Don't know whether to be impressed or not...just had my customary half an hour on Ancestry and find we're related...more or less directly... to the most well-known and the most boring king in Ireland. Old Brian Buru...it's a thousand years ago this year that he met his end in the battle of Clontarf. Rather mind-boggling when you think that he lived so long ago, but if I click on his name on my Ancestry page it'll give me the exact way we are related all down the centuries...until it stops at my Father who wasn't Irish anyway. I rather imagine it would have irritated him immensely to have known he was directly related to some clan of Irish bog trotters.
I was growing a bit tired of the seemingly endless generations of farm workers with their myriad children...but then that is the advantage of Ancestry, you can sort of flit about from a poor old soul spending their last days as a pauper in a Workhouse, to those fine up standing emigrants to America who were partial to naming their children Deliverance and Thankful while they thumped their Bibles and stole the natives land from under their noses...
Or just to make a change there are always the Vikings to investigate further, or chase up the few relatives who were sent packing to Van Diemen's Land for stealing a loaf of stale bread...
It's far too easy to become sidetracked of course and go wandering off down some narrow lane just to see where it ends...maybe the transportation records are difficult in that respect because they do tend to be moreish...turn the next page just to have a quick look and find a group of people in court for passing counterfeit coins...all sentenced to death, because that particular crime was always severely punished, so I just turn the page again to see if there might be a more cheerful tale and this time it's two louts with previous records for foot padding, who are sentenced to death, but then it's commuted to transportation for fourteen years...
And so it goes on...I'll get side tracked by something or somebody who looks interesting and find an hour or so has gone by and I'm reading about clandestine marriages when I started out by looking for a birth record...
The early court records which are on-line...those from the 1700's when compassion and empathy were in short supply, are quite nasty...virtually every crime was punishable by hanging and if you managed to escape the gallows, you had to suffer the pain and the indignity of being lashed, though that punishment was usually carried out in the prison yard...the hangings were always held in public.
There were some customs attached to your last journey to the gallows...one was the habit of the accompanying jailers stopping about half way to go into a 'pub for a pint of ale...very occasionally...if they had taken a shine to you...they'd bring a pint out to where you sat huddled up on a cart and let you drink it. You were allowed to make a speech on the scaffold if you wished and if you had friends who'd come to watch your demise, then they'd stand right at the front of the crowd so they could pull hard on your legs if the rope didn't break your neck instantly. Which it rarely did, because the art of hanging a person swiftly wasn't yet perfected.
Depending upon your crime and who you were would govern whether or not there'd be a mad scramble among the watching crowd to take a piece of your clothing or a lock of your hair...they were thought to be lucky trophies and would be jealously guarded and used as talismans against anything from illness to fire...
Transportation slowed down the number of hangings...and that had a knock on effect because less people hung meant fewer the number of cadavers for the medical schools...which in turn led to the rise in body snatchers...
I've not yet found any ancestors who were hung for a crime they'd committed...a few who were transported and going much further back into the 1500's there are several who were hung then on trumped up charges of treason and a couple who were hung, drawn and quartered which doesn't bear thinking about.
But mostly they were a law abiding bunch...