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Criminal Petitions (Crime & Criminals)

Nature of Source

Petitions made by convicted persons seeking the revocation or reduction of their sentences. The outcomes were kept in criminal entry books. They were granted freely or on condition of transportation and based on age and dependent relatives.

Before 1784 pardons are contained in state papers often found in TNA series SP 37. The judges reports are especially useful (HO 6 and HO 47). After the establishment of the Court of Appeal in 1906, petitions were dealt with by the criminal justice system and not the crown. After 1782 the Home Office dealt with petitions on behalf of the Crown. The petitions came from men, women and children from all walks of life. The petitions were directed at the judge, the home secretary or the monarch. The information contained in the petitions is often more accurate and fulsome than the court records.

Also see
Assize Records
Calendars of Prisoners
Criminal Petitions
Criminal Registers
General Eyre
License Registers/'tickets of leave'
Petty Sessions
Quarter Session Records
Registers of Habitual Criminals
Transported Convicts

Where Found

The National Archives (HO 13, criminal entry books. HO 13 is arranged chronologically and indexed)
The National Archives (HO 15, Criminal and Miscellaneous Warrant Books; HO 17, Criminal Petitions, Series I; HO 18, Criminal Petitions, Series II; HO 19, Registers of Criminal Petitions; HO 42, Domestic Correspondence, George III. Records within this series are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project; HO 45, Registered Papers; HO 47, Judges' Reports on Criminals; HO 17 & 18 covering 1819 to 1854 are indexed in HO 19)

The name index covering series HO 47 is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search for or within references’ type ‘HO 47’.

The National Archives (HO 48, Law Officers' Reports; HO 49, Law Officers' Letter Books; HO 54, Civil Petitions and Addresses; HO 56, Petitions Entry Books; HO 144, Registered Papers, Supplementary)
County Record Offices (Some copies of records)
British Library (Law and Legal studies. Historical and current resources for the study of law, legislation and society. The Library has a wealth of material to support research on law including legislation, cases and traditional legal commentary)

Period Covered

1797 - 1906

Genealogical Value

Name, address, age of petitioner. Family relationships. Offence, date and place of trial, sentence and name of prison hulk held on. Character references.

Further References

Bard, Robert. Tyburn: The Story of London's Gallows: Amberley Publishing, 2012

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Bard, Robert. Death in London: Places of Execution, Then and Now: Historical Publications, 2007 Buy Now on Amazon

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006

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Brandon, David & Brooke. Alan. London West End 1800-1850 Murders And Misdemeanours: Amberley Publishing, 2009

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Brandon, David & Brooke. Alan. Olde London Punishments: The History Press (30 April 2010 Buy Now on Amazon

Cale, Michelle. Law and Society : an introduction to sources for criminal and legal history from 1800: PRO Publications, 1996

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Campbell, Charles. The Intolerable Hulks: British Shipboard Confinement 1776-1857 Fenestra Books, 2001

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Decharne, Max. Capital Crimes : Seven Centuries of London Life and Murder: Arrow Books, 2013

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Emsley, Clive. Crime and Society in England: 1750-1900: Routledge, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Emsley, Clive. Crime and Society in Twentieth Century England: Routledge, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon

Gilfillan, Ross. Crime and Punishment in Victorian London: A Street-Level View of the City's Underworld: Pen & Sword Books, 2014

Gray, Adrian. Crime and Criminals of Victorian England: The History Press, 2011

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Hall, Malcolm. Gloucestershire Murders and Misdemeanours 1820-1829: Amberley Publishing, 2008

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Hawkings, David. Criminal Ancestors: A Guide to Historical Criminal Records in England & Wales: The History Press, 2009

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Hawkings, David. Bound for Australia: A Guide to the Records of Transported Convicts and Early Settlers: The History Press, 2012

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Herber, Mark. Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939: Phillimore & Co, 2002

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Higgs, Michelle. Prison Life in Victorian England: The History Press, 2007

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Hitchcock, Tim & Shoemaker, Bob. Tales from the Hanging Court: Hodder Arnold, 2006

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Howse, Geoffrey. A History of London's Prisons: Wharncliffe True Crime, 2012

