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Denizations (Immigration)

Nature of Source

Records of those who became a British subject by Letters of Denization which were granted by the Crown by Royal Charter or Letters Patent. Denization was essentially a scaled down version of naturalisation Denizens became a British subject without acquiring full citizenship rights, such as the right to vote or stand for election and inherit property. However, denizens were entitled to purchase land and property.

If a person living in England was known to originate from another country, it is not certain that the person ever applied for some form of British citizenship. Acquiring citizenship by either naturalisation or denization was an expensive and complex procedure and therefore only the wealthy and well connected tended to apply. Therefore, only a minority of those that moved to England will have gone through the official channels to acquire citizenship.

Denizations were registered on Patent Rolls and published in the London Gazette before new naturalisation laws were introduced in 1844. Those acquired by a private Act of Parliament became known as naturalisation. After 1844, the process was simplified and reformed with greater restrictions placed on those seeking to settle in the UK.

Some people including Jews and Catholics were unable to swear the oaths of allegiance and supremacy as part of gaining naturalisation. Instead, they used the denization procedure until the requirements for the oaths were withdrawn in the 19th century. Therefore, a Jewish or Catholic immigrant ancestor will probably not appear in the records regardless of their wealth or social status.

Property could be passed on to children born after the grant but not before. It is also worth considering that the property ownership restrictions placed on denizens means that a denizen's will might not show any devised property.

Many unregistered or illegal immigrants simply remained in England undetected. Others gained automatic British nationality by marrying a British woman which also gave British nationality to children born to the parents.

See also
Huguenot Records and Registers
Jewish Records
Jewish Registers
Lists & Certificates of Aliens/Arrivals
Naturalisation Papers
Passenger Lists
Registers of Aliens
Returns of Aliens
Sacrament Certificates

Where Found

The National Archives (C 66, Patent Rolls, 1702-1844; C 97, Chancery: Original Letters Patent of Denization 1751-1830 with an index covering 1751 to 1793. The index is available at the TNA Discovery. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type ‘C 97’; HO 4, Home Office: Original Patents of Denization 1804-1843; HO 1/6-12, Denization Papers 1801-1840)

The name index covering series HO 1 is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type ‘HO 1’.

Society of Genealogists (Huguenot Society denization & naturalisation indexes)
Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland (Denization transcriptions. The society, established in 1885, is dedicated to the preservation of Huguenot history in Great Britain and the publication of Huguenot records. The society is especially noted for their Quarto series of publications available on CD ROM since 2004 which includes parish registers from French protestant churches, registers of poor relief institutions, transcriptions from denization and naturalization records and lists of aliens resident in London extracted from tax returns. Please note that the transcribed records deal with all foreigners entering Britain and not just French protestants fleeing persecution. The Society's annual journal 'Proceedings' details Huguenot history with back numbers, 1885 to 2007, available to Huguenot Society members on the internet. 'Huguenot Families' published between 1999 and 2008 contains features of interest to family historians with numbers 1-20 available on CD-ROM and a list of contents for issues 1-20 available online)
LDS FamilySearch Centers

Period Covered

1400 - 1950

Genealogical Value

Date of arrival, country of origin with specific place of birth, address in England, occupation, names and ages of children and other family members, marital status.

Further References

Kershaw, Roger & Pearsall, Mark. Immigrants And Aliens: A Guide to Sources On UK Immigration and Citizenship: PRO Publications, 2000  
Shaw, William (ed). Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England and Ireland, 1603-1700: Huguenot Society of London, 1911 (Many of the names listed are extracted from TNA series SP 44/67, returns of foreign residents in London, 1678)  
Shaw, William (ed). A Supplement to Dr. W. A. Shaw's Letters Of Denization and Acts of Naturalization: Huguenot Society of London, 1932 (The contents is included in the Quarto Series published by the Huguenot Society)  

TNA Research Guide: Immigration
TNA Research Guide: Naturalisation and British citizenship

Websites (TNA Research Guide: Immigrants) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of an immigrant) (Links to sources relevant to immigration) (Histories of immigrant communities including Jewish, Caribbean, Irish and South Asian. Collections include digitised documents and photos) (19th Century Immigration, By Else Churchill) (FamilySearch Research Wiki; Aliens and Immigrants in England and Wales) (Tracing Your Roots; Immigration) (Acts of Parliament; Migration and Naturalisation) (Museum of London Exploring 20th century London: Migration and Citizenship) (Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain, 1500-1850) (Every Generation Media: Guide to researching African, Caribbean and Black British family history) (England's Immigrants 1330-1550: Resident Aliens in the Later Middle Ages: Research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, exploring the extensive archival evidence about the names, origins, occupations and households of a significant number of foreigners who chose to make their lives and livelihoods in England in the era of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death and the Wars of the Roses. The sources used for the research are alien subsidies levied on resident aliens in England in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and letters of protection and denization. The site also features county and individual studies) (Links to online genealogy records including passenger lists) (Anglo-German Family History Society) (Anglo-Italian Family History Society)

Online Databases

TNA Online Collections (Aliens Registration Cards: Aliens registration cards of those living in the London area from 1914 from series MEPO 35 covering some 1,000 foreign nationals. TNA Online Collections is produced by The National Archives and contains online access to indexes, transcriptions and digital images of some of the TNA's most important holdings. Searches are free but a fee is levied for each downloaded item. However downloads are free if used at TNA or the Society of Genealogists) (England, Alien Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869: Lists of aliens, non-British citizens, arriving in England between 1810 and 1869 extracted from TNA series FO 83/21-22, HO 2, HO 3 and CUST 102/393-396) (Naturalisation and Denization Records, 1609-1960. The collection from the Home Office also includes over 5,000 Huguenot records) (UK, Aliens Entry Books, 1794-1921: Details of foreigners resident in the UK, 1794-1921 extracted from TNA series HO 5. The collection consists of correspondence and other documents of the Home Office and the Aliens Office from 1794 to 1921. The majority of the collection consists of out-letters relating to aliens and naturalisations. Includes some additional miscellaneous documents, such as some registers of applications for denization)
( UK, Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1912: This collection includes naturalisation certificates, declarations of British nationality, and re-admissions to British nationality, as well as related correspondence, for the years 1870-1912 taken from TNA Series HO 334) (SoG Data Online: Polish Refugee subsistence and genealogical data. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details)

CD Roms

Huguenot Society (Quarto Series: CD-ROM 3: Denization & Naturalisation)
Archive CD Books (Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England and Ireland, 1603-1700, edited by William A. Shaw and originally published by Huguenot Society of London in 1911)