Uhl Index to Criminal Trial Briefs
This entry has been written by Charlie Farrugia, Manager, Collection Management, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) to provide a first draft of a transcription of the contents of the cards that make up the Uhl Index to Criminal Trial Briefs held at PROV.
This transcription can be used to obtain the Uhl index number necessary to identify and order a criminal trial brief from Victorian Public Record Series (VPRS) 30. It relates only to briefs that are stored in units (ie boxes) 1 – 227 of the P0 consignment. These units contain every trial brief held within VPRS 30 for the period 1841 – 1851 and some of the briefs for the period 1852 – 1861.
For detailed information about Victoria’s criminal trial briefs please refer to the detailed series description text in the PROV online catalogue.
This transcription should not be seen as the final product to be released by PROV but is being released in its current form to enable researchers to immediately benefit from the information contained within it. This transcription will be updated and improved over the course of 2010/11 including its conversion into database form.
The Uhl Index
The Uhl index comprises a number of index cards compiled in 1971 and 1972 by researcher, Mrs Jean Uhl. The Uhl Index was originally created to enable researchers to identify individual trial briefs then held by the Archives Division of the State Library of Victoria. (The Archives Division became PROV in April 1973). Although the trial briefs were arranged in an identifiable record keeping system, no other records were then in archival custody to enable the easy identification of briefs.
Individual cards in the Uhl index identify individuals tried for indictable offences in Victoria’s courts. A smaller number of cards, known as the Third Party Index, identify a small number of individuals associated with some of the trials.
Compilation of the Uhl index
Although the Uhl index is today primarily used to identify criminal trial briefs found in VPRS 30, it is important to understand that much of its contents were derived from entries found in the first 6 volumes that comprise VPRS 78 Criminal Record Books created by VA 2549 Supreme Court of Victoria. These volumes span the period 1841 – February 1873.
Jean Uhl created cards for each of the individuals identified in these 6 volumes of VPRS 78. Each card usually contains the following information:
- name of the accused and any co-accused (separate cards created for each individual)
- a code indicating the court and the charge(s) faced
- an indication of whether the individual was found guilty (G) or not guilty (NG) of each charge or whether the charge was heard (in some cases the trial did not proceed marked usually by an annotation of either “no information”, “not proceeded”, “nolle prosequi” or “NP”), and
- a three number code devised by Mrs Uhl which identified the actual brief.
The three number code relates the brief to the entries found in VPRS 78, for example, 4-131-8. In this code:
- the first number (in the example 4) refers to Criminal Record Book number
- the second number (in the example 131) refers to the numbered page within that book, and
- the third number (in the example 8) refer to the numbered entry for the case on the page.
Thus, Uhl brief code 4-131-8 refers to a case recorded in book 4 of VPRS 78 on page 118 as number 8.
After creating these cards, Mrs Uhl annotated the relevant brief in VPRS 30 with her three number code. The card and relevant entry in VPRS 78 were also annotated by a stamp reading BRIEF EXTANT 1971 or BRIEF EXTANT 1972. This annotation means that Mrs Uhl handled the actual brief during her project. Briefs not handled by her are not marked nor were the cards or entries annotated.
Dates of any trials held were not usually recorded on the cards.
Mrs Uhl also created a number of additional cards to identify a further 2,695 cases for which briefs were found but for which details were not recorded in VPRS 78. A separate code was devised to identify these cases. All of the information on these cards was derived from the actual brief.
This code is readily identifiable as it consists of a single number prefaced by the letters NCR (for Not in Criminal Record [Book]. For example, NCR 123 is the 123rd brief numbered by Mrs Uhl in this manner. This NCR code was placed on the card for the case in the place of the (non existent) three number code. There is also a small number of cases which are identified by a combination of NCR followed by an alphabetical letter.
Finally, Mrs Uhl created cards which recorded the details of an undetermined number of third parties from the actual briefs which she subsequently handled. Third parties include witnesses, police officers, soldiers, victims, other individuals and even places that were associated in some way with the prosecution.
These cards contains the name of the individual, the Uhl three number or NCR code and notes about that person. These notes generally do not identify details about the nature of the individual’s involvement with a particular case. Researchers will need to request the specific brief cited to determine this.
Cards in the Uhl Index which can be used to locate briefs in VPRS 30
Information on many, but not all, of the cards in the Uhl index can be used to identify a trial brief in VPRS 30.
Cards which contain Uhl’s 3 number reference (for example 4-118-14) and which contain the BRIEF EXTANT stamp, including third parties, are held in Uhl number order within units 1 – 184 of VPRS 30 consignment P000. The last brief arranged in this way is file number 5-118-19.
