Mark Peasall looks at immigration into Britain from the 16th to the 20th century and the relatively few sources that can be used to trace immigrants entering, and living, in this country. Records discussed can provide vital clues to the overseas origins of denizens or naturalised British citizens, as well as providing insight into their first years in their adopted country.
New Britons – Immigration to the United Kingdom
Right ladies and gentlemen, I’ll start. This talk’s going to cover basically the records that survive in The National Archives relating to immigration into the United Kingdom, to denization and naturalisation and registration of citizenship.
So I’m going to cover the main topics of the records that we hold.
So I’m going to say a little but about subsidy and taxation returns, which cover the medieval and early modern period.
Also customs accounts and port books, customs accounts starting in the late medieval period and then being superseded by the port books in the mid 16th century. A bit about Patent Rolls and records of denization, which was done by letters patent and the letters were enrolled on the Patent Rolls.
State papers, where you can find early returns, 16th and 17th century returns, about aliens, lists of aliens in London and some of the other major cities and ports of England.
Certificates of arrival which start much later unfortunately in the 19th century and for long periods of time just haven’t been kept. So there’s only short windows where there are actual records of arrivals and landing at the Channel ports or coming into London and the major ports.
There’s also a few early passenger lists but again most surviving passenger lists don’t start until late 19th century and then go into the 20th century.
I’m going to say a little bit about refugees and internees, mainly 20th century, but I’m only going to cover them in brief. And then say something about nationality and naturalisation and records of naturalisation, a little bit about the process, how it worked and what records survived.
And to finish a little bit about registration of British citizenship under the 1948 British Nationality Act.
So to start off, on the website there are various research guides that you can use, paper copies of which are available in the Open Reading Room, and which you can download from The National Archives website.
And there’s a number of research guides that are relevant. The main one that covers most aspects of immigration records is the immigrants leaflet. There’s also one on passenger lists, another one on naturalisation and citizenship which includes records of early denization and grants of nationality. There’s one on refugees and minorities and one on Anglo-Jewish history [in the] 18th to the 20th centuries.
And these are all free to download and they’re all listed on The National Archives website.
The catalogue, which contains details of all our holdings and descriptions of the records, will help you identify document references, particularly for denizations at the very end of the period when denizations were granted in the 19th century, and all naturalisations and naturalisation papers that we hold are searchable on the catalogue from 1801 onward.
We’ve got them up to 1948, most of them up to 1948, but The Home Office hasn’t actually sent us all the files yet. So we’ve only got surnames ending A to N for the period 1934 to 1948. The rest of the alphabet is still with The Home Office and you would have to apply to the departmental record officer at The Home Office for access to a file relating to somebody’s naturalisation. And they may not survive this period, between 1934 and 1948 a lot of the files were weeded out.
Anything after 1948, you need to go to The Home Office, but those that you can identify on the catalogue you can order up to view on site or you can requests copies to be sent to you.
And we also have the related certificates, the duplicate copies of these certificates, issued to people when naturalised. So the duplicate Home Office copies are in a Home Office Series.
So you can go into the catalogue and you can search surname of individual. You can specify (it’s easy to specify) naturalisation, so surname (space) and (space) naturalisation, specify HO and it will search all the 19th century and 20th century naturalisation papers that we hold in The National Archives.
Now I’m going to start off with the early sources and go through saying just a little bit about the medieval and early-modern period.
The earliest surviving records that record aliens in the country are Exchequer and Chancellery papers. Exchequer records because they cover taxation, and in the medieval period and up to about 1512 there were specific taxation rolls that were for aliens and sometimes specific subsidies that were levied on aliens and not on native English people.
After 1512 there just tends to be one series of subsidy records but aliens that were liable to pay tax were included on those later subsidy rolls with everyone else.
So in the 15th and 16th centuries there were specific alien subsidies. They were usually taxed double anyway on subsidies that covered the whole population. They usually had to pay a double amount of the tax. But specific alien subsidies also were levied on them to raise money for the Exchequer and the Crown.
