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Immigration Records

Nature of Source

Records of those who came to Britain from other countries. The first immigrant group that arrived in Britain for which we have records was the protestant Huguenots fleeing persecution in France. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, many Germans seeking a better economic life settled in Britain. Italians also settled in Britain in large numbers during the 19th century. The first group of Jews to settle arrived following freedoms granted under Oliver Cromwell. They were mainly Sephardic Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal. Later in the 19th and 20th centuries large numbers fled to Britain from Eastern and central Europe. They settled in London’s East End and other cities notably Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester.

Most pre-1890 passenger lists were destroyed. Look for clues of a country of origin in census returns and birth/baptism records.

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 (HO 2, Certificates of Arrival of Aliens; HO 3, Aliens Act 1836 records. For other sources and records held at TNA see the Research Guide: Immigration)
County Record Offices

Period Covered

1500 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names, ages, addresses, occupations, family relationships country and place of origin. Port and date of arrival.

Further References

Beidler, James M. Trace Your German Roots Online: Family Tree Books. 2016 Buy Now on Amazon

Dearden, Fay & Dearden, Dearden. The German Researcher: How To Get The Most Out Of An LDS Family History Center: Family Roots Publishing, 2007

Grannum, Guy. Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors: A & C Black, 2012

Kershaw, Roger & Pearsall, Mark. Immigrants And Aliens: A Guide to Sources On UK Immigration and Citizenship: PRO Publications, 2000

Meitzler, Leland K. German Genealogy Research Online - Tips and Links: Family Roots Publishing, 2012

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany: Family Roots Publishing, 2001

Minert P., Roger & Riemer J., Shirley & Sirrine E., Susan. Researching in Germany: A Handbook for Your Visit to the Homeland of Your Ancestors: Lorelei Press, 2013

Minert, Roger P. German Census Records, 1816-1916: The When, Where, and How of a Valuable Genealogical Resource: Family Roots Publishing, 2016  

Riemer, Shirley & Minert, Roger & Anderson, Jennifer. The German Research Companion: Lorelei Press, 2010


Towey, Jenny. German Genealogical Dictionary: Useful Words for German Family History Research: Anglo German Family History Society, 2014  

Towey, Peter. How to Research Your German Ancestors: Anglo-German Family History Society Publications, 2013

Buy Now on Amazon

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

A number of Place Name Indexes (with reverse alphabetical indexes) by Roger P. Minert covering Switzerland and Germany are available from Family Roots Publishing

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)
(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) (Every Generation Media: Guide to researching African, Caribbean and Black British family history) (Port Communities: Online digitised collection resource of over 5000 items, brought to you by the National Maritime Museum and other museums, archives and libraries) (Links to online genealogy records including passenger lists)
(Lloyd's Register Infosheet: Useful sources for information on immigration and emigration) (Red Star Line Museum. The museum tells the story of the historic transatlantic migration of millions of Europeans from Europe to America on the shipping company Red Star Line and the transit port of Antwerp) (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)
(Aliens' registration cards 1918-1957: These records are the registration cards for over 600 immigrants to Britain, who arrived between 1918 and 1957. They cover the London area only and include British-born wives of aliens, who lost their British status upon marriage. These cards are drawn from The National Archives series MEPO 35) (England, Alien Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869; Lists of aliens, non-British citizens, arriving in England between 1810 and 1869 extracted from series FO 83/21-22, HO 2, HO 3 and CUST 102/393-396) (Aliens Entry Books, 1794-1921: Details of foreigners resident in the UK, 1794-1921containing browsable images 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)
(England’s Immigrants 1330-1550: The site has a fully-searchable database containing over 64,000 names of people known to have migrated to England during the period of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses) (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)
(Jamaican Family Search: Genealogy library for those researching family history for Jamaica, West Indies, especially for people born before 1920. The site contains transcriptions from various documents including nineteenth century Jamaica Almanacs, Jamaica Directories for 1878, 1891 and 1910, extractions from Jamaican Church records, Civil Registration, Wills, Jewish records, and excerpts from newspapers, books, and other documents. There is information on immigration and on slavery) (German Phone Directories, 1915-1981. This database contains telephone books covering the years 1915-1981 for five of Germany's major cities: Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich)
(Germany: Meyers Gazetteer. Each place searched is linked to the gazetteer entry as well as showing modern and historic maps and Catholic and Protestant parishes and Synagogues in the area) (GenTeam: Online access to a variety of databases covering present-day Austria and its neighbouring lands)