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Prison/Hulk/Gaol Registers (Crime & Criminals) (Including Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records of those incarcerated in a locally or government run prison. Before the 19th century most prisons were used to hold people awaiting trail but later in the 19th century, people were sentenced to serve a prison term as a punishment. Court orders for imprisonment or transfers form part of the available documents. Those convicted of more serious crimes were known as convicts rather than prisoners who were more likely to be held locally. Prison hulks were used to accommodate the increasing amount of criminals in the 19th century. Prisoners were held in prison hulks whilst awaiting transportation or as a sentence and were in operation until 1857. Quarter session magistrates could sentence people to transportation.

In Scotland, prisoners sentenced to deportation were actually deported from England so the records are held at The National Archives (TNA) at Kew. Details of the criminal trial will be found amongst the registers for the prison local to the courts where sentencing took place.

Many prison records have been destroyed or lost and some may remain in the custody of the local prison authorities. Any county where an assize court sat, operated prisons known as houses of correction or bridewells from the 13th century to the 17th century. From 1877, prisons came under the control of central government so records can be in County Record Offices or at The National Archives. Names of individuals can often be found in Quarter Session lists of local prisoners as well as in the admission and discharge registers. Sheriffs provided the justices of the assizes with lists of jail inmates which can be found amongst Quarter Session records at County Record Offices. Newspapers and journals often reported criminal cases.

Also look for transfer papers which detail a prisoner's transfer from one prison to another and can be found in TNA series PCOM. Court orders or captions provide details on a convict and are found in PCOM 5, indexed in PCOM 6.

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

County Record Offices (Quarter session and assize records, gaolers' admission and discharge registers and journals kept by prison officials)
The National Archives (Registers of government run and local prisons in series HO 8, HO 23, HO 24, PCOM 2, and KB 32)
The National Archives (Prison hulk records in series HO 7, HO 8, HO 9, T 1, T 38, T 53, T 64, T 90, T 207, E 370, ADM 6 & PCOM 2)
The National Archives (Criminal lunatic records are found in series HO 8, HO 20, HO 144 and HO 145)
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)
ScotlandsPeople Centre (The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. Holding include Scottish county prison registers; copies of The National Archives transportation registers, some transportation records for 1653-1853 within the High Court files. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
Sheriff Courts (Scotland Prison registers)

Period Covered

1299 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Prison Registers
Prisoner's name, occupation, age, place of birth, marital status of prisoner. Physical description and character. Prison transfers and discharge details which include the name of the prisoner, a physical description and the names and addresses of the next of kin. Occasionally photos. Details of trial, verdict and punishment.

Hulks Registers
Prisoner's name, age, birth year, offence committed, date and place of conviction and sentence with the name of the hulk. Trade or occupation. Character reports written by the prison officer are shown under the heading of 'Gaoler's Report'. Later records show the prisoner's marital status and number of children.

Further References

Prison Related  
Branch-Johnson, William. The English Prison Hulks: Phillimore, 1970 Buy Now on Amazon
Campbell, Charles. The Intolerable Hulks: British Shipboard Confinement 1776-1857 Fenestra Books, 2001  Buy Now on Amazon
Higgs, Michelle. Prison Life in Victorian England: The History Press, 2007 Buy Now on Amazon
Howse, Geoffrey. A History of London's Prisons: Wharncliffe True Crime, 2012 Buy Now on Amazon
Jack, Elizabeth. A Victorian Prisoners of Gloucester Gaol: A Rogues' Gallery: The History Press, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Jowett, Caroline. The History of Newgate Prison: Pen and Sword Books, 2017
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 Buy Now on Amazon
Stevens, Mark. Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum: Pen and Sword Books, 2013
Wade, Stephen. Tyranny and the Lash : Prisoners & Punishment in British History: Robert Hale Publishers, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon
Crime General  

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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)


