Frequently Asked Questions

A man on a horse gives directions to a boy standing W.H. Pyne, Butchers, 1806. © Bristol Public Libraries.

Looking for People

  1. I know Jane Coughlan was living in London in 1797 but I can't find her details. Can you?
  2. Peter Jones was a defendant in a trial at the Old Bailey, and a deposition by him is included in the Middlesex Sessions Papers. Can you tell me his date of birth / mother's name / whether he had two sisters called Mary and Jenny?
  3. Can you tell me about Jack Smith?

1) I know Jane Coughlan was a servant living in St Clement Danes in 1762, but I can't find her details. Can you?

There are a number of ways in which you can make your search more successful

  • try a keyword search as well as a name search.
  • widen your search - for example, try putting in just the surname or using a wider date range.
  • select metaphone from the pull-down menus on the Person Name Search page. This will return substantially more related name instances, spelled in a variety of ways.
  • try variant spellings (particularly of names and places) or use a wildcard, as explained in the help sections of the name and keyword search pages.
  • try different searches - if you know that Jane Coughlan was receiving relief from the parish, search the pauper examinations or overseers' accounts.
  • use any additional information you have to identify matches - perhaps you know the names of related individuals - an employer, husband or business partner - or you know the street where she lived.

If you still can't find the relevant records, it may be that the individual you are looking for lived in a different parish, or had their settlement elsewhere; or simply did not come to the attention of the authorities. If you can't find a record and you think it should be there, we can investigate to check that it is not a technical fault with the site, but in the majority of cases we are unable to locate any more information than a user could.

2) Peter Jones was a defendant in a trial at the Old Bailey, and a deposition by him is included in the Middlesex Sessions Papers. Can you tell me his date of birth / mother's name / whether he had two sisters called Mary and Jenny?

There may be biographical information revealed within the trial accounts, or in other related documents, such as an Ordinary's Account - a wife or brother may be named or the age of a deponent given. This information is likely to be very limited and the only way to find it is to read the transcripts and see what they contain. Beyond this, there are a number of other online sources for studying individual lives from this period--including the International Genealogical Index and Access to Archives. If you have found substantial information about an individual Londoner using this site, please consider writing a short biography on the London Lives wiki for the Lives section. Unfortunately, we are unable to help you conduct research in sources other than those reproduced on this site.

3) Can you tell me about Jack Smith?

We only have access to the information that is publicly available on the site so if you cannot find any information, it is unlikely that we will find anything more. For tips on successful searching, see FAQ 1.

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Researching Poverty and Crime

  1. Can you tell me what a "pauper settlement" is?
  2. Can you tell me how many people were transported in the 1780s / what the average rateable value was in Westminster in 1749 / How many vagrants were removed from the City of London in the 1780s?
  3. Can you help me find parish and criminal justice records for Portsmouth / information about poor relief in Scotland / burial records in Shropshire?

1) Can you tell me what a "pauper settlement" is?

The historical background pages provide extensive details about the workings of both the poor relief and criminal justice systems. For pauper settlement, for example, see the settlement page. Background information is also provided for each document type. If you need information about specific types of documents, and how they relate to one another, you should refer to these pages. For settlement examinations, for instance, see the Pauper Examinations (EP) page.

For more general advice on how to interpret the materials available through this site, see the How to Interpret an Eighteenth-Century Manuscript page.

2) Can you tell me how many people were transported in the 1780s / what the average rateable value was in Westminster in 1749 / How many vagrants were removed from the City of London in the 1780s?

The search facilities for this website are structured around names and keywords, and are not organised for statistical analysis. The site contains a large number of subsidiary resources that can be searched and analysed statistically, but not through this site.

The Old Bailey Proceedings are available through the Old Bailey Online, where you can compile statistical information about trials. See the Statistical Search page. This facility allows you to view summary information in a variety of formats (pie chart, bar chart or table), and to develop time series statistics on the basis of keyword and structured searches.

Other structured datasets (i.e. those created in the form of a database), such as the Westminster Historical Database, can only be searched by name and keyword through this site. To undertake statistical analysis you should refer to the original datasets and documents authored by the creators of these sources, in this case a CD and book (Charles Harvey, Edmund Green, and Penelope Corfield, The Westminster Historical Database: Voters, Social Structure and Electoral Behaviour, Bristol, 1998.) Other datasets, such as the Four Shilling in the Pound Aid, 1693/4, are available through the UK Data Archive, from which you can access sources in their entirety, and in a tab-delineated format suitable for analysis in a spreadsheet or database.

4) Can you help me find parish and criminal justice records for Portsmouth / information about poor relief in Scotland / burial records in Shropshire.

We receive frequent queries asking us to direct people to other resources. Increasingly, these sorts of resources are becoming available online and it is impossible for us to keep track of what is available and how it can be accessed. We are happy to answer questions on the materials provided by this site, and to provide advice on searching the site, but we cannot help you identify other websites / resources that you might find useful. An integrated online catalogue of the holdings of the National Archives and of Britain's system of county archives can be searched through Access to Archives.

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Learning more about 18th Century London

  1. Can you recommend a book which provides a general introduction to the histories of poverty and crime in eighteenth-century London?

1) Can you recommend a book which provides a general introduction to the histories of poverty and crime in eighteenth-century London?

You might find the following book, written by the project directors, of interest: Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, Tales from the Hanging Court (Hodder Arnold, 2006). Beyond this, consult the introductory reading sections on the historical background pages for relevant reading on individual topics, and the London Lives Bibliography for a more comprehensive list of works related to the social history of eighteenth-century London.

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Copyright Questions

  1. I want permission to use an image / transcripts from the site / link to the site.

1) I want permission to use an image / transcripts from the site / link to the site.

All material on this site is made available free of charge for individual, non-commercial use only. For information concerning the copyright ownership of all material on the site see the Copyright Information and Citation Guide. Please contact the relevant copyright owner directly for permissions. For permission to reproduce text from the transcriptions, or the historical background pages, please contact us. We consider all requests on an individual basis and will respond as soon as possible. You do not need permission to provide a link to London Lives from any other website.

Contact Us

We hope that you have found the answer to any questions that you may have about the the London Lives website. If you still have a question about the site or the materials it includes, and feel we may be able to help you, or if you want to give feedback on the site, please email us at londonlives@shef.ac.uk.

To report any errors, please use the London Lives wiki.

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