The Home Office ‘Criminal Registers’ have recently been added onto the Ancestry website. The national registers of criminal, (TNA document class HO 27), date from 1805 to 1892. These list all persons charged with crime and whether found guilty or not. This site also includes Criminal Registers for the Old Bailey (TNA document class HO 26), and these date from 1792. The entries are arranged by date of trial. The national registers (HO 27) give, county by county, the date and place of trial, the person’s name, a summary of the offence, whether found guilty or not and the sentence of the court. The Old Bailey registers (HO 26) often give additional information such as the height of the accused, complexion, place of birth and trade.
In the past it has been very time consuming to search through all these registers to find family criminals – a total of 279 volumes. Now, thanks to computerisation, the search can take a matter of minutes and not weeks.
It must be noted that apart from some of the Old Bailey records, the court proceedings are not available on the internet. It is therefore necessary to visit the relevant record office to search the original documents of the court proceedings.
The record of the Assizes and Palatinate Courts are held at the National Archives, Kew. Records of the Court of the Great Sessions of Wales are held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. Quarter Sessions records are held at the appropraite county borough record offfice.
Full details of the mass of documentation recording criminals including prison records, pardons, reprieves, licences, etc., are given in great detail in Criminal Ancestors, a Guide to Historical Criminal Records in England and Wales by David Hawkings, reprinted by The History Press ISBN 9780750950572 paperback £20 www.thehistorypress.co.uk
David Hawkings is the author of Fire Insurance Records for family and local historians, published by Francis Boutle Publishers in hardback £25
> See details of Fire Insurance Records for family and local historians by David Hawkings