The best surviving returns are a series of returns from a subsidy in 1440 and 1483/84 but there are later records and there are earlier records, although the survival rate is patchy. And these record taxation granted by Parliament to the Crown. Many of the returns do just give you total amounts collected by the Exchequer officials. But some returns specifically list individuals by name and these two 15th century returns actually give you lists of names of aliens in the country at this time.
And you can search the E 179, the taxation database. You can search by place so you can search by county, but you can also search by hundred or township or parish.
You can specify the type of tax, so up to 1512 you can actually specify alien subsidy, but you can search for all surviving tax returns for a particular parish or township. And specify the date range that you want.
And this is an example of one of the returns from 1484. This is for Middlesex, starting with Stratford-atte-Bow at the top. These particular returns have actually been transcribed for the environs around The City of London and Middlesex and Southwark. Many of the later records have been listed by The Huguenot Society but you can search, as I say, on the parish or township for the surviving tax returns for a particular place that you’re interested in where people you’re interested in were living.
Now the other two main series of Exchequer records, again starting in the medieval period, are the customs accounts in E 122 and these are superseded by the Port Books in E 190 from 1565 onwards.
The customs accounts record the customs collected in each port and start in the 13th century and run up to about 1565. And these recorded the customs duties paid. They record the names of ships, the name of the master of the vessel, the date it arrived in the port or the date it was departing if it was exporting goods and the name of the merchant whose goods were being shipped, goods coming in or going out of the country and the amount payable on those goods.
And it notes whether the merchant was an alien, a denizen who’d been granted rights of settlement in the country or whether he was a Hans merchant, a merchant of the German Hanseatic League [of] the Hans states. And this series is arranged by port and by date of account.
These are superseded as I say in 1565 by the Port Books which record similar sorts of information, [namely] duties paid on goods coming into the country. Unfortunately there is a gap for London as the customs house burned down. So there’s a big gap between 1697 and 1799 when nothing actually survives for the largest port which is London. And the ports are indexed in the E 190 series.
There are separate books that record overseas and coastal trade records and there’s in theory three series of books. Each official, the collector, the controller and the searcher kept their own accounts. So in theory there ought to be three accounts for each port for a particular date. But they don’t all survive, but where one doesn’t survive usually one or maybe two of the others will survive. So there’s a fairly good record of Port Books apart from the Port of London. And again these record names of ships, the master, the merchants whose goods duties were being paid on and again whether they’re natives or aliens.
The other main series for early sources are Chancery Records. The Patent Rolls which include the enrolments of letters of denization. And they also include other declarations relating to aliens and various groups of aliens to whom certain rights and privileges would be granted by the Crown. And these are included and recorded on the Patent Rolls in C 66. You can consult the calendars of the Patent Rolls and Palmer’s indexes in N1 and the series of indexes to the Patent Rolls in C 275.
And this is just an example of a 16th century grant of denization to John a Lasco, who was made the minister of the Strangers’ Church in the City of London, the Austin Friars Church (the Austin Friars were dissolved by Henry VIII) and the church was granted by Edward VI to the Strangers, basically aliens living in The City to use as their place of worship. And John a Lasco, who was Polish by origin, was created a minister of the Strangers’ Church.
And not every denization will include details of wife and children. In this example John a Lasco’s wife and his sons are named. Usually a wife and children will be mentioned but they’re not always listed by name. It will only include children that are minors though, it won’t include any adult children over 21. They would have to apply for denization or naturalisation themselves. So it will only include children that are minors in the document.
State papers starting with the reign of Henry VIII also include information on communities of strangers in the various ports and cities of London. The first aliens acts to regulate strangers were passed in the reign of Henry VIII and they usually related to merchants and craftsmen, stranger craftsmen and traders, to regulate them and also give them certain protection under the Crown.
All these state papers are calendared, either in letters and papers, foreign and domestic for the reign of Henry VIII, or the calendars of state papers after Henry VIII. So the calendars of state papers domestic for Edward VI to Queen Anne and then there are later papers for George I unpublished, a series of unpublished indexes to those papers in the list and index society volumes.
