How to look for Criminals and convicts

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

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We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

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Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

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Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This is a brief guide to help you with your research. The National Archives holds many records of criminal trials, although these rarely include detailed information such as transcripts of evidence. The records are scattered and there is no central name index to criminal trials, so unless you know when and where your ancestor was tried it can be very difficult to trace trial records.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the name of the accused, including variant spellings
  • when and where the trial took place
  • what kind of court tried the offence

What records can I see online?

Criminal registers for England and Wales (1791-1892)

Search criminal registers for England and Wales (HO 26 and HO 27), 1791 to 1892, on (£).

Old Bailey trial records (1674-1913)

Search for records of Old Bailey trials from 1674 to 1913 at Old Bailey Proceedings Online.

Criminals, convicts and prisoners (1770-1935)

Search among the assorted records of criminals, convicts and prisoners on (£) for records including:

  • registers of convicts in prison hulks 1818-1831 (ADM 6)
  • after-trial calendars of prisoners 1855-1931 (CRIM 9)
  • Home Office calendars of prisoners 1868-1929 (HO 140)
  • criminal petitions 1817-1858 (HO 17)
  • Metropolitan Police habitual criminals registers 1903-1914 (MEPO 6)
  • Prison Commission prison records 1880-1885 (PCOM 2)
  • judge’s reports on criminals (please see below for further information)

Judges’ reports on criminals (1784-1830)

Search, by name and/or keyword, the judges’ reports on criminals in HO 47.

These can include witness statements, character references of witnesses, as well as memorials and petitions from friends and relatives of the accused.

Please note, these records are available to view on findmypast (£) however you can find much information out about the records from the descriptions in our catalogue. Therefore you may prefer to start with a search of our catalogue.

Index to criminal petitions (1797-1853)

Search by name the index to criminal petitions (HO 19) on findmypast (£). Once you find a relevant entry you can then find the petition in HO 17 or HO 18.

When searching for a petition in HO 17 or HO 18 you can start by searching Discovery, our catalogue which has detailed descriptions of many of these petitions.  Some of these petitions are available to view on findmypast.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Criminals calendars (1868-1971)

Search Discovery, our catalogue, by year range in HO 140 to find records which give the place and date of trials. The records are arranged by year and then alphabetically by county. These records are usually opened to the public after 75 years.

Date range (yyyy):

Date range (yyyy)

Trial records of the Supreme Court of Judicature and Central Criminal Court (1834- )

Search our catalogue by surname or charge for criminal trial records in J (includes Crown Court records from 1972 onwards) and CRIM. If the charge is not known, search using the word ‘charge’. This will eliminate non-criminal records. Please note that not all of these records have been catalogued by name.

You can use AND to find more than one term in a description, for example Smith AND larceny.

Criminal appeal case files (1945- )

Search our catalogue by last name in J 82 for case files of criminal appeals.

Records of the Justices of Assize (1554-1971)

Browse the ASSI department in our catalogue for records of the Justices of Assize. First look up the county in the research guide Criminal trials in the English assize courts 1559-1971 – key to records to find out which assizes records to investigate further.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

London Metropolitan Archives (before 1834)

Search for records of the Old Bailey and the Central Criminal Court before 1834 at London Metropolitan Archives.


Search The Times Archive to view articles (£) on some of the more newsworthy trials from 1785-1985.

Records held locally

Search for trial records of quarter sessions, petty sessions and magistrates’ courts in our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


Search the index for records of trials at the Court of Great Sessions in Wales from 1730 to 1830.

Read the blog Beyond the Old Bailey online: archival sources for trials on the Old Bailey online and London Lives website.

Did you know?

The assizes were held twice each year from the 13th century to 1971 in each county, and were grouped into a number of circuits. In 1971 they were replaced by the crown courts.

The National Archives does not hold transcripts of criminal trials. When searching trial records the most informative are often depositions, indictments and case files.

The parish given for the defendant in the indictments is not necessarily their place of residence – it is often where the crime took place.

Defendants often gave aliases, so the trial records might be under a different name.