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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Alcatraz, California, U.S. Penitentiary, Prisoner Index, 1934-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data:

Alphabetical Index of Former Inmates of U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz, 1934–63. NARA Microfilm Publication 458. Records of the Bureau of Prisons, 1870–2009, Record Group 129. NARA, Pacific Regional Office, San Francisco, California.

About Alcatraz, California, U.S. Penitentiary, Prisoner Index, 1934-1963

Contained in this collection is an index to inmates held at the Alcatraz U.S. Penitentiary (USP), California, from 1934 to 1963. After locating the inmate identification number in this index, the inmate’s case files can then be requested from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Pacific Regional Office. The listing covers approximately 1,550 men incarcerated at Alcatraz including “Scarface” Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz”. The inmate files are meant to document the prisoner’s time while in the penitentiary and can include biographies, family histories, medical and psychiatric information, mail sent and received, number of visitors, legal documents, conduct records, mug shots, rap sheets, and the like. Some administrative information for the Alcatraz penitentiary is also available in the NARA collection such as account books, ledgers, annual reports, correspondence, journals, and photographs.

Compiled from ca. March 1975 to about 1988, these files were assembled as a series in a nationwide effort by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and all of its facilities in the mid-1970s to provide central access to the case files of all former inmates of the United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz, CA. Other Federal prison files included with these are for inmates who served in Alcatraz either before or after incarceration at other U.S. penitentiaries, or records from the central office of the BOP and/or Board of Parole files. When the documents were transferred to another BOP institution, they were usually stripped of documentation, thus the penitentiary at which the prisoner was last confined has the most complete files.

In the early 1930s, prison officials began studying the personal history of inmates to determine placement in treatment programs. Although these documents are not always available, those that are consist of the "Admissions Summary," which gives intimate details of an inmate's life. The summary includes a review of the inmate's criminal past; a social service interview examining the subject's childhood, family life, living conditions, economic status, and attitude toward rehabilitation; a medical history, including neuropsychiatric report with mental age and I.Q. test scores; educational attainments; employment history; religious background and preference; recreational interests; and the reviewing committee's recommendations for custody and discipline, transfer, social services, treatment (medical and psychiatric), and training (educational, vocational, religious, and recreational).

Information in this database:

  • Inmate commitment and /or register name (not necessarily birth and/or legal name; sometimes an alias)
  • Prisoner identification number

Information that may be obtained from the inmate case files at NARA:

  • Inmate biographies
  • Family histories
  • Annual progress reports (containing social, medical, psychiatric information, and general impressions and recommendations of the prison classification committee)
  • Records of mail sent and received (including letters from family, friends, welfare agencies, law enforcement officials, and correctional institutions )
  • Records of visitors
  • Written requests from the inmate to Federal officials
  • Legal documents
  • Sentence computation data
  • Financial accounts (prison earnings and expenditures)
  • U.S. Probation Office reports
  • Conduct records
  • Medical and dental records
  • Wanted posters
  • Mug shots
  • Rap sheets
  • Miscellaneous administrative records

How to Obtain Copies of Case Files:

The original case files are located at the NARA facility near San Francisco, CA. To order copies of these records you will need to contact the Archives:

The National Archives at San Francisco (NRHAS)
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066-2350

Telephone: 650-238-3501
Fax: 650-238-3510

E-mail: sanbruno.archives@nara.gov (preferred method of contact)

Related Websites:

NARA Pacific-Alaska Region Archives (Seattle)

NARA Pacific-Alaska Region Archives (Seattle), Alphabetical Index to Prisoners on NARA’s site.

NARA Pacific-Alaska Region Archives (Seattle), Guide to Archival Holdings (RG 103–147)