What Happened At the Old Bailey?

If you have English ancestry, an interest in your family’s history, and some patience, do I have a site for you. It’s a Web site aggregating the proceeding of the trials at the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court in England) from 1674-1913. This site covers almost 200,000 trials.

The site is running a bit slowly at the moment, and you may have to make several attempts before you can successfully run a search. . You can search by name, but you can also search by keyword or offense. A search for Smith found (after several attempts and lots of time outs) lots of results presented ten at a time, with the title and date of the case (” Judith Smith, defendant name in trial of Judith Smith, Theft > other, 11th December 1678.”) along with a bit of context.

The trial information page contains the content of the trial information. This can be as brief as a few paragraphs or as extensive as a lot of testimony. This selection concerning four eight-year-old boys who stole 48 bottles of ale is only one paragraph long.

In addition to seeing the transcript of legal proceedings, there’s also an option to see the original page of proceedings. (It’s a GIF image.) The one I managed to load was really really REALLY hard to read. I’ll stick to the transcripts.

This site is going to be a fun timesink, but it isn’t yet — it’s too slow and there are too many time out errors. I think I’ll come back in a week or so…

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