Who were the par­ents of my pi­o­neer­ing po­lice­man an­ces­tor Robert Dunn?

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QMy part­ner’s great great grand­fa­ther, Robert Dunn, was born in Strood, Kent, in 1800 and mar­ried El­iz­a­beth Iron­side in Wyke Regis, Dorset, in 1820. In 1830 he joined the new Metropoli­tan Po­lice Force and, af­ter many ci­ta­tions, in 1850 was pro­moted to su­per­in­ten­dant of the Hert­ford­shire Po­lice. He died in 1885 and is buried in Ben­geo Ceme­tery.

I can find no de­fin­i­tive record as to the names and birth­places of his par­ents. Some on­line trees give them as Robert and Jane (Jervis) and oth­ers as Mal­colm and Hester. These trees both give a film No: 146978 for the ci­ta­tion records. Derek Archer, by email

AWithout ex­cep­tion, the best ev­i­dence that can be pro­duced is from pri­mary sources. Robert Dunn says on ev­ery oc­ca­sion when asked by the cen­sus enu­mer­a­tor, that he was born in Strood in Kent. The cen­suses were taken in spring of each year and he con­firms in ev­ery case that he was born af­ter March or April in 1800.

So you have to look there. The FHL film 146978 that an on­line tree quotes does not cover Strood but the nearby par­ish of Chatham. Strood is FHL film 146980 – show­ing that the sec­ondary data rep­re­sented by the on­line ge­nealo­gies is also flawed.

The orig­i­nal par­ish reg­is­ters are avail­able free on­line at Med­way City Ark web­site: cit­yark.med­way.gov.uk.

The Chatham en­try that is of in­ter­est to you is “Robert, son of Mal­colm and Hester Dunn, 23 Au­gust 1801”.

This Chatham Robert would not turn 50 un­til five months af­ter the 1851 cen­sus, 60 un­til five months af­ter the 1861 cen­sus etc. So he is likely to be too young and bap­tised in the wrong place. Although a place of birth is not a place of bap­tism, the parishes in this case fit ex­actly.

The Strood en­try is prob­lem­atic, but more likely to be the cor­rect one: “Robert, son of Robert and Jane Dunn, 22 June 1800, born 8 June.”

Firstly, it re­lates to Strood and fits pre­cisely the cen­sus in­for­ma­tion, whereas the Chatham can­di­date falls slightly short of this. The on­line en­tries are pho­to­copies from mi­cro­film I think and not pho­to­graphs, which would be more re­veal­ing (they would show dif­fer­ent ink, for ex­am­ple). What they cer­tainly do show is that er­rors have been made. Firstly, there is the darker over­writ­ing of two lower case let­ter Ns, which change the name in the bap­tismal en­try to Dunn. The in­dexer who wrote the names in the mar­gin clearly strug­gled with the in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Then the Fam­il­y­search tran­scriber in the 20th cen­tury com­pounded the prob­lem by ren­der­ing the sur­name as Durin in the In­ter­na­tional Ge­nealog­i­cal In­dex (IGI). I only found it af­ter a wild card search us­ing “Du**” in the IGI batch num­ber for Strood.

A bi­og­ra­phy of Robert Dunn can be found at: hertspast­polic­ing. org.uk/con­tent/crimes_and_in­ci­dents/drunk­_and_dis­or­derly-4/con­sta­bler­obert­dunn-first-many.

It tells the fa­ci­nat­ing story of Robert’s ca­reer – and of the five sons and two grand­sons who also joined the po­lice and fol­lowed in his foot­steps.

The de­tailed in­for­ma­tion it con­tains – in­clud­ing a date of birth of 6 June 1800 (two days out by my reck­on­ing), and a chronol­ogy of his pro­mo­tions and post­ings – leads me to be­lieve that his staff records can be ob­tained from the Metropoli­tan Po­lice ar­chive: con­tent.met.po­lice.uk/Site/mp­shis­to­ry­in­for­ma­tion.

The search fee is in the re­gion of £12. The MEPO 21 se­ries will be of most use since those re­tir­ing be­fore 1923 pro­vided de­tails such as place of birth, next of kin and par­ents, which should en­able you to iden­tify Robert Dunn be­yond dis­pute. Steve Thomas

A re­port of the sink­ing of Eng­land’s Glory

RobertRb tD Dunn’s’ son Thomas,Th pic­tured ic­turedt d with ith his wife Anna,Anna also worked as a po­lice­man in Hert­ford­shiref d hi

Robert’s grand­son, Robert, also in the Met

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