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

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

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

Buy Now on Amazon

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

Buy Now on Amazon

TNA Research Guides

Websites (TNA Guide: Looking for a person? Criminals, bankrupts and litigants)
(TNA Guide: Looking for records of crime and punishment)
Your Archives Guide (Calendars of Prisoners, Prison Registers and Prison Returns in The National Archives) (Prison Service HQ Library: Prisons Sources of Information on Prisoners, History And Architecture) (Descriptions of London places and buildings including prisons) (Guide and links relating to records for criminal cases)
Old Bailey Sessions Papers and other printed sources for London Criminals (Researching Crime)
(British Library Learning, Victorians: Crime including Victorian Prisons and Executions and Transportations) (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) (CyndisList: Links to relevant sources and resources) (Victorian Crime and Punishment resources for crime and punishment in the 19th Century) (Free download of the Newgate Calendar based chiefly on the Navarre Society 1926 edition) (Prisons, Prisoners & Convicts in the United Kingdom) (Links to UK, US & Canadian criminal resources) (Crime related essays covering Victorian England) (The Dictionary of Victorian London: Prisons) (information covering UK & Ireland including mugshots & prisoner lists) (Capital Punishment U.K.) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Crime and Criminals) (The Newgate Calendar; online access to various volumes of the publication) (The Newgate Calendar) (Scottish Archive Network guide: My ancestor was a prisoner)

