Bankruptcy records

This guide was last updated in 2012

Surviving bankruptcy records can be found both at TNA and in local archives depending on what you are looking for. TNA holds numerous types of records.

These include surviving bankruptcy case files from c. 1753 to c.1979, although unfortunately the majority do not survive.

The Court of Bankruptcy was established in 1832. Its purpose was to give creditors an opportunity to petition the Lord Chancellor for a Commission of Bankruptcy to investigate the alleged bankruptcy and to try to recover due debts. If the debts had been recovered the bankrupt would receive a Certificate of Conformity. In 1842, district courts were established for areas outside of London. In 1869, the London Court of Bankruptcy was also established.

TNA will hold most of the records for the London courts but records for districts courts will be found at local archives. Before 1832, legal proceedings for bankruptcy may also be found among TNA’s Court of Chancery records. Before 1571, they can be found in records for the Kings Bench or Court of Common Pleas also held at TNA.

Before 1869, TNA series B4 contains docket books (containing details regarding the issues of commissions of bankruptcy) and also the registers of commissions of bankruptcy. There are further records available at TNA after the law changed in 1869. These include creditor petitions for the London area (1870 – 1883) and, also, petitions for bankruptcy for London and ‘country courts’ in B6. Petitions to the High Court can be found in B9.

In 1884, the High Court of Justice in Bankruptcy was established and it took over the functions of the London Court of Bankruptcy. Further information about the extent of records held at TNA can be found by referring to these two guides, and


Sara Khan is the lead genealogist on the Who Do You Think You Are? BBC TV series


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