What’s avail­able on­line and in the ar­chives

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Lo­cal ar­chives

County record of­fices hold records from petty ses­sions, quar­ter ses­sions and mag­is­trates’ courts. Check The Na­tional Ar­chives’ on­line Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue ( dis­cov­­tion­alarchives. to see in which ar­chive de­tails of about your an­ces­tor’s trial might be held. Col­lec­tions usu­ally in­clude ad­di­tional doc­u­men­ta­tion, which might give more de­tail about the crime. Prison records were orig­i­nally cre­ated lo­cally and, af­ter 1878, prison reg­is­ters are more likely to be found in county ar­chives, rather than at TNA. Pris­on­ers were of­ten moved to in­sti­tu­tions with enough space, so you may have to widen your search to other parts of the coun­try. Census records may help in the search, too.

The Na­tional Ar­chives

Most of the crim­i­nal records for Eng­land and Wales can be found at TNA. Its ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion com­prises all Home Of­fice records ( HO Divi­sions) in­clud­ing crim­i­nal reg­is­ters, en­try books for crim­i­nals, con­vict records, prison reg­is­ters and as­sizes records. Crim­i­nal reg­is­ters were cre­ated as pris­on­ers moved through the prison sys­tem. Se­ries HO 26 cov­ers Lon­don and Mid­dle­sex (1791-1849), af­ter which date the en­tries were in­cor­po­rated into HO 27 (1805-1892), with those from the rest of the coun­try. For cal­en­dars of pris­on­ers (1868-1971), search the Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue ( dis­cov­­tion­alarchives. by year range in HO 140 to find the date and lo­ca­tion of tri­als. They are ar­ranged by year and then al­pha­bet­i­cally by county. There are ex­cel­lent re­search guides for records about crim­i­nals, courts and pris­ons at na­tion­alarchives.­re­search/# find-a-re­searchguide with clear guid­ance and help­ful ad­vice.


Find­my­past ( find­my­ has the largest on­line col­lec­tion of crim­i­nal records cov­er­ing 1770-1936, thanks to the re­cent ad­di­tion of 1.9 mil­lion records. It now in­cludes Home Of­fice cal­en­dars of pris­on­ers HO 140 (1868-1929), Prison Com­mis­sion records PCOM 2 (1880-1885), af­ter-trial cal­en­dars of pris­on­ers CRIM 9 (1855-1931), crim­i­nal pe­ti­tions HO 17 (1817-1858), Metropoli­tan Po­lice ha­bit­ual crim­i­nals reg­is­ters MEPO 6 (1881-1936) and Prison Com­mis­sion male li­cences PCOM 3 (1853-1887). In ad­di­tion, there are also trans­porta­tion records, such as Aus­tralia Con­vict Ships (1786-1849) and reg­is­ters of con­victs in prison hulks, ADM 6 (1818-1831). Re­gional records in­clude Manch­ester (1847-1881) and Ir­ish prison reg­is­ters (1790-1924).


In ad­di­tion to the crim­i­nal reg­is­ters HO 26 and HO 27 (1787-1892), the dig­i­tal col­lec­tion at ances­ in­cludes Crim­i­nal Lu­natic Asy­lum Reg­is­ters HO 20 (1820-1843) and Crim­i­nal Lu­nacy War­rant and En­try Books for Eng­land and Wales HO 145 (1882-1898). The web­site of­fers a se­lec­tion of re­gional records, such as Dorch­ester prison reg­is­ters (1782-1901), West York­shire prison records (1801-1914), Birm­ing­ham cal­en­dar of pris­on­ers (1880-1891 and 1906-1913) and Lan­cashire Quar­ter Ses­sions (1648-1908).


The­ge­neal­o­ has more than 90,000 crim­i­nal records (1782-1970) for Eng­land and Wales, in­clud­ing the Worces­ter­shire Cal­en­dar of Quar­ter Ses­sions (1591-1643). The site also has the im­por­tant Con­vict Trans­porta­tion Reg­is­ters (1787-1867). The Di­a­mond sub­scrip­tion al­lows ac­cess to copies of the Il­lus­trated Lon­don News.

The Na­tional Ar­chives’ Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue is the best place to start your search for crim­i­nal records held at TNA and around the coun­try

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