And as I say you get various returns in the state papers. There are lists of aliens and strangers in London in 1571 and 1618. A lot of the information contained in state papers has been extracted by The Huguenot Society and published in some of their early volumes, volume ten, parts one to four. That includes information on denizations and naturalisations. Also records of naturalisation by Acts of Parliament and other returns of aliens in London and other major cities and ports.
You can also now, although it’s not complete yet, you can search the state papers online which are available in the Open Reading Room and in certain other institutions and libraries as well.
These are actual copies of the state papers domestic. As well as a transcription you also get high quality digital images of the state papers themselves. Only part one is available at the moment, covering the Tudor period from Henry VIII to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. Part two will cover The Stuarts up to the death of Queen Anne in 1714.That will be available shortly, at the moment only part one up to 1603 is available. But it’s also fully searchable by subject and by name and it’s much easier to use than the calendars up in the map enlarged document room and the microfilm copies of the state papers. [There] are very good quality images on the state papers online which you can access in the Open Reading Room.
Now I’m going to say a little bit about the legislation but only briefly as it relates to the surviving records that we hold in The National Archives. As I said there were some early aliens acts during the reign of Henry VIII but most of the legislation covering aliens really starts at the end of the 18th century. Aliens were more or less free to come or go as they pleased so long as they obeyed the laws. They had equality within the law anyway. But with the start of the French revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars the government became frightened about agents provocateurs, spies, agents and enemy aliens in the country.
So they started to tighten up the registration of aliens and an Aliens Office was created in 1793 by The Aliens Act. Aliens had to register coming into the country. They had to have passes to move around the country. They had to report to the constables in a town or parish when they arrived. And returns had to be made to the magistrates and the Court of Sessions.
Now I’m not going to say very much about records held outside The National Archives. Suffice to say that a lot of the records don’t survive but it is always worth checking if anything survives amongst the parish records or constables’ records for a particular parish or township and amongst the Quarter Sessions records, because aliens had to register locally and returns were made by the constables to the Quarter Sessions. In many cases the records don’t survive but sometimes you can find returns in Quarter Sessions records. They’re more likely to survive amongst the Quarter Sessions records than amongst the parish records but it’s worth checking both and these are going to be held in county record offices.
So from 1793 you’ve got a whole series of registrations. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars there’s another Aliens Act, 1816, which slightly relaxed the restrictions on aliens, and then later acts in 1826 and 1836. And then in 1905 an Aliens Act which was really the first act that started to restrict immigration into The United Kingdom, requiring people to take a literacy test and a language test as well.
But before 1905 people could come into the country, you didn’t have to take a letter of denization, you didn’t have to naturalise and in many cases people didn’t.
But there were whole series of these Aliens Acts to register people and record people. Most of the records generated by these acts haven’t survived except some returns of the 1826 and 1836 acts which I’m going to mention.
I’m going to say a little bit about the Naturalisation Acts that came in 1844 and 1870. They simplified the process of naturalisation. Until then to get the full rights of citizenship of a natural born Briton you had to take out naturalisation which meant you had to petition Parliament. You had to have a solicitor draw up a bill, present it to Parliament, it had to pass through Parliament like any other act of Parliament and it was an expensive and lengthy process.
You do get naturalisations of individuals, an individual, by act of Parliament but in the 18th century the process grew up where whole groups of people were actually naturalised by one act. So they would get together to get a solicitor and get a sponsor for the bill, and would pay the costs between them. I’ll say a little bit more about naturalisation in a moment.
There’s also records created by The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act in 1914, a few records of alien registration when The First World War breaks out and after The First World War. And we have a few surviving records for the Metropolitan District, for the London area and the Metropolitan Police registrations office.
Then [came] the main act that later 20th century records relate to, The British Nationality Act of 1948, and registrations under that act.
