Alcatraz is well-known, not as a resort, but rather the most famous national prison in America. Long considered an inescapable prison, it actually did have fourteen attempted escapes involving some 36 prisoners. The inmates were either captured, killed, or drowned in the cold rough waters that surround the island of Alcatraz.
It began in the mid-1840s with a lighthouse on the island, then as a military fortress in 1859, and by 1861 (Civil War) was used as a U. S. military prison (Fort Alcatraz), especially for Confederate supporters, remaining for military use for decades. In 1934 the prison was used to house the worst federal government inmates from across the country, providing very high security. Some very famous such as Al Capone, but also many others never known, were housed at Alcatraz. This situation remained until 1963.
The name Alcatraz came from the first Spaniard to the San Francisco Bay where Alcatraz is located, who in 1775, charted San Francisco Bay and named one of the three islands he identified as the “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translates as “The Island of the Pelicans”.
The online site, on Alcatraz, provides in alphabetical order the list of civilian prisoners from 1934 to 1963. Also the wardens to managed the prison. If using also the Ancestry.com database, they have a listing of 1,550 prisoners between 1934 and 1963 with details of their prison number, ethnic background, why they were in prison, birthplace, date and parent’s names, and dates they entered and then departed Alcatraz.
This is where a family history researcher will want to check their listings. You might think there is such a ‘black sheep’ on the family tree, but you never know.
Photos: Alcatraz in 1895, prisoners in 1963, then the former prison in the 21st century.
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