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English & Welsh Resources for Family Historians: Crime and punishment

The State Library of South Australia has a large number of resources that may assist you in tracing your English or Welsh ancestry. This guide also contains websites of interest, contact details for relevant organisations and tips & tricks.

Introduction

The resources on the page are mainly from the State Libary of South Australia's collection and give information on how to trace criminal, court or police records in England and Wales.  There are also resources to assist you in tracing your ancestor if he was a policemen or on the prison staff.

You may be interested to know the the records of both prisons and individual prisoners might be held in a number of different places. Prison records were not created nationally for England or Wales, so it is often best to start looking in local archives.

Prisoners were often moved between prisons where there was space, rather than being imprisoned near their home or where the offence was committed.

After 1615 it became increasingly common for convicts to be offered a pardon from a death sentence on condition of transportation.

Originally transportation was to America or the West Indies; from 1718 to 1776 it was to America; and from 1787 to 1867 it was to Australia and Tasmania (then called Van Diemen's Land).

Convicts were sentenced to transportation after trials at assizes, quarter sessions, or the Old Bailey.

Few records survive about individual convicts who were transported to North America and the West Indies.

Prison hulks were ships moored near naval bases to house prisoners - often those awaiting transportation.

Records available via Ancestry.com

The following links will take you to indexes available via Ancestry.com.  You will be able to search for information and see search results, however to see original records or transcripts you will need to pay as you go or use the subscription database Ancestry.com. 

The State Library of South Australia has a subscription to Ancestry.com (Library edition) that may be used within the Library.

Records available via Find My Past

The following links will take you to indexes available via Find My Past.  You will be able to search for information and see search results, however to see orignal records or transcripts you will need to pay as you go or use the subscription database Find My Past. 

The State Library of South Australia has a subscription to Find My Past that may be used within the Library.

Background reading

The following items are available for use within the State Library:

Tips & Tricks for researching criminals & convicts

The following information guides have all been produced by the National Archives (UK) to assist researchers using their collections.

Leg irons

General resources available at the Library

Here is a selection of items from the Library's collection that may be of interest:

Prison & Criminal Court Resources

The resources listed below are available at the State Library of South Australia:

Useful websites

The proceedings of the Old Bailey : London's central Criminal Court, 1674 to 1913

The Complete Newgate Calendar

Victorian prisoners' photograph albums 1872-1873

United Kingdom Black Sheep

Images for Illustrated Police News archive

London Metropolitan Archives - Search for records of the Old Bailey and the Central Criminal Court before 1834

Crime and Punishment database - Until 1830, cases in Wales were heard at the Court of Grand Sessions of Wales and these records are kept at the National Library of Wales. 

Archives Wales - Petty crimes in Wales where mostly heard at the Courts of Quarter Sessions, these records are held by the Welsh county records offices.  These records can be located via Archives Wales

London Lives 1690 - 1800 - crime, poverty and social policy in London

Records available at the National Archives (UK)

Please note that to access any of the records referred to below you will either have to go to the National Archives (UK) at Kew, in London, pay a researcher to go on your behalf or be able to give a specific record reference of an item in their collection and order a copy.

National Archives (UK) is unable to undertake research on your behalf.

As well as the searchable data below, don't forget to try their catalogue search to locate records.