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