Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Filling in the blanks - the New Jersey State Archives and (true name) John Ricklefs

I've worked with the New Jersey State Archives before, when tracking down vital records on my Reinhardt relatives, and I've always been very pleased by how quickly they respond, how helpful they are, and how many of the records I need they actually have.Well, it turns out inquiring about criminal records is no exception.

I wrote an email yesterday to the NJ State Archives asking what records they might have on John Ricklefs and how I might go about getting them - the first time I wrote to the New York State Archives, I didn't include any of the information I was actually looking for, which might have saved me a day and an email, so now I just give them as much information as I have, straightaway - the more specific you can be about who and what you're looking for, the less work they have to do and the more quickly they can get back to you. This goes for any record you might be looking for, from any agency or institution.

 So, I wrote yesterday telling them John Ricklefs, sometimes spelled Rickless, served time at the state prison in Trenton - I knew what date he had been arrested and what date he had been incarcerated, and I had an idea of the year he escaped. I had also done some research on their website ahead of time (which never hurts to do - really, the more research you can do yourself and the less you have to rely on others, the better - although don't rely on yourself so much that you don't ask for help when you need it!) and thought it was possible, judging on the dates, that they might have an inmate register for him.

I heard back from them this afternoon and it turns out, they do. They will mail it to me as soon as I send them a check for the copying fees but they were nice enough to give me a bit of information contained in the file - John was received at the prison Nov. 23, 1916 and escaped on June 22, 1919 (which I did not have an exact date for previously); he spent two years at Blackwell's Island (which I think might have been his time in the House of Refuge but which I will have to look into), he spent 6 1/2 years at Sing Sing as Harry Young, and he was returned to the prison from Connecticut on April 16, 1940, which is just everything coming full circle - he escaped from jail in New Jersey in June of 1919, he was jailed in Connecticut three months later, he escaped from THAT prison in December 1919, he ended up in prison in Massachusetts about two years later, and after serving that term, was returned to Connecticut in 1936 for his jailbreak there, and after serving that term, was returned to NJ in 1940 for his jailbreak there.

I have no words. The more I learn about these brothers, the more fascinated I become, and the more my heart breaks. But for now, I have a check to write and mail, and I'll let you know what I find out!

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