Researching Criminal Ancestors in Britain

Explore a Wealth of Criminal Records Online

From witches, murders, and thieves, to bigamists, poachers, and drunks, records of criminal charges, proceedings, and convictions can provide a wealth of information on ancestors that we might not expect. Trial proceedings, mug shots, prison registers, newspaper accounts, and court records can all be found to help tell the story of your "criminal" ancestors.

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Proceedings of the Old Bailey

Details of almost 200,000 criminal trials are recounted among "The Proceedings of the Old Bailey," a publication focused on trials that took place at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, between 1674 and 1913. Search, browse, and download records for free from this free, fully-searchable edition of the transcribed original records of the publication. Free!
This free searchable catalogue of more than 14,000 cause papers relating to disputes over matrimony, defamation, tithes, probate, breach of faith by the clergy, and church rights heard between 1300 and 1858 in the Church Courts of the diocese of York. Free! More »
FindMyPast is publishing online over 2.5 million criminal records dating from 1770-1934, including mug shots, court documents, appeal letters, and registers from the prison ‘hulk’ ships used when mainland prisons were overcrowded. The information in the records comes from a variety of Government departments in counties across the United Kingdom, including the Home Office, Prison Commission, Metropolitan Police, Central Criminal Court and the Admiralty. A subscription or pay-per-view access is required to access these records. More »
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England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

This database from subscription website Ancestry.com contains criminal registers from England and Wales for the years 1791-1892, listing individuals charged with various crimes. The registers provide information about the charged individual, their trial, and sentence (if convicted) or other outcome. Access requires a free trial or subscription to Ancestry.com.
Search the index to records of trials at the Court of Great Sessions in Wales from 1730 to 1830, which could hear cases on all types of crimes, from petty thefts to high treason. In practice, however, most of the crimes heard by this court were more serious in nature. Records from cases tried in Monmouthshire are not a part of this database. More »
This free online database provides information on more than 123,000 of the 160,000 convicts transported to Australia between 1787 and 1867 included in the Convict Transportation Registers Series (HO 11) held in The UK National Archives. Records may contain the convict's name, the place of trial, the duration of the sentence, the name of the transportation ship and date of departure, and the place of arrival in Australia. More »
Explore a selection of narratives generated during the witch prosecutions of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, derived from printed texts about witches, medical manuals, and legal archives. More »

This online source of early published sources exploring the early history of Britain, includes several early published criminal and court records, including early Middlesex Quarter Sessions Records, London Assize Records and selected session proceedings and gaol records found in the published Cardiff Records. The Justicing Notebook of Henry Norris and the Hackney Petty Sessions Book, covering the period 1730–1753, is an interesting source, with records of petty crimes which were mediated informally and never made it to court. More »