How to look for records of... Civil litigants

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free



What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • at which court the action took place and when
  • the date when the case was heard
  • the names of the litigants

What records can I see online?

There are no significant collections of records of civil litigants available online.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

A few sections of the following records, but by no means all, have been catalogued by name.

Start by trying a surname search in our catalogue, before going on to search by range of years. Contemporary spellings are used, so try using wild cards when searching.

The early stages of 15th century and early 16th century law suits are well catalogued, but later dates and initial pleadings after 1558 may require use of contemporary indexes available at The National Archives.

Records of Chancery (1386-1875)

Search our catalogue in C, as described above.

Date range (yyyy):

Date range (yyyy)

Records of the Supreme Court of Judicature (1875-2002)

Search our catalogue in J, as described above.

Date range (yyyy):

Date range (yyyy)

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records held elsewhere

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

Did you know?

Civil litigation covers legal disputes between two parties over matters such as land, property rights, debt, inheritance, trusts and frauds.

Civil litigants would have their cases heard in various courts of law, including common law courts and courts of equity. These different systems of justice co-existed until they were brought together in 1875.

The records of the equity courts are full and informative, and are a good resource for social, family and local history. It requires expertise to understand common law records, and they rarely contain useful detail.

19th century litigants were often described by their full name, including any middle names, so searching using shortened versions of their name may not be successful.