Databases and Web sites chock-full of criminal records and court proceedings from the United Kingdom to keep you hot on your ancestors trail.
If your convict ancestor was a British citizen, a wealth of resources awaits you. These include the proceedings of the Old Bailey
, 1674 to 1913, covering nearly 200,000 trials in London’s central criminal court.
The UK National Archives
catalog lists a collection of petitions for clemency, wherein might be a letter your ancestor wrote to the judge; its Documents Online
collection includes Victorian prisoners photos.
For a quick way to identify criminal ancestors in the UK, go to the archives’ catalog search
. Enter a name (or just a surname) in the Word or Phrase box and type HO 47 in the Department or Series Code field. That restricts your search to a series of judges’ reports on criminals, spanning 1783 to 1830. Hits will give you a quick summary of why your ancestor was in hot water (“Report of Francis Buller on John Waltho, farmer, convicted at the last Staffordshire Assizes, for stealing 3 sheep, property of William Hanson, from Kings Bromley Common during the first week in October 1785 … ”); the original documents are in the archives in Kew.
For more on catching criminals in the UK’s archives, see Sources for Convicts and Prisoners: Domestic Records Information 88
Descendants of Scottish scofflaws needn’t feel left out. Check the lively (yes, really) site for Inverary Jail
, where you can search records of more than 4,300 prisoners—including those who were ultimately transported.