Cards which contain Uhl’s NCR reference (for example NCR 123), including third parties, are held in Uhl number order within units 185 – 227 of VPRS 30 consignment P000.
Cards in the Uhl Index which cannot be used to locate briefs in VPRS 30
There are a great many cards in the Uhl index which cannot be used to locate a brief in units 1 – 227 of VPRS 30 consignment P000. Very few cards that identify cases from book 5 (which spans the period October 1863 – May 1868) will lead a researcher to a brief in these particular boxes. Cards that identify cases from book 6 (which spans the period June 1868 – February 1873) will not enable researchers to find briefs in these units.
Any case identified in the Uhl Index which cannot be found in units 1 – 227 of VPRS 30 is most likely held in VPRS 30 from unit 227A onwards. In all cases the Uhl code does not assist in locating the relevant trial brief. (These Uhl entries have been left in this transcription because researchers can still use the Uhl code to find the entry in the relevant Supreme Court Criminal Record Book in VPRS 78.) Trial brief numbers for these cases can only be obtained by consulting VPRS 3253 Criminal Trial Brief Register I which is available on microfiche in PROV Reading Rooms.
Most third party cards will identify the relevant Uhl three number or NCR code. In some instances this reference appears to have been omitted. Unfortunately the actual brief cannot be determined because Mrs Uhl obtained this information after having read the detail on the brief itself.
Creation of this transcription
This transcription is the work of PROV staff member Pam Sheers. In most instances information has been transcribed as recorded by Mrs Uhl on the actual card. PROV has added only minor details to the transcription.
Arrangement of this transcription
The data has been arranged into 5 tables. These are:
Table 1: Court Code
This identifies the 11 court codes used by Jean Uhl. (Most of these have been converted into text for the purposes of the spreadsheet.)
Table 2: Crime Code
This identifies the various different charges faced by individuals
Table 3: Briefs (multiple #)
This identifies all of the cases for which Mrs Uhl used her three number code. Entries are arranged in Uhl code number order.
Table 4: Briefs (NCR #)
This identifies all of the cases for which Mrs Uhl used her NCR code. Entries are arranged in Uhl NCR code number order.
Table 5: Third Parties
This is in effect the Third Party Index which identifies all third parties for whom Mrs Uhl created a card. This is arranged in alphabetical order by surname.
Information to look for in order to identify a brief in VPRS 30
Trial brief numbers can be obtained by referring to either tables 3, 4 or 5 above only. Search for an entry in the relevant table either by scrolling through it or by using the Excel find functionality.
Record whatever information from the worksheet you think is important. However, if you wish to order the relevant criminal trial brief from PROV, you will need to note the Uhl trial brief number in the following manner:
- Table 3: note down the Uhl code contained in the column headed “BRIEF (UHL multiple #)”. Also refer to the next column headed “Brief” and note whether or not this contains a BRIEF EXTANT entry.
- Table 4: note down the Uhl code contained in the column headed “Brief (UHL NCR #)
- Table 5: note down the Uhl code contained in the column headed “Brief (UHL multiple or NCR #)
Determining what charges were faced by an individual
In order to determine the charges faced by individuals recorded in table 3, note all of the numbers that appear in the column headed “Crime Code”. Then click on table 2 and match up each number to determine the charge faced.
Charges faced by in individual in table 4 are generally recorded in the “Comments” column. The wording documented here is exactly as recorded on the Uhl Index card for the case.
Determining the result of the prosecution
In order to determine the result of the prosecution for charges faced by an individual recorded in table 3, refer to the column headed “Verdict”. The words Guilty or Not Guilty will mean that the individual was found guilty or innocent of all charges.
The phrase “Guilty of [followed by a number]” will usually mean that the individual was found guilty of a, usually lesser, charge for which he or she was not originally charged. To determine the charge, note this number and refer to table 2.
The phrase “Guilty of [first, second, etc] count” will usually mean that the individual was found guilty of just the relevant count as identified in the order these appear in the “Crime Code” column. Crime numbers have been recorded in the same order that they appeared on the card for this reason.
The term “Nolle Prosequi” in the “Verdict” column will mean that the prosecution did not take place or was terminated by the prosecution before a verdict was obtained.
In order to determine the result of the prosecution for charges faced by an individual in table 4, refer to the columns headed “Verdict” or “Other Comments recorded on card” for information recorded by Mrs Uhl based on her reading of the brief.
Ordering briefs from VPRS 30
STEP ONE: After recording the Uhl three number or NCR code, log on to the PROV website and enter Access the Collection by clicking onto this link. (If you are a first time user you will need to register as a public user.)
STEP TWO: After login, please click on the “Searching” icon under the top of the screen and then click on the option titled “Search Within A Series”.
