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Unit topic: crime & criminal records

Overview guide

A brief history

Some of the earliest records held by our national and local record offices relate to the crimes committed (or alleged to have been committed) by our ancestors, and to the various ways in which the authorities of the day meted out their punishments.

Where can you look?

there is no single collection of ‘criminal records’. Instead, the records are spread around the country in a variety of archives. And some of the collections are vast; many are in the National Archives (TNA) but county and local record offices also have significant holdings. the surviving records are generally arranged by the courts in which the trials were held, but, from the mid-19th century, the Home Office began to take a more active role in keeping national records.

Tell me about the courts

As a rule, the higher courts (eg the King’s Bench and the Assizes) dealt with the more serious crimes (particularly capital off ences which might result in the death penalty) and these records are mainly held at TNA, while the records of the Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions are usually held at a local (county) level.

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About Family Tree

Discover the rich records of the golden era of family history, as we trace our ancestors from the Victorian age. Reflect on your roots and sense of identity. And make use of 25 fabulous free resources to learn more about your kin. From DNA sleuthing tips to document research skills, and family stories - find all this and more in Family Tree...