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.
Continue reading »
Medal roll of Samuel Ostroi
In October 1917 Russia withdrew from the First World War. One consequence of this withdrawal that you may not be aware of is that Russian nationals living in Britain suddenly became eligible to serve in the British Army.
Throughout 1915 there had been what was referred to as the ‘Conscription Crisis’. Too few men were enlisting in the forces to meet the needs of the industrial, mechanical nature of the First World War. In January of 1916 conscription was brought into force to meet the demand for men.
On 14 April 1916 the Home Secretary, Herbert Samuel, sought an amendment to Section 95 of the Army Act which imposed limitations on the enlistment of foreigners into the Army. He was hoping to encourage more aliens to join the British forces, or at least the territorial force. It was decided that foreign nationals who wished to join the British forces could do so as long as no more than 2% of the fighting force was made up of aliens.
The exception to this rule related to nationals of Allied countries. There was an agreement in place that all French, Belgian and Russian subjects living in the UK who desired to fight in the War should be compelled to return to their own country to join their respective armies. Since Russia was no longer a belligerent after October 1917 the government felt that this agreement no longer applied. Mr Samuel especially considered it unfair that Russian shopkeepers should remain exempt from service, profiting from the absence of British shopkeepers who were serving in the Army.
Continue reading »
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)
Continue reading »