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Naturalisation Papers (Immigration)

Nature of Source

Papers relating to those seeking to gain British nationality which before 1844 was acquired through private Acts of Parliament. Private Acts can be searched online at Portcullis, the Parliamentary Archives Catalogue. It is important to note that not all names may appear in the title of the Act so also consult the indexes created by the Huguenot Society in their Quarto Series (see below). Therefore, before 1844 most people sought naturalisation through a process called denization. The Naturalisation Act in 1844 required that every alien wishing to reside in Britain should provide certain information about their circumstances and swear an oath of allegiance and supremacy. A certificate would then be issued, granting them the right to stay in the country. A newly naturalized person acquired all citizen rights retrospectively from the day they were born. Certificates of naturalisation were announced and published in either the London, Edinburgh or Belfast Gazette.

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.

Most unsuccessful applications were destroyed. From 1844, the Home Office assumed responsibility for issuing naturalisation certificates which also simplified the process which meant that anyone could apply. The papers consist of memorials and other supporting documents as well as departmental papers, petitions and police reports. Between 1844 and 1873 naturalisations were also enrolled on the Close Rolls in series C 54 which contain additional information.

Under the provisions of the Naturalisation Act of 1870, any alien who had lived in Britain for more than five years gained the right of naturalisation. The Act also conferred on an already naturalised subject from the 1844 Act the right to apply for a further certificate under the new Act. The result of this provision could account for the existence of two naturalisation certificates issued to the same person. Others gained automatic British nationality by marrying a British woman which also gave British nationality to children born to the parents. Many unregistered or illegal immigrants simply remained in England undetected. About 60 per cent of applications in series HO 405 (1934-1948) were destroyed. Records after 1922 are closed for a hundred years, although it is possible to apply for a review via The National Archives web site.

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.

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

Where Found

The National Archives (HO 334, Home Office duplicate certificates of naturalization with summary information, 1870-1987. The series is arranged by certificate number and not name. The name index is still held by the Home Office. Name indexes to certificates of naturalisation until 1980 are in the series HO 409. The index to series HO 334 and HO 409 is available at the TNA Discovery. First select advanced search from the Discovery home page and enter the name being searched. In the ‘Search for or within references’ box type ‘HO 334 or HO 409’and then scroll down to ‘Held by’ and click ‘Search The National Archives’. Finally click the search button. Further filters appear on the search results screen)
The National Archives (HO 1/13-16, 1802-1871; HO 45, 1872-1878; HO 144, 1868-1959; HO 405, 1934-1996. The series includes background case papers including general correspondence, petitions and memorials)
The name index to the above set of series is available at the TNA Discovery which can be used to locate the full document reference. First select advanced search from the Discovery home page and enter the name being searched. In the ‘Search for or within references’ box type ‘HO plus the series code' and then scroll down to ‘Held by’ and click ‘Search The National Archives’. Finally click the search button. Further filters appear on the search results screen)
The National Archives (C 54, Close Rolls. The series contains copies of naturalisation certificates, 1844-1870; C 275, indexes and calendars to the close rolls in C 54)

The name index covering series HO 1 is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First select advanced search from the Discovery home page and enter the name being searched. In the ‘Search for or within references’ box type ‘HO 1’ and then scroll down to ‘Held by’ and click ‘Search The National Archives’. Finally click the search button. Further filters appear on the search results screen. Alternatively search the case papers directly here.

Name searches across the various TNA indexes can be carried out at the TNA guide How to look for records of Naturalised Britons. Also, typescript name indexes to certificates of naturalisation up to 1980 are in Research Enquiries Room at TNA.

The Parliamentary Archives (Private Acts of Parliament. Up until 1844 foreigners wishing to become British subjects [the process known as naturalisation] had to do so by private act of Parliament)
Society of Genealogists (Huguenot Society denization and naturalisation indexes)
Huguenot Society of Great Britain & Ireland (Naturalization 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)
London Gazette (Official announcements)
LDS FamilySearch Centers

Period Covered

1335 - 1987

Genealogical Value

Name, age, date and place of birth, occupation, country of origin, occupation, and address of applicant. From 1870 names of applicant's spouse and children and date and place of wedding. Name and nationality of parents. Date of naturalisation. Names of referees. Background papers provide more detailed information.

Further References

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


Kershaw, Roger. Migration Records: A Guide for Family Historians: The National Archives, 2009


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) (19th Century Immigration, By Else Churchill) (FamilySearch Research Wiki; Aliens and Immigrants in England and Wales) (Histories of immigrant communities including Jewish, Caribbean, Irish and South Asian. Collections include digitised documents and photos) (Tracing Your Roots; Immigration) (Acts of Parliament; Migration and Naturalisation) (Records of 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) (Links to online genealogy records including passenger lists)
(Lloyd's Register Infosheet: Useful sources for information on immigration and emigration) (Anglo-German Family History Society) (Anglo-Italian Family History Society)

Online Databases ( UK, Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1916: 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)
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) (Naturalisations from December 1911 to November 1912)
(Naturalisation and Denization Records, 1609-1960. The collection from the Home Office also includes over 5,000 Huguenot records) (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, 1794-1921 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) (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) (Manchester Naturalisation Society 1896-1909. Records of 542 individuals included in a cash book for the Manchester Naturalisation Society 1896-1909) (Ian Melville's List of Naturalisation Announcements in the Jewish Chronicle 1902-1906)

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)