Online Databases

National Collections (Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935: The transcribed records include: Admiralty: Registers of convicts in prison hulks extracted from TNA series ADM 6. The collection includes transcribed and scanned records of criminals who passed through the justice system in England and Wales between 1770 and 1935 extracted from original records held at The National Archives. Other series covered in the collection include after-trial calendars of prisoners from series CRIM 9, calendar of prisoners from series HO 140, criminal petitions from series HO 17, habitual criminals' registers and miscellaneous papers from series MEPO 6, prison records from series PCOM 2) (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) (Prison Ship [Hulk] Registers 1811-1843.Records for prisoners held captive on prison ships or hulks extracted from TNA series HO 9 covering 1811-1843. The collection of records includes details of prisoners on the following hulks: Antelope, Bellerophon, Coromandel, Dromedary, Euryalus, Hardy, and Weymouth as well as a small number of records for Parkhurst prison. The records are provided by Jill Chambers) (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) (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) (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) (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) (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)
(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) (Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849 extracted from TNA series HO 9)
Digital Microfilm (TNA series HO 9, Registers of the convicts in the hulks and a letter book relating to the establishment of the hulks, 1847 to 1849. Digital Microfilm allows you to search and download some of The National Archives' most popular records, which were previously available on microfilm) (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) (Last Chance To Read: Online access to a wide range of searchable and digitised 18th and 19th century newspapers, periodicals, and magazines including the UK Police Gazette from 1840 onwards and a selection of copies of the Dublin ‘Police Gazette or Hue and Cry’ from the years 1863 to 1893) (Blacksheep Ancestors: Online prisoner & execution lists)
Regional Collections (Dorset Records: Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Registers, 1782-1901; Bedfordshire Gaol Index, 1770-1882)
(England, Bedfordshire Gaol Index, 1770-1882)
(Gloucestershire, England, Prison Records, 1728-1914) (Gloucestershire, Gaol Registers, 1815-1879) (The Manchester Collection: Prison register transcripts from Belle Vue Prison, Hyde Road, West Gorton; New Bailey Prison, Salford; Strangeways Prison, Southall Street. The original records are held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies)
(London Lives, Culture & Society 1680-1817. London Lives chronicles the lives of Londoners through the exploration of a variety of sources including criminal registers, session papers, ordinary’s accounts from Old Bailey, apprentice records, coroner inquests, workhouse minutes, Register of admissions to workhouse, clerks’ papers, Churchwarden's account books, Vestry minute books/vestry minutes, Register of removal orders, Pauper examination books/examination books, bastardy bonds and much more)
(Surrey institutional records 1788-1939. Records from 16 institutions across, including poor law unions, workhouses, schools, infirmaries, goals and more) (Bath Record Office: Bath Ancestors Database: Commitments in Felony, 1840-1855; Commitments to the House of Correction, 1836-1858) (London Lives: Ordinary of Newgate Prison) (Family History Indexes: Criminal Register Index)
(GENfair Search Services: Parkhurst Prison Index. Requests for an individual search for a fee of the Parkhurst Prison Index to boys held in Parkhurst Prison between 1838 & 1863, taken from prison registers at TNA) (Prisoner records 1799-1898) (Online Hackney Petty Sessions Book 1730-1753, with index)
(Prisoners in County Durham, 1845) (Index to the Calendar of Prisoners at Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, 1777-1839)
Gloucestershire Archives' Genealogical Database (Gaol registers from, 1815-1879. Also try searching for a named individual at the Gloucestershire Archives Online Catalogue which includes the General Personal Names Index and other specialist indexes) (Index of names extracted from the Newgate Chronicles of 1896) (Database of almost 5000 convicted criminals imprisoned York Castle Prison 1700s. Includes transported criminals, Criminals executed and debtors who pleaded insolvency) (John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera: The collection provides access to scanned items from the Bodleian Library's holdings documenting various aspects of everyday life in Britain from the 18th to the early 20th century including posters and handbills for theatrical and non-theatrical entertainments, broadsides relating to murders and executions, book and journal prospectuses, popular topographical prints. The contents of John Johnson Collection can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other databases) (Index of prisoners in Ilchester Gaol, Somerset) (Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service. Bedfordshire Gaol Register, 1801-1879) (Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies. Transcriptions of prisoners entering Aylesbury County Gaol, 1870s. The information has been taken from gaol receiving books held at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies. Some entries may include photographs, whilst others just include basic details of the inmate's crime, and their punishment) (Surrey History Centre Indexes: Deaths in Surrey county gaol 1798-1878) (Prints, drawings, watercolours, maps and photographs held by the Guildhall Library Print Room, Guildhall Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives including prisons) (Online collection of more than 500 broadsides) (Online collection of 30,000 broadside ballads)
Scotland (National Records of Scotland: Catalogues and Indexes. High Court of Justiciary case papers catalogued and searchable from 1800 onwards with the exception of 1826-27. On the search screen enter the name being searched and enter JC as the reference)
(Scotland Prison Registers Index, 1828-1884. Index of prison registers from the Scottish Borders Prison Registers held at the National Archives of Scotland and transcribed by Graham and Emma Maxwell) (Dumfries Jail Books and Bail Bond Registers 1714-1810) (Graham Maxwell Ancestry: Prison Register Database. Searchable database of indexed prison registers covering Dumfries 1841-1848; Greenlaw 1840-1862; Jedburgh 1843-1869; Kelso 1844-1862; Peebles 1848-1862; and Selkirk 1828-1840, 1853-1878) (Index to Register of Photographs of Criminals, Fife, 1912-23 indexed by Sheila Jackson) (National Library of Scotland Digital Gallery: The Word On The Street: Online collection of nearly 1,800 Scottish broadsides between 1650 and 1910)
Wales (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)
(Wales, Court and Miscellaneous Records, 1542-1911. This collection contains browsable images of Court Records and Marriage Bonds from the National Library of Wales. Records include Consistory Court papers, Court records-Crown Books, Court records-gaol files, Marriage bonds and Memoranda of the Great Sessions)
Ireland (Irish Prison Registers 1790-1924. In 1822 there were 178 prisons in Ireland. These records cover 3,127,598 prisoners who spent time there between 1790 and 1924. The dataset consists of digitised pages from prison registers held at the National Archives of Ireland. Registers for the remaining 6 counties are held at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast) of Ireland Representative Church Body Library: Parish watch records covering St John in Dublin, 1724 to 1785. The records reveal crimes committed, the justice administered, the names of watchmen and constables and where they were stationed)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Newgate Calendar)
Cornwall Family History Society (Prisoners in Cornwall County Gaol & Bridewell - Master Index of the prisoners 13 volumes 1821-1899 by Sally Pocock & Paul Fawcett; Bodmin Bridewell and its Inmates 1821-1848; Prisoners in Cornwall County Gaol, 23 Vols, 1831-1899)
Black Sheep Index (The site offers indexes to reports found in newspapers, journals and other publications. Copies from the original source can be ordered once a relevant name from an index is found) (Machine Breakers' Riots and Trials covering a number of counties. Supplied by Machine Breakers News and Swing Riots & Rioters. Requests for individual searches can be made of the Protestors Index via the website for a fee)
Parish Register Transcription Society (Sussex Criminals & Victims, 1767-1850)