupations
Bakers Bar keepers
Barbers Blacksmiths
Brass, tin, and coppersmiths Brick masons
Butchers Cabinet makers
Carpenters Cigar makers
Civil engineers Clerks and bookkeepers
Cooks Dentists
Detectives Druggists
Engravers Firemen
Gardeners Gas fitters
Jewelers Lawyers
Livery men Machinists and engineers
Merchants Millers and millwrights
Ministers Miscellaneous
Molders Musicians
No Trade or profession Not started
Nurses Painters
Peddlers Penitentiary guards
Photographers Physicians
Plasterers Plumbers
Printers Railroad employees
Real estate dealers Saddle and harness makers
Sail makers Sailors
School teachers Servants
Shoe makers Silversmiths
Snowmen Soldiers
Stone cutters Tailors
Tanners Telegraphy operators
Turners Wheelwrights
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Offenses
Abduction Abortion
Accomplice Administering poison
Aiding escapes Altering brands
Arson Assault to castrate
Assault to murder Assault to rape
Assault to rob Attempt to poison
Bigamy Bribery
Bringing stolen property to Texas Burglary
Conspiracy to commit theft Conspiracy to mortgage property
Conspiracy to rape Conspiracy to release prisoners
Destruction of property Disposing estray?
Disposing of property mortgaged Driving cattle from range
Embezzlement False swearing
Fradulent conversion of money Fence cutting
Forgery Illegal branding and marking
Illegal voting Incest
Kidnapping Maiming
Manslaughter Misappropriating public money
Murder, first degree Murder, second degree
Murder, fraud Obstructing railroad
Offering bribe Passing forged instrument
Procuring an abortion Perjury
Rape, life Rape, term
Receiving stolen property Resisting officer
Robbery Robbery, life
Robbery, term Seduction
Selling mortgaged property Sending challenge
Sodomy Stock from range
Swindling Theft, cattle
Theft, hogs Theft, horse
Theft, miscellaneous Theft, sheep
Threat to take life United States mail robbery
Unlawful burning Unlawful marriage
Unlawful moving stock Unlawfully driving
Uttering forgery Violations of US Statutes
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Related Materials

Newspaper Research
Genealogy Resources at TSLAC
Court Records (email ref@tsl.texas.gov for information and referrals)
Select Prison and Criminal Justice Resources handout

The Convict Record Ledgers and Conduct Registers do not include the actual prison records of the convicts. For information concerning these and other records not held by TSLAC, you may wish to submit a Public Information Act request to the Executive Services Division of TDCJ.

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Page last modified: December 23, 2020