Proceedings of the Old Bailey

The Central Criminal Court in the U.K is popularly known as The Old Bailey. It deals with major criminal cases from Greater London and, in exceptional cases, from other parts of Britain. It stands on the site of the medieval Newgate Gaol, on Old Bailey, a road which follows the line of the City of London’s fortified wall (or bailey), and gives the court its popular name.

In an exciting new project the Proceedings of the Old Bailey have been published online in a fully searchable database. It covers trials from 1674 to 1913 and is the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.

This is a particularly valuable resources for people researching their family history. TOTD was able to locate two ancestors in the proceedings, both of which were witnesses (rather than criminals) in trials. It’s amazing to be able to read your ancestor’s actually words. Even if you can’t find a relative reading the transcripts are fascinating and the punishments sobering in there severity.

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