A collection of The National Archives' historical criminal records from England and Wales is now available online as part of a licensing partnership with family history website, findmypast.co.uk.
The first set of documents, comprising 518,000 records from 1817-1931, went online yesterday and the remaining records will be published on findmypast.co.uk in the coming months.
Once complete, more than 2.5 million records spanning over 150 years from 1770 to 1934 will be searchable online, providing family and social historians with an invaluable new resource.
The records range from petitions for clemency to entry books, judges' reports, prison registers, transfer papers and gaolers' reports and chronicle the fate of criminals such as fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves and murderers as well as their victims.
'Evolution of the criminal justice system'
Paul Carter, Principal Modern Domestic records specialist at The National Archives, said: 'These records show the evolution of the criminal justice system in the 19th century as the country dealt with the impact of industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth.
'They record the intimate details of hundreds of thousands of people, beginning with judges' recommendations for or against pardons, to petitions through which criminals and their families could offer mitigating circumstances and grounds for mercy, and later, licences containing everything from previous convictions to the state of a prisoner's health.
'As well as the Georgian highway robber, the Victorian murderer and the Edwardian thief, the courts often dealt with the rural poacher, the unemployed petty food thief or the early trade unionist or Chartist. The records are a fascinating source for family, local and social historians.'
Among the records which will be available online today are:
- Admiralty registers of convicts in prison hulks between 1818-1831 (ADM 6)
- After trial calendars of prisoners from the Central criminal court between 1855-1931 (CRIM 9)
- Calendar of Prisoners in Home Office records 1868-1929 (HO 140)
- Criminal petitions 1817-1858 (HO 17)
- Metropolitan Police records of habitual drunkards for the period 1903-1914 (MEPO 6)
- Prison Commission records for 1880-1885 (PCOM 2)
All the records will be free to search and can be downloaded free of charge in our reading rooms at Kew or at home for a small fee.