Certificates of Arrival. There’s a few surviving returns, but only very few, in a Foreign Office Series where they’ve just survived by accident for the period 1810/1811.These are records of ships arriving in ports. And it just lists the ship and where it’s from and names of any aliens that are arriving on that ship. And there’s just a few odd returns in these Foreign Office pieces which were probably compiled by the officials in the ports and information that would have been forwarded to the Aliens Office. But for some reason this information was also sent to the Foreign Office and these few returns for the period 1810/1811 survive in the Foreign Office Series FO 83.
Most of the records that survive from the 18th century are in the Home Office Series and were inherited by the Home Office from the Aliens Office and these are in HO 2, HO 3 and indexes in HO 5.
We’ve got arrivals certificates, surviving arrivals certificates, in The Home Office Series HO 2 from 1836, but unfortunately only up to 1852. After that date they weren’t kept.
And also there are lists from masters of ships compiled by the masters, ships of aliens arriving on their ships in UK ports. Those survive in HO 3 but again only for limited periods from 1836 to 1861 and a few from 1866 to 1869. And there are indexes to both these series in HO 5.
We’ve actually got indexes that go back to 1826, ten years earlier than the actual certificates. That’s under The Aliens Act of 1826. Unfortunately the certificates haven’t survived, just the indexes. And then in 1836 we’ve got surviving certificates.
They’re not very informative. I’m going to show you an example in a minute. They just give you very basic details and if you’re searching for an ancestor with a very common surname then you’re not likely to be able to identify an individual as being your ancestor unfortunately. There isn’t sufficient information, unless it’s a particularly unusual surname or an unusual first name you won’t be able to say that this is your ancestor, not unless you can narrow it down with other documentation amongst parish records and family records that could pinpoint a narrow window of opportunity when they actually arrived in the country, when they moved from a port to a place where they settled.
This is an example of the return [shows image] from FO 83 and it basically just lists the names of the ships. These are records of ships coming in at Gravesend in September 1810 and it lists the names of the ships and the names of individuals. But that’s all, it doesn’t give you any other background information, no dates or ages or anything like that.
And this is a certificate of arrival [shows image] under the 1836 act. Again it just gives you a name and the country of origin, where they arrived, date of arrival, name of the individual, where they came from, which country they arrived from (which isn’t always the same as their native country, they might come from eastern Europe, central Europe, across The Channel from France or The Netherlands). So that tells you actually where they sailed from. The remarks columns are often blank. In this case it just says that this individual, a Frenchman, holds a French passport issued by the French government which isn’t really very helpful at all.
So unless you can narrow down the date when somebody came into the country and it’s a fairly rare name the chances of you being able to identify the person and saying this is my ancestor is I’m afraid very slim.
Similar to the certificates of arrival you get the lists of alien passengers. Again the master of the ship will fill out the details of the ship, the ship’s called the Sir Robert Peel, and it lists all the individuals, profession (although this column isn’t always filled in and if it is it may not be accurate) and the country they came from, their native country, again just very basic details.
Later passenger lists survive from 1890. There are a few odd returns for Cork and a couple of other Irish ports from 1878 but the majority of the passenger lists don’t start until 1890 and they’re in The Board of Trade Series BT 26, running from 1890 to 1960.
You can search by port of departure and arrival and the name of the ship on our online catalogue but you can’t search by personal name on our catalogue but the records are available on ancestry on the ancestry website, all the incoming passenger lists. Again the earlier ones, the earliest lists, are not very detailed. You’ll get a name and an initial. You won’t even get a first name necessarily. It gets better after 1906 and as time progresses the information gets more and more detailed. After 1913 there’s another merchant shipping act, they’ve got pro-forma lists of passengers, British passengers, alien passengers are listed separately and you get a little bit more detail. But the earlier lists again are very basic with just a name and you might not be able to identify the individual.
