London’s Central Criminal Court was known as Old Bailey. This was an important court from which to document the Irish who settled in London.
Records of Old Bailey
The records have been indexed in a searchable database, with digitized images, from 1674-1913. These are known as the Old Bailey Proceedings. Also on the database are the Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts from 1673-1772. The database provides accesses to 197,000 trials along with biographical information on the 2,500 executions of men and women at Tyburn. The Old Bailey Proceedings databases are free of charge.
Additional Old Bailey Research Helps
Due to their historical nature, the website has a Glossary which can help you understand the older English as well as the legal terms. There are also guides to help you sort through what constituted crime and punishment as seen in the records. If this wasn’t enough, then check out the section on “Gender in the Proceedings.”
Searching the Old Bailey Database by Category
Aside from the general name search, there is a category search. You can search by offence. From different types of theft to different types of sexual crimes; this section alone provides a rare window into the world of the people on trial. It also can help us understand what a “religious offence” was all about. One interesting offence category is labeled “Miscellaneous” with attached sub-categories to it. Here we get a glimpse into the lives of people charged with infanticide, illegal abortion, piracy and return from transportation. An offence category under “Violent Theft” includes “Highway Robbery.” That was not just an expression in the world these people lived in.
As far as thought provoking databases, this one is hard to beat. Even if your ancestors never went to London make sure you explore this resource. Their world was very foreign to us; yet at the same time, these Proceedings teach us how little things have changed. People are still people and we just have new ways of doing what they did back then.
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