National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884)

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884)

Private detective

Allan Pinkerton was a Chartist, had to go into hiding to avoid arrest and left Scotland for America in 1842. He was the first police detective appointed in Chicago and set up what eventually became the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850. It employed uniformed and undercover personnel, had its own code of conduct and worked across state boundaries. Allan Pinkerton also introduced a centralised criminal record system and became the world's first 'private eye'. He died on 1 July 1884. The Agency's archive was donated to the Library of Congress.

Birth in 1819

Allan Pinkerson was born on 21 July 1819, the son of William Pinkerton and Isobel McQueen. The single line entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Glasgow Gorbals gives the baptism date as 29 August.

Birth and baptism entry for Allan Pinkerton

Birth and baptism entry for Allan Pinkerton Glasgow (5 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 644-2/20

1841 census

In 1841 Allan Pinkerton was enumerated at Little Bowhill with his family. The census record for Glasgow gives his occupation as cooper j (for journeyman) and his age as 20 but that would have been rounded down to the nearest five in 1841. His mother's name is Isabella rather than Isobel as shown in the OPR baptism entry. As relationships to head of household aren't included in 1841 it isn't clear how John Robertson, aged 9, fits in. All were born in the county (Y).

1841 census record for Allan Pinkerton

1841 census record for Allan Pinkerton (55 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1841/644-1/46, page 9

Marriage in 1842

Allan Pinkerton married Joan Carfrae on 13 March 1842. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Glasgow gives his occupation as cooper in Glasgow and shows that Joan was also 'residing there'.

Marriage entry for Allan Pinkerton

Marriage entry for Allan Pinkerton (22 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 644-01/420, page 536