This is just an example of a later passenger list. This one is the SS Empire Windrush in 1948 bringing immigrants in to the UK. You get the basic details, because these are individuals from the Commonwealth they are actually British subjects so they are listed on the sheet that covers British passengers. If they were from European [countries] or outside the Commonwealth then they’d be included on a list of alien passengers. So there are sheets for aliens outside, foreign nationals outside the British Commonwealth.
And most of the lists are actually available on the ‘Moving Here’ site which I’ll mention in a moment.
Refugees I’m only going to mention very briefly. We’ve got some early 19th century records of refugees from The Napoleonic Wars. There are records of French émigrés and refugees during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars but most of our records on refugees are 20th century. There are records of Belgian refugees during The First World War, most of whom went back to Belgium after the war but there are quite a few people, and I’ve had examples of individuals, that are descended from grandparents [and] great-grandparents that settled in this country as a result of coming here as refugees during The First World War. And those records are in a Ministry of Health Series, MH 8.
There’s records of Jewish refugees during the 1930s. There’s the naturalisation papers from 1934 in HO 405. Many of those surviving naturalisation papers are of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria in the 1930s who stayed during the war and then were naturalised after The Second World War.
The records in HO 396 are the actual records of internment and the internment tribunals because unfortunately a lot of the Jewish refugees, because they were German nationals, were technically from September 1939 enemy aliens. And they had to weed out any potential fifth columnists coming into the country passing themselves off as refugees who might actually be enemy aliens or spies.
So most Jewish refugees had to go before the tribunals and the records of those are in HO 396. Records of people that went before the tribunals, some of whom were interned, and there are also records of internment and internment camps.
We’ve also got records of the Czechoslovakian Refugees Trust in HO 294, which was set up in the 1930s but also continued after The Second World War, and records post-Second World War of Polish resettlement. Records relating to the Polish resettlement corps [are] in WO 315 and Assistance Board Records in AST 18 for Polish resettlement after The Second World War when wives and children, dependents of Polish soldiers came over and joined them in this country and were settled and naturalised. We don’t have records of Polish soldiers that fought with the British armed forces. Those are still with The Ministry of Defence like most Second World War service records.
And we’ve also got records from the 1950s of Hungarian refugees, again in an Assistance Board Series AST 7 and a Ministry of Labour Series, series 8.
Now Alien registration. There was registration under The Aliens Act of 1905 which I mentioned started to tighten up the rules on people coming into the country and registration offices were set up managed by the police forces in London by The Metropolitan Police. The regulations were tightened at the outbreak of The First World War and you have the first of the Aliens Registrations Acts.
So all aliens had to be registered with their local police forces and the police filled out registration cards. And this is an example [shows image] of an index card for Mary Bader in 1919. This is a Metropolitan Police card. These cards are only a selection that survive, more or less by accident. They’re in the Metropolitan Police Series MEPO 35.
Others of local police forces outside London, if they survive will be in county record offices. But again survival rates are patchy, in many counties they just haven’t been kept. Some counties are better than others, so for example Essex does have some records of registration cards for aliens that were living in Essex in the 1920s and 1930s. But [in] many parts of the country these registration cards won’t have survived unfortunately. The surviving ones we’ve got in The National Archives are in MEPO 35 for the Metropolitan Police area.
This is just an example of a Belgian refugee card in MH 8 just giving basic details of the individual. If they’re married then it gives you the family group, wife details of children and any other dependents and addresses where they were living during the period they were living in this country.
Internees, there’s very little for The First World War. There’s a couple of Home Office files that list enemy aliens, arranged by county or county borough and just names lists of individuals, German and Austrian enemy aliens, and they’re in a Home Office series. There’s also a list of German subjects in a War Office series WO 900, there’s two files on German subjects as well as members of the German armed forces. It also contains lists of German nationals as well that were interned during The First World War.
The Second World War, there’s a few more details. Again you’ve got the HO 396 tribunal records, related papers to the tribunals are in the Home Office series HO 214 and HO 382 and the surviving naturalisation papers are in HO 405.