You will be required to put information into the two fields which will then be displayed.
STEP THREE: In the field “Search for Items within Series VPRS” put in the number 30 (as in VPRS 30) without any other additions in every instance.
STEP FOUR: In the field “With any of the words or numbers” put in the Uhl three number or NCR code as required in the following manner:
- Uhl three number code: place the number from the spreadsheet without the leading zeroes. (For example, put in 5-35-2 instead of 5-035-02.)
- Uhl NCR Code: place the number from the spreadsheet without the leading zeroes and with a gap between NCR and the number (For example, put in NCR 491 instead of NCR 0491 or NCR491.)
STEP FIVE: Order the file.
Problems likely to be encountered in using this transcription
Researchers may have to deal with one of at least two problems in attempting to order files from VPRS 30 by using the information from this transcription. These are all problems which we will aim to correct in future releases as this project continues.
POSSIBLE PROBLEM ONE: I’ve placed the Uhl three number code into the Search Within A Series option and no match has been returned of a record to order.
If this occurs there may be one of at least three possible explanations:
1. You have used a Uhl three number reference which was not written onto the brief. To determine this, please return to the transcription in table 3 and check the “Brief” column to determine whether it contains the phrase “BRIEF EXTANT 1971” or “BRIEF EXTANT 1972”. If this field is blank, you will need to refer to VPRS 3253 Criminal Trial Brief Register I which is available on microfiche in PROV Reading Rooms to obtain the trial brief number.
2. The actual brief might not have been seen by Mrs Uhl because it was attached to another brief with a different Uhl three number reference. This will have happened only because separate briefs were created for more than one individual who were charged (and were tried) for exactly the same offence. To determine whether this might apply in your case, return to table 3 and establish whether the Uhl three number reference immediately before or immediately after yours is for an individual appearing before the same court, with the exact same crime code(s) but with a “BRIEF EXTANT 1971” or “BRIEF EXTANT 1972” notation in the “Brief” column. If so, it is possible that the brief you are looking for is physically attached to it and you will need to order that brief. Even then, on obtaining the actual brief make sure that you proceed well into the documentation to determine whether the in which brief you’re interested is located there.
3. The Uhl three number reference that was written on the card was not written in the same way on the actual brief. This has been one of the major discoveries of this transcription process to date and appears to be largely limited to briefs identified from Book 1. A number of the briefs from Book 1 have alphabetical characters, usually the letter A, added to either the second (i.e page) or third (i.e entry) UHL number. Unfortunately it appears that from time to time these numbers were written incorrectly onto the brief. (For example, Uhl reference number 1-10A-3 on the card may have been written as 1-10-3A on the brief.) As a result the number identified in this transcription (which was transcribed from the card) does not match the number as identified in the PROV listing (which was drafted from the numbers as written on the actual brief). The simplest solution is to order the units that are likely to contain the briefs around this number.
POSSIBLE PROBLEM TWO: My Third Party index entry identifies an individual in whom I’m interested but it doesn’t contain a reference to a Uhl three number or NCR number.
Unfortunately there isn’t anything that can be done to assist in these cases. The detail on these cards came from Uhl’s reading of some of the briefs. Unless a clue can be derived from the card entry, which is reproduced in full in this transcription, only a systematic reading of each brief in the 227 boxes will provide the solution. We have left these entries in the transcription because members of the public might have come across the actual brief in their research and may wish to alert us with the relevant brief number.
Individuals not listed in this transcription
There are a number of possible explanations if a name for which you are searching cannot be located in the tables here. These include that:
- the individual was not tried for an indictable offence and thus the case was heard in a lower court for which trial briefs were not created
- the case is for an indictable offence but from the period beyond the coverage of this index, or
- the individual was tried outside of Victoria.
Continuation of this project
Work is continuing on refining this transcription. This will include:
- converting the 5 tables into a single searchable database including the removal of all leading zeroes
- checking and amending all Uhl three number brief numbers against the numbers written on the actual brief
- conversting all crime codes to text
- identifying multiple briefs contained in the one file
- adding unit numbers from VPRS 30
- consideration of the addition of a date field and trial dates
- exploration of the possibility of including fields for the public to include additional information, and
- exploration of the possibility of including a feature for the public to add new individuals to the Third Party index.
Request for feedback or contributions to the text (but not yet the spreadsheet)
Please feel free to submit any feedback about this Wikipedia entry. Feedback is especially sought about the clarity of these notes, the identification of any additional problems or any generic questions that could be answered with additions to this text.
At the moment, if you have information about the cases documented in these tables that you think should be added to the relevant entries, please provide details to PROV. If relevant, we will add your information to our master tables thus ensuring its inclusion in the final output.