Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Home Office Correspondence: 1839-1959

Introduction. The Home Office dealt with a wide range of subjects, relating to daily life in England and Wales: these have included the administration of the criminal justice and penal systems, the maintenance of public order, the regulation of aliens, naturalisation, the control of explosives, firearms, drugs and poisons, charities, electoral administration, and civil defence and fire services, to name but a few.

These records are essential for any serious study of nineteenth and twentieth century domestic history. To cope with the growing diversity of subjects, the Home Office established a central registry system. The daily registers of correspondence are in HO 46 with the files on which the letters were placed, in HO 45 and HO 144 . The register may confirm the creation of particular papers: but please remember that only a sample of the files referred to in these registers have in fact survived.

Home Office Correspondence: Registration Systems
In HO 46 , there is a separate register of special subjects and alphabetical index of correspondents, together with a register of papers preserved. From 1848 all papers reaching the Home Office were registered centrally in the registers now in HO 46 . Earlier papers were numbered retrospectively. Those papers selected for preservation were re-registered as OS (Old Series) papers. From 1871 to 1880 all incoming papers were registered in a series running from 1 to 100,000. In 1880 a new system of consecutive numbers started, with an A prefix; this was followed shortly afterwards by a series with B, V and X prefixes. These series were replaced in 1902 by a six figure series starting at 100,001. In 1949 the six-figure series of general correspondence files was replaced by separate series of files for each subject or function, each distinguished by letter symbol, e.g. POL symbol files for Police files. These symbol files are in separate HO record series – POL files, for example, are in HO 287. See the PRO Guide, Part 2, under HO.

These files described above are divided between HO 45 and HO 144 : the latter contains files closed to public inspection for longer than the usual thirty years.

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