We’ve also got a few records of camps, internment camps, particularly on the Isle of Man, HO 213 and HO 215. This is an example of one of the internment cards from HO 396. Many of these are actually searchable on the ‘Moving Here’ website which I mentioned earlier. I’ll just say a little bit about that. It’s a site that The National Archives was involved with. It has its own website www.movinghere.org.uk. It includes information from our records and records of other institutions in the UK relating to migration. Not just immigration from Europe and outside Europe from the Commonwealth but also migration within the UK, so from Scotland into England, from Ireland into England and Wales.
So as well as records created by government and official bodies it also has records of individuals, private collections, papers of individuals. So it’s a site that includes information from The National Archives, other libraries and archives and it has its own website and this is the home page www.movinghere.org.uk.
It gives you details about tracing roots of migrant families and immigrant families, information about migration history. You can go into pages on Caribbean ancestry, Irish ancestry, Jewish ancestry and South Asian ancestry and immigration into the UK. And how to go about tracing surviving records of migration and immigration and then also how to pursue it from country of origin as well. And this is the introduction into the Jewish roots and how to go about tracing surviving records of the Jewish community in the UK and then how to go back to the country of origin.
Nationality and citizenship. Originally aliens were granted protection in law by denization but obtained only full rights by naturalisation. The ability to own property, to hold public office, to vote, you had to be fully naturalised to enjoy the same rights as a British citizen, or originally an English citizen. But letters of denization granted you certain rights but not the full rights of a naturalised British subject.
Naturalisation originally could be granted by letters patent as well as denizations but eventually the system evolved that naturalisation was granted by an Act of Parliament rather than letters patent onto the Crown.
So letters of denization are enrolled on the patent rolls in the Chancellery series C 66. Acts of naturalisation under private acts of Parliament, the majority of those are held in the parliamentary archives, what used to be the House of Lords Record Office although we do have a few that were enrolled on the Parliament Rolls.
From 1844 with the Naturalisation Acts the whole process was simplified so you didn’t need to go through Parliament to get a private Act of Parliament passed. You could actually petition the Home Secretary and get a grant of naturalisation from the Home Secretary.
And onto the British Nationality Act of 1948. You could register if you were born outside the UK. You could register your British citizenship if you were born in the Commonwealth or overseas of British parents.
Now denizations by letters patent. Enrolments on the patent rolls I’ve mentioned you need to consult the indexes to the patent rolls. In the indexes you can look under denizations or indigene which means naturalised, natural granted the rights of actual subject. And they’re fairly well indexed in the patent roll calendars.
You’ve also got Palmer’s index 1 and the main finding aid other than the calendars to the patent rolls and enrolments C 275.
There are indexes as I mentioned earlier, The Huguenot Societies published indexes and you can find denizations included in the Huguenot Society indexes from 1509 to 1800 and then from 1801 you should be able to find them on the catalogue. There is a typescript list which is available at the front of the Home Office series of lists but you can also search on the catalogue. The early ones, up to 1871 are in HO 1. Later there’s a few in HO 44.
After 1844, when the Naturalisation Act came in and simplified the process, denization dropped off and later it died, it ceased to be done. There are a few examples but after 1873 there are no more denizations. It was just easier to naturalise now the system had been simplified. So you’d apply to the Home Secretary for a grant of naturalisation.
We’ve got a few examples of letters patent that were issued and were never collected by individuals. So there’s a few unclaimed letters patent of individuals in C 97 and HO 4, just for odd dates in the 18th and early 19th century. Why they were not collected we really don’t know. Maybe the individuals died before they collected them. It’s quite possible they would have had to have taken the oath of allegiance at a court of law, they may have just decided not to collect their letters patent.
Naturalisations by Act of Parliament, as I say these are private acts, they’re not printed so there aren’t copies with the other local and private acts. They’re all available in the parliamentary archives, what used to be called the House of Lords Record Office. We’ve got indexes to them and we’ve got indexes up to 1900 in the Open Reading Room in front of the Home Office Lists. You can also find them through the Parliamentary papers online as well and in the Huguenot Society publication.
