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England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 online

Did any of your ancestors fall foul of the law? If they did, you can learn what fate they suffered with the release of this exciting new collection of Criminal Registers at Ancestry UK, which lifts the lid on the British legal system from nearly 300 years ago.

Featuring over 500,000 names, the collection is a treasure trove of information for family historians. You can see information on charges, trial results, sentences or acquittals, dates of execution – and in some cases, personal details about individual prisoners.

Rough justice

Start searching the England and Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 and you’ll gain an amazing insight into a time when justice was swift – and harsh. Men, women and children were all sentenced; people were deported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and condemned to lives of hard labour in appalling conditions.

The death penalty could be handed down for more than 200 separate offences – many simple ‘crimes of poverty’ or what are very minor offences by today’s standards. Examples include:

  • stealing livestock
  • cutting down trees
  • pickpocketing goods worth more than one shilling
  • being out at night with a blackened face
  • stealing from a rabbit warren

The release of this collection marks the completion of the first UK chapter of the Ancestry World Archives Project – our commitment to help preserve the world’s historical archives and make them available online (you can read more about the Project here).

The England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 is the first UK collection to be indexed by World Archives Project contributors. All 279 bound volumes of the collection were scanned at The National Archives by a dedicated team of Ancestry technicians – a task which took 616 man-hours to complete.

Then contributors from the Ancestry Community transcribed the images, so that the collection could be searched online. Those who worked on this and other Project collections got to enjoy a sneak preview of the records they indexed before they become public.

After many thousands more man-hours indexing, the complete collection is now available.

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