Mug Shots

There might only one type of photographs of certain individuals, maybe some of your ancestors, in existence. These photos are known as police mug shots.

From the Grand Rapids, Michigan police files, about 5,000 of the city’s historic jail photos ranging from 1928-1939 are made available online. Plus more added to Instagram. True, that is a short period of time, in a specific location, but if you had an ancestor anywhere in or near Grand Rapids in that time frame, it is worth checking.

Believe it or not, the vintage photos were contained in Grand Rapids jail books, discovered decades ago in a dumpster, include a wealth of information about each inmate. Listed in the old, yellowed pages are the inmates’ names, addresses, ages, professions and reasons for being arrested.

Besides helping descendants to learn about some of their ancestors, it is just fascinating to examine these to learn about the people arrested from the late 1920s throughout the 1930s (the era of the Great Depression). Some of the early photos from 1928 to 1931 list Bertillon measurements for each inmate, which was an antiquated system used to measure the physical features of people for identification before fingerprint identification was used. The measurements included the distance between someone’s eyes, their ear lengths and the width of their face.

The online site is a small sampling of the mug shots, more added to Instagram. Also, are some early fingerprint with mug shots.

More will be added to the online site in the coming months. So check out any ancestors who might have lived or visited in the Grand Rapids area between 1928-1939. you never know what you could discover.

Photos: 1928-Charles DeYoung-drunk driving; 1928-Joanna Smith-shop lifting; and 1930-Wallace Bauk-violation of bombing statutes.

Related Blogs:

Criminal in the Family?

A Sibling Never Known

Any Black Sheep?

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