We’ve just got a few that we might have enrolled in the Parliament rolls in C 65 but they’re quite early so probably the best thing would be to go to the Parliamentary archives for naturalisation by act of Parliament.
The 1844 Act allowed you to petition and present a memorial or application to the Home Secretary. The Naturalisation Act of 1870 laid down a minimum qualifying period of five years before you could actually apply for naturalisation. The British Nationality Act of 1948 allowed you to register for British citizenship if you’d been born overseas, in a British colony or protectorate.
Now memorial records, what we call The Home Office papers consist of a petition by the individual stating how long they’d been in the country, details of their dependents, their occupation, where they came from, supported by sworn affidavits by them and by their referees, the people that are supporting their application. You also get details of the individual name and age, occupation, length of residence.
The early ones in the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s may just say they’ve a wife and children. They won’t necessarily give names of wife and children. After 1870 they do. From 1847 they needed four resident referees to support the application and just verify the information that they put in their application that they resided where they said they resided for the past five years.
So you get details of residence and from 1870 details of the family, so wife and children. Minors that were under 21 would be included. Anyone over that age is an adult [and] would have to apply for naturalisation themselves. If they’re minors they will be naturalised along with their parents.
From 1873 there had to be a police report or a magistrates report to verify again the information contained in the application. This is an example from Michael Marks’ naturalisation papers in HO 144. He applied for naturalisation in 1897. One of his referees is Thomas Spencer who he went into business with, hence Marks and Spencer. This gives the details of all the residences over the last five years and basically Thomas Spencer is just verifying that this information supplied by Michael Marks is true as to where he’s actually lived over the last five years. And this is the magistrate’s report. In this case this is the report again on Michaels Marks’ application.
This is from the mayor of Wigan, who’s the chief magistrate. As the mayor he’s the chief magistrate of the borough of Wigan. Again in this part of the letter he’s just verifying the information as to where Michael Marks has resided over the past five years. But he would have also included details, any information from the police constabulary about whether Michael Marks is a law abiding citizen, whether he’s ever broken the law. As a magistrate he will probably know whether he’s ever appeared in court, in the magistrates courts, or not. And providing he hasn’t got a criminal record then there shouldn’t be any problem with the application.
Where there was evidence in a police report to say that somebody had been convicted then the application for naturalisation is liable to be turned down and if they’ve got a particularly bad criminal record then they’re liable to be deported. And we have got a few records of deportations from 1905 onwards.
What we don’t have in most cases are the files of those individuals that applied for naturalisation and had it turned down. The famous example that we do have is of Karl Marx who applied to be naturalised in the 1870s and was rejected. This is a Metropolitan Police report and it actually says that this person hasn’t been loyal to his own King and country and it says he’s the famous agitator, the notorious German agitator, the head of The Internationale Society and the advocate of communistic principles. So this didn’t help with his application and it was actually rejected and he didn’t naturalise. This is the only complete file that’s survived where an application was turned down.
There are a few other examples of where applications were turned down but they are usually on administrative files in HO 45 and HO 144. Actually the rejected application files themselves have, apart from this example, been destroyed.
Naturalisation papers. The main ones in HO 1 run up to 1870. There aren’t actually any application papers that survive and a lot of the HO 1 papers are actually related to denizations in HO 1. Then from 1871 to 1878 naturalisation papers are in HO 45 and from 1879 to 1934 they’re in HO 144. And all these series are searchable on the catalogue so you just have to type in the name of the individual and specify the series and it will search for surviving naturalisation papers.
From 1934, as I said earlier, we’ve just got a selection of papers and surnames A to N in HO 405. Later surnames were in surviving papers still with the Home Office and they are only a selection, not everybody’s naturalisation papers who naturalised in this period will have survived. And anything after 1945, if it survives, will be with the Home Office.
