Photograph of woman prisoner, 1873 (Catalogue reference: PCOM 2/291/127)

This is a brief guide to help you with your research. The National Archives holds many records of criminal trials, although these rarely include detailed information such as transcripts of evidence. The records are scattered and there is no central name index to criminal trials, so unless you know when and where your ancestor was tried it can be very difficult to trace trial records.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the accused, including variant spellings
      • when and where the trial took place
      • what kind of court tried the offence 

Did you know?

The assizes were held twice each year from the 13th century to 1971 in each county, and were grouped into a number of circuits. In 1971 they were replaced by the crown courts.

The National Archives does not hold transcripts of criminal trials. When searching trial records the most informative are often depositions, indictments and case files.

The parish given for the defendant in the indictments is not necessarily their place of residence - it is often where the crime took place.

Defendants often gave aliases, so the trial records might be under a different name.