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Lists & Certificates of Aliens/Arrivals (Immigration)

Nature of Source

Registration documents of foreigners entering Britain. The registers were compiled at the port of entry by the ship's master detailing the known aliens amongst the passengers. The documents were lodged with the local Justice of the Peace and forwarded to the Aliens Office in London. Landlords also had to supply details of foreigners residing at their lodgings. The records were complied under the various Aliens Acts of 1793, 1798, 1816, 1826 and 1836. Under the Acts, Certificates of Arrival were issued to the alien with copies lodged with the local Justice of the Peace and forwarded to the Aliens Office in London. Lists of aliens were then compiled. Certificates of arrival from 1836 to 1852 have not survived, but indexes have. Most early records of the Aliens Office (1793-1835) were destroyed.

The records are organised by port of entry and year. Lloyds Register can identify the names of ships that arrived at a port on a particular date (see here for research guides on using the Lloyds Lists and Registers). Also look for passes issued to aliens between 1793 and 1836 which contain additional information and also for any supplementary correspondence. By the mid 1860s, the 1836 the Aliens Act had fallen into disuse and was largely ignored. The 1905 Act brought about a structured approach to immigration control which was followed by the Aliens Restriction Acts of 1914 and1919 (See Registers of Aliens). From 1920 passports were first introduced for international travel.

The so called Metzner Index compiled by Len Metzner is an alphabetical index in two volumes containing the names of Germans, Poles and Prussians arriving in Britain between 1847 and 1869. The names, which include many Jews, are extracted from TNA series HO 2, certificates of arrival of aliens and HO 3, ships lists of aliens. The index is available at TNA library in the reading room and at the London Metropolitan Archives or for purchase from the Anglo German Family History Society who also have other indexes compiled by Len Metzner. Also see the publication Catalogue of Len Metzner Indexes and Guide to Further Research Material published by the Anglo-German Family History Society Publications.

The early records of those who worked as aliens clerks, customs or immigration officers can be found in the Customs Port Books.

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

Where Found

The National Archives (FO 83/21-22, Lists of aliens arriving at British ports, Aug. 1810-May 1811; HO 2, Certificates of Arrival of Aliens, 1836-1852; HO 5, Aliens' Entry Books, 1794-1921. Electronic images of these records can be browsed online through; HO 5/25-32, Partial indexes to the certificates of arrival from HO 2 covering 1826-1849; HO 3, Lists of unindexed immigrant passengers compiled by the ships’ master, 1836-1869. Arranged by year of arrival; CUST 102/393-395, Port of London arrivals, July-November 1826; CUST 102/396, Gravesend arrivals 1826-1837; CUST 54, Outport Records: Dover, 1693-1932)
County Record Offices (Quarter Session records for ‘Accounts of Aliens’, ‘Householders' Notices/Returns’ and ‘Overseers’ Returns’)

Period Covered

1810 - 1869

Genealogical Value

Name, rank, address, country of origin, nationality and occupation of alien. Date and port of arrival, name of ship and last country visited. Certificates may show if a passport was held and the issuing country.

Further References

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


Metzner, Len. Catalogue of Len Metzner Indexes and Guide to Further Research Material: Anglo-German Family History Society Publications, 2001


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

Websites (Museum of London Exploring 20th century London: Aliens Acts 1905 and 1919) (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)
(FamilySearch Research Wiki; Aliens and Immigrants in England and Wales) (19th Century Immigration, By Else Churchill) (Tracing Your Roots; Immigration) (Acts of Parliament; Migration and Naturalisation) (Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain, 1500-1850) (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) (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 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) (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)