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Jack, Elizabeth. A Victorian Prisoners of Gloucester Gaol: A Rogues' Gallery: The History Press, 2009

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Jeaffreson, John Cordy (ed). Middlesex County Records. 4 Vols: Greater London Council, 1972 (1886) (Volumes available to download and view at the Internet Archive or at British History Online)

 

Knapp, Andrew & Baldwin, William. The Newgate Calendar: London, 1828 (Available from: Google Books)

 

Marson, Edward. Prison: Five Hundred Years of Life Behind Bars: The National Archives, 2009  Buy Now on Amazon

May, Trevor. Victorian and Edwardian Prisons: Shire, 2008

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Oates, Dr Jonathan. Tracing Villains and Their Victims: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2017
Paley, Ruth & Fowler, Simon. Family Skeletons: Exploring The Lives of our Disreputable Ancestors: The National Archives, 2005  Buy Now on Amazon
Reake, Janet. How to Trace Your Convict Ancestors: Their Lives, Times and Records: Hale & Iremonger, 1999 Buy Now on Amazon

Stevens, Mark. Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum: Pen and Sword Books, 2013

Storey, Neil. The Victorian Criminal: Shire Publications, 2011

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Wade, Stephen. Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2009

Wade, Stephen. Tyranny and the Lash : Prisoners & Punishment in British History: Robert Hale Publishers, 2011

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Watson, Katherine. Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and their Victims: Hambledon Continuum, 2006

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Woolf, Alex. Past In Pictures : A Photographic View of Crime and Punishment: Wayland Publishers, 2013

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TNA Research Guides

Websites

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/familyhistory/guide/ancestorslaw/default.htm (TNA Family History Guide, Ancestors and the Law)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-subject/crime-and-punishment.htm (TNA Guide: Looking for records of crime and punishment)
Your Archives Guide (Calendars of Prisoners, Prison Registers and Prison Returns in The National Archives)
www.londonancestor.com (Descriptions of London places and buildings including prisons)
www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Linked-records.jsp (Guide and links relating to records for criminal cases)
Old Bailey Sessions Papers and other printed sources for London Criminals

www.londonlives.org/static/Crime.jsp (Researching Crime)
www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/victorians/crime/crimepunishment.html
(British Library Learning, Victorians: Crime including Victorian Prisons and Executions and Transportations)
www.cyndislist.com/prisons.htm (Links to relevant sources and resources)
http://vcp.e2bn.org (Victorian Crime and Punishment resources for crime and punishment in the 19th Century)
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/family-history/Pages/Sources-for-tracing-London-criminals.aspx (Guildhall Library: Sources for Tracing London Criminals including Old Bailey Sessions Papers, Accounts of the Ordinary of Newgate, the British Trials microfiche and the Criminal Register Indexes)
www.exclassics.com/newgate/ngintro.htm (Free download of the Newgate Calendar based chiefly on the Navarre Society 1926 edition)
http://blacksheepancestors.com/uk/prisons.shtml (Prisons, Prisoners & Convicts in the United Kingdom)
http://blacksheepancestors.com (Links to UK, US & Canadian criminal resources)
www.victorianweb.org/history/crime (Crime related essays covering Victorian England)
www.genuki.org.uk (information covering UK & Ireland including mugshots & prisoner lists)
www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/index.html (Capital Punishment U.K.)
www.nas.gov.uk/guides/crime.asp (Research Guide Crime and Criminals)

