Criminal Records at the National Archives, Early 19th Century

August, 2007

Patricia Ward (patricia @t of Potters Bar, Herts, kindly responded to my request for experiences of using criminal records at the National Archives. She writes:

You ask on your website if anyone has used The National Archives (TNA) to research criminal ancestors.  I have more than a few of these which have given me hours of fun and most of which have necessitated a visit to TNA, all from Herts, Bucks and Beds.

The first documents I studied at TNA were HO27, annual criminal registers, arranged by County, which gave me the place and date of trial.  These are huge volumes which necessitate using a trolley, and need to be studied in the Map Reading room where the tables are larger.

For Quarter Sessions trials the records are at County Record Offices, but for Assizes I needed to search ASSI.  There is a key to these on the TNA website.

I haven't gone into too much detail as the email would be far too loooooooooong but if you'd like more let me know. I have of course found lots more information from other sources, but the basic information comes from TNA.  To research criminals you must first know the place and date of trial.

I have found TNA documents very confusing at times and to start had help from Ken Griffin  [author of the valuable reference book Transported beyond the Sea] from Herts FHS and took copious notes from an excellent book 'Criminal Ancestors' by David T Hawkings.

Thanks Patricia - I have not tried to use the criminal records at the National Archives but some time ago I used some of the First World War military records and your notes suggest that the joys and the problems are much the same. For certain categories of information the records can be a real gold mine - but it can be hard work, and you need to do your homework by studying suitable guide books before you start.

What is helpful is that an increasing number of records are becoming available online.

There is a web page for The National Archives

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created August 2007
January 2010: link to State Library of Queensland