Click on the image for a video guide. A text version of the same material, with linked screenshots, can be read below.
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey are made up of 120 million words, recording 197,000 trials held at the Old Bailey, or Central Criminal Court in London, between 1674 and 1913. All of human life, and every kind of crime is here. This tutorial is designed to get you started searching for names and phrases. The easiest way of searching this text is by key word from the home page.
The first thing most people do is search for their own name.
The results page lists the first ten trials or results. To know the full number of results returned, select Calculate Total at the top of the results page.
Searching for a name such as Hitchcock produces 288 results, listed ten per page. You can navigate to later trials using the Jump to page menus at the top and bottom of each results page. This only appears if you have already selected Calculate Total.
Result number 3, for William Hitchcock, looks interesting, and you can read his trial report by selecting the line of text beginning: William Hitchcock, Theft...
This will take you to the trial text itself, where we discover that William Hitchcock, and one other person, named only as H-G-, were indicted for assaulting and pickpocketing two bills of exchange from John Hatchet in 1698. The trial report also indicates that William was found guilty and sentenced to hang, and that H-G- was branded for this same offence.
You can read descriptions of the offences, verdicts and punishments associated with each trial by following the links in the yellow box or trial header at the top of the page. The first line in the yellow box is labelled Reference Number.
This provides a unique identifier for this particular trial or piece of text. In this instance the reference number is t16980223-37. You can use this number to navigate back to this trial from the home page or other search pages. You can also view an image of the original printed page by selecting See Original from the right hand margin. This will take you to a scan of the original page, though you will probably need to scroll down to find the actual trial, as more than one trial was published on most pages.
More complex searches can be undertaken from the Search Home page. You can navigate to this page from any other page on the site by selecting the link labelled Search Home in the left column, or labelled Search in the menu along the top of the page.
Search Home allows you to search by keyword or phrase, surname, given name, alias, offence, verdict, or punishment. You can also limit your search to particular types of text beyond the trials. These options are listed in the pull down menu, and include Advertisements, Front matter, the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts (biographies of executed criminals), punishment summaries and supplementary material. The default setting is All Text.
You can also limit the time period you are searching, using the From and To boxes towards the bottom of the page. For further help using any of these facilities, click on the question mark in the orange diamond by each search box, or consult the dedicated Guide to Searching.
Unlike the search box on the home page, the Search Home facility allows you to combine different types of searches. You might, for instance, be interested in a particular trade, and wish to include a phrase such as "silver smith" in the keyword box. Be sure to click the phrase radio button to undertake a phrase search.
Or you might wish to combine this phrase search with a name search in order to help identify a specific silver smith. You might, for instance, include William Young in the Forename and Surname boxes. And you might be interested in a particular period, and so put 1730 and 1760 into the date limit boxes.
You may need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the orange search button. Select this button to begin your search.
For most purposes, in order to look for named individuals, or keywords or phrases, or indeed crimes and verdicts, the Search Home page will provide all the functionality you will need. But you can also use the Personal Details, Statistics, and Custom Search pages to access more functions and to narrow your searches to make them more effective. You can also use the browse pages to look through the Proceedings and Ordinary's Accounts by date; or search the Ordinary's Accounts separately. The Associated Records page allows you to search a database of materials related to the trial accounts reproduced here. The Place and Map Search is currently unavailable but Locating London's Past helps locate crime locations and defendants' homes on maps from the period.