Victoria BC – “Book ‘em!” It’s a phrase commonly used in police TV dramas and refers to the handwritten charge books used on the front lines of law enforcement. Now, historic VicPD charge books are being returned to VicPD after being preserved electronically by volunteers of the Victoria Genealogical Society and the UVic Libraries’ Digitization Unit.
These historic charge books from the 19th century are part of Victoria’s rich history and document chargeable offenses within our borders, including these colourful examples:
1860: John Kelly was arrested yesterday on a charge of driving a horse over the bridge leading to the “Songish village” at a rate faster than allowed by law. He was fined 5 s (shillings).
1862: Furious driving of Horses & Drunken furious driving
The books reflect numerous routine infractions such as the "Growing of Noxious Weeds" (something that the later Mounted Patrol unit of the early 1910s would be tasked to keep an eye out for.) as well as the tremendous strain that was put on the department dealing with the level of intoxication and routine drunken fights as any `frontier town` saw back then.
The Victoria Genealogical Society and the Victoria Police Historical Society teamed up in a joint effort to digitally preserve and make accessible this irreplaceable historical information after learning that a part of our history could be lost forever if not for proper documentation and preservation. The two agencies contacted UVic’s Research Partnership and Knowledge Mobilization (RPKM) Unit to match those needs with UVic expertise and to facilitate collaboration between both agencies and the university. Staff in the UVic Libraries’ Digitization Unit have now digitized the information and hope to make it part of their digital collections in the near future. Victoria Genealogical Society volunteers have already begun to index the charge book entries for ease of research.
About the Victoria Genealogical Society:
The Victoria Genealogy Society (VGS) is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, founded in Victoria, BC in 1978. VGS welcomes both young and old, beginners and advanced genealogists, and family history research queries from both near and far.
The VGS aims to further the study of genealogy in the various areas of interest to the members while collecting and preserving, by donation or purchase, materials relevant to genealogical study. The VGS also wants to advance and encourage public knowledge of genealogical resources in the Greater Victoria area while encouraging and instructing members in the ethical principles, scientific methods, and effective techniques of genealogical research. The VGS endeavors to publish and distribute printed and other materials to further the aims of the Society, and enter into friendly relations with other Societies having similar or related aims in BC, other parts of Canada, or in other countries, and cooperate with them in promotion of our common interests.
To meet these goals many of VGS's near 300 members volunteer their time in providing programs and services including a public Library and Resource Centre at 947 Alston Street in Victoria
About UVic Libraries
University of Victoria Libraries (uvic.ca/library) is the second largest in British Columbia being composed of three libraries, the William C. Mearns Center for Learning - McPherson Library, the Diana M. Priestly Law Library, and the Curriculum Library. UVic Libraries support the learning, teaching and research needs of the university community. UVic Libraries’ combined collections include over 2.1 million books and growing digital collections. The Libraries’ collections of special and unique materials include the largest collection of transgender archival materials in the world, internationally recognized holdings in Modernist British, American, French and Anglo-Irish literature, and one of the largest military oral collections in Canada.
Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization at UVic (uvic.ca/research/partner) provides partnership brokering services to UVic scholars and community, government and industry partners looking to collaborate on research. Its suite of practical services supports the creation of new knowledge to improve the social, cultural and economic well-being of people—turning that new knowledge into action.
About the Victoria Police Historical Society:
The VicPD Historical Society is a non-profit society formed in 1994 with the aim of preserving the proud history of the Victoria Police Department (est. 1858) including the ad hoc police units that were present on Vancouver Island starting in 1849. All sworn and professional support staff of VicPD are members in the society. The societies artifacts include charge books, mug-shot books and articles of uniform and equipment. The society is also actively restoring the original 1921 Commerce Mercantile Patrol wagon, one of the first motorized vehicles in the department’s fleet.