For the first time, records of aliens who settled in Britain and who became British citizens through the process of naturalisation are available to search by name and nationality and download as part of our online collection. The collection covers the period 1801 to 1871 and includes a small number of early papers relating to denization (a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all rights of a British subject), and naturalisation by Act of Parliament; but the bulk of the papers relate to those who became British after 1844, when the process for becoming British was very much simplified.
In that year, the Naturalization Act (7 & 8 Vict. c. 66) provided that every alien residing in Great Britain with intent to settle should present a memorial to the Secretary of State stating their age, trade and duration of residence. Thereupon, the Secretary of State would issue to the applicant a certificate granting rights of a natural born subject with the exception of the right of being of the Privy Council or parliament. The Act maintained the taking of the oath of allegiance and Act of Succession and provided that any woman married to a natural born or naturalised person was deemed naturalised herself. It further stipulated that applicants wishing to become naturalised citizens should state their intention to reside and settle in Great Britain. This newly available collection of records consists of the memorials of over 7,000 aliens issued under the 1844 Act, which remained in force until 1871 (copies of the accompanying certificates of naturalisation are in the series C 54).
There is a rich mix of cases from across the world, but most relate to subjects from Europe, as, during this period, immigrants arrived from a number of European countries, notably France and German states, but also – in smaller numbers – from Italian states, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Russian, Poland, and Sweden. Not all of these individuals settled in the UK; many were merchants or people simply visiting the country. The majority were equipped with skills, however. Many were artistic, such as musicians, painters and artisans.