The records of criminals held at The National Archives are primarily the records of criminal courts. We hold many records of the central courts of law in England and Wales, of the county assize courts up to 1971 and of the Crown courts after that (but very little, and in some cases nothing, from the last 20 to 30 years).
There are other kinds of courts where criminal trials have been held over the years and for information on finding the records of these courts you should read our guide to Courts of law records held in other archives.
What does it help to know before starting?
As there is no central name index of convicted criminals it is often necessary to know:
- when and where the trial took place
- what kind of court tried the offence
You should also bear in mind that:
- Trial records are seldom very detailed, and do not include transcripts of criminal proceedings
- The most informative trial records include depositions, indictments and case files
- The parish mentioned in indictments is not necessarily the defendant’s place of residence, but often where the crime took place
- Defendants often gave aliases, so trial records may be held under a different name
Criminal registers for England and Wales (1791-1892)
Search criminal registers for England and Wales (HO 26 and HO 27), 1791 to 1892, on Ancestry.co.uk (£).
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 Findmypast.co.uk (£) 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 1819-1853 (HO 17 and HO 18)
- registers of criminal petitions 1797-1853 (HO 19)
- 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 (£). The registers in HO 19 are contemporary registers recording the receipt of petitions, some of which no longer survive, in HO 17 and HO 18.
Criminal petitions (1819-1853)
Most of the petitions in HO 17 and HO 18 are searchable and available to view on Findmypast (£). When searching for a petition in HO 17 or HO 18 you can also search Discovery, our catalogue which has detailed descriptions of many of these petitions.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
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 (£).
Criminal 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 100 years but calendars up to 1929 are open.
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.
Assize courts records (1559-1971)
From 1559 until 1971 the more serious criminal offences tended to be dealt with by the assize courts, although this was not always the case. The counties in England and Wales were grouped into assize ‘circuits’ where cases were heard. In 1971 they were replaced by the crown courts.
The assize courts records are held at The National Archives in the ASSI department, arranged by county and circuit. To get started, consult the ‘Record series key’ in the appendix of the guide to Criminal trials in the assize courts 1559–1971.
Records 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
The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.
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.