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).
Design for Great Exhibition wallpaper (catalogue ref: BT 43/288/78974)
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.
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In my last post (Watch out Aliens!) I discussed the records I had based the Polish Community in Leicestershire project on and described the Alien Certificates and Alien Cards in detail. Today I would like to focus more on the stories told to me by the Poles who came to Britain in the late 1940s. Through visiting and interviewing these generous people, I managed to make several oral history recordings which have been essential to the project.
Winston Churchill and Wladyslaw Sikorski reviewing Polish troops in England (by Anonymous photography, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Polish people who came to Britain in the 1940s arrived here as a result of the Second World War. They were either serving under the British Command once Poland collapsed after the attack of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in 1939, or as dependants of relatives in the army. Most of the Poles who settled in Britain originated from Eastern Poland and were deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940 and 1941. After the Nazi attack on Soviet Russia, Polish and Russian authorities signed an agreement which allowed deported Poles to leave Siberia and join the Polish Army under the British Command (approximately a million people were taken into Russia and only about 15% of them managed to get out). Continue reading »
As an ‘Opening up Archives’ trainee I was set the task of preparing a community engagement project. Being a Polish national with a Master’s degree in History, I decided to research the post-war Polish community in Leicestershire. As it turned out, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland did not hold many records regarding this community, however, all of my colleagues mentioned that there were something called ‘aliens’ cards’ in our strongroom. So I started my project by going through this collection, which had been donated by the local police force in the year 2000, and which consisted of 93 boxes. This deposit has not only become my main source of information for the project’s statistics, but it also provides essential knowledge about Poles living in the county.
Adam Mamos' Alien certificate
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In August 1972, Idi Amin, the leader of Uganda, gave the order that Asian people living in Uganda had 90 days to leave the country.
This triggered the mass movement of almost 80,000 Ugandan Asians, seeking refuge in countries all over the world. Boarding planes, most could only take what they could carry or were permitted to carry. Just over 28,000 came to Britain to start new lives, often leaving family, friends, businesses and possessions behind.
This month our Outreach team, led by my colleague Yasmeen Haji, organised a day to reflect, remember and at times celebrate the lives and experiences of those who left Uganda for Britain. Around 100 people from the British Ugandan Asian community came to The National Archives for a day to take part in cultural workshops, discussions and performances to mark the events of 40 years ago.
The National Archives holds many documents relating to this turbulent period in Ugandan history and the lives of those forced to leave. We wanted to share these records with those who experienced it firsthand and hear their memories.
A document display where participants shared memories
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Naturalisation certificates (The National Archives series HO 334 and HO 409)
You can search naturalisations from 1870 to 1980 online now that the naturalisation catalogue enhancement project has recently been completed. All those who successfully applied for British nationality in the United Kingdom and some who applied in British colonies overseas from 1870 to 1980 can now be searched for by name on The National Archives catalogue. Descriptions at item level (some 300,000) have been added to the catalogue in the Home Office record series HO 334, which are duplicate copies of the naturalisation certificates issued to the individuals concerned. This means you no longer have to come to The National Archives to consult the old Home Office printed indexes in series HO 409 to identify people who naturalised. As well as searching by name these records can also be searched by nationality and place of residence (county or town), which is recorded from 1878.
Ernst Freud’s naturalisation certificate BZ 1216 of 30 August 1939 (HO 334/228/1216)
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