How to look for records of... Civil court cases: an overview
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
How many are online?
This is a guide to searching for records at the National Archives of legal disputes, settled in court, between two parties over matters such as land, property rights, debt, inheritance and trusts. Such cases are known as civil cases, as opposed to criminal cases, and the legal process is known as civil litigation.
Over the centuries many civil courts were created to deal with different branches of the law. Some were relatively short lived and no longer exist, some were absorbed into other courts, while others still continue. Each court created its own set of records and they vary considerably in how complete and how informative, or easy to understand, they are. This guide covers the courts whose records are held at the National Archives. Records of some courts, such as County Courts or Magistrate’s courts, do not come to the National Archives but may be in city or county archives.
For guidance on records relating to the following subjects, click on the links below:
- Changes of name
- Bankruptcy and insolvency.
- Probate of wills and administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
- Manorial courts