Online Databases

www.findmypast.co.uk (England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935. Were your ancestors in trouble with the law? Follow them through over 3 million records of criminals who passed through the justice system in England and Wales between 1779 and 1935. For updates and other resources see Crime, Prisons and Punishment. These record sets are produced in association with the National Archives and include: Registers of Convicts in Prison Hulks, Ref: ADM 6; After-Trial Calendars of Prisoners, Ref: CRIM 9; Convicts, Miscellanea, Ref: HO 7; Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums: Quarterly Returns of Prisoners 1824-1876, Ref: HO 8; Criminal Entry Books 1782-1871, Ref: HO 13; Criminal Petitions Series I, Ref: HO 17; Criminal Petitions Series II, Ref: HO 18; Register of Criminal Petitions, Ref: HO 19; Registers of Prisoners from National Prisons lodged in County Prisons 1847-1866, Ref: HO 23; Prison Registers and Statistical Returns 1838-1875, Ref: HO 24; Judges’ Reports on Criminals 1784-1830, Ref: HO 47; Criminal Registers, Middlesex, Ref: HO 26; Criminal Registers, England and Wales, Ref: HO 27; Newgate Prison Calendar 1782-1853, Ref: HO 77; Miscellaneous Criminal Books 1798-1831, Ref: HO 130; Calendar of Prisoners, Ref: HO 140; Habitual Criminals' Registers and Miscellaneous Papers, Ref: MEPO 6; Prison Records, Ref: PCOM 2; Male Licences 1853-1887, Ref: PCOM 3; Female Licences, Ref: PCOM 4; Old Captions and Transfer Papers 1843-1871, Ref: PCOM 5 Convict Hulks 1802-1831, T 38/310-338; Treasury: Departmental Accounts, Convict Hulks, Ref: T 38)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Hue & Cry Index 1797-1810. Index of published notices of wanted criminals and the offences they committed. This index includes information on many who were sentenced to transportation in the Australian colonies)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(Devon, Plymouth Prison Records 1832-1919. The collection is formed from a variety of sources including prisoner registers, calendars of prisoners and registers of prison officers)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(Middlesex, London, Old Bailey Court Records 1674-1913. Explore over 782,000 court records from London's Old Baily/Central Criminal Court, the central criminal court of England & Wales. The collection is composed of both transcripts and links to images of the original documents)
www.ancestry.co.uk
(UK, Police Gazettes, 1812-1902, 1921-1927. This collection contains printed publications used for communication between members of the police force in the United Kingdom between 1812 and 1927, with gaps in coverage. It contains information on wanted criminals, crimes committed, criminals who had been apprehended, and missing persons)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Gloucestershire, England, Prison Records, 1728-1914)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Court and Criminal Records. Criminal records covering indictable offences in England and Wales between 1782 and 1892 taken from TNA series HO 27, Criminal Registers, England and Wales; HO 13, Criminal Entry Books Lists of pardons; HO 20/13, Prisons Correspondence and Papers including Bethlehem Hospital; CRIM 1, Central Criminal Court Depositions)
www.manchester-family-history-research.co.uk/new_page_18.htm (Manchester And Lancashire strays in Millbank Prison)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/victorian-prisoners-photograph-albums-1872-1873 (The National Archives: Victorian prisoners’ photograph albums 1872-1873. These records taken from series PCOM 2/290 and PCOM 2/291 can be searched or downloaded and contain photos and details of prisoners in Wandsworth prison)
www.oldbaileyonline.org (Old Bailey Proceedings Online: Online edition of the Old Bailey Proceedings containing accounts and calendars of trials held at London's central criminal court, equivalent to the assizes. Expect to find the names, address and occupations of the accused, the victims and witnesses as well as the names of judges and jurors. These are accounts of the trials written by journalists and are not public records. The contents of Old Bailey Online can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other databases)  
http://vcp.e2bn.org (Prisoner records 1799-1898)
http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides (National Library of Scotland Digital Gallery: The Word On The Street: Online collection of nearly 1,800 Scottish broadsides between 1650 and 1910)
http://broadsides.law.harvard.edu (Online collection of more than 500 broadsides)
www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/ballads.htm (Online collection of 30,000 broadside ballads)
www.llgc.org.uk/sesiwn_fawr/index_s.htm (Index to the Gaol Files of the Court of Great Sessions in Wales, 1730-1830. The database contains information on criminals and their crimes and punishments as well as details on the victims. Records from less serious crimes heard at Quarter Sessions are held at county record offices and can be searched at Archives Wales. Monmouthshire formed part of the Oxford circuit and are available from The National Archives at Kew)
www.nas.gov.uk/guides/highCourt.asp (Online access to catalogued and indexed criminal trials held in the High Court of Justiciary, 1800-1930)

CD Roms

www.genfair.co.uk (Criminal Petitions Index: Parts 1-4 - HO 17/40 - HO 17/79, 1819-1839, Supplied by Machine Breakers News. Requests for individual searches can be made via the website for a fee)
Archive CD Books (Newgate Calendar)