Once in a while you may came across some person in your research that suddenly disappears from the census, directories and other resources. What happened to them? Well, if they were easily confused by the local laws, or maybe were lured into some activities that brought them to the dark side of life. You know who I am talking about, don't you? Yes, it's those black sheep in the family. Usually just a misunderstanding, or a consequence of hanging around with the wrong folks, that ends up with someone staying a while in the local jail or state prison. So how do you find out if there are really there?
First you might want to do a quick search of the local newspapers to see if they are mentioned on the police blotter pages, or similar articles. Otherwise, you might want to visit certain databases to see if they are included in a roster of jail residents.Court records may include naturalization papers, probate records, guardian cases and coroner inquest reports. Let's look at a listing for the state of Illinois, put together by the Illinois State Genealogical Society :
History of the Illinois Court System , found just from a Google search, can direct you to lots of background on the judicial system in the State. There is a terrific timeline, calendars and schedules of courts, court forms, lists of court interpreters, court reporter transcripts, court facilities information, lists of judges, attorneys and mediators, court rules and additional websites.
Black Sheep Ancestors http://blacksheepancestors.com/ This is a great website to search court records, prison records, execution records, asylum records and biographies of famous criminals from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
Illinois County Courthouse Directory http://www.genealogy.com/00000242.html Address and location list of all county clerk and recorder offices.
National Archives - Great Lakes http://www.archives.gov/chicago/holdings/subjects.html
A wide variety of information on court records and state attorney records
IRAD Databases - Court Databases www.cyberdriveillinois.com criminal court records, court proceedings, jail registers.
Don't forget to check the US Federal Census indexes for the state prisons. I found a cousin in the 1930 Census of the State Prison of Missouri in Jefferson City. You never know who you might find.