There's a fascinating new site, London Lives 1690-1820 online. There seems to be another name, too, Plebeian Lives.
It's a searchable database of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to over 3 million names; and it appears to be free.
So if your ancestors came from or went to London, or were just passing through but were involved with Local Government, the Criminal Justice systems, Poor Relief, Guilds and Hospitals; you may well find them here.
There are some other records too, but not for the whole of London, parish registers, taxation records, and the index to wills at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.
As well as the names there's useful introductions to the records themselves, a number of biographies (that they call Completed Lives) constructed using London Lives, and there'll be 'Lives in Progress' on a wiki yet to be implemented.
For example, there's Mary Nichols, also known as Trolly Lolly, born around 1685 in Deptford, Kent. She came to London, married a butcher, and started stealing at the age of 28. At her first trial in December 1714, she was found guilty of stealing goods worth more than 5 shillings (25p) from a house and sentenced to be branded on the hand. That didn't deter her, for on 22 July 1715 she broke into the house of Christopher Hurt and stole a pair of flaxen sheets worth 10 shillings and other goods. Mary was found guilty of burglary and sentenced to death. She claimed falsely that she was pregnant and was conveyed to Newgate Prison to await her execution and was hanged on Wednesday 21 September 1715 at Tyburn.
You can search by surname, or forename, or a combination of both as well as by month and year from 1680 to 1820, and restrict it to a document type. Additionally, I've discovered that once you find an interesting record, you can browse through subsequent records in the same dataset. Many (but not all) of the search results give you the capability to view a digitised image of the original document.
Registering as a user provides additional benefits, your own workspace to store names, ages and occupations of people, and link them together in sets, and download the info. The download is as an XML file which seems a very odd choice, as few people will know how to use it.
Thanks to Chris Paton at Scottish Genealogy News and Events for making me aware of it.
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