Searches for the records in this section begin in our catalogue. To access these records you will either need to visit us or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Prison registers and calendars of prisoners (1770-1971)
Although some registers and calendars of prisoners are available online at Findmypast (£), others are not. Search our catalogue by date or place, in HO 23, HO 24, HO 140 and PCOM 2 for registers and calendars of prisoners. These are arranged by prison or by county and individual prisoners’ names do not usually appear in our catalogue.
Most of these records are from the 19th century. Calendars in HO 140 extend until 1971 but only those before 1930 are open.
Often the best places to search for prison registers after 1878 are local county archives.
Quarterly returns of convicts in prisons and prison hulks (1802-1876)
Search our catalogue in HO 8, by name of prison or prison hulk and year, for records of prisoners held in these institutions. Search also T 38 for lists of crews and convicts on convict hulks.
Petitions for clemency (1819-1853)
Browse or search our catalogue in HO 17 (1819-1839) and HO 18 (1839-1853) for petitions for clemency. Petitions in HO 17 are described in some detail in our catalogue and a cataloguing project is adding descriptions to HO 18. Petitions were registered on receipt in a set of records now in HO 19.
The registers and most of the petitions are available and name searchable online via Findmypast (£).
The registers provide a reference which can help you search for the actual petition. Read section 5 of our guide to criminal transportation for further help.
You can also search for law officers’ reports relating to petitions by date in HO 48 and HO 49 (c1762-1871).
Prisoners tried at the Old Bailey or the Central Criminal Court (1815-1849)
Browse HO 16 for lists of prisoners arranged by date.
Court orders (1842-1871)
Consult PCOM 5 (which is indexed by PCOM 6) to find details of a prisoner’s movements from prison to prison, misconduct, physical description and next of kin.
Indexes of prison licences for men (1853-1887)
Consult the indexes of prison licences in PCOM 6 to locate male prison licences held in PCOM 3.
Prison licences, popularly known as ‘tickets of leave’, allowed convicts of good behaviour to be released before the completion of their sentences.
Registers of superannuation and retirement allowances for prison staff (1834-1925)
You may be able to find mentions of prison staff details (such as name, age, religion or details of service) in PMG 28.
Browse PMG 28 by date of retirement and then under ‘P’ for records of prison staff. The pensioners of the Convict Establishment and Convict Prisons are also generally entered in separate volumes.
Prison staff appointment books (1887-1898)
Browse HO 160 by date of appointment, transfer or dismissal of prison staff. These records are not complete and do not provide any additional personal information.