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

Internal Links
History and Background | Types of Information | Getting Started | Using the Indexes  | Using the Ledgers | Borrowing the Microfilm | Legibility Issues | Additional Resources  | Abbreviations | Occupations | Offenses

 


History and Background

The Convict Record Ledgers and their indexes represent an important resource to researchers. Available for on-site, as well as remote use, these records are both tedious to search and rich with information.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and its predecessor agencies have maintained 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 concerning the history of these institutions, you may wish to read 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. The original documents are extremely fragile and access is restricted to high-quality microfilmed copies.

Microfilming of the Convict Record Ledgers and their indexes was made possible by a generous donation from the Friends of Libraries and Archives of Texas.

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Types of Information

The record ledgers are excellent sources of individual convict descriptions and information regarding their incarceration. Ledgers dating from 1849 to 1891, may provide some or all of the following elements:

  • Convict's number
  • Convict's name/aliases
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Complexion
  • Eyes (color)
  • Hair (color)
  • Marks on Person
  • Marital relations
  • Use of tobacco
  • Habits
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Nativity (birthplace)
  • Time of conviction
  • Offense
  • Terms of imprisonment
  • County
  • Residence
  • Money
  • When received
  • Expiration (of sentence)
  • Remarks

In late 1891, the categories were expanded to include:

  • Able to read
  • Able to write
  • Number of years at school
  • Date of birth
  • Birthplace of father
  • Birthplace of mother
  • Plea
  • Exservice (military)

Researchers may benefit from reviewing listings of the more common abbreviations used in the ledgers, as well as listings of occupations and offenses. These listings are provided at the end of this document.

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Getting Started

Begin the process by determining the specific names and time periods you wish to search. Accessing the entry for an individual is a two-part process. First, check the Indexes to locate the convict's number. Then use that number to find the corresponding entry in the Convict Record Ledgers.

Using the Indexes

The entries in the indexes provide the convict's name, county of conviction, year of entry, and assigned convict number. Later indexes may provide information such as ethnicity or gender.

The indexes contain entries from 1849 to 1970. 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.

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 would be found on the S-I pages
Bryant or Blythe would be found on the B-Y pages
Edmonds or Eronson would be found on the E-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. Listings for the J-O pages, for example, might be continued at the end of the J-I or J-O pages. This is usually noted at the bottom of the page.

Due to the use of aliases and nicknames, prisoners may not be listed under their real names. For instance, a prisoner whose given name was Joseph Fairchild may have gone exclusively by "Big Joe" and so would be indexed under that name. "Big Joe" might be listed in the B-I pages or as "Joe, Big" in the J-O pages. Because of this, it is important to thoroughly explore various forms of names.

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 For Years Covered By 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

The convict numbers are listed in the 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.

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

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Using the Ledgers

Entries in the record ledgers are arranged numerically by the convict number, which was assigned sequentially as the inmates were received. However, three different numbering sequences were used in the convict ledgers held by TSLAC. Care must be taken to determine which sequence was used in order to choose the correct ledger.

Rusk numbers range from 1 to 4,622. 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 the Texas State Archives represents inmates sent to Rusk through 1891; the indexes represent inmates through 1898. Ledger 1998/038-148 contains information about prisoners incarcerated at Rusk. It is helpful to note that any number larger than 4,622 will be a Huntsville number.

Two different numbering sequences were used at Huntsville. These are referred to as series "A" and "B." The "A" series began in 1849 with convict number 1; it was discontinued in 1882 with number 10,012. The "B" series began in 1882 and renumbered the "A" series convicts 10,001 through 10,012 as "B" series numbers 1 through 12. 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 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 Film Reel
1998/038-148 Rusk 1 - 4,622 1870 - 1891 Reel 1
1998/038-149 1 - 3,000 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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Borrowing the Microfilm

Once you've determined which reels of microfilm contain the volumes you wish to view, contact your local library to arrange an interlibrary loan. When requesting film, provide your library with the specific reel numbers you wish to borrow, as well as the OCLC number. This specialized number, OCLC #49380030, will help your library identify the microfilm series. Up to six reels may be borrowed at a time. Specific regulations for interlibrary loan vary by individual library, so please contact your local library for details. 

In Austin, you may also view the microfilm at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, located just east of the Capitol at 1201 Brazos Street.  Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Microfilm may be viewed until 4:30 p.m.

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 the microfilm, please contact TSLAC for further assistance. It may be possible for Archives staff to read the entry from the original ledgers. You may e-mail your request, along with the reel and page number, to Archives Information or write to the Texas State Archives at PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.

Additional Resources

TSLAC also has Conduct Registers for the period 1855 through about 1976. Although entries were not made for each convict, unique information found in the registers includes the prison unit where the individual is assigned (Huntsville, prison farm, railroad camp, etc.) and any notable punishments. Entries began in 1855 with convict number 207.

In Austin, you may view the 60 original Conduct Registers at the Texas State Archives, located just east of the Capitol at 1201 Brazos Street. The Archives is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., but closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and most federal holidays. Please be aware no items are pulled from the stacks after 4 p.m. The conduct registers have not been microfilmed nor are they available for use in the Genealogy Collection.

You are also welcome to e-mail your request for a search of the conduct registers, along with the specific convict number and year of incarceration, to archinfo@tsl.texas.gov or write to the Texas State Archives at PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927.

We are happy to announce these records have been digitized and are now available online from Ancestry.com and Ancestry Library Edition.  If you or your local library has access to one of these resources, you may wish to view and/or print your copies from that site. The title of the database containing the Conduct Registers is Texas, Conduct Registers, 1875-1945.

For information on records not held by TSLAC, please contact TDCJ, Public Information Office, PO Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. Questions concerning burials at Huntsville may be addressed to the Warden's Office, Huntsville Unit, 815 12th Street, Huntsville, TX 77342.

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Abbreviations

  • 1" Deg - First degree
  • 2""Deg - Second degree
  • 1st, 4th, etc. - grade completed (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
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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 stated
  • 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
  • Conspiracy to rob
  • Counterfeiting
  • Destruction of property
  • Disposing estray?
  • Disposing of property mortgaged
  • Driving cattle from range
  • Embezzlement
  • False swearing
  • Fraudulent 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 U.S. Statutes

 

Page last modified: November 14, 2013