Naturalisation certificates were issued to the individuals. Before 1870 they’re in HO 1, after 1870 they’re all in the series HO 334 and we’ve got the duplicate certificates. And we’ve got duplicate certificates up to the beginning of 1987 for Commonwealth citizens, citizens born in the Commonwealth after the independence of their countries. Usually, before independence they were actually British. After independence it’s possible that they had dual nationality although usually after independence they take on the nationality of that country. So if they wanted to become British they usually have to naturalise. And we’ve got duplicate certificates for those, for people resident in this country that naturalised, in HO 334.
We’ve only got certificates for nationals who became naturalised British from foreign countries up to 1969 because after that date the Home Office didn’t keep duplicate certificates. We’ve got the indexes so we know people naturalised, we just don’t have duplicate certificates. But the UK Border Agency now which has taken on the records of citizenship can supply a letter verifying the fact that somebody was naturalised.
And we’ve got the indexes up to 1986 but later ones, for duplicate certificates are with the UK Border Agency and people have to apply to the UK Border Agency.
An example of a catalogue entry. If you do a search on the online catalogue for a record of naturalisation you get this sort of information. A name of the individual, the country they came from, where they were resident in London or other major city or county, the certificate number, which the duplicate certificate will be in HO 334 and it gives you the Home Office paper number, which in this case is HO 144. And if there’s any related information saying that their naturalisation has been revoked or they’ve changed their name or there’s a variation in spelling that should be recorded on the catalogue entry as well.
And this is an example of a naturalisation certificate, under Ernst Freud who naturalised I think this is 1939, April 1939. It gives you details of him, just basic details, there’s more details on his naturalisation papers. It gives his details and where he’s living, the name of his wife and also the name of his parents as well and the names of his children. So in this case you’ve got Stephen, Gabriel, Lucy and Michael and Clemens, Raphael is the late Sir Clement Freud, who died recently.
His file actually hasn’t survived. So this is the only record and the record is in the index that he naturalised in September 1939. But all that survives is this duplicate certificate, his actual papers haven’t survived.
And finally registrations of British Citizenship under the 1948 Act. We’ve got duplicate certificates of British nationality from 1949 onwards, up to October 1986, and they’re in HO 334. Now there is a Home Office card index for this but I’m afraid it’s not available to the public because it hasn’t strictly been transferred by the Home Office. So if it needs to be searched it has to be undertaken by staff and if people need a search of the cards we can do brief searches if they can provide details of the individual. As close a date to when they were registered as possible, date of birth, country of birth, detail of residence.
If we need to do a lengthy search because people haven’t got the detailed information then we would have to undertake a paid search.
And anything after 1986 will actually still be with the UK Border Agency and you need to contact them for details of registrations after 1986.
Registration of British Citizenship is usually for Commonwealth citizens, people born in Commonwealth countries before independence or who may have registered as British citizens before independence and then come to live in the UK and need to register their British citizenship. People often get confused between whether they were naturalised or they’re looking for a registration of their British citizenship.
If they’re born in a country outside the Commonwealth then it’s almost certainly naturalisation. If they’re born in a Commonwealth country then nine times out of ten it’s going to be a registration of British citizenship, either when they came to this country or it might have been done overseas in that Commonwealth country. It’s only if they were born in a Commonwealth country after that country became independent that they wouldn’t have been a British citizen because if it’s post-independence then they would have to naturalise, like somebody from France or Germany would.
And just finally, as a final example of registration, Sidney James, 35 Gunnersbury Avenue, Ealing, just up the road. This is his registration of British citizenship. Sid James was born in South Africa in 1913 when it was a British dominion, so he would have been British then. Dominions only started to bring in their own nationality laws after the Statute of Westminster in 1931 and even after that date you could still be British if you were born in Canada or Australia or South Africa.
Obviously when they became fully independent and introduced their own nationality laws then if you wanted to be a British citizen you needed to register, and this is what Sid James did. He was born in South Africa, he was British then but because he was now living in the UK [and] South Africa was leaving the Commonwealth in 1961, he needed to register the fact that he was a British citizen.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I’m going to say on the matter, thank you for your attention.